With the transfer window slamming shut at 6pm last evening, the Cardiff City faithful can breathe a huge sigh of relief after hanging on to their captain and number one shot stopper, David Marshall, as well as first choice strikers, Joe Mason and Kenwyne Jones.
Eoin Doyle, however, who has impressed since his arrival in January, left on a last minute loan to Preston North End until the end of the season, after failing to start a match during this campaign. This is very much a transfer that his split fans’ opinions, with those believing he had a role to play in the first team, albeit from the bench, with the current form of Mason and Jones up front. Others believe the time away could show Russell Slade what he is missing, and why he deserves to start for Cardiff; only goals and impressive performances can prove letting him leave was a tough decision.
Cardiff City: Steady Business for the Bluebirds
Nine players left the club this summer, whilst a further ten are out on loan as Slade continues to shrink the squad to a manageable size. Now with 30 players in and around the first team squad, there are far less than the 40-plus Ole Gunnar Solskjær had at his disposal at the start of last season. The most notable departures were Kévin Théophile-Catherine to Saint-Etienne where he spent last season on loan, long serving fans’ favourite, Kevin McNaughton, who left for Wigan Athletic, and Adam le Fondre, who left on a season-long loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Slade has brought in just five players, one of those being a season-long loan; Sammy Ameobi, from Newcastle United. Three of the four permanent transfers are centre-backs primarily; Semi Ajayi, Gabriel Tamaș and Jordan Blaise, who will all be looking to push first choice centre-backs Sean Morrison, Matthew Connolly and Ben Turner (the latter of which is currently injured).
Sammy Ameobi has been the most distinguished acquisition and has impressed so far this season, most remarkably during the televised game against Wolves in which he scored in a 2-0 win. Rather unknown French striker, Idriss Saadi, of Algerian descent, is a questionable purchase, principally when young attacking forwards Kadeem Harris, Rhys Healey, Doyle and first team regular last season le Fondre, all left on loan.
As the Whittingham debate fails to dampen, it is curious as to why the midfield area was not strengthened with a flair player with great pace and an eye for goal. Aron Gunnarsson, who recently signed a new contract, adapted to this role well last season; despite only netting four goals, he gave the midfield the spark it needed. Bradley Johnson, who penned for Derby County from Norwich City, regarded as one of the coups of the Championship transfer window, would have been the ideal candidate to reinforce the midfield. With the loan window due to open on 9th September, perhaps Slade could bolster his midfield options from that point.
Despite the limited participation in the transfer window, Slade is due credit after a tough ten months in charge, with most believing his face did not fit the role of Cardiff City manager. His team’s impressive start to the campaign is largely down to the squad’s understanding and embracing of the tactics employed by Slade, but, most crucially, because the team has regained its identity. After Matthew Kennedy arrived last season, stating the dressing room was ‘the flattest, quietest one [he’d] been in’, it just shows the downward spiral Cardiff found themselves in ever since the departures of Malky Mackay and Solskjær. The club could have joined a list of names that have suffered since relegation from the Premier League, such as Wolves, who found themselves falling to League One after two successive relegations, and Wigan, who spent just one season in mid-table of the Championship either side of seasons where the end result was demotion.
Fortunately for Cardiff, Slade has steadied the ship, as the cliché goes, with the team bouncing back to a respectable eleventh-placed finish last season, to a team that find themselves fifth in the table and unbeaten in five matches so far this season. With the international break upon us, Russell Slade can be proud of his squad’s performances, with fans hoping that the promotion challenge can last until May.