Although the final touches are yet to be sealed in this purported deal between the Bluebirds and Fulham, the decision to swap Scott Malone for Jazz Richards speaks volumes about the direction that Cardiff City intend on taking this season.
Jazz Richards, Scott Malone and the death of 4-4-2 at Cardiff City
With new boss Paul Trollope trialling a “Wales style” 3-5-2 in the first half of City’s 4-0 drubbing of League 1 team Shrewsbury Town, the days of the tried-and-tested 4-4-2 seem to be coming to an end under fresh leadership and new ideas. Cardiff’s Declan John and Fabio da Silva were given a chance to utilise their pace and attacking flair—something that was rarely seen under the stagnant and stubborn leadership of Russell Slade. That Trollope can bring a tactic that was so successful for Wales in their famous Euro 2016 exploits back home to club football in Cardiff, will excite the fans frustrated with the lack of ambition shown by the club in recent years.
Some will argue that the first half was simply an experiment of a formation chosen to accommodate two distinctly separate playing styles in the game. It would also explain the widespread rumours regarding the deal to bring Welsh international fullback Jazz Richards to the capital.
Wing Back or Defender
In Richards, the fans will see a player accustomed to the attacking wing-back position with pace and skill as opposed to a traditionally solid and defensive minded player. The full-back stalwarts of the Slade era, Scott Malone and Lee Peltier, were seen by many as glorified centre-halves. They lacked any pace and width in the outer areas of the field, making the job much more difficult for Cardiff wingers as they rarely had support.
The overlapping wing back will be far more prevalent if Trollope continues with his 3-5-2 formation. Malone is a solid defensive full-back who could definitely have a part to play in a mid-table Championship side. However, he simply does not appear to fit into the system Trollope is trying to develop at Cardiff. Whilst he will be remembered for his wonder-volley at Loftus Road against QPR and his range of haircuts—ranging from shocking to abysmal—it is likely that many fans will be pleased at this player swap should it happen.
This would however create a new wave of uncertainty over the future of Lee Peltier. Much like Malone, Peltier is a defensive-minded player—perhaps more so than Malone. However, the former Huddersfield captain was a lot more reliable and dependable. He rarely made a mistake during his 56 appearances to date for the Bluebirds. Despite this, questions must arise about Malone’s position in the side in this new counter attacking system. Many had touted him to be Cardiff captain by now. However, it is likely that his involvement will lessen in the starting XI. He will likely be used to shore-up defences, particularly away from home; or in the dying embers of games where Cardiff look to hold on to narrow wins.
Whilst fans will have to wait to see what Trollope has in store for Cardiff, both on and off the field, the early signs are very positive. Especially for those who have been frustrated at the club’s negative football in seasons past. Change is coming to the Welsh capital as the locals wait with baited breath to see if their hometown team can capitalise on the success of their international counterparts.