Cardiff City’s transfer embargo is just another chapter in the club’s story of misery, since promotion to the Premier League.
It looks as though Slade, unless he brings players in on-loan, will have to stick with what he has got. Not such a bad thing, when you consider the talent available in the current squad; a squad capable of challenging for promotion, if set up in the correct way.
Thus, with the acceptance that the Bluebirds will witness little fresh blood, if any at all, I assume Slade’s job and pick City’s best starting eleven.
There’s little dispute when it comes to the goalkeeping position: his shot-stopping ability is among the best in English football, and he has been a permanent fixture in the City side, staying loyal to the club even when lucrative Premier League offers were thrown his way.
Alongside Tony Watt’s loan, he is probably the only decent signing Slade has made. Peltier is a reliable, consistent right-back; granted, he doesn’t have a tendency for the sublime, but as far as solid right-backs go, he’s a good choice.
Connolly came under fire when asked to play at right-back, prior to Peltier’s arrival: his lack of pace and creativity going forward were exposed. Now, in his preferred position, at centre-back, City fans are seeing his true colours.
Solskjaer’s best signing, by far. It is painfully evident that he is too good for this league, and it is surprising that no Premier League clubs have come sniffing. City may have to face losing his services as the club looks to generate income, but for now, the Gabonese international remains one of Cardiff’s best players.
Erratic, but passionate. The ex-Manchester United full-back is a fan favourite; in every game he plays he shows the City faithful he cares – a refreshing sentiment. His pace and desire are what set him apart from Scott Malone. Despite Fabio’s propensity for naivety, he provides a potent threat going forward and his tenacious attitude serves him well in defence.
The Icelandic captain has regained the form he showed when he first arrived. He is boisterous in midfield and calm on the ball; his qualities match that of a box-to-box midfielder, and that is how I would deploy him.
Last year’s young player of the year, he has made his stamp in the side this season. Rall’s collected manner, ability to initiate defence from attack and ‘rough it up’ in the centre of the park mean he’s a perfect partner for Gunnarsson. With regards to his position, I’d use him as a defensive guard, floating just above the back four, but with licence to advance.
I am not the biggest admirer of Whittingham, but I feel he still has a role to play, and an effective one at that; however, this is only the case if he plays in his best position. Personally, I feel he is best deployed as no.10. Behind the striker, and in-front of the midfield, Whittingham’s capacity to thread defence-splitting passes would add a greater threat to City’s offensive game.
Like Gunnarsson, City’s fall from the Premier League coincided with Noone’s dip in performance; the winger was outstanding in England’s top league, but failed to repeat the same level of skill last season. Recently, the ex-Brighton wide-man is showing his class: two superb goals against Wolves last Saturday illustrate this. Long may it continue.
Also one of Solskjaer’s better signings, Pilkington is direct with the ball, and is always looking to go forward: precisely what this City team needs. With Pilkington and Noone on either flanks, Cardiff pose an accomplished threat going forward.
Cardiff’s lack of strikers who can consistently score is a serious worry: there is little point in having the creativity that the Bluebirds possess in midfield, when we don’t possess a player who can finish them off. Cardiff need a new striker, desperately. Joe Mason is included for the mean-time, simply because he is marginally better than the likes of Macheda and Revell. Hopefully Mason will come-good, and start to finish off chances, but it remains unlikely: in fairness, he never was a born-goal scorer.
There we have it, a 4-1-3-1-1 formation, with Ralls sitting in-front of the back four, Gunnarsson assuming a box-to-box role and Whittingham’s creative spark given the freedom to flourish behind the striker.