N'Zogbia ruptured his Achilles whilst keeping fit in Miami over the summer and is expected to be sidelined until January at the very earliest.
In an interview with the Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick, Lambert spoke of the severity of N'Zogbia's injury:
"I think an achilles heel is a bad injury. When you get that sometimes you’re better off just breaking your leg because you can come back quicker than an achilles heel. It’s just a horrible injury to get, so we just have to see.
"He’s still a way bit off. It’s still a bit of a long-term one. I wouldn’t have thought the whole season but it will still be long term.
"It’s going to take its time to heal. I just have to wait and let the medics here treat him the way they think’s right and see where he goes."
N'Zogbia has failed to make his mark on the Villa team following his £9.5 million transfer from Wigan in 2011 and was unable to claim a regular starting berth under previous manager Alex McLeish.
The Frenchman was used as a bit-part player following Lambert's arrival at Villa Park in July 2012, completing 90 minutes on just two occasions last season.
The 27-year-old, who has caused questions to be raised over his temperament and attitude whilst playing in England, has been linked with a move away from the Midlands club in January—Lambert hinting that the rumours could have substance:
I always have an open mind. We’ll see what happens in January but we need to get his injury cleared up first.
Former Norwich manager Lambert has had a clear and precise plan of how to move the Villa forward since his arrival in Birmingham. Trimming the fat and offloading those who weren't carrying their weight—particularly those on the highest wages—the boss has instead rewarded promising youngsters with a chance to showcase their talent on the biggest stage.
Many believe that N'Zogbia falls into the category of those who weren't giving their all in a Villa shirt, especially during the club's near-fatal 2012/13 campaign. And he certainly is one of the club's highest earners—racking up some £65,000 per week, according to The Guardian.
Ahead of this campaign, Lambert had a restructure in terms of shirt numbers. Handing those who were deemed less important to the team a higher number, N'Zogbia was stripped of his No. 10 shirt and handed the No. 36.
Darren Bent, Shay Given, Stephen Ireland, Alan Hutton, Barry Bannan and Enda Stevens all suffered a similar fate. Only two of those players remain with Villa this season.
Rumours regarding N'Zogbia's future continue to be aimed at the Villa boss, but a decision to let him go in January could be premature. He is a player who thrives on confidence and produces his very best when things are going his way—Villa's poor 2012/13 season not ideal conditions for the unpredictable Frenchman to impress.
Lambert made a number of significant signings over the summer in an attempt to help the club progress. Dutchman Leandro Bacuna and Bulgarian Aleksandar Tonev were brought in as wingers, though opportunities for Bacuna to play in his favoured position have been limited only by his excellent performances whilst filling in at right-back.
Tonev was recommended to Lambert by former Villa captain and cult hero Stiliyan Petrov, though the 23-year-old has, as of yet, failed to produce anything of note, leaving many to question Petrov's endorsement.
The Villa boss also recruited two further forwards—Nicklas Helenius and Libor Kozak—to shoulder Christian Benteke's goal-scoring burden, but a lack of quality in genuine wide men has inhibited their opportunities. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann—both forwards in their own right—have been forced out wide, due to their lightning-quick pace, to provide service for the Villa strikers. And although they have done everything that is asked of them, the claret and blue's formation has, on a number of occasions, demanded an out-and-out winger.
As previously mentioned, N'Zogbia's temperament and attitude do raise serious questions, but there is no doubting his ability. He played a vital role in saving Wigan Athletic from the drop during each of their seasons in the Premier League and has the potential to be a Villa star.
Football management is about attending to each and every player's needs whilst doing what is right for the team and, in most cases, massaging egos.
Being handed the No. 36 shirt is sure to have had an impact on an already temperamental character, but Lambert should give the winger time to recover from this setback and hand him an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in the squad.
N'Zogbia will strive to prove his critics, Lambert seemingly among them, wrong and show the Villa faithful that he is worth every penny of the hefty transfer fee and his reported £65,000 weekly wage packet—something that could pay dividends for both club and player.
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