Definitely a point gained on a day when the lack of creativity at Cardiff City is exposed.

I think I mentioned recently on here that, although it doesn’t happen too often, I sometimes find myself thinking about the form my blog report on a game will take while it is still in progress. This happened from about the hour mark onwards of Cardiff City’s home match with Sheffield Wednesday yesterday because, in two different games, I’d watched City sides approach their tasks in completely contrasting ways and yet it seemed inevitable that the outcome would be defeat in both cases with a very significant factor in them being a fundamental lack of creativity.

Sol Bamba’s equaliser to snatch a 1-1 against Sheffield Wednesday at Cardiff City Stadium came so late into added time that our opponents only had time to kick off before referee Lee Probert blew the final whistle and had me thinking that I’d have to come up with a different theme for this piece. However, I have changed my mind on further reflection, because late, and very valuable, equaliser or not for the seniors, the weakness I saw in both sides I watched represent City still apply.

I’ll give a fuller description of the Under 18’s 1-0 loss to Leeds United at Leckwith yesterday lunchtime later on, but, essentially, the visitors were in control of the flow and tempo of the match throughout. Life became harder for Leeds late on after they had to play the final quarter with ten men after one of their players had, rightly in my view, been shown a straight red card for a nasty looking foul.

This meant that our opponents spent the rest of the game defending, but, although City occasionally came close to finding an equaliser, the passing approach, which is fundamental to how we want to play at this level, did not have the creative edge to it to fashion clear goalscoring opportunities – this was as true against ten opponents as it was against eleven.

In the seniors game a few hours later, the methods used by the team playing in blue may have contrasted sharply with those used by their juniors, but, in essence, the same thing applied – Cardiff struggled because they were almost entirely unable to put together any dangerous passages of football in open play.

Where the two sides differed was when it came to attacking set pieces. Like so many City sides I’ve watched at this level down the years, the Under 18s were generally shorter player for player than their opponents and had, obviously, decided that they had to come up with something different from free kicks inside their opponents half, throw ins from within about forty yards range of their goal and corner kicks if they were to gain any advantage from them. So it was, that the Under 18s tried a more subtle approach from such situations – ironically, the one time I can remember them trying something like a “traditional” corner, they almost got an equaliser.

Contrast that with the senior side, who, for quite a long time now, have had players, mostly defenders, who have been able to get their heads on balls played aerially into the opposition penalty box first – in essence, no matter how poorly they might be faring in open play, City have a chance in any game if they can keep on forcing corners and attacking throw ins and free kicks.

So it was yesterday – in this, albeit very brief, highlights package all but one of the City attacks shown come from set pieces and, from memory, they are not missing out any instances from open play where we caused Wednesday a problem.

During the summer, when it became clear that we were in the market for a midfield player, there were some supporters who were calling for a Peter Whittingham replacement – that is a central midfielder who was, essentially, a passer of the ball. To go back a few years, I would have liked to see a Steve McPhail type brought in, but I knew that it wouldn’t happen under this manager because I’m struggling to come up with any convincing evidence from Neil Warnock’s long career which suggests that he has relied on such players to any great extent in the past.

Back in 1995, Everton shocked Manchester United to win the FA Cup Final with a team described by their manager, Joe Royle as akin to “Dogs of War”. Now, if I was too young to have seen that side in action, such description would conjure up a certain image in my mined, and it would be an accurate one.

Younger City fans will probably be aware of Welshman Barry Horne, but how about John Ebrell and Joe Parkinson? Horne, Ebrell and Parkinson were the three players Royle would consider for the two central midfield positions at Everton in 1995 – all had their strengths and I came to appreciate what Horne brought to the Welsh team quite late in his career, but I would say that, even each of that trios most passionate supporters would not go as far as to call them midfield play makers.

For Joe Royle in 1995, read Neil Warnock in 2017. Although I think Joe Ralls has a creative side to his game and Loic Damour has shown signs that he can be an incisive passer as well, I don’t see any of the quartet of central midfielders that Warnock is likely to be choosing from until January (Aron Gunnarsson and Craig Bryson being the other two) filling the play maker tag which could be applied to a Whittingham or a McPhail. Our manager is in the habit of calling Ralls and Gunnarsson “bread and butter” players – again, I would say that is a description which accurately captures the essence of the men concerned for those who aren’t familiar with them.

