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Solskjær’s Cardiff rev-ole-tion continues: Meet the new men pitted with keeping the club in the Premier League

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær is set to announce the signings of former Molde players Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Mats Møller Dæhlie in the next 24 hours. As the new manager, players and backroom staff settle into the club and attempt to turn around Cardiff City’s fortunes at the bottom end of the Premier League, ViewFromTheStands looks at the men tasked with implementing this Norwegian revolution in South Wales…

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

As far as managerial spells go, winning the league title back-to-back – including the clubs first in their 100 year history – alongside lifting a domestic cup, is pretty much as good as it gets. That is exactly what highly-rated manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær achieved in his three year stint in charge of Molde FK, becoming somewhat of a hero along the way.

Now, in his return to the isles in which he tasted so much success as a player, Solskjær is aiming to turn Cardiff City from a club battling turmoil both on and off the pitch, into an established Premier League side – but first, he must keep his new side in the division.

In order to achieve that, the former Manchester United forward has turned to former players Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Mats Møller Dæhlie. It must be said, not a lot is known about these two men, other than the fact they are both known well by Solskjær.

Grainy Youtube footage puts across the image that these are players with potential, though perhaps not able to make it in the Premier League – alas much-maligned Andreas Cornelius, who has so far failed to adapt to life in English football.

Harsh, maybe, though what Cardiff need right now is a set of players who can push the club clear of trouble, before Solskjær can then plan – and implement – his own full-term rebuilding project.

So what do we know about the two men who are set to be announced officially in the coming days? Firstly, Dæhlie, as Norwegian journalist and Molde fan Erik Skavold Lystad tells ViewFromTheStands, is a player with “a touch unlike anyone else in the Norwegian top-flight.”

Dæhlie arrived at Molde from Manchester United’s reserve squad last summer, with the promise of first team football under former United Reserve team manager Solskjær.  The 18-year-old made an immediate impact.

“His creativity and technique is very pleasing to watch,” Lystad said. “His lack of outright pace is compensated for with his smart movement and ability to keep the ball.

“At such a young age, we should expect great things from Dæhlie.”

Great things, indeed. As this is a player who has already represented his country at senior level and also captained Manchester United’s reserves- a team which included Adnan Janazaj, who is also touted for a promising future in the Premier League.

Reports suggested that Solskjær had targeted the youngster to compensate for Cardiff’s lack of a ball-keeping midfielder alongside record signing Gary Medel. In fact, besides Medel’s incredible 90% pass accuracy rate, fellow midfielders Peter Whittingham (80%), Kim Bo-Kyung (83%), Aron Gunnarsson (78%), Jordon Mutch (70%), Craig Noone (67%) and Don Cowie (83%), are struggling to retain possession in the middle of the field. The most damning aspect of this statistic being that the average pass range of said players is around 9 yards.   Read more…

Attacking problems threatening to damage Bluebirds campaign

November 12, 2013 2 comments

A week can be a long time in football. Following Cardiff City’s historic victory against local rivals Swansea, Malky Mackay and his side were labelled as heroes as they strengthened their mid-table status in the Premier League. A disappointing loss against Aston Villa just six days later however, combined with victories for fellow relegation threatened clubs, means that Cardiff fans are now sitting a little less comfortably as we head into the international break.

A rare sight so far this season as Campbell celebrates after scoring

A rare sight so far this season as Campbell celebrates after scoring

The two week hiatus offers meticulous planner Mackay the opportunity to analyse the games to date to see how his side can push on. It doesn’t take a genius to work out however, that the major problems Cardiff City currently face is stopping opponents creating so many chances, and creating opportunities of their own.

It’s no coincidence that Cardiff’s player of the season thus far has been goalkeeper David Marshall, whose impressive saves have often been the difference between the Welsh club facing a crushing defeat and walking away with a point. In the games against Tottenham (11 saves), Norwich (10 saves) and Newcastle (8 saves), Marshall showed just why he is so important to Mackay’s side, but it also highlighted that Cardiff simply allow opponents too much time and space to shoot.

Add to this the fact that defensive shield Gary Medel has picked up the Man of the Match accolade on three separate occasions this season, combined with Steven Caulker making the most blocks in the Premier League, and you begin to build a bleak defensive picture. However, the 4-1 mauling at Stamford Bridge aside, Mackay’s men can be fairly happy with the way the first quarter of this season has gone from a defensive viewpoint – three clean sheets in 11 games backing this up, the Bluebirds must however stop allowing opposing teams so many opportunities to build attacks.

