No memories from previous matches with our next opponents today as I thought I’d do a review of how the January transfer window panned out for Cardiff City instead. The first thing to say I suppose is that there have been times in the past when transfers which went through before the deadline weren’t revealed until the following day so, although it is extremely unlikely, I suppose it is conceivable that there could be more news after I have finished this piece.
At various times yesterday it was reported by the media that we were chasing Preston keeper Andy Lonergan, Rotherham striker Adam LeFondre and Shay Given (the speculation on Given being fuelled by a huge drop in the odds on him coming here), while a ridiculous rumour started on a messageboard about us being on the brink of signing Andy King from Leicester got a few people very excited for a while. In the event though, the only activity involving Cardiff on deadline day was the cancellation of Andy Keogh’s season long loan seemingly because, like Danny Drinkwater before him, his parent club felt he wasn’t playing enough games for us – this interpretation being supported by the fact that both players have since been loaned to other Championship sides for the rest of the campaign with Drinkwater going to Watford and Keogh to Bristol City.
Overall, I would rate the January transfer window of 2011 a successful one for the club with the main reason for this being that we have managed to keep all of the players contracted to the club who would be regarded as members of Dave Jones’ strongest team. In particular, I am talking here about Jay Bothroyd who, all the assurances from the club that he was staying notwithstanding, must have been a prime target for Premiership clubs because they could have got him relatively cheaply. Bothroyd staying is a real boost for our promotion challenge, but I would say that, in terms of player movement in and out of the club last month, there are mixed messages.
When you look at three outfield departments of the team, all that has happened is that we have brought in replacements for the players leaving – there have been four out and four in and, with us sometimes not being able to have a full quota of substitutes before now, I think that is disappointing.
In defence, we have swapped Chris Riggott (whose departure has been confirmed this morning by the official site) for Dekel Keinan. Keinan is the mystery man amongst our new players because I don’t think any supporter can say with any degree of certainty how he is going to do for us at this stage – we were, supposedly, interested in him last summer and, given his CV at that time (Israeli international in his mid twenties with Champions League experience), I am sure his signing then would have been greeted with real enthusiasm. The trouble is, Keinan has had his Blackpool experience since then where he made very few appearances for them and they tended to ship an awful lot of goals on the rare occasions he played. Of course, Keinan was playing at a higher level than he will be now and you have to say that, although Riggott made a favourable impression in the Coventry game, our defence should be stronger now because we have gained a player who, hopefully, is not going to be injured for 95% of the time – whether our current defence is top six material though is another matter in my opinion.
In midfield there’s no argument as far as I am concerned – we are stronger. Although I think we could have made more use of Aaron Wildig and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few people ask why didn’t we keep Drinkwater over the next few months, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas proved himself in the Championship last season in a way that the other two have not done yet and, if Aaron Ramsey can play to anything like his potential, then I would say that there is a strong argument to suggest that he is the best signing made by a Championship club in January. There is always a but though and, although there are noises coming from Cardiff regarding the possibility of Ramsey’s loan being extended, there has been nothing whatsoever yet to back that sentiment up from Arsenal or the player himself. With talk of Emmanuel-Thomas being recalled because of Samir Nasri’s injury (my understanding of the rules is that this cannot happen now mind) and Ramsey looking likely to be gone come March, then all of a sudden, our midfield might not look that strong.
Up front we have swapped Andy Keogh for Jon Parkin. Now I think Parkin is a good signing and, because he poses more of a goal threat that Keogh, I think we are stronger in that department than we were. However, Keogh was a willing runner who dragged central defenders into wide positions and whoever plays alongside Parkin in a 4-4-2 will almost certainly find they will have to work quite a bit harder than they did when Keogh was their partner.
Our squad may look good at the moment, but if we were to rely on it until the end of the season then I wouldn’t say I was confident of us getting a top two place (especially if Ramsey does only stay for a month) - mainly because defensive issues that have dogged us for most of the season still haven’t been resolved. The thing is though that losing four players since we made the last of our signings has thrown up a few questions – for example, was this done because Dave Jones had received orders from on high that the wage bill had to be cut or, as seems more likely to me, were we clearing the decks for more new arrivals to be brought in when the emergency loan window opens in a weeks time (we now only have five loan players at the club, with one of those being the disappearing Jason Koumas, another in Craig Bellamy who will not be available for every game and another in Aaron Ramsey scheduled to leave at the end of this month, so there is certainly scope to bring more in) ?
That’s the thing with the Malaysians, it’s hard to guess what’s coming next with them. Don’t get me wrong, we should be eternally grateful to TG and Vincent Tan for all that they have done for the club already, but “in the know” posters on messageboards were telling us at the back end of last year that there would be millions spent on the team in January if we were in the top two going into 2011 – we just about managed that, but, although there could be loan fees that had to be paid for Ramsey and Emmanuel-Thomas, the investment so far doesn’t seem to be as much as was claimed. Perhaps it was never the plan for such a large investment, but even if they don’t get the loan signing(s) that I expect over the coming weeks, the Malaysians have backed Dave Jones this season in a way that few, if any, Cardiff managers have been in the past – if, as I believe, there are still doubts about the balance of the squad, then that isn’t their fault.