Weekly review 31/7/16.

Coymay

Just a run down on what, warm up games apart, has been a quiet week at Cardiff City this time. The senior team has played a couple of games in the past seven days that have left me, marginally, less upbeat about our prospects for the coming season than I had been after our winning of that tournament at Osnabruck just over a week ago.

I feel like I do largely because of the way we performed in the first half of our games with VFL Bochum and AFC Bournemouth over the past five days. Both of these teams were very dominant in the first forty five minutes against us and it could be said that we were a little lucky to get to the interval a single goal down.

In both matches we made changes which improved things for the second half. At Bochum, this paid immediate dividends when sub Semi Ajayi’s long pass found Frederic Gounongbe who was hauled down in the penalty area and so Peter Whittingham was given his first opportunity from the spot of our embryonic season – Whitts duly scored and with him later hitting the woodwork (Kenneth Zohore had also done so in the first half), the 1-1 draw could be said to have been a deserved reward for our improvement, but I’m not sure if Bochum would have felt the same way after a ninety minutes they generally had the better of.

As for yesterday’s 1-0 defeat, losing by a single goal at the ground of a Premier League club  is no cause for alarm, but when you also consider that, just as they did when we won there last season, Bournemouth, effectively, split their first team by playing two games in two days (they drew 1-1 at Reading on Friday night), then it was hardly a case of us playing their strongest selection.

On the other hand, I had the feeling that the side Paul Trollope sent out was very close to the one he would have wanted to have at Birmingham next week. The back three in front of David Marshall saw Lee Peltier line up on the right, Sean Morrison making his first appearance of the pre season programme in the middle and Matt Connolly on the left. Jazz Richards and Fabio were the wing backs with Joe Ralls and Peter Whittingham the deeper lying midfielders as Lex Immers tried to support Anthony Pilkington and main striker Frederic Gounongbe.

Interestingly, Paul Trollope said in his post match interview yesterday that our problems in the first half at Bochum had stemmed from the back three sitting too deep whereas Bournemouth were quick to take advantage of us perhaps playing too high a line at times as we sought to rectify what went wrong four days earlier in Germany.

Whatever the reason, Bournemouth were able to ask the defensive questions of our wing backs the sides we played before last week were unable to do. On the home sides’s right Jordan Ibe, their £15 million signing form Liverpool, found plenty of room to cause us problems in the first half especially. Ibe’s most crucial contribution came when he scored the game’s only goal after eleven minutes with a shot across Marshall which was described as lucky in the online City website commentary because of the deflection it took, but as a fine goal everywhere else (Bournemouth’s website broadcast a live video of the match and, although the pictures weren’t always crystal clear, I saw no deflection on the shot).

Ibe cause Fabio problems, but Connolly was unable to help him much – now I think he’s been a very good signing for us, but Connolly’s least effective performances for us have tended to come when he plays on the left and, anyway, given the importance of passing the ball out well from the back under our new system, I think I’d prefer to see him used as the middle of our centrebacks.

Jordan Ibe is congratulated by team mates after his winning goal yesterday. As a young player who has made an impact already in the Premier League, he looks a fine signing for the Cherries. Yes, they have one of the best young managers around, but the reason why Bournemouth are where they are and we are where we are now is because they have managed their

Jordan Ibe is congratulated by team mates after his winning goal yesterday. As a young player who has made an impact already in the Premier League, he looks a fine signing for the Cherries. Yes, they have one of the best young managers around, but the reason why Bournemouth are where they are and we are where we are now is because they have managed their “significant transfer spending” phase so much better than we did in the years between 2012 and 2014.

On the right, Richards would have been concerned at how easily Brad Smith (another Bournemouth summer signing from Liverpool) burst past him once and, having had his defensive problems during his first forty five minutes as a City player at Bochum, the Welsh international was hardly convincing in the opening half an hour yesterday. The reason why Bournemouth weren’t able to fully exploit this was that Peltier (good in his first forty five minute run out of the season at Bochum and one of our better players here) was able to provided the defensive cover on his side of the pitch that Connolly occasionally was unable to do on his.

By the time Richards was withdrawn on the hour mark, he was looking more convincing, but it must be said that the introduction of Declan John, along with the switching of Fabio to the right, saw our wing backs looking far more dangerous as they spent more time attacking than defending.

A half chance fired over from Pilkington aside, City did not present much of a goal threat before the break with one of the main reasons for this being the lack of a decent service provided from the flanks, but that changed in the second half. On this evidence, Fabio and John looked the better bet to start as wing backs next week with my one slight criticism of the latter being the lack of faith he showed in his weaker foot when he opted to pass with his left, rather than shoot with his right when presented with a decent scoring chance.

