Why a fit Paterson could give Blue­birds a real edge The fan’s view

South Wales Echo - - SPORTS -

IN the fi­nal game of last sea­son, Cardiff headed to Hud­der­s­field for a dead rub­ber of a match against a team al­ready guar­an­teed a spot in the play-offs.

Neil Warnock’s men were safely sta­tioned in mid-ta­ble, so the pres­sure was off for both sides. The hosts made nine changes, keen to rest play­ers, while Warnock found him­self short of op­tions, nam­ing only six sub­sti­tutes.

Cardiff pro­vided one of their best dis­plays of the sea­son, blow­ing away the Premier League bound Ter­ri­ers 3-0, end­ing the sea­son on a high and sneak­ing into the top half of the ta­ble in the process.

Warnock used the op­por­tu­nity to field three at the back, able to se­lect a for­mi­da­ble com­bi­na­tion of Lee Peltier, Matthew Con­nolly and Sean Mor­ri­son, de­spite the ab­sences of Bruno Ecuele Manga and Sol Bamba.

The nat­u­rally at­tack-minded Jazz Richards and Joe Ben­nett were pushed up along­side Aron Gun­nars­son and Joe Ralls, while Ju­nior Hoi­lett and An­thony Pilk­ing­ton pro­vided able sup­port for Ken­neth Zo­hore fur­ther for­ward.

A Pilk­ing­ton through-ball was dis­patched by Zo­hore to open the scor­ing af­ter just seven min­utes and Hud­der­s­field fell fur­ther be­hind on 29 min­utes when Zo­hore found Ben­nett charg­ing in to the box, blast­ing Cardiff’s sec­ond in to the roof of the net. The same com­bi­na­tion re­sulted in Cardiff’s third late in the sec­ond half, as Ben­nett made the most of his li­cence to roam.

Whether this ap­proach would be a one-off or would be­come the norm re­mained to be seen, but Cardiff’s sub­se­quent trans­fer ac­tiv­ity hinted to­wards a shift to­wards this trendy new shape.

Cal­lum Paterson is a full-back by trade, but renowned for his ram­pag­ing for­ays down the right flank, while a new right winger also ar­rived in the form of Nathaniel Men­dez-Laing. Danny Ward is equally adept up front or out on the left and Lee Tom­lin is also ver­sa­tile enough to play cen­trally or on the wing, if re­quired.

Af­ter much spec­u­la­tion, Cardiff started the new cam­paign in much the same way that they ended the last; by win­ning away from home in a 3-4-3 for­ma­tion.

Manga, Bamba and Mor­ri­son, Cardiff’s first choice trio of cen­tre backs were se­lected, with Peltier and Ben­nett ei­ther side of Ralls and Gun­nars­son, in sup­port of Hoi­lett, Zo­hore and Tom­lin.

Cardiff were not as in­ci­sive this time, but teams are rarely at full pelt on the first day of the sea­son. The big dif­fer­ence be­tween Cardiff now and Cardiff then is that they are now blessed with a greater ar­ray of op­tions on the bench and all three of the sub­sti­tutes used; Ward, Men­dezLaing and Loic Damour, made an im­pact.

They gave Cardiff the op­por­tu­nity to again ad­just their shape to a more con­ven­tional 4-4-2 as they turned the screw on Bur­ton, who even­tu­ally suc­cumbed to the pres­sure and con­ceded late on.

Since then, Cardiff have mostly used a more fa­mil­iar 4-3-3, with the trio of Hoil­lett, Zo­hore and Men­dez-Laing now in­dis­pens­able. They have also added Craig Bryson, who looks likely to join Ralls and Gun­nars­son in a reg­u­lar mid­field combo.

To date, Cardiff’s three big­gest sign­ings; Tom­lin, Ward and Manga – who against all odds agreed a new deal – have re­mained on the pe­riph­ery of the team. You won­der how much longer that will con­tinue.

When Paterson re­turns to full fit­ness from long-term in­jury, he will of­fer an­other di­men­sion to this side and could po­ten­tially sig­nal a re­turn to some vari­a­tion on a 3-4-3 for­ma­tion.

It’s easy to imag­ine, for ex­am­ple, Warnock in­stalling Camp in place of the rather er­ratic Neil Etheridge.

In front of him, a trio of Bamba, Mor­ri­son and Manga, with Ben­nett and Paterson pushed up along­side say Gun­nars­son and Bryson. Fur­ther for­ward, Tom­lin and Men­dez-Laing ei­ther side of Zo­hore.

Such a se­lec­tion could prove to be the se­cret to re­in­forc­ing Cardiff’s de­fen­sive so­lid­ity, while main­tain­ing a po­tency up front. Time will tell if the re­turn of Paterson sig­nals an evo­lu­tion or a rev­o­lu­tion.

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