Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cardiff City Player ratings: Class of 11/12

It's a long time since I've blogged about City - mainly because there are people far better at it than me - Ben Dudley's My Only Cardiff for a start, but there are many others. Also, Twitter has rather overtaken blogging for me as a much more reactive and truly interactive way of conversing with Cardiff fans. You can find me on Twitter as @statto1927

However, one of the things I've done for the last few years is compile and end of season player rating, so here's the one for the 2011-2012 season, the regular schedule of which drew to a close after yesterday's 1-1 draw with Leeds barring the final away game against Palace next week.

These ratings are purely my hopefully objective (inevitably a bit subjective) views on the main squad players after watching them at every home game, and at Wembley. Although I didn't get to any away games this year (another new season resolution down the drain), I did listen in to a fair few via the talking wireless. If you don't agree with these rating, that's fine. I'm sure you'll have your own views, and I'm just dandy about that - football is after all a great divider of opinions.

So, in squad number order:

1 - David Marshall (Keeper): 8/10
I'll admit I wanted Heaton to be our starting keeper at the outset, but Marshy has (generally) impressed. His distribution has improved and he's made some genuinely world class saves. He is still to reticent to come off his line for a 6ft 4in lump and he faffs at crosses he should gobble up with ease. But he's had a good season.

2 - Kevin McNaughton (Defender) 5/10
Nauts has been a shoe in for the last few years for a player of the year placing, but to be honest he's been pretty ordinary this term, and frankly dreadful on occasions. He's still quick, but when he runs with the ball you've no idea where he's going and his distribution has been dire. Also culpable for far too many goals conceded. I love Kev, but he's been way off  his best.

3 - Andrew Taylor (Defender): 7/10
New boy this term, and I think he's been good without being spectacular. That's maybe a sign of a good player, in that you don't notice him. Does tend to back off a bit too much for me when opposition players attack the box. Can put a devasting ball in (Nauts are you listening)?

4 - Filip Kiss (Midfielder): 6/10
Another new boy, he's revered for his ability to slide tackle anything that moves, and some things that don't. On occasions has added steel the middle of the park, but invariably gets booked as well. I like him, the fans like him, and I'd like to have seen him get more game time.

5 - Mark Hudson (c) (Defender): 9/10
Capt Huds has been in good form all season. Generally assured at the back and when City have gone through their poorer spells this season has never hidden, and at times has looked like City's best playmaker. And of course that wonder goal v Derby. Outstanding.

6 - Anthony Gerrard (Defender) 5/10
An enigma. So good for Hull on loan last year, but clearly 3rd choice at best at City behind Hudson and Turner. Always gives his best, but often not good enough. And off the field prone to opening mouth before engaging brain.

7 - Peter Whittingham (Midfielder) 8/10
Not as good this season as last. Started brilliantly (as did most), but has faded and been more ineffectual in the last couple of months. Still moments of brilliance and the capacity to be massively influential, but his dead ball delivery especially been off colour in the second half of the season.

8 - Don Cowie (Midfielder) 6/10
I was tempted to give "The Don" a 7, but in reality a 6 is probably fair. Never stops running, and just occasionally makes the real difference, but often I'm not sure he does. Oh, go on then, 6.5/7

9 - Kenny Miller (Striker) 6/10
Controversial I know. For some "King Kenny" has been awesome. Sorry, not for me. True, he's scored some great goals - the opening day winner at West Ham for one, but he's not a 20 goal a year man. Not in this side. He's got a touch like a donkey, can't take pens, and too often gave up on causes you'd expect a first rate striker to be busting a gut to get to. Sorry Miller fans, but Kenny just hasn't done it for me. Maybe playing off a big man (Bothroyd), he may have been the business, but I guess we'll never know.

10 - Robert Earnshaw (Striker) 5/10
A score of 5 mostly because of lack of game time. For so long when the side was crying out for a change Earnie just warmed the bench. I'm not saying he's better than Miller, but he hasn't really been given the chance to show it either way. Still a City legend though.

11 - Craig Conway (Midfielder) 7/10
I think Conway is probably one of the most under-rated players in City's squad. Again under used mid season, he looked sharp when pulled back into the squad until scythed down by the Watford's Hogg. I hope he comes back stronger and fitter. I think he'll be key next season.

15 - Rudy Gestede (Striker) 7/10
Oh Rudy, if only you had better hamstrings. The young Frenchman is still finding his feet at this level, and had looked steady if unspectacular until Wembley when he played the best game of his season. Good in the air (though can be better), and not afraid to shoot (others take note), but seems to do his hamstring every other appearance.

