Weekly review 24 July 2016.


The bulk of this week’s review will consist of comment on the three pre season matches played over the last four days, but I’ll start with a spot of transfer speculation which, for me at least, asks questions about what we can expect from the club in the next five weeks or so while the transfer window remains open.

Of course, placing too much emphasis on a piece of “gossip” is always dangerous, but, in this case, I’d say the speculation is likely to have some truth in it. This Charlton site is claiming that David Marshall’s understudy, Simon Moore, will be joining them on a season long loan deal next week and, having lost two senior goalkeepers in the past week,  there is no doubt that they are in need of another one. Add in the Russell Slade connection and the fact that Moore does not appear to be out in Germany with the senior squad (Marshall and Ben Wilson have been the two keepers used out there so far) and you begin to see why I feel there is something to this rumour.

So, if it is true, three things spring to mind for me. First, I’d like to think that it means that the club feel pretty confident that David Marshall will still be at Cardiff next season (Steve Bruce’s resignation at Hull this week means that, at worst, the recent speculation that the Humberside club wanted him has become a little less likely to be true and at best that it just won’t happen now) – that’s assuming there was ever anything to the rumour in the first place.

Second, I’ll admit to being surprised by a decision to let Moore leave on purely footballing grounds (unless, of course, there are plans to bring in a new reserve keeper for the season), because I’m not sure that Wilson has done enough so far to suggest he is up to being second choice at a Championship club for the course of a full season, as opposed to the covering job he’s managed for a few weeks at a time that we’ve seen in the past.

This leads me on to the third point. Is the failure, so far at least, to get rid of the highly paid senior players the club want to be rid causing them to look at letting others they’d prefer to keep go in an effort to balance the books?

The fact that Adam LeFondre, Federico Macheda and Kagisho Dikgacoi are all still back in Britain while Paul Trollope’s squad prepares for the new season in Germany, makes it pretty clear that there is little or no future for them at the club. However, even though they are in the last year of their contracts with City, you get the feeling that they wouldn’t come cheap to any club wishing to take them on permanently, despite none of them having done a great deal to prove they are up to the rigours of the modern day Championship during their two years at Cardiff.

I’d be surprised if the three of them will continue training with the Under 21s at Cardiff throughout the coming season, my guess is that all or some of them will move on, probably on loan, but it may be it will only happen late on in the window and, even then, City could end up still paying a significant portion of their wages.

So, in those circumstances, would City be forced to look at cashing in on players they want to keep? On the face of it, the story about ten days ago that City had “offered” Anthony Pilkington to QPR looks a strange one with little in it to suggest that it is true.

However, if the fact that Pilkington is one of a number of first team squad players whose contract is also up at the end of the 16/17 campaign (I cannot be sure here, but I think Bruno Manga, Tom Adeyemi, Stuart O’Keefe and Peter Whttingham also fall into that category) is taken into account, then, perhaps, there might be something to the story?

Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that, with everything which has happened at the club on the financial front over the past two years suggesting that City are hardly going to be offering any of those players a greatly enhanced deal from their last one, that some of them may be more inclined to move on, than accept terms which they don’t find attractive (I seem to remember Manga’s agent suggesting this would be the case earlier in the summer)?

So, I’m certainly not ruling out us losing one or more established members of the first team squad in the coming weeks, be it to pay for the new recruits Paul Trollope says will be coming in or to keep us within the confines of the FFP regulations – in a summer which has been relatively quiet so far in terms of transfer spending in the Championship (Newcastle aside), I don’t think we are by any means the only club in this league who finds themselves the sort of position I’ve outlined.

Anyway, having spent much longer than I’d planned to on the subject of possible player departures, let’s concentrate now on what’s been happening on the pitch!

Unfortunately, the planned match with German fourth tier outfit RW Ahlen on Wednesday evening proved to be a bit of a shambles. The City squad turned up at their opponent’s ground (which had, apparently, hosted a match last month with no problems) only to find the pitch in what they considered to be a dangerous state – certainly, the pictures published by the club and the local media proved that it was in nowhere near the sort of condition you’d expect to see at this time of year.

Some of the scenes that greeted the City party when they arrived to play their game at Ahlen on Wednesday.*

Some of the scenes that greeted the City party when they arrived to play their game at Ahlen on Wednesday.*

After negotiations between the two clubs, it was agreed that the match be switched to the training complex City were based in at Harsewinkel, some forty two kilometres away. The lack of floodlights at this facility made it unlikely that the planned ninety minute match could be completed though and with thunder and lightening storms threatening as well, the ref decided to call it a day at half time with the score still at 0-0.

City played with the same three centrebacks formation which had worked so capably at Shrewsbury and, apart from the absence through injury of Manga (who has not featured in Germany yet) and the return of Joe Ralls after illness, the personnel was the same as well, but, this time, although, they never really looked like conceding, there was little to suggest a goal from them either against impressive and committed opponents.

