We’re too “nice”.

CoymayA win next week against Hull would mean seven points from our four league matches from the month which which was supposedly going to see the big recovery. Despite all of the forecasts of us needing a minimum of nine or ten points from our February fixtures, I always believed seven points from those four games would represent an acceptable return given where we were at the end of January, so we are still, just about, on course to achieve that.

However, anyone watching City’s display in yesterday’s 2-1 defeat in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup by the holders Wigan Athletic at Cardiff City Stadium will have seen very little to have made them think we are going to get the three points next Saturday.

This latest defeat, to a side who are, in my opinion, under achieving in the division below us, brought an end to a thoroughly miserable week on and off the pitch for Cardiff City. It comes to something when the most positive aspect of the last seven days was a 0-0 home draw against a team involved in the scramble to avoid the drop in which we had to rely on a “save of the season” to cling on to our point in a game in which I was grateful to the referee for only allowing two minutes added time because I feared we would have lost if it had gone for two or three minutes longer.

This looks like a certain goal, but Juan Cala's header in added time at the end of the first half was kept out via a combination of post and keeper. Cala's debut was one of the few encouraging features of the game though - he looks to be a good defensive acquisition based on yesterday's evidence.*

This looks like a certain goal, but Juan Cala’s header in added time at the end of the first half was kept out via a combination of post and keeper. Cala’s debut was one of the few encouraging features of the game though – he looks to be a good defensive acquisition based on yesterday’s evidence.*

Besides that draw against Villa, we were over run in the South Wales derby and had the latest in a long line of off field rows which only make the task we face all the more difficult in the past week. Therefore, a loss in the competition which was meant to provide a welcome distraction to our league struggles only only adds to the doom and gloom surrounding the club with little evidence, as far as I can see, of us making the progress as a team that is going to be needed if we are to have a realistic chance of staying up.

Sadly, I still see little sign of a coherent plan under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s management. Yes, he wants to play more attacking football and I think it’s fair to say that we are seeing a more positive approach compared to under the previous regime, but, boring though many found it, there was a coherent structure before where the players knew what was required of them. Those players might not have always been been able to achieve what was required of them, but there was a purpose to what they were doing and, for much of the time, we were a hard side to play against – I spent much of yesterday’s match trying to work out what Ole’s last instructions might have been before the team took the pitch.

For example, I was surprised to see the pitch being extensively watered in the minutes leading up to kick off and during half time. Given the weather we’ve been having (Cardiff and district might have experienced a modern St. Swithin’s Day sometime around New Year’s Day because we may well have had forty consecutive days on which it’s rained since then), you would have thought the last thing the pitch needed was more water on it, so I could only conclude that it was an attempt to make it slicker to encourage the sort of quick passing game which, I assume, Ole wants us to play.

So, what did we get for the eighteen minutes before Wigan opened the scoring? Laborious passing from side to side and backwards as we went through all of the various combinations a team could come up with to play the ball back to their goalkeeper! Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to see my team trying to pass the ball, but it should be to a purpose and, for the life of me, I couldn’t see what that purpose was in those opening stages – it may not have been as bad as some of the other starts we have made to matches under our new manager, but, for me, it said to Wigan “welcome to Cardiff, make yourselves comfortable and we’ll wait until you are ready to start the game properly”.

Once Wigan decided that they were ready to start playing, they soon went ahead – Kevin Theophile-Catherine obligingly gave away a needless free kick which we didn’t deal with properly and so yet another team were eventually able to get in down our right hand side as we conceded the latest in a series of goals scored by someone on the far post being on the end of a low cross.

City did up the tempo after that and, after Fraizer Campbell had equalised following a goalmouth scramble, there were signs they were getting on top before Ben Watson got the deciding goal from a long range free kick. Wigan didn’t cause us many problems after that, but they didn’t need to because, as usual, we were so unconvincing when it came to the final pass that there were hardly any times when we suggested an equaliser was coming.

The second half saw us increasing the number of pretty ball players on the pitch, but it said so much about the contribution of Noone, Berget, Zaha and Kimbo that, despite the odd moment which got the crowd excited for a second or two (but came to nothing) from them, it was the youngest member of the quintet who was the only one who suggested to me that something tangible might come from his trickery. Mats Dæhli’s ability to spot and deliver short little passes around the edge of the box at least threatened to unlock the Wigan defence in a way the other four couldn’t and he came as close as anyone to equalising with a shot which was deflected on to the roof of the net.

