In our straw poll of Villa fans online, though, the name which cropped up most apart from Delph’s was that of Yacouba Sylla. Sylla was part of the Villa midfield three which drove the side on to an upturn in form in the second half of last season, and stakes his claim mostly through his strength and defensive duties.
Sylla adds extra defensive steel to the Villa midfield that Westwood and El Ahmadi do not possess. It would also mean that Delph could concentrate on playing more of a box-to-box role, knowing that the defence would be protected by Sylla sitting in front of them. It certainly appears to be a system that works as six of Villa’s ten wins last season came with Sylla playing alongside Westwood and Delph in the heart of midfield, and although a significant proportion of Villa fans wanted Westwood dropped for the time being, this is the trio that most Villa fans asked by MOMS said they would prefer as a long-term midfield.
The only issue is where the creativity comes from? Sylla would sit back, Westwood would keep the ball moving, and the onus would be on Delph to drive forward from midfield. If Delph can do this in the manner in which he started the season, linking the deep-lying midfielders with the two playing off the frontman, Villa could have a solid and effective midfield on their hands, albeit one that hasn’t scored a league goal between them.
There’s no doubt Villa’s midfield will need to chip in on the goal front, if they are to be considered a decent team. Villa does have potentially more prolific players in that department waiting in the wings though.
Gary Gardner should be eased back into action and when match fit, should be pushing for a start every week and could well threaten Westwood’s place if the latter’s form does not pick up. In his pre-Norwich press conference, Lambert revealed that he had not even considered sending Gardner out on loan, and once he puts a run of games together it will be difficult for anyone to take his place in the side – at 6 ft1, he adds a physical presence, and his prowess from dead ball situations is something that the side have been seriously lacking of late. Over the next few years, if he steers clear of injury, he could well become one of the club’s most important players.
It has been suggested that Nicklas Helenius, who has an eye for goal, could get a go attempting to play in the hole behind the frontman at home in order to try to crack the issue of the side’s hideous home form. It is something that may well be worth trying, but if anything this just shows how lacking the club’s midfield is in creativity.
The midfield that most Villa fans would prefer to see seems to be Fabian Delph and Yacouba Sylla plus one other, most likely a choice of Westy or KEA. For me, the Delph-Sylla-Westwood midfield of the latter half of last season is still the best option. Sylla adds the muscle, I am of the opinion that Delph could become more of a creative player with a bit of work, and once he gets back on form, Westwood’s role as the ‘quiet man’ is crucial to the side’s style.
It is, at least, still early days in the season, so Lambert has time to try out his options. It’s an issue that needs to be cracked soon though – the success of Villa’s season depends on it.
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