I’m not sure that any of the responsibility for what must have been a frustrating and disappointing evening could be laid at City’s door. It wasn’t either, but I daresay that they were grateful that the unfortunate episode happened under the watch of a new regime which still has the goodwill of the vast majority of the club’s support behind it – I dread to think what would have been said if the same thing had happened while Russell Slade was here!

Thankfully, yesterday’s four team tournament at VFL Osnabruck could be deemed to be a complete success from a City point of view as they continued with a pre season programme which, even allowing for what happened against Ahlen, has to be viewed in a very positive light up to now.

As mentioned in an earlier piece, the format was for all of the sides to play two matches lasting sixty minutes and, having originally been down to open the tournament and then play in it’s penultimate match, City found the schedule altered so that they would play their second match almost straight after the first one had ended – it made little difference though as we recorded two wins which means that we already have won a trophy in 16/17!

Based on what we have seen so far, it’s looking increasingly as if Paul Trollope’s preferred formation is the three centrebacks with wing backs system used by Wales this summer. We’ve started four matches with it now and, very interestingly, the personnel used in each case has been virtually identical.

Yesterday, in the opening match with the hosts, it was Marshall in goals, with Connolly, Ajayi and Tutonda in front of him, with Fabio and John the wing backs. Whittingham again played as the deepest central midfielder and it was O’Keefe lending him company with Immers and Pilkington as number tens behind striker Gounongbe.

VFL Osnabruck finished in the upper reaches of the third tier of Germany’s domestic system last season and so I suppose they were loosely comparable to the Shrewsbury team City saw off to the tune of 4-0 a week earlier.

City had been very comfortable against the Shrews and it was almost as one sided against Osnabruck – once again, our opponent found it very difficult to get within sight of our goal, while there was an impressive poise and control to our football.

Frederic Gounongbe scored his second goal for the club quite early on when a fine cross by Fabio presented him with a headed opportunity which was almost impossible to miss and, with Whittingham being given the sort of time to show the full range of his passing which he probably wouldn’t get here, the lead should possibly have been greater than 1-0 after thirty minutes.

Rather like Shrewsbury had done a week earlier, Osnabruck improved in the minutes following the half time break, but the only “reward” they got was to fall further behind. Declan John had never scored a senior goal for the club before yesterday and I daresay he would have preferred his first to have come from the twenty yard volley he fizzed narrowly off target in the first half, but, when it arrived, it was from an overhit cross which embarrassed home keeper Lehman.

The goal may have been fortunate, but it came at the end of another bout of pleasing and, more importantly, telling passing from City. Having got lucky a few minutes earlier, John’s contribution towards a lovely third goal was more indicative of what he can provide going forward, as he checked back to take a couple of opponents out of the game before feeding O’Keefe in an inside left channel who then took the ball forward for a few yards and then slipped a neat pass through to Pilkington who confidently slotted home to give a final 3-0 scoreline which did not flatter City in the slightest.

Paul Trollope decided to keep the changes to a minimum for the next match against a St. Pauli outfit whose record in the second level of the German game more or less mirrored City’s in the Championship, in that they finished comfortably in the top half of the table, but were some way adrift of the promotion Play Off teams.

With Wilson replacing Marshall and Ralls in for Whittingham, City had the advantage of going into the game match ready so to speak and this may have played a part in the opening goal within less than two minutes of the kick off. John skinned his marker on the left and put over a cross which attracted three defenders towards Gounongbe, only for it to drop at the feet of the unmarked Immers who controlled and crashed home from about five yards out.

Again, City were looking  comfortable with their 3-4-2-1, 3-5-2, 5-3-2 or whatever you want to call it, but having given it an hour, Trollope did what he did at Shrewsbury at a similar stage as a raft of substitutions brought a change to more of a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 approach.

Off went Connolly, Fabio, John, Immers, Pilkington and Gounongbe and on came Tom James, Kadeem Harris, Tom Adeyemi, Matt Kennedy, Craig Noone and Kenneth Zohore. When the dust settled, it could be seen that City were now playing with a flat back four of Harris (!), James, Ajayi and Tutonda – friendly or not, can you imagine Russell Slade coming anywhere remotely close to fielding that combination in a match which was considered to be one for the first team?

Kennedy and Noone played out wide in support of Zohore and, perhaps it was down to the changes all of these substitutions caused that our defence was opened up pretty easily down the left and Maurice Litka was left in glorious isolation to sweep home the resultant cross for the first goal conceded by the senior team so far.

