Cardiff City Season Preview

cardiff badge newThe Football Lab interviewed Cardiff City fan Luke Summerfield, ahead of the new season. You can follow him on Twitter @BluebirdLuke

Cardiff’s form was better in the second half of last season, when cost-cutting measures had been made at the club, than in the first half, just after a summer of heavy spending. Did you find that surprising?

The improvement in the second half of the season has been highlighted simply because of how poor the club performed in the first half. Poor fitness, bizarre team selections from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meant that the team performed well under par. The slight imporvement in the second was more of getting the club back closer to a level that they should be performing at and so I wouldn’t say the cost cutting measures really had too much of an impact and therefore not partcularly surprising.

Cardiff City only released 3 players this summer. Do you think Russell Slade wanted to create some stability, given how well the team performed in the final 10 weeks of last season?

Stability among the playing staff is exactly what Cardiff City need at the moment but there is still work to do regarding players leaving. Adam Le Fondre and Javi Guerra are two that are desperate to leave and that should happen before the end of this transfer window if not before the season starts. As for the last 10 weeks, some results may have looked like the club were improving but the performances were extremely poor and quite frankly boring. The football was slow, unimaginative and very predictable with a lot of sideways passing and minimal chances in the final third.

Again I’d put the apparent improvement down to how poor the early season form was rather than anything else.

Slade seems the type of manager who will work better with a group of hardworking but less gifted players, than he will with a group of talented prima donnas. Is that a fair assessment?

Absolutely. When Slade was appointed there was a lot of players who were not justifying their high Premier League wages and players who arguably shouldn’t have been signed in the first place. It appeared as if the reason he was appointed was to clear out those on high wages and replace them with players on a lower wage, even if it mean’t there was a drop in quality.

Many argue that David Marshall was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League during the 2013/14 campaign. Are you pleased to have him at the club?

For me, he was the outstanding goal-keeper of that season and doesn’t always get the praise and recognition he deserves. As i’m answering the question, it looks as if he’s set to sign for WBA which would be a massive blow to any chances that the club have of promotion. From a Cardiff City point of view, keeping him at the club outways the benefit of the tranfer fee the club would get from West Brom so I’m hoping it all falls through!

Right-back Lee Peltier was made captain at 2 of his former clubs, Leeds and Huddersfield. Could the team benefit from his leadership qualities this season?

Absolutely.The team has severly lacked a captain or leader on the field since Mark Hudson left for Huddersfield as he was never really replaced. While I’m not convinced he’s the right man for the captaincy role the more players on the field who have these attributes the better.

Cardiff’s form last season seemed to improve when centre-back Bruno Manga returned from the African Cup of Nations. How important a player has he become?

Bruno Manga still has a little bit to prove as far as I’m concerned. While many argue he’s become a very important player, there are still aspects of his game that need improving if he is to become the player a lot would say he is currently.

Out of all the centre backs at Cardiff, he is the most comfortable with the ball at his feet but this can also be a problem as he will sometimes try and do too much with it. He is also a player that can be caught out of position a fair bit so this part of his game also, needs improving.

Who should partner Manga – Ben Turner, Matt Connolly or Sean Morrison?

For the reasons stated in the last question my centre back pairing would consist of Ben Turner and Sean Morrison if they are both fit, but with Ben Turner having problems with injury last season I can see Sean Morrison playing alongside Manga.

Cardiff have a lot of competition at left-back, with Fabio, Declan John, Scott Malone and perhaps David Tutonda in contention. Who would you pick?

My personal choice would be Declan John. Gaining further first team experience at championship level would further that, that he gained playing in the Premier League. As a Wales fan as well as Cardiff City, having a welsh player playing regularly for Cardiff would also benefit the national team. However I can see Scott Malone being the preffered left back of Russell Slade.

Some say Peter Whittingham does not have the discipline needed to play centrally in a 4-4-2. Should Whittingham’s position change? Should the system be changed in order to accommodate him? Or should he be dropped altogether?

The problem with playing Whittingham centrally is that there also needs to be a ball-winning, hard tackling midfielder in there as well. Whittingham isn’t that type of player in the slightest but he isn’t in the team for that purpose. However playing him centrally is his best position and for me the team needs to be bult around him as I feel a player of his quality cannot be left out of the team. Playing him as part of a central two or even three would allow him the freedom to control games and get back to the best of his ability.

Aron Gunnarsson looks an energetic, tenacious midfielder. What did you make of his performances last season?

Many thought that Gunnarsson would be that player that would compliment Whittingham in the centre of City’s midfield but that wasn’t always the case so in that sense a little disappointing. However he does work incredibly hard and as you say is an energetic midfielder so it will be interesting to see how much he features next season.

The team lacked a degree of pace last season, particularly in wide areas. Was it important to sign Sammy Ameobi on loan?

It can be an important signing if hes played in those wide positions. From pre-season I’ve only had one opportunity to see him play properly where he was played upfront with Joe Mason. He showed glimses of real promise with his pace and quick feet, but lacked the strength to play centrally. As I say, if he’s used out wide then he could prove to be an important signing.

Bizzarely, Cardiff have 6 forwards who could realistically start on the opening day. Do you think Russell Slade will want to play Joe Mason, a ‘number 10’ type, alongside a target man like Kenwyne Jones or Alex Revell? And is there space for Eoin Doyle, Federico Macheda or Adam Le Fondre?

There certainly isn’t space for Adam Le Fondre. He has made it very clear that he wants to leave the club and should do before the season starts. Joe Mason has to be the central figure upfront for City this season and a target man there as well may benefit him. Towards the end of last season however, Mason and Doyle played alongiside eachother and appeared to build up a good partnership so that may be the two that Russell Slade opts for. As for Macheda he has a lot of work to do to prove he is worthy of being in the starting eleven.

It seems as though the ownership situation at Cardiff has quietened down in recent times, with the club having gone back to playing in blue last season. Do you think you are in a position to start focusing on what is happening on the pitch, rather than off it?

The re-brand did a lot more damage to the club-fan relationship than fans of other clubs will not be aware of, but returning to the traditional blue and white with a prominant bluebird on the badge will allow the fans to talk about football now, instead of the rebrand. There still are issues to be sorted that include the rising debt and the issue of former owner Sam Hamman being involved with the club but it as you say, quietend down dramatically.

Cardiff aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Who do you think will do well? Which teams might struggle?

There are a couple of impressive looking teams in the championship next season and the three I predict to do well are Derby, Middlebrough and Hull City.

Last season, you said Cardiff would compete for promotion, and they finished midtable. What is your prediction for this campaign?

My prediction at the beginning of last season of chellenging for the play-offs at the very least was me being extremely optimistic! For this season it all depends on how City start the season and IF the club are able to hold on to the best players such as Marshall, Peter Whittingham and Joe Mason. My prediction is that the club will be in a position to challenge slightly higher up the table than last time out but im not convinced its enough to make the play-offs, yet. 6th – 8th.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Cardiff City’s budget has been cut, but that could prove a blessing in disguise. Russell Slade has had the licence to move on a few expensive, luxury players, and build a more industrious team in his own image. The fact Cardiff won half their final 14 games last season suggests the transition is having a positive effect. 8th