Aston Villa: Does Charles N'Zogbia Have a Future at Villa Park?

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Aston Villa: Does Charles N'Zogbia Have a Future at Villa Park?
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Aston Villa fans received some bad news ahead of their clash with Chelsea when news broke that injured winger Charles N'Zogbia was highly unlikely to return this season.

Paul Lambert revealed to the Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick that the Frenchman's recovery from the Achilles tendon injury he sustained last summer has not progressed as well as previously hoped:

It will be a big ask for Charles to come back this season because he’s not had many games at all and that Achilles heel, as everybody knows, is a major issue.

This latest setback to N'Zogbia's fitness has cast further doubt over his future at the club. N'Zogbia has struggled to consistently impress since arriving from Wigan for £9.5 million during the summer of 2011.

With star performers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing having left the club, N'Zogbia was signed by then manager Alex McLeish with the Villa fans expecting big things from the winger.

Three seasons later, the Holte Enders have yet to see N'Zogbia live up to his potential or his transfer fee.

N'Zogbia played sporadically during Lambert's first season at the club, often as an attacking midfielder. While the Frenchman was hardly one of the standout performers from last year, N'Zogbia had seemingly done enough on the pitch to earn himself more chances for Villa.

Everything changed over the summer when N'Zogbia hurt his Achilles tendon, losing the season to injury and damaging his future prospects at the club. Following the injury, Lambert saw fit to give N'Zogbia's No. 10 squad number to Andreas Weimann, raising questions over the manager's commitment to the player.

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Despite these concerns, Lambert has insisted that N'Zogbia remains in his plans and will not suffer the unceremonious exile that befell the likes of Alan Hutton, Darren Bent and Shay Given. 

Last month, in a prior interview with the Birmingham Mail and Kendrick, Lambert denied that the winger did not have a future at Villa Park.

N'Zogbia's similarities to the senior players Lambert has previously exiled from the club have contributed to the feeling that his time at Villa Park may be running to a close.

The Frenchman has often appeared lethargic, is several years older than most of the players Lambert has championed and commands relatively high wages for a club that has taken great strides to reduce their players' salaries.

Similar factors helped seal the exit of Stephen Ireland and the banishment of Bent. However, N'Zogbia has many positive attributes that make him an interesting case to consider and that may save him from banishment.

First, N'Zogbia possesses the trait Villa sorely need: creativity. Whether deployed out wide or centrally, N'Zogbia is a uniquely skilled player in Lambert's squad. Villa's lack of a playmaker, partially due to N'Zogbia's injury, has frequently haunted them this season.

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Lambert has acknowledged this problem by targeting play-making midfielders in past transfer windows, such as Hiroshi Kiyotake and Wes Hoolahan, but the failure to sign either player demonstrates the difficulty of obtaining such a creator from midfield for a reasonable fee.

Should Lambert prove unable to procure the services of a creative midfielder over the summer then it is unlikely he is willing to part with his most capable player in such a position, N'Zogbia.

Second, N'Zogbia has previously proven his quality in the Premier League. N'Zogbia possesses all of the attributes needed to be an impact player and used these abilities as Wigan's best player for two successive seasons. If motivated and fit, N'Zogbia can be an instrumental player for Villa.

In addition, having had a disappointing spell so far at Villa Park, N'Zogbia is unlikely to be highly demanded in the transfer market.

Based on N'Zogbia's recent fitness and form issues, there is no chance that Villa would be able to recoup a significant portion of his £9.5 million transfer fee this summer. Playing N'Zogbia can only increase his market value while also attempting to get the best out of him. 

It would be very optimistic to assume that N'Zogbia will suddenly live up to his expensive transfer fee and continuing to pay N'Zogbia's wages is not ideal. Nonetheless, there are enough benefits to justify keeping him for the start of the 2014-15 season and extending the Frenchman's stay is the club's best current option. 

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