Liam Jones looks at the make-up of our Championship challengers
Away from the Barclays Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjær –with the assistance of Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Mehmet Dalman - have assembled perhaps the most balanced Bluebirds squad in recent memory. Bruno Ecuele Manga became Cardiff City’s ninth signing of the summer window on deadline-day this past Monday, followed by the evening announcement that club legend Danny Gabbidon has returned in a player-coach capacity.
YOUR DEFENSIVE SHIELD
Manga represents a massive coup for City and is a real statement of intent, adding experience and leadership – not to mention, talent in spades - to the Cardiff City backline. The Gabon international joins centre-backs Juan Cala, Ben Turner, new face Sean Morrison and the in-form Matthew Connolly in vying for a place at the heart of our defence.
Connolly’s versatility was a fantastic asset during our 2012/13 promotion season. He may again be called upon to deputise at right back this year, but for now, the reinvigorated John Brayford has made the position his own. At left back, Brazilian Fabio has won City fans' hearts with a series of performances that have burst with desire; indeed, he seems to be improving with every passing game. Meanwhile, young Declan John’s ability has already shown to represent more than ample competition for the jersey and he will continue to work on his development as a future City star and Welsh international.
YOUR ENGINE ROOM
Tom Adeyemi and Kagisho Dikgacoi have both started for Cardiff City this year (after moving from Birmingham City and Crystal Palace respectively) and each have added steel to an impressive central midfield station. Both players’ no-nonsense, full-blooded attitude in the tackle allows greater protection for Cardiff’s creative stars and gives the midfield a real balance that we have yet to see the best of.
Peter Whittingham has seen the most midfield action thus far this campaign, starting every league game under Ole - the playmaker’s calm demeanor and experience providing a constant outlet for his teammates. Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Aron Gunnarsson have each featured in various roles, whilst Joe Ralls’ performances of late have given the impression that the man most in the mold of our current No. 7 isn’t just rapping his knuckles on the first team dressing room door – he’s aiming to knock it down.
Craig Noone’s impending return is exciting enough, whilst the summer additions of Anthony Pilkington and Guido Burgstaller should give Cardiff City real width this year in the traditional sense. Kim Bo-Kyung gives an altogether different option to the more direct wide triumvirate, the Korean World Cup star’s ability to find a pass in tight spaces a real asset to the squad.
Meanwhile, Mats Møller Dæhli has continued to add to his reputation as the most exciting number ten in British football outside of the top division, with his assist versus Fulham proving invaluable in securing a point away from home. Impressed for his national team against England this past Wednesday evening.
Adam Le Fondre, Javi Guerra and Federico Macheda have been brought in to provide competition for existing strikers Kenwyne Jones, Nicky Maynard and Etien Velikonja. Le Fondre, most famously known for his incredible minutes-per-goal ratio in the Premier League has rotated with the returning Maynard up-front and both are looking fit and sharp, early doors.
Macheda and Guerra have already shown what they can do in the Capital One Cup - though with the form Jones is in, it may take some doing to displace the Trinidadian powerhouse from the current starting eleven!
David Marshall - the backbone of all things good last campaign - has chosen to remain at Cardiff City for the foreseeable future. There's no exagerating how key that could be in our pursuit of an immediate return to the top-flight. Joe Lewis has opted for first team football on loan at Blackpool this year, with Simon Moore graduating to Ole’s bench as Marshall's back-up. Former Brentford man Moore remains considered as one of the finest young goalkeeping talents in British football.
Who has been your key addition to the Bluebirds' squad this summer? Tweet us @CardiffCityFC / @LiamJonesJourno using the hashtag #KeyBluebird