I’ve seen it said that Wednesday’s Barry Bannan, playing in a deep holding position controlled large portions of yesterday’s match – particularly in the first half.

I agree that Bannan was very influential and, speaking as someone who has been surprised and disappointed by how the ball has been treated like a hot potato by our players in the first quarter of the QPR game and for all of the first half (and a fair portion of the second period) yesterday, I’d like to see someone in our team who could bring the sort of control that Bannan brought to Wednesday for much of the time. However, although I accept that it was at a higher level than the Championship, Neil Warnock only used Bannan once from the start and twice off the sub’s bench in the Premier League when he had him as a player during his four month period as manager at Crystal Palace in 2014

So much of our play looked oafish and basic compared to Wednesday, but I was interested by our manager’s post match comments. In particular, he talked about Wednesday looking good “between the boxes”, but where many (including myself) saw one side clearly having the better of proceedings much of the time, our manager talked about our equaliser being a deserved one and, to a degree, I’d now say he has a point.

Three of the four sides I watched yesterday wanted to keep the ball and sought to do so at nearly all times, even if it meant a backward or sideways pass which did not hurt their opponents at all. However, one of those sides (our Under 18s) barely carried a goal threat, another one (Leeds Under 18s) only looked like scoring from long range shots and a look at the match stats raises questions about how effective the third one’s so called “control” was.

Radio Wales’ post match phone in show was full of callers decrying the City team  (I can’t say I disagreed with them at the time) and pundits Nathan Blake and Jason Perry were united in their opinion that we had been taught something of a lesson by Wednesday – “punch drunk” was a description used on a few occasions to describe how some of our players looked in  the face of our opponents apparent superiority.

Now, I’m not saying that we deserved to win or anything like that, but when the stats say that the team that were supposed to be being giving a football lesson had twice as many goal attempts (sixteen to eight) and four times as many efforts on target (eight to two), shouldn’t there be a reappraisal on the part of many spectators of what occurred or, at least, a reconsideration of how effective our opponent’s supposed domination was in terms of getting something worthwhile from it?

Not for the first time recently, I find myself questioning the footballing beliefs I have lived with since I was able to have some sort of tactical appreciation of the game – I always prefer my team to have possession of the ball, but have to concede that there is an awful lot of “passing it just for the sale of passing it” from many teams in today’s game.

However, even someone who, apparently, is not bothered about his team having less of the  ball than the opposition, conceded something that, for me, was so obviously true in the first half yesterday – Warnock sounded exasperated at how quickly we handed possession back when we did manage to get it.

It’s coming up to a year since Neil Warnock became our manager and, despite having less than fifty per cent possession in the huge majority of our games since then, we, nevertheless, have managed to win a lot more of them than we’ve lost – our record under Russell Slade in terms of games won v games lost wasn’t too bad either, despite our all too frequent losing of the “battle for possession”.

Possession doesn’t automatically equal points then, but it was good to hear our unbeliever of a manager when it comes to “the passing game”, concede that we needed to be better at retaining the ball yesterday – we can forget about a top six finish if we are as poor in possession as we were in the first half yesterday and we have been in parts of some matches earlier in the season.

A few words on the Under 18s game to finish. The only goal was scored in the twenty sixth minute and came against the run of play as far as I’m concerned because City were edging things following a strong first few minutes from Leeds.

I’ve often praised goalkeeper George Ratcliffe for being so good with the ball at his feet, but I’m afraid he’ll have to take responsibility for the goal as his attempt to play out from the back resulted in a side footed pass straight to a Leeds forward about thirty yards from goal. Mind you, Ratcliffe’s error didn’t seem to be too costly because he’d hardly presented Leeds with open goal, but the visitor’s impressive left winger Clarke made the keeper pay in full with a thumping twenty five yarder high up into the net.

The goal hit City hard and Leeds were dominant for the next forty minutes or so, but, strangely, this was only reflected in a series of beautifully struck long range shots – the first of which by McCalmont bounced down and out off the underside of the bar, the second, by Wollerton, drew a superb tip over from Ratcliffe and then in the second half the keeper did well to keep out another Clarke effort.

