Weekly review 29/7/17.

Let’s start the final one of these weekly reviews for 2017 with news of a reported interest by Premier League new boys Brighton in striker Kenneth Zohore which Neil Warnock shrugged off in much the same way as he did when Hull came in with an offer which fell well short of the valuation the club have intimated they might be prepared to consider doing business on.

However, it’s one thing to bat away offers from Championship clubs, but if a bid did ever come in from a Premier League club, it would throw up a new set of challenges. For example, would the attitude of the player be different if the proposed buyer was from the league above us, as opposed to the one we’re in now?

Events may prove me wrong, but, increasingly, I’ve felt the danger time when it came to possibly losing Zohore, or another of our first team stalwarts, would be in the week to ten days at the end of August before the transfer window closes.

I say that because Premier League sides that have made a poor start to their campaign will have a sense of desperation then which could well force them into paying more than they are prepared to now for players they have considered taking on over recent weeks.

Using a side like Brighton as an example, they look a bit short of goals at the moment to me and if we reached a situation whereby they were looking at something like one point and one goal from their first three matches come August Bank Holiday time, a bid of, say, £15 to £20 million for a Championship striker might look like better business for them then that it does now – especially if said striker hits the ground running in the opening weeks of the new campaign.

Alternatively, I suppose the possibility has to be faced that there will be Championship sides resolutely determined not to sell now who would look at things differently if the season started in the sort of manner it did for us last season – it may be that the opportunity for two or three new players to come in on the back of the departure of one of a club’s most saleable assets will seem a far more attractive option then than it does now.

Of course, for now all of this is pure speculation and I hope it will stay that way as far as Cardiff City are concerned – certainly, I’d like to think that the squad we’ve got now should ensure that the last, disastrous start, scenario I outlined does not happen to us.

Just a few words about some of our players who are on their way back from long term injuries now. The news this week was good as far as Rhys Healey and Callum Paterson are concerned, with the first named tweeting that he had recently completed his first run on a treadmill, while there are now hopes that our new full back will be returning in September – a month earlier than originally thought.

It seems there’s always bad news to go with the good though and it’s pretty certain now that Lee Camp will not be available for our early competitive matches. It’s not clear whether his absence is down to a new injury or the one he suffered last November, although the fact that Neil Warnock said this week that he never expected Camp to be available for the first part of the new season suggests it’s the latter.

So, Neil Etheridge is seemingly going to get a chance to establish himself as our first choice keeper when I would have thought that most City fans would have seen him as a back up to Camp a week or two ago.

The Philippines international has done okay, but no more than that I’d say, so far in our pre season matches. To be fair to Etheridge, that rather downbeat assessment owes more to the fact that he hasn’t had a great deal to do in those matches, rather than any perceived shortcomings on his part.

Certainly, the keeper had no chance with the two goals he conceded when the senior side lost their unbeaten record in warm up games at Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

Defeats in pre season games are nothing to get too worked up about, but I would have thought our manager was disappointed by the manner in which the game was lost, rather than the result itself, because it seemed like a classic example of a game of two halves.

Before the interval, a City team playing some slick counter attacking football at a lively pace were dominant against a home side that had already beaten strong Wolves and Villa sides in warm up matches and they were well worth the lead they had when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing tapped in after being set up by Zohore after the Dane had done well to dispossess a defender deep in his own half.

In truth, there should have been more goals. but City paid for their profligacy early in the second half when the third dodgy penalty awarded against us this pre season (they may have been dubious decisions, but questions still need to be asked as to why experienced Championship defenders are being drawn into getting into a position against lower level opponents whereby officials can make such decisions against us) led to an equaliser and then a series of poor choices by three or four players led to a very sloppy winning goal.

All of this happened with the same players on the pitch who had been so dominant before the interval, but, despite a series of changes by Warnock, we were never able to regain our earlier authority and Shrewsbury could have added a further goal or two.

It was all a great deal more comfortable last night against Livingston at Cardiff City Stadium. After a sloppy opening by City against opponents who had won the third tier of the Scottish League structure by nineteen points last season, we established an edge in terms of power, pace and technique which, in the end, probably merited slightly more than the 4-0 victory margin.

Junior Hoilett, fresh from scoring a fine goal in Canada’s 2-1 CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarter Final defeat by Jamaica, celebrates a more mundane finish for our first goal last night with Lee Tomlin and Kenneth Zohore.*

Livingston, with the two trialists we had from them last week showing up quite prominently, knocked the ball around quite nicely, but I made it that their first shot of the game did not come until the eighty seventh minute when replacement keeper Brian Murphy was forced into a routine save and this rather said it all about the challenge they offered over the ninety minutes.

