Cardiff City's Midfield Mission - The Contenders!
Cardiff City face the difficult (impossible?) task of replacing Jay Bothroyd for this weekend`s clash with Swansea City. A case for the inclusion of Andy Keogh can certainly be made, though Dave Jones may yet revert to a 3-man central midfield and rely on the widemen Bellamy and Burke to support a lone striker.
The fluid formation is certainly effective with Bothroyd at its spearhead, with Bellamy and Burke dangerous linking up. It also allows us to match Swansea in midfield, an appealing prospect given Peter Whittingham`s lack of experience and physicality in the central area. If that is Dave Jones` preference come Sunday, he will be faced with a huge dilemma as to who should take that third central midfield place alongside Olofinjana and Whittingham. Here are the contenders:
1) Stephen McPhail
Probably the favourite is Irish midfielder McPhail. His vision and passing can be hugely influential and the classy left-footer enjoys a special understanding with Chopra who will look for space in behind the likes of Monk and Williams. McPhail has been pushing for a start in midfield recently but has looked slightly out of touch and lacking in confidence. He also has a history of getting sent off in these derbies so the passionate Irishman must keep his cool if selected.
2) Danny Drinkwater
The on-loan Manchester United star began the season is superb form and has been impressive in his performances to date. His energy and work-rate were influential, while he is capable of bursting forward to help his attack in the way that Darren Pratley does so successfully for our opponents. He links effectively with Whittingham and Olofinjana and would be the ideal choice but for a recent thigh injury. Drinkwater has been out for 2 months with a thigh problem (he also suffered the same injury last season with Huddersfield Town) and has only recently returned to full training. He is likely to be available for selection, but must be considered unlikely to start.
3) Jason Koumas
The mercurial talent has spent to season so far trying to gain fitness and confidence after being frozen out at Wigan Athletic. His appearances so far have been far from the classy, skilful Koumas of old but there are signs he is getting closer to 100%. A substitute appearance against Norwich last weekend was the best we`ve seen so far, and he went close with two efforts. Deploying Koumas in midfield would bring a huge advantage in that he is a willing ball-carrier and creates space for others. To see Kopumas dribbling from deep would be excellent, if Monk / Williams is forced to back off, Chopra will be ready to get in behind and with Koumas` vision and passing ability - this would be a major plus. However, at present, Koumas remains lacking in match sharpness and could be a luxury in a midfield battlezone.
4) Darcy Blake
If, as I suggest above, the midfield area does become a battlezone this weekend, there is surely no better man to enter the fray than youngster Darcy Blake. The combative Blake is a unafraid to get stuck in and has a crunching tackle and good aerial ability despite his lack of height. A versatile player, he has often operated in defence and his added bite and work-rate may be no bad thing in midfield, where he is also comfortable and a neat passer. However, this is a huge game and would be a big ask for an inexperienced player. Blake lost his place in the team through suspension after a sending off in his last game against Barnsley- his selection would be a brave decision from Jones.
5) Gavin Rae
Yet, Rae is still at the club - though he will undoubtedly be frustrated at being left out for much of the season. Rae`s appearances have been brief, despite a goalscoring cameo during the home win against Hull City. Rae is a seasoned campaigner and a willing grafter in midfield. He offers bite, determination and a wealth of experience yet he lacks creativity, guile and invention. Rae is likely lacking match sharpness after only 2 league starts (+4 subs) and we`ve picked up a measly 7 points from 15 on offer when Rae appears. That compares with 25 from 27 when he doesn`t !!!
6) Aaron Wildig
The teenage Wildig is almost certain not to start in this one, but it was his assist that brought CCS to a tumultuous finale in this fixture last season when his header allowed Michael Chopra to fire his late winner. Wildig offers good passing ability, work-rate and composure when he plays, he remains a good prospect but a loan deal may be necessary if he is to progress this season.
For the record, I`d like to see Stephen McPhail brought in (unless Koumas excels in training this week) if we opt for this formation. He works well with Chopra and will be able to bring the wide players into action with his passing - they will be key if we are to succeed with just little Michael Chopra up-front.
Who would you select? Let us know by commenting at the foot of this article!