Defensive Decisions But The Rest Pick Themselves!
Cardiff City manager Dave Jones does not have too many decisions to make when he comes to name his starting line-up for the season opener with Sheffield United on Sunday. Koumas could of course challenge for a starting place, but he needs time to gain sharpness meaning Jones has a clear idea of his midfield and attack.
It seems certain David Marshall will start in goal. Surely Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra will feature in attack. It seems inconceivable that Chris Burke and Peter Whittingham wouldn`t be selected on either flank while Drinkwater and Rae appear to be preferable to Blake, Wildig or Taiwo (returning from injury) in the centre.
However, things are much less clear at the back for the Bluebirds with only one name written indelibly onto the team-sheet. Kevin McNaughton will start at left-back, partly because he is our most consistent defender, but also since we have no other cover for that position! That leaves a question mark over who will take over from Super Kev on the right? Paul Quinn started last season in that role, but lost his place on a number of occasions last season. Notably, he has been overlooked in the friendly games suggesting Dave Jones does not see him as an important first team player. Adam Matthews is therefore the most likely contender to feature at right-back - the talented teenager making a name for himself with some impressive and mature performances despite his tender age. The shirt is his, unless, Dave Jones opts to utilise Darcy Blake in that role since he impressed so much during last season`s run-in. Blake operated in the centre of defence (Hudson injured, Gyepes suspended) and performed admirably, but with his favoured (and more experienced) centre-halves now available, Jones may opt to switch Blake to a full-back role.
It remains possible that Blake will be retained at centre-back, despite his lack of height and experience. However, with Mark Hudson as captain, he looks likely to get a chance first. Add to that the committed performances of Anthony Gerrard, who improved steadily last term and odds are that Jones has found his preferred centre-back pairing. Gabor Gyepes is all but guaranteed to have to make do with a place on the bench, and as reported yesterday is actively seeking a new club.
Therefore, Vital Cardiff City expects to see the Bluebirds line-up in the customary 4-4-2 formation:
Matthews / Hudson / Gerrard / McNaughton
Burke / Rae / Drinkwater / Whittingham
Bothroyd / Chopra
Heaton, McCormack, Koumas, Blake, Gyepes, Quinn, Wildig