Peter Whittingham no longer warrants a place in the starting eleven: he hasn’t for the last three years. It is time to say farewell to a former fan-favourite.
During his 8 year stay at the club, Whittingham has been a constant in the City side after breaking through under David Jones. Granted, the Englishman has served the Bluebirds well, netting 72 goals in his 342 appearances, with countless assists. Sadly, for both team and player, such contributions have been missing from his game for quite some time.
Watch the sort of form that become of the Championship’s top midfielders.
The 31 year-old, although providing 5 assists, is lacking in the quality needed to take Slade’s men from play-off potential to real contenders. The former Villa man is slow on the ball, stagnating the pace of the game and suffers from a frustratingly poor work ethic. Coupled with, his lack of bravery in committing challenges and putting his body on the line offers further reason for ‘Whitt’s’ departure. According to Squakwa statistics, City’s No.7 has won a worrying 36% of duels between opposing players. Whittingham’s only saving grace for the past few seasons has been his delivery at set-pieces; even this is starting to fail him.
It’s not all his fault, though. The central-midfielder has fallen victim to managers not knowing how to utilise his abilities: under Mackay and Solskjaer he was directed into a defensive role, completely absurd when one considers his inadequacies in defending. Now, under Slade, he operates in a two-man partnership and is often forced to play wide left. Whittingham, to perform at his best, needs to be deployed floating behind the striker and in front of the midfield. Spearheading a triangle of, say Ralls and Dikgacoi, he would be allowed the luxury of picking up loose balls and, in the final third, threading defence-splitting passes through to City’s front-men. Indeed, the City veteran is most effective in the opposition’s half: the failures of Mackay, Solskjaer and Slade in realising so have led to the deterioration of his game, which I fear is beyond salvation.
The rise of Joe Ralls, predicted to be a City star, has only accelerated Whittingham’s downfall. Yet, Ralls has been forced to play on the left flank for the majority of the season, making way for Whittingham, much to the detriment of City’s performances.
The Bluebirds’ latest victory, a 3-2 win against Bolton, saw Ralls moved to the centre and Whittingham dropped. The 22 year-old, grasping the opportunity, had a pass accuracy of 84%, which is impressive considering the belligerent conditions. Alongside this, he performed 7 ‘take ons’ and shot three times: when was the last time Whittingham had the pace, skill and agility to beat a player?
Positioned on the wing, a position unfamiliar and not suited to his skills, the former Coventry player has still managed to be provider for 4 goals; imagine what he could do given the chance to play in his preferred role. Ralls provides a more potent threat going forward than his competitor. Coupled with this, he is aggressive in his tackling and seldom refrains from ‘getting stuck in’ – an attributed required in England’s second tier. Undoubtedly, Ralls is the better option.
Football is a ruthless business, but it’s been kind on Peter Whittingham. The City hierarchy, blinded by their memories of his early days, where he established himself as one of the best in The Championship, refuse to accept that he no longer possesses the quality necessary. His performances do not merit his inclusion in the starting team: either play him where he needs to be played, or sell him.