Need for more incisive finishing emphasised again.

CoymayYesterday morning I posted on a City messageboard that our title win combined with recent Cup and Play Off Final appearances meant that City had lost my nomination as the biggest under achievers in all four divisions and I chose Tottenham Hotspur as the new owners of that unwanted award. Now it needs to be said that I applied particular criteria, which I won’t go into here, to my analysis and that those who argued the case of Newcastle United not Spurs gave me plenty of food for thought, but I stuck with my original choice.

The point in mentioning this is that, based on yesterday’s 1-0 win for Spurs at Cardiff City Stadium, they stand a chance of losing my nomination, justified or not, come May because they could have won a first league title since the one they won at a time when we were last in the old First Division (that’s all you need to know about how long ago it was!). Spurs were very impressive – certainly the best team we have met so far. However, I still believe that Michael Dawson can be got at and that their full backs are nowhere near as impressive if you can get them heading in the opposite direction to the one they normally go in – as City, and seven other sides, have found this season though getting in a position to exploit these possible weaknesses is far easier said than done.

That’s enough about Spurs though, there’s a plethora of online stuff out there if you want to read about yesterday’s game from their point of view – I’m here to try to redress the balance a little. So, how did our cruel defeat look from this Cardiff fan’s perspective? Well, it certainly was a cruel defeat, but the use of the word “cruel” is only justified really by the timing of the winning goal. If Paulinho had scored the decisive goal in, say, the fifty sixth minute, I don’t believe anyone would be applying that adjective to our defeat.

Actually, that’s not true, whenever the goal was scored, it was cruel on David Marshall that he should finish on the losing side. After being put under some pressure by Joe Lewis’ display at Hull last week, the recalled goalkeeper responded with a string of fine saves. There were too many of them to list here and the measure of how good our keeper was is that I’ve heard and read a few few comments from supporters in the last twelve hours or so saying that Marshall’s display was the finest they had seen from a Cardiff City goalkeeper – I’m certainly struggling to think of a better one that I’ve watched in the last fifty years.

You can definitely see some of the line behind Hugo Lloris' hand as he saves from Fraizer Campbell, so the suggestion is that it was handball outside the area - Campbell should have scored though.*

You can definitely see some of the line behind Hugo Lloris’ hand as he saves from Fraizer Campbell, so the suggestion is that it was handball outside the area, but I wouldn’t blame referee Clattenburg for getting the decision wrong (if indeed he did) – Campbell should have scored.*

The timing of the goal was certainly tough on Marshall’s team mates who, once again in a home game, had put in a tremendous shift, both individually and collectively, over the previous ninety three minutes. I find it hard to be critical of any of them because they are all giving so much to the cause, but in this most unforgiving of leagues, there are a few amongst our ranks who are finding the adjustment from the Championship a tough one (in some aspects of the game at least). There are one or two other examples of what I mean, but I’m thinking in particular here about the art of finishing.

The game against Everton three weeks ago was quite similar to yesterday’s, we spent most of the time under the cosh and yet on the limited occasions when we attacked we created some great chances – one for Craig Bellamy in particular springs to mind. while  last week at Hull we hardly peppered their goal, but Gary Medel’ s poor first touch robbed him of a great chance presented by Peter Whittingham’s fine pass.

There were two other real chances at Hull and they both fell to the players who were culpable yesterday. Ridiculous as it may seem when you look at the balance of play, I thought we might well have had the two best scoring opportunities of  yesterday’s game. At Hull, Fraizer Campbell was another one to show a poor first touch after Whittingham had picked him out in a dangerous position and, although Hugo Lloris may or may not have handled the ball outside the penalty area yesterday when Campbell was put clean through on six minutes by Kyle Naughton’s poor back pass, I thought Malky Mackay was right to say that say that whether the keeper should have seen red or not was immaterial in a way – his player should have just put what was a pretty simple chance for a Premier League striker away.

