Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Premier League Midseason Review - Cardiff City

Games Played: 19
Games Won: 4
Games Drawn: 6
Games Lost: 9
Goals For: 15
Goals Against: 30
Goal Difference: -15
Home Form: 12 out of 30 points (13th in league)
Away Form: 6 out of 27 points (17th in league)
League Position: 16th

Summary of the season so far:

Results on the pitch have taken a backseat as off-field shenanigans have dominated the news cycle on Cardiff City’s entry into the Premier League. Owner Vincent Tan has dominated the headlines due to his fights with manager Malky Mackay, ultimately leading to the latter’s dismissal last week.
There have been some highs on the pitch, as a squad combining a good blend of quality individuals with hard working players has managed to eke out some impressive results. However, after looking good enough to stay in the division, Cardiff’s form has tailed off since mid-November and the Bluebirds are now definitely involved in the relegation scrap.

Player of the season so far:

Steven Caulker has been an excellent signing for Cardiff, as the centre-back has easily been the team’s best defender, while chipping in with his fair share of important goals from set-pieces. At the other end of the pitch, Frazier Campbell has chipped in with four important goals, including a double in the sensational victory against Manchester City. Guy Medel has also been a very good signing, as the Chilean has done a good job as an enforcer in front of the Bluebirds defence.

However, the Bluebirds two best players have been midfielders Jordon Mutch and Kim Bo-Kyung. Mutch has scored four goals from midfield, as he marries his physical prowess with technical ability really well, always managing to make himself an option when Cardiff are on the attack. The South Korean Kim has been the most elegant player in the team, and his fantastic passing would surely have earned greater rewards at a team blessed with better forwards. Kim also makes excellent late runs into the box, especially as evidenced in his equalizing goal against Manchester United.

Underwhelming players:

Its fair to say in a squad not blessed with a lot of quality, almost every player has put in an honest shift. However, two players have disappointed by not coming to the party. For a team of Cardiff’s resources to spend the amount of money they did on Andreas Cornelius was ludicrous, as the Dane has struggled with injury in his first months in South Wales. Even when he has come off the bench, Cornelius has not looked up to Premier League standard.

At least Cornelius has injury and adjusting to a new league as reasons to fall back on. Peter Odemwingie has no such excuses. After becoming one of the most despised players in the league after his transfer shenanigans in January, plenty thought the acquisition of the Nigerian was a shrewd move by Mackay. In stead of providing the Bluebirds with a different dimension in attack, Odemwingie has been woefully of the pace, compromising a wast number of attacks in promising positions with an ill-judged pass or a terrible first touch.

High Point of the season:

The 3-2 win against Manchester City in the first home game of the season was special, as Cardiff City Stadium rocked and bounced in a rarified atmosphere. However, for fans of the club nothing will top the 1-0 victory over Swansea in the highly anticipated South Wales derby. A solitary away win at Fulham thanks to a wonderful strike from Mutch could end up being crucial in a tight relegation race. On a different note, Aaron Ramsey’s singing reception from Cardiff fans after the Arsenal midfielder scored against them was unforgettable, and served as a fantastic albeit rare example of genuine fan spirit in the league.

Low Point of the season:

Tan and Mackay washing their dirty linen in public was a disgrace for the club, completely overshadowing a genuine debate about whether the owner was right to let the manager go. Cardiff’s away form has been abysmal, but the worst performance of the season had to be the first half surrender to Southampton at home. That result was immediately followed by Cardiff throwing away points in a draw at home to Sunderland despite being 2-0 up after 60 minutes.

January transfer requirements:

First and foremost, a new manager. It won’t be the easiest task to get a new manager who will work within Tan’s setup, although the chairman has promised funds to bolster the squad. With the exception of the last three games of the year, Cardiff’s defence has been difficult to breach, so those funds will be well spent on reinforcing the attacking options, preferably on two good wingers and a backup striker.

Prospects for the second half of the season:

Cardiff have slowly slipped into the relegation mix. Any half decent manager should provide the standard lift in fortunes for the first month, but the Bluebirds face an unforgiving second half of their Premier League campaign. Much will invariably depend on the identity of the new manager, as it takes a particular kind of manager to get straight into a relegation scrap. Crystal Palace and Sunderland are showing signs of improvement, while West Ham and Fulham possess the x-factor that can win matches at the bottom of the table. Cardiff possess neither the consistency nor the flair to go on a significant run. One senses an injury to Caulker, Medel, Mutch or Kim could be fatal for Cardiff, as they to try to survive in an incredibly competitive tussle to avoid falling through the relegation trapdoor.
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