Even after McCalmont had been red carded half way through the second half for a reckless lunge at sub Keiron Proctor, City were only able to offer some pretty uninspired huff and puff in response.

They did almost find an equaliser first when Isaak Davies shot against a post from a very acute angle and a goal seemed certain when, with keeper Male out of position, the ball fell to Keiron Evans in a central position about eight yards, but he could only shoot against the covering the Leeds defender who had got back to cover on the line. Besides this, Sion Spence saw his glancing header from a Sam Bowen corner cleared off the line and Evans I think it was forced Male into a decent diving save late on, but it ended as a second home defeat for the Academy lads which, like the first one, they couldn’t really complain about to set against the two draws they’d got from their trips to Hull and Forest.






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9 Responses to Definitely a point gained on a day when the lack of creativity at Cardiff City is exposed.

  1. Colin Phillips says:

    Thanks, Paul.

    I must confess that I had conceded defeat and on my way out of the stadium when we got the equaliser so that says something about my feelings about the game. Not too concerned about the lack of possession but have to agree that Sheffield passed much better than us and I felt very uncomfortable when the “Oles” went up from their fans late on in the game. What concerns me is the loss of that energy we showed in our earlier home games. Don’t know why that is or what can be done about it.

    Feel I must make a comment about the referee, Lee Probert, why do these Premier League refs come to the Championship with such a high opinion of themselves. I like to see a ref let the game flow but Probert’s ‘turning a blind-eye’ approach yesterday went too far. It was just in Sheffield’s favour there was nudging and tugging and shirt-holding going on on both sides but we seemed to have two good penalty shouts turned down.

    Looking at the performances on the pitch,Etheridge doesn’t look up to Championship level, I thought Bennett and Peltier had their poorest games of the ones that I have seen, centre backs did OK except for the goal and that Fletcher miss second-half, Ralls was excellent most of the time, Gunnarson wasn’t his usual driving force, Bryson looks as if he will do a decent job when fully integrated, Mendez-Laing a touch anonymous first-half but came to life when switched to the left. Hoilett and Zohore looked to be just off the pace.

    The other results seemed to go our way but I’m not sure why Wolves appear above us in the table (have they scored more goals than we have?). Disappointing performance but still in a nice position but a very long way to go.

  2. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul for your reviews the world of pocession, eh , a complicated one , tho point I would add to that debate is pocession is only worthwhile if it delivers a result, yesterdays result was a get out of jail card for us ,however Wednesday for all there pocession lacked that killer instinct in front of goals.

    City have done well after last 3 results to stay with the leading pack, and at least showed yesterday the fight was back in the second half against a very organised well drilled side who foced us into our errors .

    I thought Warnock left it too late to bring on Tomlin , Ward and Feeney .

    Warnock has some big decisions to make with regards to some players such as Manga ,Ward , Tomlin ,and the appearance of Patterson , Camp , never mind how he juggles the impressive Damour and Bryson into the team, and Zohore lack of goals.

    Yesterday we suffered from that lack is zip we had seen recently only Lange I thought showed intent with Holilett having some nice touches , Zohore looked ponderous at times but was heavily man marked (that’s what 17 million price tags bring I guess )

    I agree with Colin with regards to the referee, very pro the Owls, and yes our defence did look very unorganised ,im one that firmly believes you build from the back with a sound safe keeper who can distribute well , kicking up field to no one, is not an option .

    We were so keen to defend yesterday its was like an away match our midfield played too deep allowing thier players so match time to apply the passing game well .

    In terms of creativity we do have players that can apply that in Tomlin,Bryson and Damour (Bryson I thought looks a good buy )

    Top 6 if were lucky now , maybe top 10, however if Wednesday and Fulham are the top end teams ?? we have shown we can compete , Preston position suggests we ran into a team on form, so this difficult month of fixtures is interesting, so far we played well at Fulham, beaten well by in form PNE, survived a well drilled top 6 side in Wednesday , we may see Sunderland away as a chance to nick something ,then comes the emotion of the Leeds game,that could go anyway, then Derby, eeeeeek.

    Boro for me will win the league, though.

