Entertaining and encouraging end to pre season fixtures.

CoymayAgainst a backdrop of Gary Medel’s protracted transfer to Inter Milan, seemingly, nearing completion with the Italian club finally matching City’s asking price and QPR having had a bid of £5 million for Jordon Mutch rejected (word is they’ll be back in quickly with an offer that will be accepted), it was, in some ways, a patched up Cardiff City side that faced Wolfsburg in their only home pre season friendly yesterday.

City’s lack of options at the back was summed up by the fact that it was Juan Cala (suspended for the first two matches of the league season) who partnered Matt Connolly at centreback – with Ben Turner not recovering from his knock at Yeovil and Mark Hudson, who I can only assume was also injured, missing, there was simply no one else to pick!

Aron Gunnarsson was in central midfield for Mutch alongside Peter Whittingham and, surprisingly, it was Nicky Maynard who partnered Adam LeFondre up front with Ole using a pretty basic 4-4-2 that featured Guido Burgstaller and Kimbo on the flanks.

Wolfsburg, whose Bundesliga season starts with a match against Bayern Munich in three weeks time, fielded most of their big names (e,g, Olic, DeBruyne, Rodriguez and Benaglio) and looked  a couple of classes above a ragged City outfit in a poor first forty minutes in which the doubts about the team that I admit to having looked to be valid ones. It took the Germans just five minutes to go ahead and, for much of the time, it was as much as City could do to retain possession for a few seconds.

However, even when the game was completely one sided, City were able to put something together in the final third at times and Maynard was unlucky not to equalise when he hit the post. A shocking miss from a free kick by Malanda as City’s defence, not for the first time, went missing, kept the deficit at one and, if anything, it was over confidence on Wolfsburg’s part which led to the next opportunity as Burgstaller robbed a defender who was trying to play out from by his own corner flag to lay a chance on a plate for LeFondre who, carelessly, fired over.

Within thirty seconds, City were two behind as the Germans were allowed to play a short goal kick out to a defender, who passed to DeBruyne on the half way line and he was allowed to advance fifteen yards unchallenged before lashing a superb shot past captain for the day David Marshall.

It looked like a potential rout at this stage, but, to City’s credit, they began to impose themselves on proceedings and a typical Whittingham strike from twenty five yards smashed against the cross bar with Benaglio completely beaten to signal a complete change in the flow of the game as, amazingly, City hit back in the last five minutes of the first half to go in level at 2-2.

Having got in a sighter a minute earlier, Whittingham’s free kick from slightly closer defeated a flimsy wall and an irate keeper to half the deficit and when Fabio got a little bit lucky to gain possession about twenty yards out, the full back needed no second invitation to burst into the penalty area and turn back a low cross from the bye line which the hard working Maynard swept in from eight yards out.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Maynard starting on Friday at Blackburn, but, truth be told, his replacement by Kenwyne Jones, and Burgstaller’s by Magnus Eikrem at half time improved City who, while not enjoying the dominance Wolfsburg enjoyed in the first period, were the better side in the second half.

I half expected Nicky Maynard to be at another club by now , but he's had a good pre season and I reckon he's likely to start next week if we go with the same 4-4-2 formation - here he's seen scoring our second goal just before half time.*

I half expected Nicky Maynard to be at another club by now , but he’s had a good pre season and I reckon he’s likely to start next week if we go with the same 4-4-2 formation – here he’s seen scoring our second goal just before half time.*

Jones showing a better attitude than we saw from him last season (as well as a surprising turn of pace at times) caused problems with his strength and aerial ability as City mixed things up by playing in a more direct manner at times and their third goal came when Eikrem (impressive throughout with his use of the ball) played in LeFondre (who had earlier forced Benaglio to tip over after good work from Brayford) and the striker showed good strength to brush off a defender and curl in a lovely cross which Jones headed against the bar only for Kimbo to tap in the rebound.

Jones was in the action again when his close range snap shot flew straight at the keeper and he should have done better on the near post when Kadeem Harris (given fifteen minutes at the end of the game) did well to get his cross in. Wolfsburg had little to offer against City’s aggression, but a classy finish from Olic when he diverted a low cross past another sub Simon Moore with eight minutes to go earned his side a draw which was a fair outcome on the balance of play.

So, a very entertaining game finished up 3-3 and it’s hard not to think that the whole thing was typically Ole! I’ve been banging on all summer about my misgivings concerning our lack of defensive organisation and I could have a field day again about how wide open we were at times, but, to be fair, I wouldn’t have thought that back four have had much chance to sort out an understanding because I don’t believe they have ever played together before. So, this time, I’ll concentrate more on how City were able to look dangerous so often without a contribution from Mats Dæhli, who is widely regarded as just about our most creative player.

Yesterday offered a glimpse of what an Ole side could offer if it can just get a bit more defensive discipline and nous. With reports that the outgoing Medel and Mutch will be replaced next week by three newcomers (including two defenders) the opportunity is there to get the players in who might make a difference – it’s not ideal that players arrive so late in the build up to the season, but we brought in newcomers much later than this two years ago and it didn’t do us any harm then.

* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

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9 Responses to Entertaining and encouraging end to pre season fixtures.

  1. Mike says:

    Great stuff Bob,

    Another very good and balanced view of the Bluebirds progress pre-season. I really enjoy reading your blogs.

    Well done.

  2. Robert says:

    Thanks for another great review. I live in Rio and really appreciate your balanced blogs

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks very much both for those comments.

