Accepting the inevitable.

CoymayIt’s funny, I genuinely thought at half time during City’s humiliating and soul destroying 4-0 defeat by Hull at the Cardiff City Stadium yesterday that we were playing pretty well. Actually, we were in a way, we were neat and purposeful in much of our build up play and we were, at long last, creating the chances that I have accused our midfield of not being able to for most of the season.

However, what I was not recognising, or, probably, to be more accurate, I was trying not to recognise because the truth was so painful, was that we had just put in another forty five minutes in which we looked every inch a relegation side.

There are different ways a team can look like a relegation side. For example, they can go to a place like Crystal Palace and fail to compete with a whole hearted, but limited opponent who wanted the win so much more than them.

A very sad picture, the players in shots feelings are clear after hull's third goal, but what is most telling to me are the looks of resignation and acceptance in the crowd - people have lost faith in the club both on and off the field.*

A very sad picture, the players in shots feelings are clear after Hull’s third goal, but what is most telling to me are the looks of resignation and acceptance in the crowd – people have lost faith in the club both on and off the field.*

They can also not turn up for the first forty five minutes of a new manager’s first home match in which a desperately out of form and injury hit West Ham side are allowed to get a goal in front and then spend the second period comfortably withstanding some toothless attacking despite being reduced to ten men. A third alternative would be that they go to the ground of their bitterest rivals for a relegation six pointer and totally cave in once they go a goal behind.

What probably marks out a relegation side as much as anything though is how they get punished when they aren’t playing too badly. The BBC’s stats for yesterday’s match showed that we had 56% of the possession and had twenty three goal attempts compared to Hull’s twelve (and I’d say maybe half of those from our opponents came when the game was all over at 4-0).

I honestly didn’t think Hull were that good yesterday, but, tellingly, half of their goal attempts were on target whereas just 22% of ours were. As I mentioned above, our strikers could not complain about a lack of chances – I don’t know whether it was because he was trying to prove himself against a former club, but Fraizer Campbell never looked confident in front of goal, while Kenwyne Jones (who I’m afraid is turning out to be just the type of player Stoke fans said he would be for us) showed exactly why his recent goal scoring record is so poor.

On the other hand, Hull scored four from what I can only remember as five decent opportunities in the first sixty seven minutes. You can look at their first goal and say they got lucky with a deflection, but they were gifted the ball in a dangerous position by Magnus Wolff Eikrem (who I thought was playing well until then) and questions have to be asked about the defending for at least two of the other goals – City certainly helped Hull along the way to their comprehensive victory.

So, although I suppose it can be argued that we were unlucky and the score didn’t really reflect the balance of the game, it cannot explain away the ineptitude shown at either end of the pitch or that, not for the first time under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, we looked like a side that is completely wrong for a relegation scrap.

Sorry to return to something I mentioned last week, but we are in a scrap, battle, fight, call it whatever you like, with a bunch of players who as a group seem hopelessly ill equipped to succeed in that struggle.

What we have (especially since the January transfer window) are plenty of pretty ball players who can be very easy on the eye at times, but, where is the substance, the heart and the pride?

Yes, we can have twenty three goal attempts in a match (which, incidentally, is more than we managed in any Premier League match under Malky Mackay’s management), but what difference does it make when at the end of it we have registered another zero to go with the other fourteen so far this season?

Those extra goal attempts are coming at the expense of defensive solidarity and midfield “dirty work” which Gary Medel apart (it’s two home defeats, no goals scored and seven conceded in the two games he’s missed this season), our “nice” players in the middle of the park are unable to perform to an acceptable standard. So, with no end product at the one end and less stability at the other, what good is this new attacking philosophy doing us?

Although I would prefer it if Malky Mackay were in charge, nothing would please me more than seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjær turn things around, but, with each passing week, it looks less and less likely*.

Although I would prefer it if Malky Mackay were still in charge, nothing would please me more than seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjær turn things around, but, with each passing week, it looks less and less likely*.

Sorry, but I felt more comfortable with, and would prefer to see included now, a Gunnarsson in the middle of the park who will at least compete and do what I would like my players to do in a relegation scrap – scrap! I would also feel more comfortable if I could see some signs of the attitude we had under Malky Mackay whereby we were generally a lot harder to break down than we are now.

If you are my age then you earned your City supporting spurs so to speak watching us in relegation battles most seasons. We won the battle most of the time, but, from memory, I don’t recall us doing so by playing the sort of sometimes pretty, but generally ineffective, powderpuff football this side has been producing for the past couple of months – soft touches get relegated and, make no bones about it, we are a soft touch these days.

Of course, I should end by pointing out that if you look at the table, our position is not terminal by any means. Going back to those successful relegation battles in the seventies, I can remember bad defeats in March and April which left us in far worse positions than we are in now, but it’s our record at both ends of the pitch which gives me so little hope this time.