Coming into the season with five recognised strikers – Fraizer Campbell, Joe Mason, Andreas Cornelius, Rudy Gestede and Nicky Maynard – combined with wingers Craig Bellamy and Peter Odemwingie who can both play in an advanced role, Mackay would have been fairly content with his squad. Yet an early season injury to promising striker Cornelius seemingly changed everything. Instead of now having a tall and powerful targetman, Mackay was instead left relying on Campbell, and more recently Odemwingie, to play in the lone-striker role in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Read more…

Olympics triumph, World Cup joy, Premier League breakthrough: What next for Kim Bo-Kyung?

When he walks out for his country at next summer’s World Cup Finals, it will be hard for Kim Bo-Kyung not to pinch himself, as if this is all a dream. A bronze medal at the London Olympics, followed by promotion to the Premier League with Cardiff City and a small matter of Brazil 2014 to look forward to next summer – all this for a player who was still at university just three years ago.

With eight Premier League games under his belt – as well as 28 appearances in a gruelling Championship campaign last season – the South Korean is now well and truly at home in British football. Though it was not until 2010 that Kim opted to drop out of university and instead focus on his true love of football – it’s fair to say he hasn’t looked back since.

Promotion party: Kim played his part in Cardiff's promotion last season [Photo: Nick Potts/ AP]

Promotion party: Kim played his part in Cardiff’s climb to the Premier League [Photo: Nick Potts/ AP]

By moving away from his family at a young age after joining Japanese side Cerezo Osaka, Kim toughened himself up ahead of a career that was destined for a move to European football – the home of the biggest club sides in the world. A loan spell at second division Oita Trinita gave Bo-Kyung his first real taste of regular football, before eventually being given a chance by Osaka.

Kim rewarded his side’s faith by scoring eight times from midfield in his first full season in the J-League, before following this up with another seven goals in 15 appearances in the 2011/2012 campaign –  a run of form which truly captured Europe’s elite, including Monaco, Celtic and Borussia Dortmund.

Despite the initial interest from Dortmund and Celtic, Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay still remained confident that, by offering a launch-pad into European football, the Asian star could learn his trade in a side seeking promotion to the Premier League – it was a mutual agreement between two parties looking to better themselves: Cardiff City wanted to play in the top-tier of English football, Kim wanted to put himself in the shop window for bigger, more established clubs.

Though things could have been a lot different. Monaco reportedly came close to signing Kim, though potential visa and military duty issues – which had caught out fellow countryman Park Chu-Young previously –  meant that Cardiff’s offer was the best on the table and the 22-year-old would be moving away for a second time in his short career.

Before joining the Bluebirds in a deal worth around £2m, Bo-Kyung had the small matter of the Olympic Games in London – providing the South Korean international the opportunity to get accustomed to a new culture. It also provided the attacking midfielder with his happiest moment to date – a bronze medal, which he picked up by helping his side to a victory against rivals Japan in a play-off. South Korea had knocked Great Britain out of the competition en-route to the semi-final, winning a penalty shoot-out at, of all places, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – the first real opportunity for City fans to see their future star up-close for the first time.

As morale-boosting as the Olympics had been, Kim took time to get up-and-running with his new club following regular international call-ups which would see him travel half-the-way around the world regularly. It wasn’t until the back-end of September of last season that the man dubbed ‘the next Park Ji-Sung’ by the man himself had got his first minutes under his belt. That coming as a substitute in the club’s 2-0 win at Millwall. Read more…

Categories: Cardiff City

The season so far: A tactical and statistical analysis

With off-the-field matters at Cardiff City dominating the column inches this week, Malky Mackay will have little time to reflect on his sides start to their first top-flight campaign in half a century. A poor opening day performance at Upton Park was followed by a memorable victory against Manchester City, with draws against Everton and Hull leaving the Bluebirds in a strong position. Losses against Spurs and Newcastle somewhat left fans depleted, though a late victory against Fulham sandwiched inbetween has left the Welsh club in a strong position to push on following the two week international break.

ViewFromTheStands looks at how Mackay’s men have fared in their opening seven games of the season, using statistics provided by StatsZone and WhoScored to give a rundown of each position.