City definitely finished the better of the two sides with much of this being due to us having the stronger bench – besides John, we were able to introduce players such as Bruno Manga (for Morrison at half time), Craig Noone, Stuart O’Keefe and Aron Gunnarsson (another who played his first forty five minutes of the campaign at Bochum), whereas Bournemouth opted to bring on players largely drawn from their Under 21 team.

City came closest to equalising through Ralls’s side footed effort from twenty yards which flew about a yard wide and a header which missed by about the same distance from considerably closer by another sub, Kenneth Zohore, from Noone’s fine cross. However, there were enough moments of anxiety caused to the home defence to back the feeling that although Bournemouth were probably, just about, the better side over the ninety minutes,  City might be justified in feeling their second half performance was enough to earn them a draw.

As to what our side will look like at Birmingham, my guess is that, with both of them absent for most of our pre season programme, we won’t see Morrison and Manga included from the start – with the latter having played more, maybe he will start alongside Connolly and Peltier (who’s shown that, at the very least, he can be a competent fill in at centreback until our three experienced specialists in that position are all fully match fit), but I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Morrison start and Manga on the bench.

Despite what I said earlier, I get the feeling Fabio and Richards will be the wing backs – central midfield is difficult to predict though. What seems clear is that Peter Whittingham, who gave the ball away in sloppy fashion in the build up to Bournemouth’s goal but has generally passed the ball well in pre season, is almost certain to start. For me, the deep lying play maker position is the one Whitts is best able to fill at this stage of his career, but I say that knowing that his contribution without the ball may not be that great – his Paul Scholes like tackling will also leave him a real candidate for at least one suspension during the season.

Whitts’ defensive limitations make the selection of who plays alongside him most important – Gunnarsson did a great defensive job for his country in the Euros, while  O’Keefe is probably the most effective box to box player at the club presently, but I feel Trollope will opt for the all round game of Ralls for now at least.

Immers seems to be a shoe in for the most advanced midfield role and, although Noone as a centrally placed number ten cum striker is an interesting thought which has been given some credence by his pre season displays, it must surely be Pilkington to play off the target man type striker who will, almost certainly, be Gounongbe.

What seems fairly certain is that we will not see any new players arriving in the week before the big kick off. There is a proviso to that though because it’s become increasingly clear that, in the absence of big money bids for any of the players I’ve already mentioned, some, or all of, the trio of players the club said it was willing to let go this week will have to leave before the squad is added to.

Getting Adam LeFondre’s. Federico Macheda’s and Kagisho Dikgacoi’s salaries off the club’s wage bill (or at least a portion of them as the result of loan deals) would make a big difference to the recruitment options available to Paul Trollope it seems. Indeed, our Head Coach virtually said as much as he talked of a very busy few weeks before the closure of the window – he is definitely still looking to add to his squad, but added this may include player(s) (probably arriving on loan?) who will be viewed more as squad members than first team starters.

As I always say at this stage of a new season, the real time to make any informed prediction as to how you feel your team will do is in early September straight after the transfer window has shut, because then you know virtually all of the squad that you’ll be watching until at least January.

So, I’m not going to make too many predictions now, but I would say that, although I believe Paul Trollope would prove himself to be a good City manager if he was given a couple of seasons to fully implement his ideas at the club, I don’t see us improving on last season’s finishing position of eighth in the very, very  unlikely event of him having to operate with our current squad for the whole of the coming season.

Our weakest area, by some distance, last season was up front. The two clubs who were automatically promoted and the four who contested the Play Offs all scored at least seven goals more than us and I believe that a further ten to fifteen goals scored this season would, in all likelihood, see us make that climb of at least two places that we need. Unfortunately, I’ve not been convinced yet that the addition of Gounongbe alone to the group of forward players we had for the latter months of last season, will be enough to provide those extra goals we need.

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3 Responses to Weekly review 31/7/16.

  1. paul says:

    it will be October before I am able to witness thre merits of the new formation, the joys of a motorhome. Would I have been suffering a miserable start to the season or looking forward to a promotion challenge. By the time I see my first game I will have some idea. New seats this season back a few rows in the ninian to try and get out of the rain. We had dry seats but with the extension these were suddenly in the wet area, no reduction in price though.

    I digress, we should never read too much into friendly games. How many times have I seen a city team look like world beaters throughout the pre-season matches only to find us in a relegation struggly.