However, in many ways, the second half reminded me of the West Ham match. Plenty of possession, but no cutting edge whatsoever with the main difference being that at least the West Ham keeper had a few shots to save whereas, apart from a fairly routine stop from a Noone shot, Al-Habsi had virtually nothing to do as his team saw out the game pretty easilly with Ivan Ramis showing why he would have been a fine signing for us if he had passed that medical.

I don’t like saying this, but, based on those two second halves I mentioned, Ole has had a month to put together something approaching the team he wants and yet we seem to have gone backwards – we were poor against West Ham, but we were less convincing against a team from a lower division yesterday.

We seemed to lack the leader who could take the team with him as he tried to bring about a change of attitude and as a series of Zaha stepovers came to nothing again or the latest very hopeful penalty appeal was ignored, I found myself thinking we are too nice a team to play against under our new manager.

Mats Dæhli could do with a bit more power and pace when it comes to the Premier League, but the ability is certainly there and represented City's best bet to open up the Wigan defence as they strove for the equaliser which wouldn't come.*

Mats Dæhli could do with a bit more power and pace when it comes to the Premier League, but the ability is certainly there and he represented City’s best bet to open up the Wigan defence as they strove for the equaliser which wouldn’t come.*

Now, I’m not saying that we should start kicking everything that moves or that we should fill the team full of hulking great giants, but we hardly look like a side battling for our lives. The sad truth is that there are few precedents that I can think of where a team at or near the bottom of the league turns around their fortunes by adapting an approach that sees them start playing “the beautiful game”.

Words like “battle”, “fight” and “scrap” are applied to the situation at the bottom of a league every season because that’s exactly what it is and yet all season long, City have had best disciplinary record in the Premier League. Therefore, even Malky Mackay’s “negative” teams of the autumn were hardly a bunch of cloggers, but at least they were organised and sent out with an attitude which saw them trying make life as difficult as possible for their opponents – maybe Ole is trying to do the same, but I’ve seen little proof of this so far.

The league table tells us we are worse than most of the sides we will be facing from now on, so you would have thought that one way that gap could be bridged would be for City to try and impose themselves physically on their opponents. As I mentioned before, this doesn’t have to be by kicking opposing players, but it would be good to see us show teams that they are going to face a physical as well as a footballing battle over the upcoming ninety minutes. We need a lot better than what we saw against  a team which were, supposedly, inferior to us yesterday – fear ridden passing it back to the keeper and a front six with four or five “dainty” ball players is not going to get the job done.