Aron Gunnarsson gets Cardiff's season off and running against Manchester City [Image courtesy of WalesOnline]

Aron Gunnarsson gets Cardiff’s season off and running against Manchester City [Image courtesy of WalesOnline]

Goalkeepers

Not so long ago, David Marshall was playing second-fiddle to Tom Heaton in the Bluebirds goal.  Three seasons on and a whole load of clean sheets later, the man now considered to be Scotland’s number 1 ‘keeper is the first name on City’s team-sheet – in more ways than one.

With a total of 18 shut-outs in the Championship last season – the highest in the league – Marshall’s form more often than not saved his side valuable points in what was a gruelling, but successful campaign.

Questions were asked of whether or not he could continue his form in the Premier League, but a clean sheet against Everton, combined with a man of the match performance against Tottenham, has ensured that Marshall has silenced any doubters.

In that clash with Spurs at the Cardiff City Stadium last month, the Scot pulled off a number of high quality saves which again helped to highlight his importance to Mackay’s side. A Paulinho goal after 93 minutes of play – Spurs 29th effort of the game – would win the contest for the away side, though Marshall could be happy with his contribution.

One problem the former Celtic stopper does face however is his distribution. A big trait of modern day football is to play from the back, though Marshall is often harried into firing the ball up-field with only Fraizer Campbell to aim for. Not surprisingly, Marshall only found a Cardiff player four times when going long – meaning the opposition were allowed to continue forming attacks.CardiffReview1

This is a regular occurrence in the Premier League for Cardiff so far, though Marshall has certainly improved on this aspect, as can be seen in the Newcastle game (right). Marshall attempted 17 passes in that game with just two unsuccessful – the two long passes. It’s something which has gradually been eradicated over the opening stages of the season, but Marshall must continue to work on this facet of his game.

In terms of back-up, Joe Lewis has cut a frustrated figure on the bench, limited to just one league appearance. That came away at Hull last month in an early season ‘six-pointer’ between two clubs expected to be in or around the drop zone come May.

Lewis put in arguably his finest performance in a Cardiff shirt to date against the Tigers; pulling off a couple of vital saves to keep the scores level. Injury to Marshall permitted, Lewis will now look on from the bench until he gets his next chance in the FA Cup in January. Though the former England U-21 ‘keeper has shown that he certainly has the ability to step-up if Marshall was to pick up a recurrence of his injury. Read more…

Fulham 1 – 2 Cardiff City: Bluebirds continue to impress in the Premier League

FulhamFormation

Though City began the season setting out in a 4-4-1-1 system, Malky Mackay has now moved towards a more fluid formation, which is best described as a 4-3-3. As can be seen by the average position graph to the left, man of the match Gary Medel sat deepest in a midfield triangle completed by Kim Bo-Kyung and Aron Gunnarsson.

Peter Odemwingie – making his first start in the Premier League for Cardiff City – replaced Craig Bellamy in the side, offering a more attack minded option on the right, with Peter Whittingham again fielded on the left of midfield though often playing in a more central role.

The obvious feature of this clash was the way Whittingham and Odemwingie supported Fraizer Campbell up-front during attacks, but dropped back into a more compact 4-5-1 whilst defending, with the midfield offering the back four sufficient cover.

In another sign of attacking intent from Mackay, Andrew Taylor and Kevin Theophile-Catherine – another summer signing who has impressed so far – were told to push forward, with Whittingham and Odemwingie offering protection in the full back slots when needed. This is nothing new for Odemwingie who certainly fits into the Mackay mould of defending from the front.

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New signings

With six games of this open Premier League season now gone, it seems a good time to weigh up City’s summer signings. Though the exciting Andreas Cornelius has yet to make any impression in the league due to injury, Steven Caulker, Theophile-Catherine and now Odemwingie have all had some time to click – and it’s so far so good for Mackay’s recruitment staff.

City’s failed attempt at the last hurdle to attract Victor Wanyama and Etienne Capoue to the club seemed to be a big blow for the Welsh side heading into the new season. Record signing Medel did give fans some hope, though limited knowledge of the player suggested Cardiff would be signing a player who did more to harm the team than help with numerous sending’s off over the course of his career.

However, it wouldn’t be far wide of the mark to suggest that the Chilean international is fast becoming one of the finest signings the Bluebirds have ever made – with this arguably his best performance to date.

Gary Medel put in another fine performance for his side

Gary Medel put in another fine performance for his side

Having completed 68 out of 69 passes, as well as topping the ball recovery and tackles chart, Medel put in one of the fine individual performances of the campaign so far at Craven Cottage, and remains a key player in Cardiff’s hopes of pushing on from their impressive start to the season.