City were soon back in front though, with another goal which owed much to luck as St. Pauli centreback Lasse Sobiech’s backpass eluded keeper Philipp Heerwagen and bounced gently into the net. To be fair, Zohore deserved to be awarded an assist for the goal, because, having got his reward when he closed down the Shrewsbury goalkeeper so effectively last week, the striker put Sobiech under such pressure that his pass was slightly more wayward than intended and was also played with more pace than the keeper would have wanted.

Credit to Zohore then, but he really should have given City a two goal lead when he crashed a header against the woodwork from point blank range after Kennedy and Ralls had combined sweetly to open up the St. Pauli defence.

After that miss early in the second period, City were a little fortunate to hold on to their 2-1 advantage through to the end, because the German team put on most of the pressure after that and they really should have scored from at least one of the opportunities they had.

Nevertheless, there was something impressive about the way City were able to up their game a little to see out the dying minutes and players such as Harris, James, Adeyemi and Kennedy (none of whom would be called likely starters in the Championship in the coming season) still were able to show that they would not find the step up as severe as the previous management appeared to think they would.

Special credit too to O’Keefe, Ajayi and Tutonda who played all 120 minutes in the two games. I’ts been a very significant week for the last two named – Ajayi has impressed in all four matches he’s played in and looks closer to being a possible first team player than at any other time in his spell at Cardiff, while Tutonda has done very well in a position which I for one thought he was ill suited for. Indeed, it could be said he looked a better centreback than full back yesterday, because he got beaten a bit too easily once or twice when he was moved out wide, but, to be fair to him, there were occasions when his pace was vital defensively as he covered round well to snuff out dangerous looking attacks.

Finally, a few quick words about the Under 21/Development team which followed up a poor 1-0 loss at Havant and Waterlooville in midweek, with a 5-1 triumph at Barry yesterday. LeFondre and Dikgacoi started at Havant and Waterlooville, but were missing for what has become a traditional warm up match at Jenner Park. There were a couple of eye catching features about who got the goals at Barry, first, that we scored five and Rhys Healey didn’t feature on the scoresheet and, second that Marco Weymans, who I cannot remember scoring for the club previously, did. In fact, the Belgian scored a hat trick, with Rollin Menayese and Jarrad Welch getting the others.

The Under 21’s conclude their pre season programme with games at Exeter and Reading in the next week, while it’s Bochum (who finished a place below St. Pauli in Bundesliga 2 last season) on Tuesday and then Bournemouth away next Saturday for the first team.

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




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5 Responses to Weekly review 24 July 2016.

  1. Clive Harry says:

    Morning all. I was going to Barry yesterday for the DVP game until I saw the first team games in Germany would be live on Player. Consequently I was very cheesed off when the first game didn’t appear. However, I saw the second one and two players who caught my eye were Adeyemi and Kennedy who showed a lot of pace and skill.
    I’ve also found the presence of many of our young ‘outcasts’ encouraging, particularly as our previous manager’s idea of an experimental side was simply to use exactly the same formation as every other game but to fill the team up with the older rejects who weren’t getting regular games. PT’s different tactical ideas and use of more than one formation (shock horror) has been refreshing and encouraging with players like John, Tutonda and Ajayi being revelations so far. In view of this, it looks to me as if Oshilaja is on a slow boat out of the Club if he wasn’t even looked at pre-season. I also can’t see how Peltier is going to fit into the side as he’s certainly not a wing back – perhaps as a back up centre back? Another player who may not be happy if he doesn’t get a regular game is Aron Gunnarsson. After captaining his country to the Euro quarters (and being mobbed by fans all game yesterday) he can probably say with some justification that he could hold down a place in a lot of Championship teams. However, with PT saying more players are on the way in, added to the size of the squad in Germany, there will have to be departures.
    I always enjoy pre-season because it’s a time to relax and speculate – stress starts in a couple of weeks time!

  2. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Last wednesday I considered going to the Ahlen game but as I left my office that afternoon the wall of heat that hit me outside and the following heavy thunderstorm sent me scuttling home instead. A good thing too, it would have been very frustrating to drive the forty minutes to Ahlen just to learn that I would need to turn around and drive another hour in the other direction, just to watch 45 minutes of football on a ground that resembles that of Briton Ferry Athletic… and City in a rather dodgy and strange blue kit with red trimmings (local press photos).
    My wife (who has now been infected with the City bug) accompanied me yesterday to Osnabruck and it was a thoroughly good day in beautiful weather. The stewards were very friendly but unsure where to put the few City fans so some ended up among the Osnabruck faithful while we ended up among the Monchengladbach supporters who were a nice friendly bunch.
    City looked very comfortable against Osnabruck, and very composed. Osnabruck were quite fired up and played a very hectic style of football but City did not seem to be troubled by this. I heard admiring comments from the watching Germans.
    St Pauli offered more, City suddenly did not have so much time and space on their hands. Apart from Immers openeing goal… it happened right in front of my nose and he had so much time he could have made himself a cup of tea before putting the ball away. The own goal was at my end too, a very strange affair. All in all, a good day out and City looked impressive. Confidence is rising for the coming season… I hope we wont be disappointed.
    Regards to all from Germany

  3. Russell says:

    Now we are the champions of German, the future is surely bright.