Aron Gunnarsson’s habit of arriving in the penalty area late can be an important attacking plus point for us this season. However, after netting with the easiest of the three chances this trait has earned for him so far against Man City, his wayward header when unmarked at the K.C. Stadium and yesterday’s wild blaze over the bar when in glorious isolation in a central position ten yards out as the match went into it’s final ten minutes emphasises the need for more incisive finishing than we are seeing at the moment.

I've not seen any television replays of this disallowed Ben Turner goal, so the only comment I'll make is the one I did at the time - Whittingham's corner was so good that the foul by Gunnarsson (if there was one) was unnecessary - Turner would have scored anyway.

I’ve not seen any television replays of this disallowed Ben Turner goal, so the only comment I’ll make is the one I did at the time, Whittingham’s corner was so good that the foul by Gunnarsson (if there was one) was unnecessary – Turner would have scored anyway.*

When a team is playing as defensively as we have been doing in home games so far, you just cannot afford to be so profligate with the few chances you create. Actually, for a side that spends so much time inside it’s own half and is criticised for lacking pace, we have shown an ability to break quickly and incisively when given the opportunity, but a total of ten efforts on target in five games tells it’s own story (especially when you consider that six of them came in one game).

So, do those figures tell you that we are using the wrong tactics, at home especially, by sitting back and allow sides on to us. I don’t think they do – a total of forty one efforts at goal in our league matches so far, is not brilliant, but it’s not too bad at all really, the problem is getting enough of them on target. The aftermath of the Manchester City win was notable for the number of people (myself included) who praised Malky for getting his tactics right. Since then we’ve played two more home games and have, essentially, played in the same way by sitting deep, allowing the opposition on to us and then trying to get support up to our lone striker, but it’s only taken one defeat for people to start saying we should be “having a go” at these teams.

I reckon that would be committing footballing suicide, but I will say that it will be interesting how we go about things in our next home match. Newcastle have the talent to pin us back for long periods like the three sides who we’ve faced at home have done so far (all of whom finished in the top six last season and find themselves in the same situation this time around), but they also give you a chance and I’d say that this is our first home match where we could, conceivably, “have a go” at our opponents. I’m not expecting us start piling men forward from the start, but I’d like to think that we will be showing the Geordies a bit less respect  than we, rightly, showed Man City, Everton and Spurs.

Finally, although Marshall was an obvious man of the match, there were quite a few good individual performances within the team. Both centrebacks did well, Kimbo frightened Spurs every time he got the chance to run at them, Gary Medel showed himself to be an organiser (despite his very limited English) as well as fine defensive midfield player, Peter Odemwingie livened us up when he came on for his City debut and I liked the look of Kevin Theophile-Catherine at right back. He started off with a good run which was reminiscent of the one where he laid on that chance for Gunnarsson at Hull, but he had few opportunities after that to get forward and it was more through his solid and unfussy defensive work that he impressed – especially in the second half when I thought both of our full backs didn’t get the level of  support they should have had from the midfield players in front of them.

* pictures courtesy of

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2 Responses to Need for more incisive finishing emphasised again.