Another player who impressed massively on Saturday is Steven Caulker, who continues to show that Tottenham could have made a big mistake in letting the youngster leave this summer, despite the hefty transfer fee.

Caulker himself completed an impressive number of passes from deep (31 out of 34), and also made numerous clearances and blocks to help out his side. Though Caulker picked up the fans’ man of the match award thanks to his goal, a lot of credit must go to centre-back partner Ben Turner, who continues to prove wrong those who doubted him at the start of the season.

It’s a partnership that is continuing to blossom at the back for the Bluebirds, while fellow newcomers Theophile-Catherine and Odemwingie also linked-up well at Fulham. In fact, Odemwingie and Catherine linked up 11 times in the game – second only to Taylor and Whittingham down the opposite flank. It’s early days, but Mackay seems intent on getting his side to work their way up the field from the back – a few Turner hoof’s aside, the plan is working well.   Read more…

Odemwingie capture perfect for Cardiff

match analysis - everton

Cardiff line-up (vs Everton)

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.  Read more…

Cardiff City 3 – 2 Manchester City: Gunnarsson and Medel help pull off a huge shock

Manchester City tacticsWhat a difference a week can make. Following on from a lacklustre 2-0 defeat at Upton Park on the opening weekend, Cardiff City bounced back with one of the great Premier League upsets, beating Manchester City 3-2 in front of a record home attendance.

Malky Mackay set out with a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Kim Bo-Kyung and Fraizer Campbell dropping deep into midfield to act as a defensive barrier high up the pitch. Campbell may have been the man to make the headlines, but a lot of credit must go to Aron Gunnarsson and record signing Gary Medel – who went a long way to justifying his £11m price tag.

Double-pivot

The growing trend of the 4-2-3-1 formation has helped create what has arguably become the most important position on the field – the ‘double-pivot’ (think Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira). The “2” aspect of the defensive looking formation, act as both an additional barrier to break-up play, but also help to start attacks from deep.

As can be seen from the player diagrams (below), Gunnarsson and Medel are already beginning to form a partnership in the Cardiff midfield – when one player surges forward, the other stays deep.

Medel has instantly become somewhat of a fan favourite at the Cardiff City Stadium thanks to his passion and ability to seemingly stop any attacks that come towards his sides goal. With three successful tackles, four interceptions, two defensive clearances and 28 passes, the Chilean international perfectly summed-up his all-round game yesterday afternoon, showing why Mackay was right to break the bank to get his man.

Gunnarsson meanwhile – who is still getting up to match fitness after missing a large chunk of pre-season due to a shoulder injury picked up on international duty – got Cardiff off the mark with his goal on the hour mark, following in on Fraizer Campbell’s shot to tap home.

Medal highlighted just why he was rated so highly at previous clubs

Medal highlighted just why he was rated so highly at previous clubs

The 24-year-old, who was the Bluebirds second top-scorer last season with eight goals, surged forward before finding the back of the net from close range. This is something which was seriously lacking during the clash at Upton Park, with Campbell simply stood alone isolated up-front. With Gunnarsson and Medel beginning to form a partnership, expect to see a lot more of this support from deep – these talented players are not in the team to simply defend, but to also attack; something we will see more of as the season develops.

Defensive display 

There is a reason why Cardiff were such massive underdogs coming into this game: Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas… you get the point. Manchester City’s starting XI cost a combined total of £210m – some £186m more than the squad the home side had started with.

Despite this, Ben Turner and Steven Caulker put in a resounding defensive display which, as Gary Neville put it “perfectly sums up how to stop the best teams.” It would be unfair to say Cardiff parked the bus – a phrase which is seemingly used whenever a team puts in a strong defensive display – they simply didn’t allow the away side any time to breathe.

Though David Silva occasionally found space in an advanced midfield position, Cardiff, as can be seen in the defensive dashboard below, were simply brilliant when it came to protecting their goal. With Navas on the wing, Manchester City now have a true out-and-out winger, and as can be seen, they managed to get in plenty of crosses, but Turner and Caulker achieved a 100% defensive header rate, while 16 out of 19 tackles were successful. Turner did occasionally get pulled out of defence by Aguero, though overall Turner justified his inclusion over last season’s player of the year Mark Hudson. Read more…

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