When City got their act together they started causing the visitors problems and they probably should have been ahead when Zohore shot wide from a chance set up by Junior Hoilett, making a surprise first pre season appearance after his absence on international duty over the past few weeks. However when the roles were reversed as Zohore used his pace to burst on to a long ball from the back and then his increasingly impressive ability to get his head up and see what is going on around him to set up the winger with a tap in, Neil Alexander, returning to play his first game in Cardiff in almost a decade, was beaten for the first time.

Just as at Shrewsbury three days earlier, there should have been further first half goals for City, but there weren’t and the small and increasingly damp crowd had to wait until the second half for them to show some ruthlessness in front of goal.

One of the themes of our pre season has been how new signing from Rotherham Danny Ward had found himself frustrated in his search for a first City goal by a string of fine saves by opposing goalkeepers. However, his wait was ended when he, first, slid home a Kadeem Harris cross on the hour mark, despite Alexander’s best efforts to keep the ball out, and then completed what was probably our best move of the night after Mendez-Laing’s unselfish cross set him up for a simple finish.

Matt Kennedy replaced the hobbling Harris and did his cause no harm at all with an impressive showing which included an assist, as his corner was expertly volleyed in from around ten yards by Bruno Manga who had come on in place of Greg Halford at half time to play right back.

Quite why these two were filling this position was not fully explained by our manager after the game – he mentioned that Jazz Richards (who played the last ten minutes or so) had a slight problem which meant he didn’t want to give him too much game time and that Matt Connolly was missing with an injury, but there was nothing to indicate why Lee Peltier wasn’t involved last night.

Warnock said that he was pretty sure of about nine of his starting eleven for next week and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them is Nathaniel Mendez-Laing who I reckon may have spent the most time on the pitch out of our midfield and forward players during our warm up programme. Loic Damour was not fit enough to be included last night (our manager talked about possibly needing a bit more midfield cover before the window closes), but I’d expect it to be Gunnarsson and Ralls in central midfield even if he is fit for next week and I think Ward may have played himself into the starting line up as well.

So, it may be that our wingers next week will be new signings and it’s very hard to see a way back into contention now for our longest serving wide man, Craig Noone who played no part last night. In the week, Neil Warnock reiterated that Noone probably needed to move on now and the same seems to apply to Declan John who is in the Development squad for this afternoon’s match at Harrow which was arranged as part of the Ibraham Meite deal last season.

Both Noone and John were on the score sheet in the Development team’s 5-1 win at Edgar Street over Hereford on Wednesday – in fact, Noone got a couple of goals. Kennedy netted first, before the home  side equalised, only for John and Meite to put us 3-1 up at the break, Noone then added the game’s final two goals and there has to be a good chance that they’ll be the last ones he ever scores for us.

So, what has our summer transfer activity and pre season programme told us about our Championship prospects in 2017/18? My take on this is that I believe I’m right in saying that a league table taken from the day Neil Warnock took over last season would have seen us in ninth position and I feel we’ve got more goals in our squad than we had in 16/17, we’ve also kept all of our defenders, so, although I have one or two reservations about the goalkeeping position, I don’t see why we cannot be a top ten side next season, but top six will probably be beyond us.

*picture courtesy of https://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/

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7 Responses to Weekly review 29/7/17.

  1. BJA says:

    Paul – A very perceptive report as usual, and I find myself agreeing with all of your observations, particularly Friday night’s match. It was good to see the City faithful give a most warm welcome to Alexander who served us well in the early part of this century.
    The player I was looking forward most to seeing was Tomlin, and I find it difficult after his two thirds of a match performance to judge how effective he will be for us this coming season. There is no doubt he has some deft touches, and one crisp strike almost found the target. But he does not really appear fit enough yet for the arduous times ahead, and perhaps needs a little more time with his colleagues so that they will know more of his style of play and that they will be able to anticipate such play.
    I enjoyed Ward’s efforts, and he should really be well in contention for a starting slot next week. Mendez-Laing also.
    I understand the U 23’s secured a 2-2 draw with Harrow Borough, but have yet to read any of the match reports.
    So the new season is upon us and I hope for a better start than last, and that we are able to attract crowds of 20,000 plus for our home games. If we do, then it should mean that we are challenging for a top six place. Here’s hoping.
    Thanks for all of your contributions to date and in the future. They make my week-end much more interesting.

  2. Clive Rymon says:

    Hi Paul,thanks for your summer updates long may they continue.Well the season is nearly on us and as I have not seen us in action yet I am looking forward to the Burton game next Saturday.

    I am quietly optimistic of our chances this season as we have the Warnock factor,but it does slightly worry me with the spending of some of the other clubs in our division it looks more like a Premier 2 than it has ever done.I look at a side like Burton and think will they survive in this division without being able to compete with the larger clubs.But then I look at a club like Bournemouth and think mabey they can after all,we shall see.Regarding City transfer dealings I still think we need a CM player in the mold of the lad from Fulham Tom Cairney who will control the game in and around the D,we will certainly know how this season may go by the time the transfer window closes hopefully well.

