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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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…
What 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.
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.
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.
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…
For a player with just one season under his belt in professional football, £8.5m – a deal which has smashed Cardiff’s previous transfer record of £5m for Michael Chorpa – seems an awful lot for a relatively unknown player. Despite this, Andreas Cornelius is the latest Danish youngster to make an impression on a list of European clubs, with the Bluebirds coming from nowhere to secure his services.
ViewFromTheStands looks at what tempted Mackay to make a move for the youngster, and just why was he so sought after by a handful of fellow Premier League sides?
Cornelius was picked up by Copenhagen just two years ago at the age of 18 from Fremad Amager, at which time he was beginning to make a name for himself at international level. Firstly with the U -18 side where he scored twice in his six appearances, before moving on to U -19 level where he tallied four more goals.
Just 12 months after making the short move across Copenhagen from Amager, Cornelius made his club début in April 2012 – one of two appearances he would make for the club at the back end of the season. It would be the following campaign (2013/14) however that the 6ft 4in striker would truly shine, starting with his first goal for Copenhagen against Midtjylland on the opening day, which he followed up with another strike against Odense in a 2-2 draw.
Cornelius would go on to score 18 top-flight goals for his club in the Danish Superliga last season, making him the top scorer in Denmark at the age of just 20. This, combined with the six caps he picked up for his country – including a goal against the Czech Republic in March – has led to Stoke, QPR, Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal among others sending scouts out to the Scandinavian country to pay close attention to the youngster. Read more…
A full 69 days have passed since Cardiff City secured their place back in the top tier for the first time in over half a century, though so far there have been no new players brought in.
This may not seem particularly worrying, though with manager Malky Mackay this week hinting that certain players have turned down a move to the Bluebirds, some more realistic targets than previously listed may have to be found.
ViewFromTheStands looks at a range of the free transfers yet to find a new club so far this summer, who can help bolster Cardiff’s squad ahead of their opening game against West Ham in eight weeks time.Goalkeeper
One of the most memorable aspects of City’s promotion last season was the ability to shut-out teams and win games by the odd goal. David Marshall, who has also seemingly edged his way back into contention with the Scotland national side, was the man to thank for the positive defensive statistics.
Marshall was ever-present in what was a memorable campaign for the Welsh side, keeping a total of 18 clean sheets. There’s no question that the Scot deserves his chance in the Premier League, though what about his back-up?
That role is currently filled by former Peterborough ‘keeper Joe Lewis who managed just two starts last season – both coming in disappointing cup losses at the first hurdle. Lewis conceded twice in the opening season clash against Northampton Town, though he stood up fairly well to the aerial bombardment thrown at him by the home side.
Lewis looked to have a promising future ahead of him following a call-up to the England national side in 2008 for friendly matches against Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, though he failed to build on this and eventually fell out of favour at Peterborough under Darren Ferguson.
Whether or not Lewis could handle what the Premier League has to offer should he be called upon is open to debate, though two men who would most certainly stand up to the test are Mark Schwarzer and Lee Camp.
Schwarzer, who will celebrate his 41st birthday later this year, has bags full of experience in the Premier League, though as he edges towards retirement, one full season of first team football may be a requirement for the Australian stopper – something which Mackay can’t offer, thanks to the form of Marshall.
Lee Camp meanwhile still has time on his hands. At the age of 28, Camp made it clear he was after Premier League football when he left Nottingham Forest earlier this year after five seasons, before being snapped up by Norwich.
The Northern Irishman made three appearances for Norwich in his short stay with the Canaries, playing a full 90 minutes on just one occasion. Camp did however manage 75 minutes against Swansea, following an injury to first choice ‘keeper Mark Bunn. In that game, Camp’s goal was attacked throughout by the Swans with a total of 18 strikes towards goal – though it should be noted that the vast majority of those were off target.
Camp conceded twice, though there was little he could have done about either goal, and he can be happy with his overall performance after pulling off four decent saves. It’s clear to see from Camp’s three appearances in the Premier League last season that he doesn’t favour playing out from the back, and goes long with his passes near enough 100% of the time.
Malky Mackay has all-but ruled out bringing in a new goalkeeper this summer placing his faith in Marshall and Lewis, though with the likes of Schwarzer and Camp available on a free, he may get his head turned as we move closer towards the start of the season. Read more…