  4. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Hello Paul,

    just browsing the VFL Wolfsburg website & forum this morning over here in Germany and they were quite impressed with us. They found us difficult to deal with and were suprised that we refused to die after going two down and that they they could not finish us off.
    This was the general view from the Wolfsburg camp and forums today.
    Early days though. We shall see.

    best regards


  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Hello Adrian, good to hear from you again.

    I was both pleased and surprised by the way we responded to going two goals down and, basically, being given a football lesson by Wolfsburg for most of the first half. In fact, our comeback was so good that Wolfburg’s late equaliser came as something of a shock, because we were winning nearly all of the fifty/fifty challenges and had been dominant territorially for all of the second half.

    Thinking about it, maybe the fact that we are closer to the start of our league season than Wolfsburg are might have had something to do with the way we got on top as the game went on – were Wolfsburg thrown out of their rhythm by the intensity we showed for the last fifty minutes of the game? By the same token, I was very critical of our defeat by Amkar Perm, but the Russian Premier League started this weekend and so they were that bit further into their pre season preparations than we were.

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks for a great report as usual, Paul.
    I watched a lot of Wolfsburg last season*, and know they are a capable side.
    And although he is 34 years old now, Ivica Olic is still just about my favourite winger in the world.
    But that is not why I write.
    I am writing this because I note that you mention Jordon Mutch in your first para.
    And I have just posted this on the WalesOnline website, in my Facebook persona:
    Ole has to balance the books, so I am not against selling players per se.
    But I am afraid he has sold the CROWN JEWELS with Jordon Mutch.
    Trust me, Steven Caulker will never make an England regular, but when Gerrard retires, I forecast now that Jordon Mutch will be his successor, and is a future England captain.
    He is a player with EVERYTHING. Alas at CCS, he never had a manager who believed in him. Malky would not play him half the time, and one sensed that Ole could not see that Mutch was the FIRST name he should have put on his team sheet after David Marshall.
    City turned down a tentative bid for Marshall from Arsenal for a similar sum, and why oh why did they not turn down £6m for Mutch? He is 22 years old for godsakes! Harry Redknapp is laughing his way to the bank with the money he has SAVED in buying Jordon for at least half as much as he was probably prepared to pay.
    If the far older Ross McCormack who Dave Jones sold for a derisory £350K, can fetch a £11m fee paid by Fulham, then SURELY the all action/great engine Jordon Mutch should have yielded a million more at £12m?
    If I can choose someone to play poker for my life, then it assuredly will NOT be Ole and Mehmet. Boys, you should never have caved in. You should have played the “long game”.

    * I commend the weekly ITV4 Bundesliga highlights programme.

  7. Dai Woosnam says:

    Just also posted this in my Facebook persona re Adam Matthews and the interest from The Liberty Stadium:
    An outstanding player.
    And he is proof positive that if Ole goes belly-up this season, Dave Jones must never be invited back into CCS as Director of Football.
    He was the man who compelled Adam to up sticks, and who – shamefully – was then snapped up for NOTHING by Celtic.
    DJ turned down £6m for Ledley …who also went to Celtic for nothing. In my bleaker moments I wondered if DJ had shares in Glasgow Celtic FC… but in fairness, DJ’s integrity cannot be doubted.
    Just his judgment.

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning Dai. I agree with you completely about Adam Matthews. As for Jordon Mutch, I’m with you in that I think he will play for England one day and he’ll be a big loss to is, but I don’t see him reaching the heights in the game you talk about.

    You mention Joe Ledley and it’s with him in mind that I say I have some sympathy with the line the club is taking (although in an ideal world I would have been looking for a million or so more than we’re getting). City gambled and lost on Ledley – Peter Ridsdale (I’m sure he had more of a say in the decision to reject Stoke’s bid than Dave Jones did) hoped we would get promoted in Joe’s last season with us and, once it didn’t happen, it was obvious he was off on a Bosman. With that precedent, I can understand why they have decided to accept a bid of four times what we paid for Mutch – who, like Ledley was, is in the last year of his contract. There has been no public indications that Mutch was prepared to agree any new deal with City this season and, although he would have only been 23 at the end of his contract, I’m not sure whether City would have been entitled to any compensation for him because his “development years” were spent at Derby and Birmingham.

    I came across the Bundesliga highlights programme early last season and have been a regular watcher ever since.

  9. Dai Woosnam says:

    You make some fair points re Mutch and Ledley, Paul. I had forgotten there was just a year left on JM’s contract
    A chap called Andrew has taken me to task on the WalesOnline site for my comments. He correctly points out my “senior moment” in forgetting Gerrard has retired from England and then adds that I need a “healthy dose of realism”.
    This was my response:

    Andrew is absolutely right to take me to task for forgetting that Gerrard has just retired, but equally WRONG in saying that I am suggesting that Jordon could be an England regular from a team in the Championship.
    Of course he will not.
    All I am suggesting is that to cave in at a mere £6m for the fantastic potential of Jordon Mutch, is financial madness.
    Neil Lennon would not accept anything less than £12.5m for the somewhat inferior Victor Wanyama*, and Mutch is easily worth that …in a market where Wilfried Bony fetches £19m

    I recall Jordon’s man mountain performances for Birmingham City …where he had a manager who BELIEVED in him.
    Alas I fear it is Andrew who needs a “healthy dose of realism”.
    Get a proper fee Cardiff.

    * the cheek of the man! Telling Cardiff to “get real” and up their bid from £9.5m …when he had stolen two City stars …for NOTHING.

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