Ole Gunnar Solskjær and whoever is assisting him in negotiating the deals, it would appear to be one of Simon Lim and Mehmet Dalman or a combination of those two, deserve plenty of credit for the way they have acted to bring in new players at a time when we are usually being told that the transfer market only tends to really get started from July 1 when contracts run out.
Having already confirmed the arrival of Javi Guerra and completed the signing of Guido Burgstaller, City brought in two more newcomers last week in Fredrico Macheda and Adam Le Fondre who were signed from Manchester United and Reading respectively and it has to be a good thing that there will be at least four of our new players for 2014/15 taking part in pre season training when it begins at the end of this month rather the usual one or, if we were lucky, two that tended to be the case under Malky Mackay and most other recent Cardiff managers.
Thinking about it, the only season in the fairly recent past that I can think of where we were able to do much business so early in the close season was 2006/07 when at least three important members of that team in Kevin McNaughton, Steve McPhail and Michael Chopra were all brought in well before the players returned for pre season training (think that probably applied to Roger Johnson as well) and those old enough will all recall how well we started the campaign that year.
That team faded badly after their blistering start as lack of squad depth took it’s toll, but, although it’s generally accepted that there are going to be quite a few high profile departures from the club over the coming months, you would like to think that, if our season does go wrong, it won’t be down to a lack of numbers. Whatever you may think of sides that aren’t amongst the very best using some form of squad rotation, it seems Ole is a fan of such a policy and so I’d guess we’ll be seeing more of the same in 14/15.
Obviously, it’s to be expected that any further signings will include players in other areas of the pitch covered because, so far, the emphasis has been very much on goalscoring (even midfield man Burgstaller got twelve goals for Rapid Vienna last season), but with no Cardiff player having got into double figures on the scoring front for two seasons, Ole’s prioritising of the striker areas is to be understood – although I still maintain that, as I mentioned last week, better defensive organisation and understanding is something that must be addressed (preferably through a new defensive coach) in the pre season period.
That’s in the future though, what can be said about the new arrivals so far – particularly the two who signed in the last seven days? Well, firstly, the most positive slant I can put on their arrivals is to say that Macheda and LeFondre scored twenty eight goals between them while making a total of forty seven Championship starts last season, so, throw in the goalscoring records of Guerra and Burgstaller as well, together with the players currently at the club who are still likely to be with us next season, and you’d like to think that at least we should have someone who manages to get into double figure on the scoring front!
Macheda’s arrival was an expected one. His signing, on a three year contract, was confirmed early last week ending days of speculation that a move to Cardiff was imminent – actually “speculation” is not really the right word to use, because most of the reporting recorded it almost as a statement of fact! However, if the arrival of one the new players wasn’t a surprise, then the same cannot be said for LeFondre.
Despite, apparently, having had a bid for the former Stockport, Rochdale, Rotherham and Reading striker rejected during our frantic and unsuccessful last day of the the January transfer window search for a striker, his name was not mentioned as a possible target until the day before his signing was officially announced.
It’s always possible to look at new players in a negative light if you are so minded. For example, given the introduction he had into the game, it’s tempting to look at Macheda and ask “where did it all go wrong?” – after all, he spent large portions of last season on the bench for a couple of clubs up to their necks in Championship relegation trouble in Doncaster and Birmingham. LeFondre is also very familiar with substitute duties (much of the reputation he has formed since moving into the Championship has been based on what he has achieved as an impact sub) – I’d also say that, based on my somewhat limited knowledge of the player, he is a goalscorer pure and simple who will not contribute a great deal for the team in general play.
In the case of our other two new signings, there is always the possibility that they will be unable to settle in Cardiff in what is the first move abroad in both of their careers and I also have a concern that, at 32, Guerra may just be going over the hill.
However, although I’m sure all four of them are doing well out of their moves in terms of signing on fees and wages, the club appear to have not spent a great deal when it comes to transfer fees. Guerra and Macheda cost nothing, while Burgstaller’s fee is “undisclosed” with no real clue in the reporting of the deal into what that means, but, although I’ve seen the LeFondre fee being reported as high as £2.5 million, the general consensus appears to be that Reading’s need to pay their tax bill as quickly as possible meant that they were prepared to accept something around £1 million.
If that is true, then, notwithstanding those quibbles about his all round game. it seems a great bit of business to get someone with a goalscoring record in the top two division like LeFondre’s at such a fee – particularly when you look at the size of the release clause for Lewis Grabban (after just one very good season at Championship level) and the sort of fee QPR had to pay for Charlie Austin last year.
I’m sure that as the Caulkers, Medels and Marshalls leave us and our rivals start to do their transfer business in a few weeks time, the optimism currently being felt by many City fans on the back of our new signings will start to dissipate, but that would be unfair really – yes, it’s only a start and I still have concerns about other areas of the pitch, but, for me at least, it’s a good start and one that makes me a little more optimistic about what to expect in 14/15.
Finally, a well done to Tommy O’Sullivan for his goals for Wales Under 19’s against Belgium and Portugal at the Elite Group stage for qualification for the Euro Under 19 Finals. Unfortunately, Wales are not going to go any further in the competition, but they have acquitted themselves very well so far in what was a very tough group. Tommy and Josh Yorwerth both started in the 1-1 draw with the Belgians and were joined by Tom James in the 3-2 defeat by hosts Portugal who scored a last minute winner after Wales had fought back from 2-0 down – they complete their fixtures against Greece tomorrow.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/