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




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8 Responses to We’re too “nice”.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    You are right, Paul.
    There is NO FIGHT there.
    Frankly, were I a betting man, I would put my HOUSE on them being relegated.
    What can I say to add to your very balanced account of the game?
    Let us start at the goalkeeper.
    You recently wrote in your Echo article that Marshall had few peers in the Premiership. And I largely agreed with it.
    With the one proviso.
    And that is his curious problem with free kicks.
    I once said – with the inside of my cheek suffering from internal bruising – that he needed a Sports Psychotherapist to help him combat this problem!
    Now though, I think that I genuinely MEAN it.
    Do not put a wall in front of this man!
    Five man wall …or just a two man wall, as yesterday.
    Because it screws him up. Every time.
    He is congenitally incapable of saving a free kick, with a wall in front of him. But remove the wall, and I guarantee that he will perform heroics.
    And where does the problem lie?
    With that old word FASHION again.
    Alas nowadays, people cannot think for themselves. And soccer folk behave more like SHEEP than any profession I know.
    When I was a kid, not only did I see play at Ninian Park real wingers like Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney (I saw the last games both played at Catdiff), I saw REAL GOALKEEPERS who could think for themselves!
    Jack Kelsey. Bert Trautmann. Need I say more?
    And what did the keepers of that day have in common?
    I will tell you.
    The lack of a specialist goalkeeping coach!
    And thus Kelsey and Trautmann (and 10 years later, Gordon Banks) did not have a zombie to tell them where they must stand for free kicks. Instead they always stood a yard off their line (NEVER at the edge of their six yard box), and always dead centre of their goal…irrespective of how many people were in the wall.
    Nowadays however, ALL goalkeeping coaches clearly instruct their keepers to rely on the wall doing their job and to stand as much as a YARD and a HALF away from the dead centre of goal.
    The old keepers always knew best.
    Take Marshall yesterday.
    Somebody rang me last night and said that he heard Stuart Pearce – a free-kick specialist if ever there was one! – say in his LIVE commentary on TalkSport just SECONDS before the kick was taken “I took lots of long range free kicks but I would never try this. I don’t think Ben Watson will really try to shoot for goal. He won’t beat David Marshall”.
    Ten seconds later? Collapse of stout party.
    Not ME though. For as soon as I saw him lining up, I just KNEW it would be a goal.
    But had Marshall stood in the MIDDLE of his goal, he would have saved it. I have checked the video. He is standing at least three feet left of centre. Yet his diving hand gets within two feet of the ball.
    C’est la vie, I guess.
    Fashion, dear boy. Fashion.
    The same stupid vogue behaviour that has central defenders playing square balls in their own half. Gee, the most infuriating thing there is, is to see the guy who plays a square pass (Cardiff City BTW have had more masters of the square pass in the last 4 years than ANY team in Britain!) then having the audacity to point to a place upfield where he is advising the recipient of his square pass to kick it! Gosh that makes me HOPPING MAD.
    Gutlessness personified!
    Players without the courage to play a long difficult ball, chicken-out and play a meaningless square pass.
    Ah…football these days becomes to more and more resemble toothache.
    Ever since the Touch Football brigade hi-jacked the term The Beautiful Game!
    But don’t get me started on that again, Paul…
    Back to the gutless square pass.
    I guess I can live with that, but not with what follows…
    viz. the pointing from the guy who has passed it, to the direction where he wants his team mate to then kick it! Gee, that riles me.
    I reckon if you should give a chap a yellow for waving imaginary cards, then you should give him a RED for wanting a team mate to be braver than him!
    Anyway Paul, I will sign off now before I have a stroke.
    I will come back later today with a long comment on your Simon Lim posting which has given me much cause for thought.
    I need to let my thoughts marinate for an hour or two, plus also calm down.
    Suffice to say that my faith in Ole is fast declining. He seems poisoned by modern-thinking. What is the point in playing wingers when you persist with Kenny Miller Mk 2.
    Like Kenny, Fraizer “runs the channels” beautifully.
    So could Colin Jackson.
    Trouble is that for all his 100% honest endeavour, Fraizer cannot head a ball (what a sitter that was yesterday!), and when it comes to snapping-up half chances on the ground that might come his way via Kenwyne lay-offs in future weeks, then he cannot hold a candle to Nicky Maynard, the best finisher by far on City’s books.
    And Maynard was the scorer of the best City goal this season (and I submit for MANY seasons) at Accrington.
    No other City player could have scored that.

    I shall now have a short nap and dream of training sessions at the Vale where NO MAN is allowed to pass square or backwards in his own half. And the keeper must clear the halfway line with all his goal kicks.
    Yes that would be not a dream, but a NIGHTMARE scenario to Paul Abbandonato, and to some extent to you too.
    But I can live with that. I do not mind being in a minority of one.
    Thanks again Paul, for your report.


  2. Geoff Lewis says:

    Hi Paul,
    Just another inept performance. I suppose all the changes do not help. We need a balanced team for the run in and hope the team can sort it out.
    I said last summer we needed an established striker and a midfield player that can run and control the centre of the pack.
    Alas Malky did not see it that way. That £30m -£50m was not spent wisely. There were some good players in the championship and lower teams in the bottom of the premier league he could have brought in.
    Now we are left with this shower who have not got a clue what to do with the ball in the final third/penalty area.
    Daehli and Cala look promising, but probably too late to change things for this season
    To sum up this season has been dire allround, I never felt so downbeat in all my years of watching the “City”

  3. rhondda blue says:

    I’m afraid the damage was done in the summer when malky failed big time by not signing any players with premier experience. It’s ok sticking by guys that got you up, but we all knew that a lot of players could not cut the mustard in the championship and therefore should have been let go. I looked at our squad and thought at least 12 players could be cut as their just not good enough. As it stands we concede 2 many goals and are shot shy in attack, we need to be up for the fight or alas I’m afraid were down.

  4. Graham T says:

    Oh dear – reluctant to join the ever-growing band of moaners and groaners who I fear as they watch games and things go wrong seem almost to enjoy saying ‘told you’.. but again we suffer from [a] pass, pass, across – again – and then back without even looking forward and [b] lack of firm on-pitch leadership but, most of all, especially after Campbell’s dreadful headed miss, we’ve never replaced what Roy Keane called the essential ‘fox in the box’ – Chopra and McCormack, whatever they did off the pitch knew what they had to do on it, as did Earnshaw .. but after the Miller experiment, Velikonja, Gestede, Cornelius all wore the shirts with the numbers on the back but on the pitch couldn’t do what they were there for .. and if we don’t score goals, we don’t win games .. on to Saturday – and let’s hope ALL the ‘fans’ support OUR team then because without 3 points we’re probably doomed ..