    I look forward to your weekly report throughout the season,and hope that win lose or draw that we get a team that will have a right good go (as Warnock is used to saying)and see we’re we end up in May.

  3. MIKE HOPE says:

    I did not see the previous pre-season games so I was looking forward to Friday’s match against Livingston.
    The most surprising thing about the two halves was the way we improved in the second half despite removing our best performing attacker [Junior Hoillett] at half time.
    I thought the improvement was due almost entirely to the introduction of Danny Ward in place of Ken Zohore.
    At the start of last season we saw Zohore mark one with Zohore mark two emerging later under the influence of Neil Warnock.
    The performance against Livingston reminded me more of the mark one model.
    Starting with A for attitude I thought Danny outplayed Ken in every aspect of his play.This even included his leaps to head the ball despite the physical disadvantage of starting with his arse about six inches nearer to the grass!
    I hope that with more commitment and effort Zohore mark two will be back for the competitive games.
    I was a bit underwhelmed by Menzies-Lang possibly because I perhaps expected a little more after reading glowing reports from the previous games.He reminded me of what we have seen from Noone and Kadeem where the end product is usually lacking.Did he make the cross for Ward’s goal? From my long distance view through the rain at the grange end of the grandstand I gave the credit to Manga.
    If as has been said Ward is equally happy on the wing I would like to see him start against Burton with Junior on the other flank.
    Tomlin is obviously a class act and will be a key player for us as he develops a better understanding with his team mates.
    The other player who impressed me most was Manga.
    I think he is our best footballer and a place has to be found for him in our first choice team.Even out of position at right back in a flat back four before we changed to three at the back he was as good as anyone else I’ve seen for us in that position and threw in the bonus of an assist[if it was him!] and a volleyed goal from a corner
    Last season we were fortunate to be able to read outstanding weekly reports from TOBW aka Paul our blogmeister! I know that this will continue in the coming season and I hope that our team performances and results will match this standard.
    It will also be interesting to see whether a former regular contributor, Dai Woosnam,returns.Surely he has not been mortally wounded by the slings and arrows aimed in his direction by Anthony O’B.
    He could at least let us know how Barry Cole’s favourite manager is getting on at Grimsby.I think he is still there

    rner.

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the replies, BJA, I know what you mean about Tomlin, I watched the game thinking that he wasn’t on the same wavelength as the rest of the team yet. I suppose that as we haven’t had a player like Tomlin in some time, this shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but I’ll be interested how much freedom Warnock (who seems to me to be very hot on what all of his players have to do when we don’t have the ball) will give him.
    Clive, Leicester City’s amazing title win apart, the Premier League has always struck me as a division where the final table more or less equates with each team’s spending power than it ever does with the Championship. Huddersfield proved what sides such as Blackpool, Burnley and Swansea have done in the past as they went up without spending a fortune, while there are so many clubs who have spent summer’s throwing money at their team and ended up mid table or worse (e.g. Villa and Wolves last season).
    Mike, you are right – apologies to Bruno Manga, because it was him who crossed the ball for the third goal. Regarding Zohore and Ward, I found myself thinking that someone who watched the two players and was forced to compare their merits solely on what they had seen against Livingston would say that Ward would be the one to start against Burton, but Zohore has had a good pre season overall and I’m fairly sure he’ll be our lone striker at Burton. I’d find a place for Ward as well though on the left and I get a feeling that Mendez-Laing will be on the right – I reckon Hoilett will be on the bench because he has played so little for us in the last few weeks.

  5. lindsay@bug.myzen.co.uk says:

    Paul, and all MAYAns – I’m still out here reading and ‘listening’ – all the way east, in Norwich. Paul and the rest of you bring Godzone country and Godone city closer. I have my Norwich City Season ticket all primed and ready for Sunderland at home…but, rest assured, this Bluebird will never become a Canary. I’m really looking forward to a much better season for CCFC than last. Looking forward to hearing all your first-hand, frontline, news and views. As ever Paul, big thanks to you.

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Lindsay – I think you may be watching a Play Off team this season, but, although I think we can make the top ten, I don’t believe you’ll be supporting one!

  7. Alan Higgs says:

    Brian Harris and Gary Bell lived on the same small housing estate in Michaelston super Ely.
    I lived opposite to Brian Harris in Sterling Road and what a character he was -always willing to pass on gossip from the Club to keep you entertained.
    A wonderful acquisition by The Club and he and Don Murray made a formidable combination.
    He won League and Cup honours with Everton and his ability to read a game was second to none – a real class act.

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