16 games into his Cardiff City career as manager and it seems as though Neil Harris is only just finding his best eleven.
The former Millwall manager has tinkered and tried different combinations in his sixteen games trying to find the winning formula.
At the back, we’ve seen completely different back fives. Etheridge in, Smithies out. Etheridge out, Smithies in. We’ve seen Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson, Aden Flint and Curtis Nelson, Sol Bamba and Aden Flint and probably a few other combinations.
In midfield, Leandro Bacuna has been in-favour and then out-of-favour. Will Vaulks has been out-of-favour and now in-favour. Gavin Whyte has been in and out of the team. Lee Tomlin and Callum Paterson has swapped in and out.
Paterson has been up top, too. So has Danny Ward, Omar Bogle, Gary Madine and Robert Glatzel.
In the last couple of games, it seems as though Harris has settled on a favourite eleven – or at least near enough.
But what impact can tinkering have on form and the squad? From a fans perspective, it certainly seems as though tinkering and changing limits any momentum.
It also suggests to me a lack of clear direction and a game plan.
Most of all, though, I was curious about what impact it would have on the players. To find out, I reached out to Cardiff’s play-off hero Andy Campbell to get a pro’s perspective.
Andy echoed my thoughts that tinkering stops any momentum for a player and for the team. “Rotation doesn’t give you consistency and then players then play when not match fit or match sharp. Sometimes it can take 3/4 games to get flying again.”
He continued, suggesting that a manager tinkering to find his best system can impact a players morale:
“Players want to play and when you don’t you are gutted and disappointed. Being dropped and rotated is the same thing. It’s giving others a chance to impress while you aren’t playing.”
It’s certainly possible that this was the case for City players. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Will Vaulks, Sol Bamba or Callum Paterson were low on morale as Harris overlooked them trying to find his best eleven.
Signs suggest Harris is close to finding his best eleven. Will Vaulks and Callum Paterson have fought their way into his plans and, barring Joe Ralls and Lee Peltier’s returns from injuries, you’d think that the line-up deployed against Reading this Friday will be Harris’ favoured XI.