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Cardiff City 2 Watford 4 (28/12/2014) 29/12/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports, Thoughts about things.
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1- Context, as ever, is important. Interpretation of this game and of the reaction to it cannot be divorced from the horror show on Boxing Day, nor should it be…  in the wake of that one a number of supporters will have opted against the trip to Wales (hello, Dave) and it says quite a lot that a single defeat, however depressing, had such a profound impact on the general mood on the back of three wins.  Fascination was the motivator for me, the consideration that saw me heading down the M4 in brilliant winter’s sunshine despite my original lift (hello, Dave) wussing out a day earlier amidst insistence that his own decision was nothing to do with Boxing Day.  Fascination at how Slav would send us out, at what sort of reaction we’d get from the Wolves game less than 48 hours earlier.  Nothing can or should be taken for granted in this division, and however disappointing Wolves was nobody could argue that we don’t boast an array of weapons, that we weren’t capable of changing it up.

2- I was feeling considerably less smug about my decision at around 3:40 than I am now, with the Hornets a goal down and not looking terribly like changing that situation.

IMG_0720We’d started brightly enough but Cardiff’s goal, a flick from that eternal irritant Le Fondre to a fine Whittingham free kick after a non-existent foul by Munari had knocked the air out of us like a damp fart.  We looked laboured and bereft of both leadership and ideas…  and I was nested amongst the grumpiest and least tolerant of the travelling faithful, this not improving my mood or making the trip to Wales seem any less foolish.  Juan Carlos Paredes, having been spared the broom that swept six team changes into the starting eleven, was the subject of much vitriol after giving the ball away several times early on… he looked forlorn, but in fairness was often merely the man at the end of passing moves having freed himself on the right to receive a pass but with nowhere to go and little movement in front of him.  He got better. Guedioura was the source of much of what positive inroads we had managed, and he gave us the lead out of nowhere, volleying home Munari’s cross after Forestieri had somehow  contrived to miss an easier chance.  A couple of minutes later we were ahead, Ighalo getting his head onto Pudil’s wicked cross.  Half time, a little dazed and confused, we were ahead.

3- There’s always a tendency to dwell on one’s own circumstances, to look at your team’s performance in isolation and to regard the opposition as mere props. You can take the reverse too far, of course… paying the opposition too much respect, worrying overly about  what they might try.  But it took our scoring to bring into focus that, Whittingham’s deliveries aside, Cardiff really didn’t have that much about them.  Not only that, but there was a simmering resentment in the largely silent home stands.  The red shirt thing, an embarrassment which should serve to emphasise once again quite how lucky we are to have foreign owners who nonetheless respect our club and tradition, is only the most visible facet of an football club that feels thoroughly wrong and unhappy, from the obtrusive revolving collar of electronic adverts high in the stadium to the fragile, one-dimensional team.  In individual games we’ve been in a similar position at home as sides have started off nervous and gradually worked us out and realised that we’re not all that.  Cardiff were not all that at all, and the game changed completely on our equaliser.

4-There’s a danger in reading too much into the second half.  After all, as we’ve just discussed, Cardiff are a side with their own problems and we know that we’re a good side when we’re in the lead against a side that’s letting us play, who then have to chase the ball particularly in front of demanding home support.  Bearing which in mind, it’s difficult to overstate the degree of our second-half superiority of which a 4-2 final score was a far from flattering summary.  Cardiff were punch-drunk, completely overrun in midfield and incapable of getting as much a period of possession let alone a foothold in the tie;  Guedioura remained the architect and with much more movement around him was less prone to disappearing into rabbit warrens than he had been in the first half.  He made the scoreline more comfortable by clubbing a venomous shot into the top corner from over 25 yards; David Marshall didn’t move.  The other stand-out performance was that of Odion Ighalo, who played the target-man role to the tee.  Magnificent with his back to goal, holding up play, stretching out an indiarubber leg to seize and smuggle off possession.  He sashayed his way past three challenges on the left of the box before forcing a save from Marshall, and later perhaps should have scored when sub Deeney escaped on the right and squared, Marshall denying the Nigerian again with a brave stop.  Nonetheless, a hugely charismatic and effective performance from Ighalo, which asks serious questions about team selection for next Sunday.