  3. BJA says:

    Good Morning Paul and your devoted followers. Oh the curse of the monthly awards!! What maniac decided to give them to NW and NML. Two points out of nine and had the referee decided to blow his whistle after the four minutes of the allotted additional time and not five, we would have had just one measly point to show for our September efforts.
    Must hope we will find our way again for the three remaining games this month.
    We were well outplayed for the first half, but certainly outperformed the opposition in the second 45 minutes. In fact, I thought we really should have won the game with the amount of scoring opportunities that presented themselves, but a distinct lack of composure let us down.
    I understand that we had 16 attempts on goal ( Wednesday just 8 ) and half of these on target ( Wednesday just 2 ). But I seem to recall that our first on target came after 22 minutes from a Ralls effort from outside the area, That it took so long for such a strike is clearly not good enough, particularly from a team playing at home. NW needs to examine why.
    One incredible statistic from yesterday’s encounter was that we only committed five fouls. That must help us in our attempts on avoiding any label of us being a dirty team.
    Just Peltier’s yellow card and he may consider himself luck to have avoided a second following his attempt at a tug back later on in the first half just about in the penalty area. Sadly he did not have a good game, and perhaps now is the time to give Richards a run whilst Paterson regains some fitness.
    I feel sorry for Zahore who is not being given the chances upon which he thrives. Clever passes which allow him to show his power and pace are distinctly missing, and I believe he needs more thrusting midfield play to present him with these opportunities. I know NW likes wingers, but if Hoillett was replaced by Damour, then he, Ralls and Bryceson with Mendez-Laing roving about would make a very lively attacking mid-field quartet. Any support for such an arrangement?
    I do not imagine there are many of us who would believe we could have accumulated 17 points after eight matches, so I will remain positive, but my ‘half glass full’ attitude has seen just a little drain from it these past few days.

  4. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Paul’s reference to Mark Antony’s stirring call, “Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war” caught my attention. Even more interesting to me is the following statement in his blog: “for quite a long time now, [Cardiff City] have had players. MOSTLY DEFENDERS, who have been able to get their heads on balls played aerilly into the opposition penalty box”. This is very true. Yet, we have a centre forward with impressive physical attributes who normally stands back outside the area or runs underneath the high balls when they come into the area. He also rarely challenges for high balls hit in his direction, preferring to duck. Indeed, when he does make contact with his head on these occasions, the ball flies aimlessly behind him. Some time ago I wrote on this blog that I felt his progress had reached a plateau, and also that opposing defenders would know how to nullify his main strength of strong running towards goal when he has time to turn and pick up speed. I accept that he’s not receiving from his colleagues balls which he can run on to, but neither is he making such runs of his own volition.
    Many years ago I had the privilege of seeing Nat Lofthouse in action, albeit at the end of his career. Just to see him stride onto the field let you know that he would always put his neck (and every other bodily part) on the line in challenging for the ball in potentially dangerous areas. Not for nothing did the press call him “the Lion of Vienna” for one of the goals he scored for England against Austria in 1952. It involved a run on goal somewhat in the way Kenneth Zohore was performing during his purple scoring patch last season, but it was much more than that. If anyone is interested, please read, for example, Henry Winter’s obituary of Nat Lofthouse as printed in the Daily Telegraph, 18th January 2011. It is fitting testimony to a man I consider to be the very epitome of an old-fashioned lion-hearted centre forward. Kenneth Zohore (and almost every striker performing today) is no Nat Lofthouse.
    It seems to me that Zohore is something of a one-track pony — and defenders have soon
    found out how to hamstring him. Perhaps Mr Warnock has deliberately set out to over-praise Kenneth Zohore’s abilities as a way of boosting his self-confidence. It could also explain why the manager was so reluctant yesterday– and not for the first time — to substitute him at an early stage. It may even be that Zohore has fallen for his own publicity. Whatever the reason, he is not performing in a way that should guarantee his first-team place.

  5. Clive Rymon says:

    Hi Paul,well,International breaks eh what a difference in levels of intensity and team play from August,It could be argued that teams are sussing us out now but in the first half especially we seem to lack the togetherness and awareness which we had shown previously this season.Into the second half and much better showing although I did think that for all the improvement it wouldn’t be our day on a another occasion it might not have been.

