Callum Paterson – Ben James
When you think of players that sum up the season so far, only one man truly springs to mind. Callum Paterson. A right back who’s now our leading scorer in the Premier League and defying what it means to be an elite player. On his debut up front, he set a record for number of aerial duels won since 2002/03. He’s scored vital goals against Fulham, Southampton, and Brighton and he’s led the line when he’s needed to, showing great skill and endeavour while doing it. But he also knows when to get stuck in too.
He’s the epitome of a Cardiff player and then some. A trier but with a sprinkling of class. He’s taking the Premier League by storm and changing the perception of what a modern day footballer should be and he’s having a lot of fun while doing it. He dances when he scores. He two-foots the ball into the net when others score and he works himself into the ground for the team. He always had the makings of a cult hero, but he’s surpassed that now. This is Callum Paterson’s world – and we’re all just living in it.
Harry Arter – Bethan Phillips
As the year comes to an end, there’s a lot for City fans to look back on with delight. We’ve been promoted to the Premier League, have a sound manager and are embracing togetherness.
When I was asked about which City player has been my standout for the first half of the season, I didn’t have to think twice. Harry Arter has quickly established himself as a City hero and it’s absolutely no surprise that fans are calling for him to be signed permanently.
He’s been a rock in midfield and has never shied away from an old-fashioned clattering tackle. We’d already seen his range of passing abilities at Bournemouth and it’s been a real bonus having his presence in midfield.
I’ve also been very impressed by his passion and composure. He was quick to support teammates in the Fulham game, encouraging them to stay calm and focussed. That type of experience is essential for survival in the Premier League.
Though, my personal standout as we reach the end of 2018 is the passion that Arter has for the club and fans. Bluebirds can never fault those who give it their all and I’m really hoping Arter will sign permanently in the future.
Bruno Ecuele Manga – Scott Salter
Bruno Manga may not grab all the headlines, but the Gabon international has been Cardiff’s best defender this year. When you consider that he’s done that whilst playing out of position, it makes it all the more impressive.
Manga is never going to be the best right-back in the Premier League. He lacks the attacking intent to really make a difference going forward, but he’s been rock solid at the back and has given it his best going forward.
There is also THAT tackle. With the score tied late on at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, Wilfried Zaha was clean through and Manga not only matched him for pace, but also went the long way round and perfectly timed his tackle to slide in and clear the danger just as Zaha was about to pull the trigger. Clean as a whistle and worth a priceless point.
With a right-back likely to join in January, it’s very easy to make the case for Manga replacing one of Sean Morrison or Sol Bamba at the heart of the Cardiff defence.
Victor Camarasa – Paul Gronow
I admit that I was one of those people reaching for Wikipedia when we signed Victor Camarasa from Real Betis. He was hardly top of the Cardiff City list of targets when they spotted him whilst scouting Bournemouth ahead of the Bluebirds’ opening game in August. So you can hardly blame me for my lack of awareness regarding the now indespensible Spaniard.
It would be fair to say that, whilst he’s also taken Joe Bennett’s crown as most handsome player, he’s also become an essential first XI player. Never was that clearer than when the Bluebirds played Manchester United and I had no fear that he would miss his penalty.
When Camarasa plays, Cardiff play and like a long lost lover, he makes us want to be better. His composure on the ball and eye for a pass (not to mention a nutmeg) have brought something badly needed to the Bluebirds in the centre of midfield; real top-level quality.
In short, I love the guy and I never want to see him leave. I can’t wait to see how he does between now and May.
Neil Etheridge – Scott Johnson
I guess the reason we’re writing such a piece is because there is no one outstanding performer this season. Plenty of contenders, evidently, but no one player head and shoulders above the rest. For me, it has to be Neil Etheridge though. From week one.
The last time Cardiff were in the Premier League, they had David Marshall, who was one of the club’s best players. After a shaky start to his Cardiff career, there was absolute confidence in him at the time and he went on to be the club’s Player of the Season that year. It starting to feel like our goalkeeper will win it again this time too.
If Cardiff were to stand any chance of staying up, Etheridge was going to have to play a blinder every week and he has, bailing them out time and again. There were question marks over his concentration and kicking, but both areas have seen remarkable improvement.
In terms of narrative, Etheridge has maybe had one of the toughest routes to the top too. On the verge of cashing his chips, he had to to drop down to League One and work his way to the top. A hero in his native Philipines, if Cardiff stay up, he’ll be a hero in South Wales too.