Be honest, had you heard of Amkar Perm before they were announced as our final opponents on our pre season visit to Austria? I certainly hadn’t and was surprised to learn that they had finished tenth in the last Russian Premier League and had played Fulham in the Europa Cup back in 09/10.
I’d say the Russian Premier League is definitely one of the ten strongest in Europe and so a side that finishes halfway up it are certainly no mugs, but with us having been competing in the oft claimed “best league in the world” (albeit at the bottom of it) only a few months ago, the game had an even look to it before kick off. True, some of the bigger names in City’s 13/14 squad were not on the trip as they looked to complete transfers from the club, but, although Ole’s decision to use Maynard alongside Macheda up front raised a few eyebrows, the City team, with Marshall making his first appearance and Hudson alongside Turner at centreback, looked pretty similar to the anticipated line up for the Championship opener at Blackburn in just under a fortnight.
Therefore, it has to be a source of concern that we could have no complaints about the 3-0 defeat we suffered to a side which looked much closer to the standards of fitness and commitment needed for league action than City did. Yes, I know pre season games don’t count for anything and it’s all about how a team performs when the serious stuff starts, but, even so, having seen two of our games now, we’ve looked very much like a work in progress outfit.
Against Amkar, there was the same lightweight look to the side that saw them cave in too often when they went behind in matches last season. 1-0 (thanks to possession being surrendered carelessly by Whittingham) soon became 2-0, and, by half time, it was 3-0 with fingers being pointed at the defence for the latter two goals for, firstly, allowing crosses to come in and, secondly, for our centrebacks not getting their heads to the sort of ball you would have thought British defenders would relish.
Fair play to City, they came back to shade the second half, but for a team that we are told is going to be banging in the goals left, right and centre, with their newly assembled strikeforce, it it was somewhat alarming to see how few chances we had to score – I can remember sub LeFondre blazing a decent one over the bar, but, apart from that, we huffed and puffed without suggesting an end product.
So, it’s just today’s game at Yeovil and next Saturday’s match with VFL Wolfsburg (for which it appears the only part of the ground to be used will be Tan’s Folly) left in our pre season programme. Most bookies still have us as favourites to win the Championship this season, but I’m not really sure why – we have one of the stronger squads in the division in theory, but it still looks unbalanced to me and, at the moment, heads seem to drop too quickly when things go against us.
It should be remembered that a couple of players who might give our midfield more physical presence played no part in the three Austrian matches. Aron Gunnarsson missed out through injury and Kagisho Dikgacoi finally made his first Cardiff appearance in the Development team’s 2-0 win at Haverfordwest last Tuesday, so maybe the line up against Amkar Perm wasn’t as close to the one we’ll see at Blackburn after all?
Just a further quick word about the Development side – they will be playing Chasetown at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night.
On the transfer front, two prominent members of last year’s team left for Premiership sides last week. Steve Caulker chose to sign for QPR (the lure of playing alongside Rio Ferdinand being a factor in his decision seemingly) and Fraizer Campbell eventually opted for Crystal Palace – best wishes to both players at their new clubs and a thank you in particular to Fraizer for his parting shot that he hoped to play against a Cardiff side playing in blue in the Premier League soon.
So, that’s around £9 million coming into the club’s coffers and, credit to them, they reiterated their determination not to make a loss on Gary Medel when Mehmet Dalman, in essence, told Inter Milan to stop messing about in their pursuit of the Chilean international. There has been a steady drip, drip of stories coming from Italy about how close a deal is, but with Galatasaray and an unnamed German club, reportedly, willing to pay Cardiff’s asking price, it seems to me that all Milan have going for them in their pursuit of Medel is that the player, apparently, has set his heart on signing for them.
I reckon City will probably have to accept a loss on Medel, but, having taken the stand they did yesterday, Inter will, surely, need to up their bid quite significantly before they get their man.
On the incoming transfer side, there’s only one story really and it appears that Ole is putting all of his eggs in the one basket when it comes to looking for the centreback which, seemingly, would complete his team building for the new season. Having featured prominently in Southampton’s successful 13/14 Premier League campaign, Jose Fonte would be a very good signing for City and, having had two bids for the defender rejected by the Saints, the rumour is that we have gone in with a third bid of £5 million for the player.
Now, as I say, any move which sees a Championship club sign a player who was a regular selection in the Premier League only a few months earlier has to have a lot going for it. However, on the other side of the coin, Fonte will be 31 in December and he’s in the last year of his contract at his current club, so I hope that, if the reported amount of our third bid is correct, we look elsewhere if we get another no from Southampton – good player though Fonte is, I would say we are already at the upper end of what represents value for money for someone of his age and contract situation.
* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/ and Steve Garland/Cardiff City
by The other Bob Wilson with 5 comments
City are currently in the middle of their week long pre season camp in Austria and most of the first team squad got some match practice yesterday as warm up matches were played against German team TSV Munich 1860 and Albanian outfit Teuta Durres.
Three players who I’m sure Ole would have liked to have used yesterday were Craig Noone, Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Kagisho Dikgacoi, however, they were not available for selection. Noone has suffered a recurrence of the groin injury that ended his season early in the spring and may well need an operation – either way, he will miss the start of the league season. Theophile-Catherine has unfortunately had to return to France after a bereavement in his family and, strangely, Dikgacoi is still awaiting international clearance for his move to Cardiff from Crystal Palace. Aron Gunnarson and David Marshall are also carrying minor knocks which meant they were not risked for either match and there were three other absentees who I will talk about later.
I watched the TSV Munich match on a dodgy quality Internet feed and the German team, who I remember as the side West Ham beat in the Final of the European Cup Winner’s Cup at Wembley in 1965, provided a stern test in temperatures of 35 degrees centigrade which saw play stopped halfway through each half for a drinks break. City certainly rode their luck in edging the game 3-2, in fact, after a pretty even first half which saw both sides score twice, they were almost over run after the break.
Munich, who finished seventh in last season’s Bundesliga 2, spent virtually all of the second period attacking and it needed a few fine saves from Joe Lewis and a couple of disallowed goals for offside to keep City in the game before forgotten man Etien Velikonja popped up with the winner with five minutes left (I thought it was Kenwyne Jones at the time, but I’m blaming poor quality pictures and the fact that a pillar from the main stand was blocking pictures of the penalty area – that City were attacking the other end at the time does not weaken this excuse in any way!).
The first half goals were scored by Macheda and Whittingham (Whitts’ goal was from one of those free kicks almost by the corner flag – this time he surprised tracksuit bottoms wearing former Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly in much the same way as he did Julian Speroni at Selhurst Park in season 11/12) with Munich equalising quickly both times. I have to say that there were elements of City’s game which I found quite concerning. For example, our defending at set pieces was poor and, for a side containing some of our best passers in Eikrem, Whittingham and Dæhli, we weren’t half guilty of given the ball away cheaply at times.
Also, the contrast between Munich’s effective pressing of our attempts to build from the back and the way the German’s were allowed to play out from defence was marked - at times some of attackers even had their backs to the play as Munich defenders brought the ball out. Such things cannot happen once the serious stuff starts, but allowances need to be made for the heat I suppose.
There were some good things about City’s display, they broke quickly on occasions and finished the game pretty strongly as their opponents, perhaps, paid the price for their high octane approach. When you consider that Ole was able to field a completely different starting line up a couple of hours later for the game against Teuta Durres (who finished fourth in last season’s Albanian Premier League) which was comfortably won 3-0 with goals by new boys Guerra, Burgstaller and LeFondre, then I’d say the over riding feeling about yesterday should be satisfaction at the depth of quality we have in our squad.
That leads me on to the three others who are not in Austria. Steven Caulker and Fraizer Campbell were left behind in South Wales with Ole conceding that both players will be leaving – at one time it looked like they would become team mates at Crystal Palace, but it’s now being reported that QPR are again favourites to land Caulker and Leicester’s move to sign Campbell is back on again. Gary Medel is also almost certainly on his way to Inter Milan, but it’s still not clear if the deal will be a loan or a permanent one – apparently officials from the Italian club will be in Cardiff early this week to try to finalise things.
Kevin McNaughton’s season long loan to Bolton has been confirmed and, although Fabio could be used on the right I suppose, it’s looking more likely that John Brayford will make a long awaited league debut for Cardiff at Blackburn on 8 August.
With Gunnarsson already used as a right back at Bath and Magnus Eikrem forced to play there against Munich yesterday, it’s a position where City don’t have a great deal of cover (especially if, as rumoured, Theophile-Catherine leaves the club), but it seems Ole has no plans to bring in someone else who can play there. The two players we were linked with last week play in other positions. Bolton’s right sided midfield player Lee Chung-Yong is supposedly a City target, but I reckon this one is something of a long shot – more realistic for me are reports that we are going to make another bid for Southampton centre back Jose Fonte.
* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/by The other Bob Wilson with 2 comments