Gabby Agbonlahor has warned Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey he must improve his work rate if he’s to thrive in the Premier League under new manager Steven Gerrard, speaking to talkSPORT (17 November, 9.20am).
Speaking to the Scottish Sun in January, then-Rangers boss Gerrard described Ianis Hagi as a “dream to work with”.
But it wasn’t the Romanian’s defence-splitting talents or supreme technical gifts that earned him the admiration of the legendary Liverpool midfielder.
Instead, it was Hagi’s relentless work ethic that caught Gerrard’s eye, ensuring he became a key cog in a Rangers side that celebrated a first Scottish Premiership title in a decade a few months later.
So Leon Bailey, Aston Villa’s £25 million summer signing, could do worse than take a leaf out of Hagi’s book as he looks to justify his substantial price tag.
Can Steven Gerrard get the best out of Leon Bailey at Aston Villa?
The former Bayer Leverkusen winger has showcased the odd moment of match-winning magic since joining Villa in August, that destructive 21-minute cameo against Everton a tantalising sign of things to come.
Gerrard, however, will demand perspiration as well as inspiration.
And, according to Agbonlahor, Bailey can’t afford to ignore his defensive duties if he’s to become a key figure under Aston Villa’s demanding, disciplinarian head coach.
“I watched the Southampton game – Dean Smith’s last game (a 1-0 defeat). Leon Bailey is a great player but he didn’t track (Kyle) Walker-Peters once,” says the former Villa skipper.
“If you’re a winger, a number ten, a striker, you’ve got to do your defensive work. I think Steven Gerrard will demand that of every player.”
Agbonlahor also touched on the struggles endured by Ollie Watkins during his second season at Villa Park. The England international has yet to strike an understanding with £30 million striker Danny Ings, although Agbonlahor believes the pair could yet prove to be an effective partnership.
“I don’t think (Ings’ arrival) upset (Watkins). At a club like Aston Villa you can’t be the only striker,” he says. “Dean Smith was lucky not to get many injuries last season. Watkins, if he got an injury, (Villa would have been) down to literally no strikers.
“Gerrard’s got a decision. Can he move Watkins to the left? I adapted to that position and played the second half of my career as a left winger.”