Turns out that wasn’t too testing. A very respectable 65 people (almost as many as the shampoo adverts) had a vote on my impromptu poll yesterday, and half of those reckon that new boy Gary Gardner is the man for the gig at the point of our diamond.

  1. Gary Gardner – 50%
  2. Sod the diamond – 14%
  3. Gael Bigirimana – 11%
  4. Gary McSheffrey – 11%
  5. Carl Baker – 9%
  6. David Bell – 3%
  7. None of these – 2%

I can’t say that I’m surprised. Given how highly the Villa fans seem to rate him and how it looks like we’ll only have him for the month, it’d seem most want to give him the freedom behind the forwards during his time here. 

He was my vote too. We’re still struggling to create many genuine chances, and as simple as it sounds, giving him the license to get close to goal as much as possible could well be the best plan of action. We all saw how well he drove into the box for those headers on Saturday, and we could do with encouraging that side of his game – he looked mighty good at it.

That well-known midfielder “Sod the diamond” came in a strong second. As I said, I don’t personally feel the shape of the side is the main problem, or a change of formation will make all our troubles go away. I see more individual mistakes and problems with core skills (control, passing, tackling) than anything else. Would Sammy have kept the ball better on Saturday if we were playing 4-4-2? Not really. Appears there’s a fair number who feel otherwise, and that’s just fine. Unless you think we should play wing-backs (I’m looking at you, Eakin), in which case – you’re bonkers. Cyrus struggles enough as it is with the physical requirements for full-back – lord only knows what responsibility for the entire right-hand side would do to him.

A surprise was Biggy. I do think the logic of “get him closer to goal” is one that could also be applied to Gael. He’s still learning his trade, and given his size, you’d think we’d have more joy involving him in the attacking side of the game, than asking him to mix it in the midfield. I remember Faubert in the West Ham game swatting him aside every time he got close, and I wasn’t keen.

That said, he hasn’t had the best time of it attacking recently either, and against Cardiff in particular, he often found himself with the ball around the box, only to get the jelly legs. He is good though – corr, he can be good – and he’s an option Thorn hasn’t really considered yet.

McSheffrey was joint with Biggy, which is understandable given that’s the only position he’s played this season. Problem is, he has been bloody awful for most of it. The argument I’m starting to hear a lot is that even if he’s not playing well, he’s still likely to do something.

How useful. You could put me on the pitch and I too may do something. My groin, most probably, but still.

Excuse the flippant tone, as I do appreciate the sentiment. I just wonder with Macca how many games of him going missing we actually have to put up with before we can expect him to play half-way decent again.

The other members of the trio of disappointment – Baker and Bell – found themselves lagging behind the rest. They fall into the same camp as McSheffrey, in that they are always likely to do something wonderful (Bell’s goal against Watford, anyone?), but is it really worth sacrificing a place in the team for, on the off-chance that they might come to life at some point?

One name I was asked why I didn’t include was Conor Thomas. Yes, he’s played there already this season, but I’ve seen most of his work take place in the engine room with Sammy, and I took the executive decision to exclude him from this particular poll. I know – what a swine.

Anyway, the conclusion seems to be that most want Gardner playing further forward – while a few are still cross with the formation and want to sack that off. Not entirely brand new information, but it’s nice to confirm it. The very warmest of regards to everyone who gave their opinion. You’re kind.

Next week’s poll: Should Andy Thorn just get it over with and have a bloody good cough?



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