Odemwingie capture perfect for Cardiff
Discipline. The one word that has appeared time and again over the past week following Cardiff City’s fine start to life in the Premier League. The textbook defensive performance against Manchester City, followed by a clean sheet against an Everton side still getting to grips to life under a new manager, has left Malky Mackay strongly praising his side’s togetherness and discipline.
It may come as a surprise then to see Peter Odemwingie – a player best known for trying to force a move to QPR in January by driving to the clubs training ground before being turned away – sign for the club in a deal worth around £2.5million.
However, despite Odemwingie’s reputation as a player who can’t work with others, it must be remembered that this is a man who scored 31 times for West Brom in 87 appearances, with a further 17 assists – not a bad record at all for a player who predominantly plays on the wing.
Twenty-six goals in his first two seasons with West Brom turned out to be an impressive return for the versatile attacking player, who cost the club the same fee that they have sold him for. But when a move to QPR led to a well-documented collapse, Odemwingie’s time at West Brom was all-but-over as he made just seven more brief appearances for the club.
Now 32 years of age, the Nigerian international still has plenty to offer, as seen in glimpses in the early stages of last season. In the clash against Southampton (pictured), Odemwingie’s brace helped his club continue their brilliant start to the campaign which would see the Midlands side finish eighth in the Premier League.
Using FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone, it’s clear to see exactly the type of player Odemwingie is – one the Bluebirds have been crying out for, even if fans remain pretty mixed over this deadline day signing. The former Lille and Lokomotiv Moscow player likes to receive passes out wide – in this case on the right wing – before cutting inside and linking play.
Mackay has wingers Craig Noone and Craig Conway as back-up, though it remains to be seen whether he trusts either of these players to put in a shift in the Premier League in the same way as, say, Craig Bellamy currently does, where defensive duties are seen as being equally important as attacking ability.
Defensively, Odemwingie has a good success rate in terms of intercepting the ball high up the field – again, something which Mackay has stressed in the opening stages of the campaign is something his side are setting out to do. The Uzbekistan-born player showed repeatedly last season that he is happy to play on the left, right, behind the striker, or indeed as an out-and-out attacker – the type of versatility that Mackay is after.
Linking this in with Saturday’s match against Everton, Cardiff again showed that they have enough to stay up this season, though another option is needed to strengthen the wings and attacking positions – step in Mr. Odemwingie.
As good defensively as Bellamy has been for the Bluebirds so far this season, he has shown signs over the past seven months that his attacking ability is somewhat faltering. No longer scoring goals, and assists having now dried up, Bellamy offers little in terms of attack – though it would take a brave man to take him out of the side.
Cardiff’s right-hand side was always going to come under pressure on the weekend with Leighton Baines’ ability to double up as a winger without sacrificing the side’s defensive capabilities thanks to Sylvain Distin’s relentless covering.
Matt Connolly stood up well to the test, putting in arguably his best performance of the season in terms of all round play – though this is still a position which needs working on, with the signings of Kevin Théophile-Catherine and John Brayford from Rennes and Derby respectively proof of that.
The brilliant Kim Bo-Kyung and record signing Gary Medel again highlighted why it is they are so highly rated, putting in performances which, if they are to continue, will cause the Welsh club some serious problems this time next year when other clubs will surely come knocking.
It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for Fraizer Campbell, who at times was left isolated alone up front – a repeat scenario from the opening day loss at Upton Park. The capture of Odemwingie will give Mackay the option to change things should this happen, with the Nigerian providing a plan B, or indeed a more direct Plan A, should he wish.
Elsewhere, Everton created chances of their own, though it was the decision to not award Baines a stonewall penalty which ultimately cost them all three points. Cardiff managed to prevent the Manchester United target from enjoying too much joy down the flank, while Marouane Fellaini – playing in a new reserved deep role – was simply not involved in the game.
Overall, the Bluebirds can look back on their opening three games in the knowledge that they have already shown watching teams exactly what they are made of. Defensively, Steven Caulker alongside Ben Turner provide a perfect base to the City spine which includes Medel, Bo-Kyung and Campbell – players who look set to shine this season.
Odemwingie may not set pulses racing, but his versatility and experience offers Mackay more options, plugging an area which clearly needed strengthening. With close to £35million spent during the course of this transfer window, Cardiff City are slowly building a Premier League side that is here to stay.