It’s funny, the Internet and the likes of You Tube have spawned an explosion of footballing information which would enable anyone with the free time to read a small percentage of what is out there and become so knowledgeable about the game, yet, at the same time the good old league table has tended to suffer no end of cutbacks in the way it is presented to readers of on line writings on football..
To explain what I mean, you go online now to probably more than ninety per cent of football websites and it seems as if a battle is being waged to see who can produce league tables with the smallest amount of information in them. For example, it’s common now to see tables presented which just show the number of games each team has played and how many points they have. Okay, I have no problem with admitting that I’m a football nerd (actually I’m a nerd full stop!), but surely, I can’t be the only one who longs for a return to the sort of league tables of my youth that I used to read in the papers every Sunday morning?
Such tables are still around, but they can take some finding – this is the one I use from what is a superb statistical site which carries the most comprehensive breakdown of information on the Championship I know of.(click on the “wide” version of the ;league table to see what I mean)
I’d be amazed if you’ve reached this far without asking “what on earth is he blathering on about?”, well, it’s all part of a pretty convoluted way of working Cardiff City’s home record into the conversation.
In recent months, I’ve taken to watching three or four streaming sites in which the presenters give their predictions as to what the scores are going to be in the upcoming round of Championship fixtures and I tell you what, I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard someone on them say Cardiff have a good home record this season.
It’s as if the people concerned looked at the table I posted a link to earlier in late October after we beat the wurzels and have been using those hugely condensed tables I referred to at the start, which tell you almost nothing, ever since!
Even before a ball had been kicked in the Championship this season, you only needed to look at our fixtures to realise that we were paired against all of the teams predicted to go down in our first few home games – QPR, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham all came to Cardiff City Stadium before September was out as did a Swansea team without a win and struggling under a mad managerial appointment at the time. Coventry were out of form when they visited us a few days after our derby win and Watford hadn’t won in a few when they came here shortly afterwards.
Throw in the good win over the wurzels and, yes, we were a force at home in the early part of the season – sixteen points out of a possible twenty one offered the proof of that.
However, what’s happened since then has undone all of the earlier good work. We took advantage of all of those early games against weak opposition, but any hopes this would give us the confidence to carry on our form through the tougher visitors to follow have come to nought.
The next seven home fixtures have produced a complete reversal of the first seven with one win, one draw and five defeats and the odds now have to be on City going through a fourth successive season where home defeats outnumber home wins – frankly, that’ll be a disgrace if it happens.
Today’s 3-0 loss to Leeds was the worst of the lot for reasons I’ll go into later, but, suffice it to say for now that tonight this feels like 23/24’s lowest ebb so far and, for the first time, I’m reading the occasional message questioning whether Erol Bulut should be offered the contract extension he talked about a couple of days ago – in fact, there’s the odd call for him to be sacked..
Looked at from the perspective of us still only being three points off the Play Offs and fifteen points above the bottom three with a squad made of up of free transfers and loans because we’ve been under a transfer embargo, it seems absurd to be thinking in terms of another change of manager and it’s not a road I would consider going down now What I would say though is that, with the exception of the Boxing Day draw with Plymouth, which is akin to an oasis in a desert, I’ve found our last six home matches virtually unwatchable.
It’s only right mind to point out that it seems to me that the gap between the sides coming down with their first parachute payment and the rest of the Championship is as large as it’s ever been and our last two home opponents are among the trio relegated last season. As I’ve said before on here, Leicester, who won here in late December, are a Premier League side in all but name, Southampton beat us at a canter at their place about six weeks ago and I’m not exaggerating when I say Leeds could have scored seven or eight today.
So, I think it’s fair to say that we were always likely to lose to Leicester and, maybe, Leeds, but there’s losing and losing – for example, losing at Leicester and Ipswich in the manner we did in August is one thing and losing in the manner we’ve done in four of our last six home matches another completely.
We did beat Millwall in the aforementioned six home games,, even then though, it was a truly awful game of football with the only goal presented to us by the opposition’s goalkeeper. That goalkeeping howler apart, we never really looked like scoring against Millwall and the same could be said of the 1-0 losses to West Brom, Wayne Rooney’s woefully out of form Birmingham, the 2-0 defeat by Leicester and today’s hammering by Leeds.
