An earlier than normal review this time, because, after all those weeks where it was, frankly, a struggle to find anything to write about, we have had half a week where the Cardiff City news came thick and fast!
This was always going to be a significant week because yesterday had been earmarked for the release of the fixtures for the new Premier League season, but with two new signings, the announcement of the club’s retained list and an update on the situation regarding the three soon to be out of contract players who have been offered new deals, this, more than any other week since we got promoted, has really brought into focus the enormity of what was achieved in 2017/18.
I’m sure nearly everyone has already seen the fixture list for the coming season, but here it is again. One of the problems about recording your thoughts on a site like this is that the idiotic things you say in posts are still there to embarrass you if someone is prepared to spend the time finding them – this applies particularly on here where every posting I’ve made since the blog began nearly nine years ago is still available to read in the “old stuff” section!
Analysing your clubs fixtures before a ball has been kicked in anger and with nearly two months to go before the transfer window closes is a classic case of potential for further foot in mouth or egg on face syndrome, but you look at our fixtures up until New Years Day and it’s hard not to think that they divide into three, pretty distinct, phases.
No matter what the three clubs concerned do in the transfer market over the next few weeks, you look at an August programme of Bournemouth (A), Newcastle (H) and Huddersfield (A) and think that the opportunity is there at least for City to get away to the sort of good start which newly promoted teams tipped to struggle often manage while they still have something of an air of mystery about them.
Certainly, a losing run in the season’s first month looks very hard to recover from quickly when you consider twhat Neil Warnock has already described September as an equivalent of a month from Hell. Three home matches out of four doesn’t sound bad, but when two of the visitors are Arsenal and Man City and there’s also a trip to Chelsea in there, well, you can see what our manager means.
October, with just three matches and trips to Tottenham (apparently, we are going to be only the second league visitors to their new stadium) and Liverpool, doesn’t look much easier either. However, after that, we have a couple of months of games almost exclusively made up of encounters with sides that, realistically, are going to be more concerned with what is happening at the bottom of the table than the top. Manchester United at home just before Christmas is an exception, but, generally speaking, if the Premier League in 18/19 follows a similar course to the previous season, then November and December are going to see a series of games against the ten to twelve sides who will be concerned only with beating the drop he we play them for the first time.
As to what sort of City side will be turning out before the January transfer window gives some opportunity for changes to be made, well, that’s a little clearer after the signings of Norwich’s Josh Murphy and Preston’s Greg Cunningham on successive days earlier in the week.
Although there were those who disagreed with me (including our manager it seems!),, I described Josh Murphy’s contribution in Norwich’s 3-1 defeat here in December as “flakey”. Whether that was the best word to use I’m not sure, what I was trying to get over was a feeling that, for a player who looked so dangerous when he was running at us, there wasn’t a great deal in the way of an end product. That said, I can’t think of too many wingers I saw against us in 17/18 who made me feel as uneasy as he did at times.*
Murphy, whose home league debut will see a reacquaintance with his twin brother Jacob, joins on a four year deal which is reported as costing Cardiff a possible £11 million, making it the biggest money transfer the club have been involved in, from the incoming perspective anyway, since the summer of 2013 when we were signing the likes of Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel.
Although the degree to which those three individuals can be labelled flops is open to argument, it cannot be denied that, collectively, they became synonymous with the complete and utter failure which was our only previous association with the Premier League.
Murphy’s fee is at a level which I would think many supporters did not expect to see us paying out this summer – for myself, I am slightly surprised, but temper that with the thought that, rightly or wrongly, £11 million is not a great deal when it comes to transfer valuations for domestically produced youngsters (Murphy is 23) at Premier League level these days.
Using the what do supporters at his old club think test, it has to be admitted that the impression given is that City have paid over the odds for someone who s viewed as not having fulfilled the potential that marked him, and his brother, out as something special when they formed an integral part of an FA Youth Cup winning Norwich team in 2013.
You only have to look at the Feedback section on here to see a recent message from a City fan, who moved to Norwich last year and spent the season just ended watching Murphy play most weeks. I think it’s pretty obvious that Lindsay has his doubts about our new winger, but I would say that the areas of comparative weakness he mentions are ones which you would have thought would be very important to Neil Warnock (he expects his wingers to perform an important function when we do not have the ball and you have to assume that he and his coaching staff are confident that they can get our new signing performing in the same way as Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing were prepared to do when it came to defending last season).
