Ten games into Malky Mackay’s tenure and all things considered it isn’t going too badly. So, what do we know about this year’s side?
The most noticable of improvements comes in the work ethic instilled by Mackay; when the players cross that white line they’ve shown their all and given 100% in that wonderful blue shirt. Games such as last week’s respectable 0-0 draw against an expensive Leicester City side would have traditionally turned into a loss in the 92nd minute and I’d have expected a similar turn of events in the excellent 2-1 win against top of the table Southampton.
There’s no ego’s, everyone is working hard and the commitment levels are second to none. The man who has set the best example of this? Step forward one Don Cowie. Since following Mackay from Watford he’s been the most impressive of the summer signings; he doesn’t stop running down the flank, always looks to get involved and has an eye for goal, scoring an excellent diving header against Blackpool and finding the net with ease in the League Cup against Huddersfield and Leicester. Amongst all the signings in the Championship he’s proven to be up there as one of the best, even more so considering he arrived on a free transfer.
Ultimately it’s the results that do the talking and Mackay has chalked up four wins, four draws and two defeats, the most recent coming in the 2-1 reversal at the KC Stadium to a decent Hull City side, in which a depleted frontline did the best it could to get something out of the game. A much deserved mention goes to seventeen year old midfielder Joe Ralls who signed professional terms on Friday and made his league debut the following day at Hull, coming on for an injured Kenny Miller nine minutes in, before later in the match producing a cracker of a strike from 25 yards out with the outside of his left foot. Whether Ralls get many more chances remains to be seen but he’s clearly well regarded by the staff at the club.
Other results have been mixed, including draws at Blackpool, Portsmouth and Burnley. Looking at the table, if players were forced to retire at 35 Mackay’s side would be top. However thanks to Kevin Phillips, Kanu and Nicky Barmby it’s not to be. Results show that despite not keeping many clean sheets and falling apart to old timers, Cardiff are a hard unit to break down and teams will find it difficult to pick up three points against them, especially at full strength. However sitting in ninth place having played six of the top eight is no mean feat and the team very much in the play-off chase. The international break couldn’t have come any sooner with Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw and Rudy Gestede all picking up knocks during the Leicester game.
Overall impressions after the summer recruitment drive have been positive; Craig Conway has settled in well to the pace of Championship football and his crossing ability (alongside Cowie) is excellent. Andy Taylor looks to be the club’s greatest left-back since Andy Legg and has added some much needed balance to a back four that had so many chops and changes throughout last season. In the centre of midfield Aron Gunnarsson looks comfortable, for somebody of his height he’s not afraid to throw his weight around and dictate the play. That doesn’t mean he’s bad on his feet either as a precision pass put Kenny Miller through for his second goal against Southampton. Filip Kiss is showing just the same determination alongside him, albeit slightly bigger. I must admit how he didn’t pick up a yellow card in the Leicester game was beyond me. Nonetheless the two have played well alongside each other and will both be a big part of the jigsaw in City’s bid for promotion.
Frenchman Gestede has already shown himself to be a fans favourite by being everything Jay Bothroyd was and more, not hitting the deck every two minutes and complaining about decisions that go against him. Big, strong and deceptively quick he’s shown himself to be a useful target man, but having seen most of his opportunities come from the bench it remains to see how he’ll be utilised. Robert Earnshaw is Robert Earnshaw; shoot on sight and usually fail to hit the barn door. He’s always been selfish and to be fair a lot of the time it works, but it’s more frustrating when other players are in better positions only for the lad to blow it. Despite that he’s popped up with three goals so far, so to say he’s past it in this division is madness. Young Joe Mason is quite the talent and looks at home in the Championship, showing some very intelligent play when given the chance to impress. Ben Turner appears to be fully fit and I expect him to be challenging Anthony Gerrard for his position at centre-half instantly.
And we roll on to the ‘big debate’ amongst City fans, Kenny Miller. Having stated previously of my faith in the Scotland international to bring home the goods, it’s fantastic to see him bag a brace over a much fancied Southampton side. After trying to latch on hopelessly to long balls a tactical change from Mackay to a 4-5-1 utilising Miller as the lone striker has brought more positive results and he should thrive providing the formation stays the same; he’s shown willingness to work the opposing centre halves and ultimately bring the midfield into play.
However injuries have shown the need to enter the loan market is urgent. Don’t be surprised to see Mackay look out for another striker. Carlos Tevez anyone?
October is traditionally a good month for City, having enjoyed success in the past few seasons but the fixtures this time round don’t seem to suggest things will be so easy. The Hull defeat aside Ipswich have won on their last three visits to Cardiff and the game has a Michael Chopra hat trick written all over it. Peterborough’s London Road is a nightmare of a ground for the Bluebirds and Barnsley are another thorn in City’s side in recent times. However a trip to a defensively awful Leeds United should prove fruitful having not lost to them since the early 80’s and won the last six meetings. Add to that a winnable League Cup tie at home to Burnley and the team have their work cut out; that being said the opportunity of reaching the last eight of the competition is one that supporters should be excited about achieving.
And a final mention to whoever designed this monstrosity of a kit, what were you thinking?
Written by Alex Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger
Alex tweets at @alextwilson