An early look at what Cardiff City’s XI could look like against Barnsley on the opening day | OneFootball
An early look at what Cardiff City’s XI could look like against Barnsley on the opening day
Football League World
Cardiff City are facing an important next few weeks now that they know what awaits them with their fixture list at the start of next season.
Mick McCarthy did an excellent job in the main after he took over from Neil Harris midway through last term and he got them back in contention for a play-off place.
However, in the end, the Bluebirds fell short of what was needed to get over the line and secure a place in the Championship’s top six.
So far this summer, Cardiff have managed to sign James Collins, Mark McGuiness and Ryan Wintle to improve their first-team squad. There is still more work that will need to be done with their squad, but at the moment they are looking alright to at least have a go at the top six next term.
The Bluebirds face an intriguing home game on the opening day against Barnsley who finished in one of the top six positions last season.
However, the Tykes have since lost their manager to West Brom and it remains to be seen who will be in charge of them.
With that all in mind, we take a look at the Cardiff City starting XI that McCarthy could name for that opening day clash with Barnsley…
Next season it is going to be a very intriguing battle for Cardiff in the goalkeeping department with McCarthy having both Alex Smithies and Dillon Phillips to call upon.
Those are two very good options and most managers in the division would be happy to have either of those in their squad.
Phillips ended last season in the starting line-up for Cardiff and he had managed to impress McCarthy during the run of games he had after he took over as manager.
The former Charlton Athletic keeper could therefore be handed the chance to maintain his place in goal on the opening day against Barnsley.
It is going to be a massive game for Phillips if he does start and it will be vital that he shows what he can do and avoids making any mistakes so that he can establish himself as the number one for next term.
The 26-year-old managed to keep seven clean sheets in 16 appearances in the Championship last term, and he will need to keep picking up clean sheets to stay ahead of Smithies.
Assuming that McCarthy is going to be sticking to with the 3-4-2-1, or 3-4-1-2 formation that Cardiff ended last season with, then Perry Ng would be expected to start in the right-wing-back position on the opening day against Barnsley.
Next season will be a chance for Ng to fully establish himself as the Bluebirds’ first choice down the right-hand side of their defence.
The 25-year-old managed to display a lot of encouraging signs for Cardiff during his performances for them after arriving in January in a £350,000 move from Crewe Alexandra.
In total, the defender managed to make 19 appearances in which he showed his attacking potential by registering three assists. He also showed his defensive qualities by making two tackles a game and helping the Bluebirds record six clean sheets.
As a result, Ng looks ready to have a very strong season for Cardiff and he could swiftly establish himself as one of the best attacking right-sided defenders in the English second tier.
One of the three centre-backs that you would expect McCarthy to stick with at the start of the season against Barnsley, injuries permitting, is Curtis Nelson.
Nelson enjoyed a strong season with the Bluebirds on the whole last term and he managed to feature in 44 of their 46 Championship matches and was a regular under McCarthy after he took over from Harris midway through the campaign.
The 28-year-old is coming into the prime years of his career now and after he managed to average 4.3 clearances and 1.4 interceptions per match last term to help Cardiff record 13 clean sheets, he will be feeling ready to deliver consistently for them yet again.
The defender is someone that Cardiff should be able to depend upon. They have someone very capable behind him now in new signing McGuiness who is ready to push any of the three starting centre-backs for their places in the side.
One player at Cardiff that has survived the test of time and remained an influential figure from the days under Neil Warnock, Harris and also now McCarthy is Sean Morrison.
The defender will likely be just as crucial to the side next term as he has been in the last few seasons and he is the experienced head that glues their defensive unit together, especially in this three man defence system that McCarthy has adopted at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Morrison managed to make 38 appearances in the Championship last season and helped the Bluebirds record 14 clean sheets in the process. While he remained just as dangerous from set-pieces as he has been in recent campaigns weighing in with five goals.
If Cardiff are going to enjoy a successful campaign then a lot will depend on both the form and fitness of Morrison. He will once again be one of the first names on the team sheet you would expect and especially on the opening day.
Completing the back-three on the first day of next season will likely be the dependable presence of Aden Flint.
He managed to come right back into the picture for the Bluebirds during the second half of last term after McCarthy handed him a chance following his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday.
Flint is someone that deserves a lot of credit for taking his chance under McCarthy with both hands and he managed to show what he can offer and why the Bluebirds paid a sizeable sum to bring him into the club from Middlesbrough.
In total, the defender managed to make 22 appearances for the Bluebirds in the league last term after returning from Sheffield Wednesday where he had a minimal impact really.