    I am praying that the introductions of youngsters to the first team , the new formations, the ability to switch those line ups , is the forerunner to a more eventful and less fearfull season, and not just tactical experimentation in the no risk world of meaningless pre season friendlies , where players can look very good in an environment with very little pressure.

    I am glad the early season fixtures are tough, hopefully we can flush out the issues early and under performers.

    In terms of transfers in and out, we may see more now they are back in UK, we and others have been effected by the Euros and the FFP risks, which I think has played its part in the quiet close season for transfers, if i was a club like Cardiff the milking of the loan system would be my option both in and out, if you look at our squad, it has depth and talent , it just needs fine tunning ,motivating, and tatical flexibility applied to it.

    Germany conquered
    Mighty Shrew’s crushed.

    What’s next I hear you shout:
    full houses,
    black market ticket prices
    giddy tatics ,
    5 -4 results,
    passion ,
    going home from games chanting ” i don’t want to go home ”

    Let’s get rockin n rolling.

    Thanks again Paul for the write up and a chance to indulge.

  4. Jon 1959 says:

    Great report as always.

    However, I’m sure Simon Moore was in Germany with the rest of the squad. I think I saw his name on a team sheet photographed by Wales Online, and he is also on both team photos I have seen (unless there is someone else in the squad who looks very like him).

    I hope my pre-season feelings of optimism and excitement last this time. It does feel different from the last few years. There seems to be leadership and a plan!

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    As always, thank you for your comments. Clive, you could well be right about Oshilaja – that would be a disappointment to me having watched him come through from his start in the Under 18s, but I must say that Ajayi has done very well in the matches so far and, if Tutonda can pick up the disciplines and toughness needed for the position, he has the physical attributes which could make him a formidable centreback – especially when you also consider how quick he is, I would miss his surging runs down the wing though! I agree with you that Peltier may be utilised more as a centreback if we are going to continue playing with wing backs – he’s played in midfield before, so would be pretty comfortable on the ball and he is one of the best defenders we have, using him as one of three in the middle would mean his limitations going forward would be less of a factor.
    Adrian, glad to hear you missed out on the Ahlen “experience” – hope there weren’t too many fans who turned up at their ground. As Clive says, it was very frustrating that the Osnabruck game was not covered by Cardiff City World as promised and it took me a long time to get their pictures from the St. Pauli game (although that was probably more my fault than theirs!). However, I was able to find a decent stream of the first game and so ended up watching about the last twenty five minutes of both matches and have also seen highlights of them both on Cardiff City player. Unless there are plans to show either of our remaining pre season games on the website, that will be probably be the extent of my “live” watching of the first team before the match with QPR on August 14 – I suppose we could end up getting thrashed by one or both of Bochum and Bournemouth and then, of course, the current optimism would be replaced by something far less pleasant, but, for now, there is plenty to be satisfied with.
    Russell, I think Champions of Osnabruck might be more realistic than Champions of Germany! You are right, there are stacks of supporters throughout the country who are feeling optimistic about the coming season on the back of encouraging pre season results for their team, but it is the nature of such things that there will be disappointment ahead for the large majority of them, while others who are already writing off the 16/17 campaign will end up being very pleasantly surprised by how their team perform. However. all the likes of John, Ajayi and Tutonda can do when given the sort of chance they were never going to get under our previous manager, is put down a marker to Paul Trollope that says we’ll be ready for you if you need us – I think all of them can be satisfied that they’ve managed to do that so far. As for what next, I was happy that we were so much more watchable last season than we had been in 14/15, the next step now is to add goals to a team that never really suggested they had too many in them over a forty six game campaign – I’ll need more convincing than some high scoring pre season matches to be assured that we have addressed this problem, but it is refreshing to see a so much more rounded outlook to management from Paul Trollope compared to the blinkered approach of his predecessor.
    Welcome to this forum Jon, glad to see you posting on here. I’ll take your word for it that Moore has been out in Germany, but that only makes the story about him going to Charlton more believable, given the decision to play Wilson against St. Pauli. I suppose the possibility that he was unavailable through injury or illness cannot be discounted, but it would be a very big coincidence if someone who, as far as I can remember, has never been forced to miss matches for those reasons in all of the time he has been with us, was to do so now. I’m sure Paul Trollope doesn’t need me to tell him that there will be far more testing times for him ahead in the months to come, but, you’re right, he has made a convincing start which says that this is his team and they’ll play how he wants them to – there does seem to be leadership and a plan, whereas I was never fully convinced there were either of those things under our previous two managers.

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