I’m surprised to see that we’ve had as many as eleven on target efforts in those five matches (it’s still a pretty pitiful number though), but what would be really revealing would be if it were possible to find out how many of those eleven came in the first half when it was still 0-0 – I’ve no way of proving it, but my guess would be that it may well be none.
If I have any criticism of Erol Bulut, it would involve the manner in which his teams are being sent out to play in home games lately (strangely, like other City teams of recent seasons, we look a better side with more of a goal threat when we play away from home), The word “passive” is increasingly being used in relation to City home games and it was there in our attitude again today – an acceptance almost that the opposition are better than us exemplified by us going backwards on the rare occasions we have the ball more often than we go forward and a reluctance to commit more than one poor isolated soul to forward positions.
Rubin Colwill’s recent performances are not knocking doors down demanding that he start games, but I would say that he’s been doing enough to have earned a starting place given how little some others offer in attacking areas.
However, Bulut was typically defensive in his selection today and, to no great surprise, Colwill was a sub as the manager went with three defensive central midfielders, along with Josh Bowler and Karlan Grant out wide and Kion Etete as the poor sod up front.
I’ll not waste too much time on the game, but one thing I will say is that if Leeds miss out on a top two place on goal difference they may well think back to the January afternoon when they spurned so many chances down in Cardiff – City could only be grateful that Crysencio Sumomerville, possibly Leeds’ player of the season up to now, chose to have such an off day.
Leeds may have all of those big names and the advantages those parachute payments give them,, but their away record is patchy – Birmingham, Stoke and Preston, all below City in the table before kick off, have beaten them (albeit Leeds had their keeper set off against the last named) while bottom of the table Rotherham drew with them, so there must have been some e doubts in their ranks that might have been exploited by a more confident, committed and balanced team, but timid City started off as if in awe of Leeds (it was men against bollards according to a regular reader!).
It only took thirteen minutes for Leeds to score, but they could have had two before that. Junior Firpo made his way past three half hearted City tackles before setting up Patrick Bamford and the scramble that followed was ended by the striker scoring from about three yards out.
Manolis Siopis was one of the three tacklers that failed to stop Firpo in the build up to the first goal and, unfortunately, he was at fault with the second one as well as he surrendered possession to Glen Kamala who fed Summerville and when his shot was blocked, Dan James was able to score from even closer in than Bamford had been for his goal. While part of me was being dismissive of these tap in goals, the other part was thinking City would never have had anyone in such a position to benefit from such rebounds.
Joe Ralls went off before half time to be replaced by Colwill and there were two more changes at the interval with Siopis (who is really struggling in home games these days) and Etete being replaced by Andy Rinomhota for what I think is his first league appearance of the season and Yakou Meite drew the short straw to be attack leader.
It wasn’t hard to do, but the changes made us a bit more of an attacking threat in the second half, but when you consider that James hit the bar, Summerville hit the post with a penalty harshly awarded for a foul by Mark McGuinness and Jak Alnwick made more of the saves which made him our man of the match by a country mile, you can see that really it was just a case of more of the same.
Leeds’ third goal came late on and it encapsulated City’s afternoon as Rinomhota and Grant collided with each other to prompt a James inspired break that the visitors were in the process of botching until Georginio Rutter took control to fire home from fifteen yards.
Leeds manager Daniel Farke trotted out that tired old cliché about how Cardiff “is a difficult place to come to”, but it couldn’t hide that he was also saying that Leeds had just played out a very comfortable away game – I’ve read one or two Leeds fans saying that City were the worst side they’d played all season and, although all football fans have a tendency to overdo the positivity/negativity in the hours which follow their team playing, I do find it hard to believe that Leeds will have had an easier time of it on their travels so far this season.
On the transfer front, Erol Bulut confirmed after the game that City had signed Japanese defender Ryotaro Tsunado, but he is being loaned to FC Kortrijk for the rest of the season, so the wait goes on for what have become desperately needed reinforcements to a squad that is suddenly looking devoid of energy, inspiration and belief.
In total contrast, the under 18s picked up a seventh straight league win this lunchtime at Ipswich – Troy Perrett and Daniel Ola scoring the first half goals to secure a 2-0 victory.