Once again you would expect McCarthy to rely on the defender’s reliable presence in both boxes and he is one to watch out for especially in terms of his impact on attacking set-pieces.
McCarthy is facing a major decision over who he will be starting in the left-wing-back role at Cardiff next season with Joe Bennett having been one of the more notable departures from the club during the close season.
Ciaron Brown ended last season in that left-wing-back role and he is someone that managed to come into the first-team picture at Cardiff in the second half of last season after he returned to the club from a highly impressive loan spell with Livingston.
Earlier on in the summer, there was reported transfer interest in Brown. The likes of Belgian side KV Oostende were interested in making a potential move for him. However, as of yet, no team has come in with a successful offer to land the defender.
Assuming that he remains with the club, Brown could be in line to start on the opening day of the season against Barnsley.
Cardiff might yet go into the market to sign a left-wing-back to replace Bennett and they are now being linked with Ryan Giles but for now, Brown will be the go-to player.
This selection is on the assumption that Cardiff manage to continue to retain the services of midfielder Will Vaulks by the time their opening game of the season against Barnsley comes around.
Vaulks is a player that has been attracting plenty of transfer interest this summer. It has been reported by Wales Online that Newcastle United are interested in making a seven-figure move for the midfielder.
That came after earlier reports had suggested that both Sheffield United and Norwich City were also interested in potentially making a move for Vaulks as well.
However, it has been suggested that it would take around the £7 million mark for someone to prize Vaulks away from Cardiff this summer.
That means that he might end up remaining with them because in the current financial climate his suitors might not want to fork out such a large transfer fee for him.
The midfielder has the quality to suggest that if he is still with Cardiff then he has to be in the starting line-up against Barnsley on the opening day.
The opening day against Barnsley could be the first chance that Cardiff supporters get to see what all of the fuss has been about with the Bluebirds’ new midfield signing Ryan Wintle.
Wintle has finally seen his move from Crewe Alexandra confirmed and now the midfielder can concentrate on enjoying a strong pre-season and convincing McCarthy that he is ready to immediately earn a place in his starting XI against Barnsley.
The midfielder is someone that certainly looks ready for Championship football with him having been developing his game very well over the last few years at Crewe Alexandra under David Artell.
Next season will be the chance for him to show that he can bring that form into the Championship. After scoring two goals and assisting two more goals in his 43 league games last term, he will be aiming to enhance his end product even more as well as continuing to show composure on the ball.
There is strong competition for his place in the side from the likes of Joe Ralls, Leandro Bacuna and Marlon Pack, but Wintle has been signed to bring some more energy to them in the middle of the park and so he should get the nod.
This is a position in the side that is yet to really be nailed down by anyone you feel in the Cardiff squad heading into the start of next season.
Having lost Harry Wilson from his loan spell the Bluebirds are likely to be wanting to recruit someone to fill the attacking midfield role in their side.
Young Rubin Colwill ended last season in the attacking midfield role for Cardiff and short of any new arrivals in that position this summer he could be set to feature on the opening day against Barnsley. Unless McCarthy decides to play three midfielders instead of a CAM and brings in Ralls.
If Colwill does start for the Bluebirds against Barnsley then it would be an amazing chance for him to show McCarthy what he can do and also potentially establish himself as a crucial member of their starting line-up throughout the campaign.
Having made six appearances for Cardiff in the league last term and being handed the chance by McCarthy to impress, he will be confident that he can make an impact if he does get chosen to start their opening fixture.
This is another selection that might be subject to change by the time the season begins. Keiffer Moore a player that is sure to have his fair share of admirers following on from an impressive debut campaign for Cardiff that saw him score an impressive 20 league goals in 42 games.
However, at the moment, no one has come in for Moore who has instead been concentrating on international duty with Wales at the Euros.
The forward will therefore arrive back late for pre-season, but even so, if he remains at the club he is almost a shoe-in to be starting on the opening day against one of his former clubs.
Alongside Moore upfront, McCarthy will likely be keen to hand James Collins a chance to come into the straight into the starting line-up on the opening day of the campaign against Barnsley.
Ironically, Collins netted the winning goal on the opening day of last season for Luton Town against the Tykes and Cardiff would be very pleased with their new recruit if he could repeat the same trick this time around at the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
Collins is a player that has shown with Luton that he can score goals in the Championship, having netted 14 goals in the 2019/20 season and then ten goals in 42 appearances last term.
You can see why McCarthy was keen to snap him up on a free transfer and it seems as though he is going to be someone that they can rely on to add more goals to the side. It will be interesting to see how his partnership with Moore upfront can develop.