In part two of our player report cards for 2018/19, we take a look at those who occupy the middle of the pitch. With six players playing in the centre of the park, we reflect on the best and worst of our central midfielders.
Ben James reflects on the performances of Victor, Gunnar and, er, Loic Damour. Yes, he is still here.
Signed as a bit of an unknown from Real Betis, not many Cardiff fans knew what to expect from the Spaniard. But within a couple of games, he’d made his impression felt. Easily one of the most gifted players we’ve seen in a Cardiff shirt. He scored our first Premier League goal against Arsenal and never looked back. Adept at taking players on, bringing others into play, and everything in between. It was a pleasure to watch him this season and, truly, we will miss him.
What else can it be? A 94th minute winner feels good. But how much better does it feel when it’s a world class strike? Even better. When all hope looked lost at Leicester, up stepped Victor. I don’t need to describe the goal for you but have you ever seen a strike so perfect? Curling and dipping, Kasper Schmeichel had less than no chance of getting it.
The sight of him leaving the pitch with injuries became a familiar one later on in the season. Warnock touched upon the fact he had advisors telling him not play and he needed a break but I don’t think anyone knows the full story. He looked lacking in confidence and it certainly impacted his self belief.
Rating – A-
Coming from Bournemouth on loan, Harry Arter was the Premiership experience we needed. A fan favourite at Bournemouth, he’d fallen out of favour and we took him on for the season. Perhaps the most Cardiff player to ever play for Cardiff, he loved to run around and get stuck in but at times, but perhaps lacked a bit of composure on the ball. Finished the season injured and, whisper it quietly, we looked better without him at times.
Arter’s best moments came when harrying (excuse the pun) other players into mistakes. He was instrumental in the build-up to Victor’s winner against Leicester, he slammed a shot against the post against Wolves and looped the ball in that led to our equaliser. But my favourite Arter moments will be him hairing into challenges, leading to many winces.
It’s hard to remember a stand out moment where Arter was particularly bad. Perhaps his rash challenge against Newcastle? There were a few moments in games when his lack of discipline led him out of position. Or could it be when he was spotted at Fulham, despite his Cardiff team mates playing a game at Old Trafford…
Rating – B
Joe Ralls is one of the most polarising figures at Cardiff City. Coming up to 8 years at the club, and nearly 200 appearances, he’s been a constant at the club good and bad times. Still only 25, when things are going badly, he tends to become the focus of the ire of fans. But when things are going well, he doesn’t seem to get the praise he deserves. So many games this season, fans have berated him no matter well he played. To his eternal credit, he never hides away no matter how he’s playing and ran himself ragged against Southampton in a huge win.
His performance at Brighton went unnoticed but it was vital in a big win. He was a bit of a metronome in the midfield, keeping the ball moving when it needed to and following up his passes by showing for the return. He sparked the counter for NML’s goal by winning the ball back from a Brighton midfielder. In the best way possible, he played a simple game, and it was pivotal.
The penalty miss against West Ham. With Camarasa on the pitch, it was a wonder why Ralls stepped up to take the spot kick. And he just didn’t look confident. It came at a pivotal time in the game, when we were in the ascendancy and we will always wonder what if. West Ham were there for the taking and if Ralls scores, we could have got a vital win. He missed and the rest is history.
Rating – B-
Missing the early part of the season, Gunnar made his first appearance in our 4-2 win over Fulham, instrumental in one of the goals. You know what you get with Gunnar. He’s solid, tenacious, and you know he’s going to back the defence up. He’s been at the club 8 years and this was his farewell season. We’re going to miss him. He’s been a mainstay and we’ve been lucky to have him at the peak of his career.
His goal against Wolves. It was classic Gunnar. He started by tussling with the goalie. He ended it with a scissor kick into the roof of the net. It was sheer determination and grit, with a touch of class in there. In a boiling atmosphere, the goal turned the game and spurred us onto victory against a team we like to tussle with.
Gunnar has suffered with injury over the years and it wasn’t fun to see him break down on several occasions. It seemed like the rough and tumble of the last year 8 years, plus his excursions with Iceland, had maybe caught up with him. He’s a battler and he always battled his way through. It’s what made him who he was.
Rating – A-
A surprise deadline day signing in January, Bacuna wasn’t given much of a chance by some elements on the Cardiff fanbase. Reading fans seemed happy to see the back of him; Cardiff fans didn’t seem too happy to see him. But, say it quietly, he’s done alright. He’s been a calming presence at times and would have emptied out his pockets on the final day to find a Paul Pogba in there. I’m optimistic about his chances next season.
Keeping Pogba quiet on the last day of the season was pretty good. But he’s had a number of good moments from the bench too. He put the ball into the box that caused an own goal against Palace at home. He was a big presence as we beat Southampton at the St. Mary’s. And he was calming when he came on against Brighton. Nothing particularly outstanding but enough.
There’s nothing that really springs to mind. That’s not to say he’s been outstanding; it’s just there’s not one standout terrible moment.
Rating – C+
Signed in the summer of 2017, he’s still at the club. Not sure where, but he’s definitely here. A couple of performances across the season for Loic, surely this summer sees him saying goodbye?
He was on the pitch when we beat Fulham 4-2.
He put in a distinctly average performance when we lost to Gillingham 1-0.
Rating – E
What do you think? Let us know by tweeting @VFTNinian.
Stay tuned for part three tomorrow, where we rate Cardiff City’s wingers.