We have now failed to score in 56% of our Premier League matches this season and we have conceded twenty eight goals in the eleven games we have played since beating West Brom in early December. We will need to concede about half that number in the same number of matches to have any realistic chance of staying up and, if we were to do that, then we will also probably need as many goals scored in those eleven matches as we have managed in the twenty seven we’ve played so far – can you honestly see that happening?

*pictures courtesy of

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7 Responses to Accepting the inevitable.

  1. You were right you fighters to get out of trouble…you have good players to the eye only…You have lost your championship spine were as we still kept ours..We will fight for everything because of Rosenior,Bruce,Elmo,Brady, Etc..I hope you will stay up but it is a long shot…Good luck

  2. hovetiger says:

    I was expecting a real Championship type blood and thunder battle yesterday, but it never really materialised. Hull City didn’t actually play well 1st half and I was getting frustrated with us giving the ball away cheaply, but as soon as we went 2 ahead, Cardiff seemed to give up, along with a lot of the fans. I wouldn’t be happy with the likes of Zaha and Jones on that performance, and though your Championship side weren’t the best, at least they seemed compact, organised and competitive. Good luck to you guys for the rest of the season but I would fear the worst on that performance…we’ve travelled a long way together and I genuinely would prefer others went down. You’ll always be blue

  3. Dai Woosnam says:

    Some of your readers will be pleased to know Paul that I am taking a sabbatical from commenting on Cardiff City. My health will not stand the blithering incompetence that seems to be the Order of the Day within the club these days.

    Not that being in The Premiership is necessarily so vital. As I have said before in these pages, they can play in the Conference as far as I am concerned, as long as they play ATTACKING football.

    And when the ultra negative Malky Mackay went, he was replaced with Ole who could certainly TALK THE TALK and promised us attacking football.

    But alas it is ALL WORDS with this affable Norwegian. Where is the guy who so cynically chopped down Rob Lee? Where is the STEEL in the bloke? He just tells the Media what they want to hear. And no doubt comes out with the same twaddle to Vincent.

    He cannot walk the walk. Two goals yesterday – including the vital first – were down to the BANE OF MY LIFE …stupid unnecessary square passes that get intercepted. Listen, Mr Attacking Manager, if you really believe in attacking football, STOP your players from making square or back passes anywhere up to 15 yards into your opponents half. It is just pressing the suicide button.

    Both those poor square passes could have been played FORWARD with ease. But both players proved too gutless, in case their long pass missed the target.

    And if you want to show you are an attacking manager, do not send out on loan the finest attacking full back in all of the bottom 82 of the 92 clubs. Yet again he dazzled for The Blades and got the vital breakthrough goal in the 43rd minute in their win yesterday.

    Ole replaces him with the boy who was brought over to keep his twin Rafael from getting homesick! Rafael’s bro is a permanent accident waiting to happen.

    The brilliant John Brayford dispensed with for …(wait for it !)
    …FABIO ???!!!

    Then let us take the chap who should have been loaned out and who cannot cut it at Premiership level: Andrew Taylor. Out of position almost as often as Fabio. Slow. And worse – for a defender – always attempts to half turn his back on a shot that he should have the spunk to really face up to. Yes it can STILL be deflected in, but is far less likely to be, when you properly see the ball coming at you.

    Where does one end in all this? Take Paul Abbandonato’s “colossus”: drawn hopelessly out of position on his left touchline, he sees the ball switched to the other wing. And positively ambles back, even though he can see Nikica Jelovic standing unmarked on the penalty spot.

    By the time Caulker gets there, the train has departed the station.

    Frankly, Vincent, you should SUE Malky for grossly overpaying for SC …though that said, I really DO see a defensive midfield player in him. Just not a central defender.

    As for Kenny Miller Mk 2: he should be loaned out to Newport County. It is about his current level. And John Toshack should be brought in to give him lessons in how to head a football. (Remember, the 15 year old JT got one-to-one lessons from the great John Charles!)

    To think that he has been preferred to Nicky Maynard. Astonishing.

    And equally astonishing that Ole was preferred to Bellamy as manager! (Though that said, Craig’s stupid rabbit punch on De Guzman the other week, shows he is not really managerial material. No, not because of the assault per se, but because a sensible manager manqué knows that there are lots of camera positions in Premier League games, and it was bound to be picked up. Hence the wholly avoidable 3 game ban. Had he been playing yesterday, it may have been much closer.)

    And a final comment before my departure: I hope Norwich go down with City. That way Malky (as their odds-on new boss) will have to do it all again next season. And he may well get promotion with his tactics of let’s us park the bus at away grounds and flood the midfield at home. But Norwich fans will quickly pine for Chris Hughton. And realise that “negativity” is a matter of degrees.
    PS I will still read your fine blog however. I wish it and you well, Paul.
    * = You Could Not Make It Up (if you tried!)