    In these games very few players hit tackles with the intensity of a league match, formations are tested as are players within them.

    i felt last season we had the players to get into that top 6 but lacked a manager with any nous. A manager who could get the best out of players, treat them with respect and who knows what the team is capable of and get them to paly a system that they are capable of.

    We have that man now, I hope. We must be patient and give him at least until I get back from my sunshine tour of europe.

  2. Russell says:

    I agree with the Paul above comments , lets get to October, and see where we are ,

    Strangely I have had to move back and sideways to get out of the gusting rain and wind of the seating , thanks to those awful gaps and new stand structure , if this was a produce purchase you would taking it back and demanded a refund for both the stand and tickets.

    Thanks Paul , or the summary and views . I have always thought Pelt’s and Connolly were good decent defenders ,committed and consistent ones ,which is key for me in this league. I would like to see those two plus Manga as a ball carrier out of defense, however Manga’s strange re occurring injuries and absences form the team is not a platform to build on in the championship ,where you don’t have equivalent back up .

    Full backs I would like to see John and Fabio. ( think Jon deserves the chance before the new lad ) perhaps Fabio may leave if a bid came in , hence Jazz being signed

    It pains me to say this , perhaps Whitt’s is not the answer in that deep lying role, you have to be able to defend, ( is he becoming a luxury ,do we need to find another way ??)

    Gunnerson would be my deep lying midfielder as Captain . Then O’ Keefe /Ralls,Immers, just in front, Pilk’s up front

    Then use , Noone , Zohore, Kadeem , Gounongbe ,Whitts’ as early bench changes and different tactics

    Strange line up yep, for me its about getting a solid start the last two games have shown its like last year, bit more of a cautious 45 minute start, them adapt at half time.

    Paul, I would like to have a go at your ground quiz, my problem is memory loss , old age , the haze of alcohol, at the time and being harangued around these grounds by police and fans in the , bad /funny ?? old days . ( they were not seeking my autograph by the way or wanting to chat about my dress sense either)

    Thanks again Paul for the upload

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks both for your comments. Given my experiences in the Ninian Stand during last season (the wettest in ages I’d say), I’m not sure that there is such a thing as a dry area in the lower part of that stand is there – the building of Tan’s Folly has seen to that. Paul, I’m in the cheaper seats at the front of the stand, but I noticed that it was barely any drier in the more expensive seats when I moved back there for four or five matches where it was really hammering down last season – the view’s a bit better in the more expensive seats than the one I get, but not to the extent that it justifies the difference in price between them, I said throughout last season that those who sat a few rows behind me deserved a partial refund because they were paying the same price as they’ve always done for what was an inferior product.
    I hope supporters are patient with Paul Trollope as well, it seems to me that people will be more willing to give him time if they feel there is a plan being put into place and the team are trying to play a decent brand of football. For different reasons, it was hard to see what both of our previous managers were trying to achieve – Ole jumped about from one approach to another on almost a weekly basis, while Slade always struck me as just looking for ways to get him from one week to the next, if Trollope can convince me that he is trying to instill a specific approach to serve the club through years then he’ll have have my support. Anyway, enjoy your holiday and, hopefully, City won’t be in a bad position when you return in October.
    Russell, yes, it’d be John and Fabio as wing backs for me based on what we’ve seen so far. Given those comments by Manga’s agent a couple of months back which certainly gave the impression that his client didn’t see his medium to long term future being at Cardiff, I’d guess that Connolly and Morrison will be the first choice pair of centre backs at the club for the coming months. I reckon a threesome of those two plus Manga could be very good at this level if they all played to something like their potential, Peltier won’t let us down and I think Ajayi has put himself into the first team picture as well, but I’d say most clubs in this league would think that adding one of Connolly, Manga or Morrison to their defence would strengthen it.
    I’ve got my doubts about Whitts being able to make a success of his new role as well. He looked good in the friendlies in Germany, but the teams we played over there didn’t know much about him and so he was given time on the ball that I just don’t see him getting here. Nearly everyone involved in the coaching side of things in the Championship will know that if Whitts is given time to play and has team mates are determined and clever enough to work themselves some space in attacking areas, then he’ll usually find those runners in front of him, so, he’s surely going to be put under much more pressure than he was in Germany. However, the clear impression I’m getting is that Whittingham is currently first choice for us when it comes to the two central midfielders who will play in front of the back three and I can’t help thinking that things would have to go really wrong in the opening games for that situation to change any time soon.

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