17 - Aron Gunnarsonn (Midfielder) 8/10
Gunnar has been brilliant. He brings some control to the middle, and is keen to get forward and has scored goals. His long throw can be a decent weapon too. Work rate is first class. Has looked very tired in the latter stages of this season though. And the first City player to wear odd coloured boots. I like this lad, and he should do well again next year.

20 - Jo Mason (Striker) 9/10
Is he a striker or an attacking midfielder? Either way, Malky unearthed a jewel here when he grabbed him from Plymouth. The young lad is a cracking find and has been influential in many, many games including the Cup Final where he put us 1-0 up over Liverpool. Good running, coolness in the finish.  A fantastic prospect. A bit more strength, and more experience, and he may well be our 20 goal a season man.

22 - Tom Heaton (Keeper) 9/10
Second choice apart from the Carling Cup run, he's kept his counsel and delivered in spades when called on. Superb in the league cup, making crucial penalty saves. A top class keeper, and it's a shame we can only play one at a time. We need to keep him, but he'll want regular football.

23 - Darcy Blake (Defender)
Ok, so he can be a midfielder too. He's been largely overlooked with some saying he should have been getting the game time that Nauts has. On Naut's form I'd probably agree. Has the capacity to be a fantastic utility player, but generally when he's played he's delivered.

25 - Ben Turner (Defender) 8/10
Man mountain Turner has made a big difference to us defensively. He's formed a great partnership with Hudson, and his no-nonsense defending gives relative peace of mind. Prone to giving occasional silly free kicks away when wrestling opponents which he needs to think about. His launched "diagonal ball" is now a famous City trademark.

37 - Stephen McPhail (Midfielder) 8/10
Macca used to get stick from many when he first came to City for his square and backward passes. We now know that this is in fact controlled midfield play, and we're a far better team when he's in the middle of the park. Sadly, illness has restricted his ability to play for long periods, or to complete more than about 60 minutes. We miss him when he's not there. I wish him all the best in his battle with his health, and I hope we see more of him. A consummate professional.

52 - Joe Ralls (Midfielder) 6/10
We haven't seen too much of Joe, but when we have he's looked impressive. Plenty of optimism here if this is the sort of player Cardiff are producing through the ranks.

And last but not least

Malky Mackay (Manager)
"Malky who?" some cried when the Scotsman was appointed. For many, Malky was second choice after (name any one of about 4 here), but he's come in, won the hearts of (most) fans with his general approach, willingness to switch tactics and formation and famous "thumbs up" after every ayatollah and at the end of the match.

I like him, I really do. But I do have a tiny nagging doubt that he too can be unwilling to change (note lack of rotation when we were doing so poorly), but that's probably nit picking.

Let's face it, when he was appointed, and we'd lost (twelve I think) players from last years squad, 99% of people would have settled for that cliched "transitional season", and a mid table finish. But by the autumn we were flying high, expectations had changed and play-offs, nay automatic promotion was being uttered (rather optimistically in my view). But here we are. The regular season's one game away from being over. We're sixth. We've been to Wembley to the Carling Cup final where we held Liverpool (indeed led for much of normal time). We were two kicks away from bringing the cup back to Cardiff. That's not a bad transitional season is it?

Jon Parkin, "The Beast" is clearly not in Malky's long term plans and bar  a couple of early season performances has been out on loan. Don't expect to see him in the squad next term. Lee  Naylor who took a lot of stick last season (and he was awful) has played only a couple of times, and to be fair has looked a much better player than he did last year. And that's about it, bar a couple of others who we haven't seen or haven't had more than a match or two (Kienan, Jarvis).

And that probably also shows another point. What a thin squad we have. I was surprised that in January when we were pushing for Wembley, and rising close to the top of the division, that we didn't get more players in. Malky said we wouldn't buy for the sake of it, couldn't get who we wanted and I think we have paid the price for that, with players giving their all, but with little/nothing left in the tank.

Compare and contrast to Southampton and Reading who bought and of who one is already up, and the other likely to go up.

To be fair, Malky inherited a bit of a no-win situation. He brought several players in, but clearly has had to work with some that he feels he doesn't want long term. He's a canny bloke. With perhaps a little money to spend in the summer, I'm looking forward to what he might offer in the long term. Of course without counting chickens, it's possible that we might, just might be in the Premiership next season, although my heart says no, and I don't think we're as ready this year as we were last year. Of course if we do, then we'll need to spend.

Until then, though......