5- So Slav came into this game under a bit of pressure. Wolves, in case this point hasn’t been made clearly enough, was a shambles, and the head coach, appointed from nowhere in odd circumstances, has failed to make a strong impression in his TV interviews giving a convincing impression of a distracted and slightly self-conscious schoolteacher.  Nonetheless he’s not pulled any punches in his press conferences and today made what turned out to be a blinding selection decision in making such a brutal set of changes.  He might cite the need to freshen the side up as a key consideration… from the stands it looked more like a no-bullshit response to a lamentable performance.  Either way, suddenly, we have a situation where Deeney, Vydra, Anya and Tözsér, four key senior players, need to play their way back into a winning side, the end of Guedioura’s loan notwithstanding.  Competition for places, of all things, and the sort of competitive advantage that this squad ought to offer.  The Chelsea game, perhaps, slightly unfortunately timed, we could do with building on today without that distraction.  Either way, for all that today’s circumstances fell well for us the Hornets and their manager took full advantage and if both can build on this success this squad could yet fulfil its potential this season.

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 29/12/2014

One report of the Wigan game referred to “a rare headed goal from Deeney”. When Vydra plays, we try to pass the ball through the defence or knock it over the top. Instead of a well aimed cross from the wing, we settle for intricate approach play that usually breaks down, or results in a hit-and-hope effort under pressure.

With Deeney and Ighalo up front, we should get our crosses in at every opportunity: for a direct header on goal, a knock-down or for a midfielder to bury a half clearance.

Matt Rowson - 29/12/2014

I agree that it gives us different options but I don’t think that the strength of either is attacking crosses in the air despite ighalos goal yesterday

2. hornetboy84 - 29/12/2014

Not fortunate to have been there and in truth even switched off skysports after going 1-0 down ! It was only because we were at my parents and only as my Arsenal supporting nephew (who I’m slowly manouevering towards watford – although Wenger is doing a better job of that task) wanted to know the Gunners score that we re tuned in just as the equaliser went in and then sat transfixed boosted by the fact they showed the goals immediately. So Dave possibly felt a little smug if tuned in too !

I fear though that Guediora spectacular 2nd may come back to haunt us as it will cause a full rethink at Palace. Especially if Pardew bizarrely goes there. But this may be one where the Pozzos dig deep and spend to buy !

He is clearly part of the missing link and a perm 3 from 4 from Abdi Munari Tozser and him as well as the perm 2 or 3 from Vydra Deeney Ighalo Foriestieri option up front gives us a wealth of options and some definite player pressure to perform.

But what If they all played !
2-4-4 formation at Chelsea anyone !

3. Leavesden 'orn - 29/12/2014

Hi,

Just a few points:

Jon marks on 3CR said that the Cardiff midfield looked tired and out of ideas the longer the game went on. Maybe Slav realised our midfield also was suffering and changed it about. Guedioura looks to me like has been eased in.

I worry about Tozer sometimes, as does not move about too far and is not the quickest. Stick a scuffling Hesentaller type midfielder on him and our major weapon is negated. That’s what Wolves appeared to do.

Could Ighalo be our new Blissett? He again looks better with time, is unpredictable, a trier, strong and is now starting to score. He (someone?) said when he left Granada that he was a fans favourite, they were sorry to see him go, and he performances since coming over suggests he might also become popular here. Your comments also suggest similarities.

Maybe Parades is having trouble coming to terms with both the English game and coach changes. He offers something, puts in a lot of effort and is skilful. Watching him at close quarters in front of me in the lower Rous, I have seen a lot worse over the years. Perhaps he just needs a rest. How would you be after a summer of pressure in Brazil, then up sticks to join a strange team, in a strange land with a different language, 1000’s miles from home?

I’d like to think that our large squad will make a difference in the long run of the season. The skill is making it work. Many have a tried and failed.

Regards,

Leavesden ‘orn

4. Mark S - 29/12/2014

One good game does not make Guedioura “clearly part of the missing link”.I want to see more of him as I thought he was average in his other appearances.
Lets face it he can’t be that good if he is surplus to requirements at Palace.

NLFG - 30/12/2014

I think you’re selling Guedioura very short. Thought he was good coming on against Wolves & Wigan, adding some pace and drive to a midfield which sometimes looks for the pass a little too often. I’m told he was very good against Reading too. The fact he likes to get ahead of the ball is some thing most of other midfielders aren’t especially happy doing. He’s essentially filling the role McGugan was signed to do

RS - 30/12/2014

Agree; a bit harsh methinks. On the basis of what I’ve seen I’d take “average”; seemed to me to show enthusiasm for the cause although I’d like to think this would not diminish if the loan status became permanent.

Vaughn Smith - 31/12/2014

He was outstanding against Reading, and helped set up the goal with a mighty tackle to set Ikechi away. I think he’s definitely grown into the team and will be a big miss if he disappears back to Palarse permanently.

5. NLFG - 30/12/2014

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