What is clear is that Murphy is talented. While sounding all of the usual warnings about You Tube compilation videos, this one marks him out as a scorer of great goals, as opposed to a great goalscorer. With the perception growing, rightly in my view, that we are going to play in a similar manner to last season (i.e defending pretty deep, with a reliance on quick counter attacking) , Murphy’s pace will certainly help – I suppose the challenge will be to fuse a defensive responsibility, team ethic and greater consistency onto Murphy’s undoubted ability to make things happen.
I find it difficult to answer the question as to whether Murphy is a typical Neil Warnock signing because our manager really likes his wingers and he gives them full licence to use their pace and ability in the right areas of the pitch – I suppose, on balance, he is.
Signed on a free transfer from Bristol City, Greg Cunningham became a very important member of a Preston side which I would argue have been the biggest over achievers in the Championship since their return to the division in 2015 – he will, surely, add to his four Republic of Ireland caps if he can establish himself in the Premier League.*
What is apparent though is that left back Greg Cunningham, who has signed a three year contract and will cost us a reported £3.5 million, comes across as an archetypal Warnock signing in that he is a defender who, more than anything else, defends.
Whereas reaction from Norwich fans to Murphy’s departure could be said to be mixed, this doesn’t apply with Cunningham (who we tried to sign last summer). This article is well worth a read because I think it gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to a signing like Cunningham – unlike Murphy, I suppose there may be a doubt as to whether the natural talent to make a Premier League footballer is there, but, in the areas where doubts exist with Murphy, all of the signs are that Cunningham will be able to make the transition.
Interestingly, the article mentions that Cunningham can perform as a left sided central defender and the player, and his new manager. have talked about us utilising this on occasions as he is used in a back three with wing backs.
Although the club confirmed that our promotion meant that the clause in Joe Bennett’s contract which had him available at £2 million no longer applies, it was thought that Cunningham’s arrival could lay the ground for a possible departure of our first choice left back, but, it seems not – indeed, Neil Warnock has talked of both Cunningham and Bennett in the starting line up, rather than it being a case of one or the other.
One final word about our new arrivals, neither of them fit the “experienced Premier League” criteria that we were told was going to apply to any newcomers. In the event, they both fall into the Championship regulars group that I have always felt was the more realistic path for us to follow if, as it seems we are, we intend focusing mainly on the domestic market – only time will tell if this trend will continue through to August though.
Moving on to the retained list. There are no great surprises, with our manager even offering the possibility of a deal eventually being offered to Greg Halford (the one player who started a Championship fixture in 17/18 to be released) if he does not get an offer of the first team football – something which he feels he needs at this stage of his career. If it is the end for Halford at Cardiff, then I wish him well because he never let us down when called upon and, for me, showed more ability than he was often given credit for.
My only other comment on the list is to record some sadness that Wales Under 21 left back Rhys Abbruzzese has been released and to hope that this decision was not down to a perceived lack of inches on the player’s part – as I said in a fairly recent messageboard post, at five foot nine, Abbruzzese is taller than Roberto Carlos, Philipp Lahm and Bixente Lizarazu!
This brings me on to Brian Murphy, Aron Gunnarsson and Junior Hoilett, the three players to be offered new deals. I’m a little surprised that the first named has been offered a new contract, but if, as I believe, he is to be our third choice goalkeeper for the new season, then I suppose it makes sense.
With Gunnar, I presume it all comes down to how he does in the World Cup (assuming he is fit enough to play a part for Iceland). There has to be a possibility that an offer from an obviously “bigger” club than us will result if he does well and I, for one, couldn’t blame him if he decided to move on under such circumstances – I honestly don’t know how this one will end up and wouldn’t like to predict either way, but, if I had to, I’d say I would just come down on the side of Gunnarsson leaving.
I was more confident of Hoilett staying, but this story from yesterday (including quotes from our manager) casts doubts on that – all I’ll say for now, is that, if it wasn’t referring to signing a new contract with us, this Instagram post by the player last week could have been more sensitively worded.
Finally (nearly a decade after this blog was created!), I’ve taken the plunge and, from now on, Mauve and Yellow Army is available on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MauveAnd – not too much to read there currently, but, hopefully, that will change soon.
*pictures courtesy of https://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/