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thank you for your replies. Just a few quick thoughts on some of the points raised.

    1. Dai, I’ve not seen Wigan’s second goal again, but was surprised that it ended up in our net given the distance out it was – it did strike me at the time something had gone wrong somewhere with our defending of it.
    2. On the general point of our goals for record, I’d say that, given the rate we are letting them in, we need to score something like eighteen in our last twelve games to stand a chance of beating the drop and, based on what we’ve seen so far, I’d say we’ll struggle to manage half that number – I would have really liked to have seen Ross McCormack come back to the club last month.
    3. Graham, sadly I think City have always attracted “supporters” who appear to take pleasure from our struggles – maybe it’s the same for other clubs and I suppose there is also the impact of social media to consider, but there are some right dipsticks at our games.
    4. Bad news about Medel because I don’t think we have a natural replacement for him – Dai, maybe we’ll see Caulker used there after all, but from what I saw of Cala on Saturday he could maybe play in front of the centrebacks as well.

  6. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Good post Paul, I also agree with Dai’s Goalkeeper comments.

    Things will get harder now that uncle Felix has taken over at Fulham. They will cease being “easy to beat”. We know Felix well over here in Germany, he has a habit of getting things right. Fulham may well start performing now so we really will have to stop being “nice” and start being a bit more “Danny Malloy”.

    Regards from the continent,

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Adrian – what I’ve heard about Magath is that while he won’t win any popularity contests, he is effective.

    There’s two types of being “nice” that I believe we need to tackle. The first is the physical aspect which I spoke about in my piece and you allude to yourself, but I’d also say that we did what Wigan wanted us to in those first twenty minutes on Saturday – we are becoming too easy to play against.

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    I am posting this here, even though I know it is not the right place.
    I watched the Swansea-Naples game on TV last night. I will resist the temptation to say that they did not do as well as Bangor City at home against Naples (I am old enough to well remember listening to the commentary on Radio Wales, back in the day).
    Seriously though, I thought Swansea played rather well.
    I mention it only because YET AGAIN, it was brought home to me how CCFC need a SONG.
    It was a masterstroke for their fans to steal the chorus of that Max Boyce classic from our egg-chasing fraternity!
    At CCS, “Men of Harlech” will not cut it, and do not get me started on the “Little Pick and Shovel” thing.
    That said, there are some absurd songs favoured by fans. That dire “On The Ball City” sung – or should I say, CHANTED – at Carrow Road, is unquestionably the turkey of them all.
    “Delilah” is a song that glorifies a wife beater/murderer. You’d have thought that Stoke have enough problem with their image as it is …with tacklers like Ryan Shawcross, Charlie Adam and Andy Wilkinson.
    Everton’s “It’s A Grand Old Team” is also a dud, I reckon.
    Across Stanley Park, of course, Gerry Marsden’s VOICE coming through the PA system is the reason why that Carousel masterpiece remains so effective. Were it just left to The Kop’s own vocal powers, they’d have screwed up the rhythm by now and made it more of a chant and less of a song. (Like Norwich fans have made that uninspired “scrimmage” song even worse by chanting it.)

    So Marsden keeps them in check at Anfield.

    Not that fans necessarily NEED keeping in check! I am HUGELY impressed with what Spurs fans have done to “When The Saints Go Marching In”: the slowing down of the delivery. Very effective, and rather moving.

    I suggest you use your Echo column to ask for two things Paul. A new song (or borrowed one) that City fans can sing with the ease that Swans fans sing “Hymns and Arias”.

    And the formation of a CCFC supporters choir (like some clubs have). For instance, Man Utd even have a Youth Choir.

    My favourite club song? Easy.

    No it is not “Bubbles”, nor “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, nor “The Blaydon Races”, nor “Marching On Together”, nor “Blue Is The Colour”. And certainly not Man City’s “BLUE MOON”, which never HAS sounded the right choice to me.

    No, it is that great Harry Lauder classic, “Keep Right On To The End of the Road” with its INSPIRATIONAL lyric. That is a song that has made generations of Birmingham City players down the years, dig that bit deeper into their energy reserves, than they ever thought they could.

    And THAT is what a great song can do. An “Hymns and Arias” being belted out last night, was strangely stirring.

    What sayest thou, Paul?
    Dai Woosnam

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