With the transfer window fully slammed shut for another summer, we take a look at what Warnock got right, what he got wrong, and what January may bring…
What went well
While other clubs sat around watching the World Cup, forgetting the transfer window finished early, Warnock got the bulk of his business done early. Acting ahead of the pre-season tour, he brought in Murphy, Reid, Smithies, and Cunningham for a total of £30m. Signing the stand-out player of last seasons Championship in Bobby Reid was a complete masterstroke by Warnock. He scored 19 goals in the league last year, plus gave the two Manchester clubs a torrid time in cup games.
We’ve also kept a lid on the spending. A £30m outlay, while tying down key players like Gunnarsson, Morrison, and others, to new contracts meant our squad was bolstered in more ways that won. As many Cardiff fans will have learnt over the years, big spending doesn’t guarantee success and can create issues should the worst happen and we get relegated. By signing players who have excelled in the Championship, Neil has injected some hunger into the squad and has given players their chance at the top. And then, should we go down, we’ve got a squad capable of coming back up.
Utilising the loan market. Sure, deadline day felt like a scramble, but securing Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter on year-long loan deals. Sure, these don’t come without a financial outlay but getting them in for a year curtails the long-term risk. Camarasa will want to come in and impress so Betis take note; and Arter will have a point to prove to Howe and his employers at Bournemouth. Plus, Camarasa takes the pressure off Ralls while Arter gives us a dogged edge that we need when we need to fight.
What we could have done better
As far back as January, Warnock said a striker was the missing piece of his jigsaw. We signed Reid, a midfielder-cum-striker, but we didn’t sign an out-and-out striker. Links to Troy Deeney were quickly kiboshed and other names
filtered through with less conviction. We have Zohore, we have Madine, we have Ward. But we don’t have someone who will guarantee us goals. We tend to go with one man up top, flanked by wingers, so it might not be the biggest issue – and I do think Zohore will step-up – but it would have been nice to have a Deeney-type player to battle for that front spot too.
Warnock should also have moved on quicker from Grujic. It was the transfer saga of the summer. First he wanted to come back. Then he didn’t. Then the deal was in place but his agent was blocking it. Then he was off to Lazio. And then he was definitely on his way here. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors and perhaps Warnock was given assurances that were false but sometimes, it felt like he was putting all his eggs in one Grujic shaped basket.
What January may bring
With the window closing early, clubs have four full months of football before they can dip their toe into the water again. Cardiff could be sitting pretty in like, 15th or dead last in the league. Whatever happens, I can see Warnock plumping for a striker. We will need reinforcements, we will need bodies and a striker is the obvious starting point. It’ll give Madine, Zohore, Ward, a kick up the arse if they aren’t performing and it could bring us in 5-10 goals that could be the difference between staying up or going down.
Right back may also be a place we make changes. With Peltier set to start, that leaves Jazz Richards as cover. And as much as having these two as a pair is fine, Jazz is susceptible to an injury or two. And if we lose one or both for any amount of time, we’re very exposed at the back. Manga certainly does do a job there but we can’t rely on him.
I’m pretty happy with Warnock’s business this summer. Six players in, for decent money, and some Premier League experience in Harry Arter. Sure, he could have signed a striker but the money being bandied around for people like Deeney suggest it may have been a stretch too far. Instead, we can be happy with our lot and deploy Reid as a makeshift striker should we need too. Keeping players and tying them down to new agreements has also been a canny bit of business by Warnock. If he keeps us competitive all season, he will be hailed as a football genius.