    Friends who I go to the game with have discussed over the seasons the merits of tiky taky football or in your face football,and obviously their are reasons for both but when I watched the “Ole”football by Wednesday and then read your stats of the game I thought”really”.I look at Stoke as an example under Pulis and many pundits better qualified than I who said that they brought the Premiership to a lower level,but after eleven seasons their still their plying their trade,don’t get me wrong I like to see a skill full player who creates goals or chances like the next person but passing it back and fourth between your back players not for me I’m afraid,I’m in Warnocks camp of giving plenty of oohs and why’s formy entrance money.

    So just three games now before the next break so let’s hope we end on a high and come back back with renewed vigour until the next one in November.

  6. Royalewithcheese says:

    Some City fans may be thinking, “Good time to go to Sunderland. Three points there for the taking!” That better not be our team’s mindset. In fairness, I don’t for one minute think it will be. I’ve heard it said that ‘we’, i.e. the whole team, have either “been found out” or “haven’t turned up” since the international break. I think it’s more baffling than that: a ‘mystery bug’, a ‘mind virus’, as mysterious in origin as that early blaze of fire and form, a back draught, consuming us now. ‘Tired’? What a load of hogwash! If they’d been in school all week and were now turning out for a second ninety minutes after playing Saturday morning, if they didn’t have ice baths and masseurs and the life of Reilly – maybe! No, I think it’s more specific than that. Hoilett and Pellett had stinkers yesterday, Etheridge makes fine saves but seems out of sync with his defenders, Gunnarsson (like Hoilett I believe) had no rest during the international break and Zohore i.m.h.o. is trying too hard to score because (his agent’s in his ear) all the assists in the world won’t get him that dream transfer next year if he’s not banging them in himself. It’s affecting his whole game, and if anyone seems integral to our aspirations it is he. It was encouraging to see the engine come back to life in the second half yesterday, but I fear Sunderland will mackemeal of us next Saturday if something’s not done. Time to find out how good some of our replacement parts really are. Forget about the first five games, Neil. Stop the rot before it sets in!

  7. Barry Cole says:

    Sad really Paul as we are already criticising the team when in fact that shouldn’t be the case.
    Sheffield Wednesday played good football in the first half and stopped us. But that’s all, yes they scored but honestly I couldn’t see much more coming from a team that had so much possession. There is no doubt that they had help from a poor Cardiff display in the first half. The stats also showed who had the most chances and the most shots on target and that wasn’t Sheffield Wednesday .
    What has changed during the break as we are not showing the spirit we had prior to the break.
    I think the answer is in warnock hands and he was the first to admit it. He has failed to change a winning team when he should be playing a team capable of beating the opposition of the day.
    He had already said that he wished he had changed 4 players for the Preston match and the last thing I expected was only one change against Wednesday.
    Now I am a big admirer of ralls but the midfield should have started with Gunnar son, Bryson and tomlin with ward up front
    This would have served as a double whammy to the players and a reminder that they have to produce the goods week in week out.
    Maybe warnock should go with his gut now and not continue to pick players on past glories. This is no reflection on warnock as I believe he felt the team had earned the right to be picked but having seen the rewards at Preston and the tame draw here that cannot be the case in future.
    Everybody needs to be on their mantle as they were in the first five matches but even then players were not hitting the consistency on a regular basis.
    Yes we all got carried away and that can happen again.
    As I have a vested interest in the next game I do not want to have a bad weekend with my mates from the north east by drowning my sorrows in another drab draw or loss. Time to pick up where we left off before the break with a team capable of beating Sunderland over to you mr warnock.