  4. Matt N says:

    What bothered me about yesterday was the lack of recognition from OGS at half time of what was needed. We were playing quite well, I agree, but needed a Gunnarson in there. Pulling Zaha off was the right move, but the player coming on needed to add some steel and stop the midfield getting overrun – switch to 451, haul off Jones.
    What has bothered me since OGS has come in is the general media handling at the club. Players are in the Echo/Western Mail, whatever, mouthing off on every topic under the sun. There doesn’t seem to be much control from their media advisor and some damaging/ridiculous things are being said.
    Now, I will forever be an optimist. There is a slim possibility that three teams will finish with a lower points total (it will have to be with our goal difference), but OGS has got to organise a settled team, and those players have got to fight and show some belief.
    I’ll finish with a slightly unrelated point (I realise this hasn’t been the most structured post) – Zaha’s England ambitions. I’m really confused on where this has come from, having watched every minute of playing time Zaha has had since joining us. He played a good pass to Bellamy in his first game. Well done. He showed a good bit of skill in the first 20 against Hull. Great. The rest has been indulgent, wasteful, sloppy. At Palace he was the jewel in their crown and was, in my opinion, one of the top 2 or 3 players in the Championship for the past two seasons. But from there to the England squad (or even the Premiership) is a step up. I think Wilfried can safely book his holiday to Magaluf in June, based on his first month with us.

  5. Geoff Lewis says:

    Hi, Totally agree with all the comments made, especially Dai’s.
    The only thing that crossed my mind yesterday, if we could have scored that all important first goal, we may have survived the day, including a good penalty shout when Jones was brought down.
    But alas no penalties must be given to Cardiff City, we cannot be helped by the so called Officials.
    But to be honest we are a side who are clueless in the final third and midfield. Cowie, Eikrem, Taylor, Fabio, Campbell, Jones, Berget and Zaha all rubbish, no guts or passion. Change the team again for the Spurs game, Ole has to bring back Bellamy, Whittingham , Mutch (if fit), Gunnarson, Theopole, either John or McNaughton and DAEHLI TO START.
    What a nightmare thanks to Tan and the Board and the Managers and Players, Sack the lot and start again. At least we will have Brayford and Maynard for next season.

  6. andy says:

    I really hope tan fucks off before he destroys your club good luco
    A JACK

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Firstly, thanks to you all for your replies.

    It’s especially good to get a couple from Hull fans – I always enjoy getting feedback from opposing fans. What I would say to you both is that you knew us from last year – Leicester are going to be much more impressive Champions than we were, but we were organised and tough to play against, sadly those qualities are gone now. We certainly weren’t great entertainers when we were winning things last year and yet, incredibly as far as I’m concerned, our owner, many in the Boardroom and plenty of supporters believed that was what we should be in the much tougher league we now find ourselves in, with the result that we are lumbered with an inexperienced manager trying to integrate a completely new playing style while saving us from relegation – Ole’s not made a great start, but he’s been given a Herculean task.

    You have my sympathy and support as far as the campaign to stop your owner’s name change goes, but the impression I get (albeit it from a distance) is that Allam lets Steve Bruce get on with his job and at least understands that there are certain things at the club that the football people are better equipped to deal with – I envy you that. If we go down there are going to be plenty of people to blame, but, leaving aside the re-branding for now, Tan and his non footballing appointees have given an object lesson in how a modern day Premier League club should not be run – Hammam, Ridsdale and now Tan, it’s like a sick joke!

    I agree with you Geoff – there is hardly anyone at Cardiff who is going to come out of this season with their reputation enhanced.

    Matt, 4-4-2 (especially with two wingers) seems a suicidal policy for a side down near the bottom of any division to use unless they are in a position where they have to win to stay up – teams like us have to play 4-5-1 (or, alternatively the 3-5-2 Hull used) to keep the solidity that we, as a a very low scoring team, need because if we are going to get the wins we require, they are far more likely to be by 1-0 or 2-1 than they are by 3-2 or 4-3.

    Dai, you’ll be advocating Brayford for the England squad for Brazil soon! Don’t get me wrong, I spent the second half of last season saying that we should sign him because he always struck me as the best player in his position in the Championship. I always assumed he had some sort of falling out with Malky and we would see him get his chance under Ole, but the fact that two City managers didn’t fancy him, makes me think there is something wrong with him that you and I haven’t seen. There have been the usual stories about a “bad attitude” which you tend to get when someone finds themselves frozen out of the first team squad, but I’ve not seen any evidence of that in his televised appearances for Sheffield United and all of the time Ole is switching his full backs around like there is no tomorrow!

    Andy, thanks for your good wishes – there is always the fear of your club taking a leap into the dark when they have such huge debts and you talk about the person who is providing the finance leaving, but I’ve been at the stage where I would be happy to see us take our chances without Tan for a few months now.

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