  1. Keith Brown says:

    As a long term Spurs supporter( first taken to WHL by my uncle in 1952 as a 6 yr old)I have to agree with you that Spurs are indeed great under-achievers. We have to re-visit the early 60’s to find a really great Spurs side. True, that we have enjoyed success in various cup competitions but we have never managed to mount a serious challenge for the Premiership title. I think that we are seen, both by our own supporters and the media, as under-achievers because the expectations are so high. We are one of the bigger clubs and do have money to spend….sometimes not too wisely in my opinion. It doesn’t help much to see local rivals like Chelsea and Arsenal doing so well either.!
    However, this is a Cardiff City blog and it would be disrespectful of me to harp on about Tottenham. I thought City played well against us, particularly in the second half but I think you perhaps showed us a bit too much respect. Spurs are a good ball playing side but I agree that Michael Dawson can be got at and Kyle Naughton still has much to learn. The Premiership is a very unforgiving league and goal scoring chances must be taken. We know this to our own disadvantage and have lived to rue the occasions when a goal has made the difference between a CL spot or the Europa Lge. The last two seasons particularly. Easier said than done though. Cardiff seem to have a sound defence and I believe that you will finish lower mid-table this season. The major problem that faces club such as Cardiff is that you simply do not have the depth of squad at present to conduct a serious and sustained campaign in the Premiership. As the season heads towards the winter months injuries mount up and it is then the smaller ( no disrespect intended ) clubs begin to struggle. Of the newly promoted clubs I think that currently Cardiff look the strongest, Hull and Crystal Palace are going to find the Premiership hard going I fear. You have a good manager, great supporters and your players are not lacking when it comes to effort and heart for a fight. I think you are gonna be ok this season….in Spurs and Man City you have faced two good sides and did well against both, particularly City obviously and you wont be playing sides like them every week.Arsenal,Chelsea and Man Utd excepted. You are more than capable of picking off the weaker sides and maybe surprising some of the stronger ones. Enjoy your time in the Premiership however long or short it may be. Cardiff City have been knocking at the door for a couple of seasons now and have finally got your just reward. Good luck to you…am looking forward to seeing you at WHL.

  2. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Alan and Keith – I always enjoy hearing from supporters of other sides. If you don’t mind, I’m going to answer your questions together.

    Alan, re the under achieving, I made a bit of a climb down in the thread we have on a City (that’s Cardiff not Manchester, we’ll always be “City” as far as I’m concerned until my dying day!) messageboard, I also outlined the criteria by which I rate you big under achievers;-

    “If I’m being fair, I’ve applied different standards when nominating Spurs than I did when I used to argue we were the biggest under achievers – I’d say we were serious candidates for the award until recently basically because our league position did not match our potential in terms of catchment area for so much of the fifty years.

    On the other hand, I applied criteria different to that when nominating Spurs (i.e. “if under achievement is defined as a failure to meet the expectations of their supporters and a failure on the field to match the way a club perceives itself off it, then Spurs are spectacular under achievers”) – I think if more traditional shall I say methods were applied then, as others have said in this thread, Newcastle and Wolves are so called big clubs more deserving of the award.”

    I agree with you about Odemwingie, I thought it was an encouraging first appearance, but I hope we get support up to our lone front man (whoever it is) quicker when we play the lesser sides. Also think you are right about defending being something of a lost art in the Premier League.

    Keith, no offence taken about your description of us as a smaller club because that’s precisely what we are at this level. Your point about squad size is a good one – so much of our capacity to snatch disaster from the brink of triumph in recent seasons in the Championship was down to our squad getting knackered come the end of the season because we didn’t have the squad size or depth in quality to maintain our level of performance for nine months. Our squad is far stronger these days, but I’ll admit to some doubts as to whether it’s strong enough for this level.

    It’s hard to judge how we are going to do at the moment because we’ve not had a home game yet where we would be considered favourites and with our next four matches at Cardiff City Stadium being against Newcastle, Swansea, Man United and Arsenal (we’ve got a dreadfully hard start to our home campaign), I’d say only Newcastle and, maybe, Swansea are games where we could consider a win to be a realistic possibility – I thought we’d do well to get three points from our first seven home games when the fixtures were announced in the summer.

    It’s easy as a Cardiff fan to look at our fixture list and think we can really cash in on what looks to be like a series of winnable home matches between December and March, but I have a concern that we won’t be very good when the onus is on us to break sides down – I don’t think we have that many game changers at Premier League level in our squad and our unsuccessful summer pursuit of players such as Thomas Ince and Jefferson Montero suggests Malky Mackay might feel that way as well.

    Best of luck to you for the season – I think Spurs have a real chance of winning some silverware this time.

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