  8. MIKE HOPE says:

    In all our home games this season, including even the first half against Livingston, the opposition has looked better than us in passing the ball from the goalkeeper through the midfield and over the halfway line.Clearly our defensive players do not spend much time on the training ground working on ‘give and goes’ amongst themselves! In fact they look distinctively uncomfortable when a closing down opponent gets within about ten yards and the usual outcome is either a pass to the keeper or a hopeful punt down field.
    I think that our success this season has come from allowing the opposition to cross the halfway line before winning possession and launching the pace and power of our front three.
    This is not a bad tactic (it was good enough to help Leicester to win the Premier League) but can make us look dreadful when winning possession is followed by giving the ball back to the opposition.
    This happened frequently on Saturday and it could be a chicken and egg argument whether this was due to poor distribution or an ineffective Zohore.I think it was more of the latter.Sheffield’s goal started with a misplaced pass from Bryson to Zohore when Zohore seemed to slip.
    Having said all this I think we thoroughly deserved the draw and the praise given to Wednesday by Wales on line was way over the top.
    They had two shots on target one of which was the goal.I am not sure when the other one happened as I cannot remember Eldridge making a save.Their best and perhaps only threat came when Fletcher did brilliantly to take a long pass on his chest before blasting wide under pressure from Bamba and Eldridge.Compare this with the charmed life in the Sheffield penalty area and goalmouth before we finally scored.
    On the significance of possession statistics it is interesting that we had over 50% at Preston!
    It will be interesting to see what changes are made for the Sunderland game.I agree with Royalewithcheese (Pulp Fiction fan like TLG?) that tiredness should not be an issue but we have perhaps become too predictable and need a plan B.

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Some especially good replies this time – thanks. I’ve not got the time to do them justice I’m afraid, so just some quick points in reply.
    Colin, I’m with you about our front three. People seem to be concentrating on Zohore, but I think Hoilett has been equally as disappointing in September after I considered him to be the best player in a side full of people playing well in August – thought Mendez-Lange had a decent game though after a struggle to get into it in the first half an hour.
    Russell, I was saying during the game that Warnock seemed to be leaving things very late with his substitutions – wasn’t over impressed with Feeney and, apart from his free kick, I can only remember Tomlin touching the ball once.
    Clive, I think the football Warnock favours can look deadly dull and be totally ineffective when it’s played poorly and that’s what happened for much of the game on Saturday and a good portion of the first half against QPR, but he’s hardly going to change his approach now is he.
    BJA, I’d be very surprised if Warnock considers dropping Peltier (who I thought was unusually poor on Saturday) – his post match comments were interesting in that he mentioned Bennett by name and also revealed that he doesn’t seem to expect Peltier to be anywhere near as influential as he does his other full back when it comes to going forward, you’d expect Paterson was brought here to play first team football, but he’s a polar opposite of Peltier when it comes to full back play.
    Anthony, I agree with the conclusion you reach in your last sentence, but not in the reasons you outline for it. For me, apart from his lack of goals, Zohore was playing very well in August, but he’s not looked the same player after the international break. Perhaps, it’s more relevant that the window closed in that middle of that break – while I may be jumping to a wrong conclusion, he’s playing like someone who didn’t get the move he wanted a few weeks ago.
    Good to hear from you Royale, Sunderland haven’t won at home in the league in 2017 apparently and I’m sure that their players must be dreading playing at the Stadium of Light. An early goal for us would give us a fantastic chance of the three points, but we’ve conceded first in our last four games now and, although we’re proving to be good at recovering from going 1-0 down, we really need to start playing on the front foot again – maybe a week free from games might recharge a few batteries?
    Barry, I think it was a feeble excuse, but the tiredness Warnock talked about after the Preston game shouldn’t be a factor after a “free week” for the squad and, having not rung the changes after the no show at Deepdale, I’d be surprised if he did it for Sunderland when we had delivered a second half performance that may not have hit the peaks of last month, but was still a big improvement on the first forty five minutes – to contradict myself a bit, I suppose there’s a chance of some squad rotation before a very tricky looking pair of home games to follow?
    Mike, I agree entirely with your first paragraph and also about the tone of Wales Online’s reporting of the game. I’d prefer us to be better at passing the ball, so maybe tend to go a bit over the top on the subject when, as you say, every side we play seems to be better at it than us. However, we had a keeper under pressure after a bit of a nightmare in the week and a few costly errors in other recent games and yet this team that were supposed to be so dominant only had two efforts on target – like you, I cannot remember the other one! As for a Plan B – possibly Manga in and three at the back, but I’d say only Tomlin out of our attacking players could, possibly, present Sunderland with defensive problems to solve that they hadn’t anticipated.

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