With this summer’s in’s and out’s at the Cardiff City Stadium looking to be impacted by the financial detriment of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cian Griffiths looks at a selection of players that could help the Bluebirds push for promotion.
The former Leeds player, who was at one point being linked to Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, has seen his stock rise once more this season. For relegation threatened Barnsley, he has contributed to 10 goals (scored three, assisted seven) this season, in a team that have struggled to string together any attacking potency. Cardiff have felt a real vulnerability in midfield this season, with injuries to Joe Ralls and Marlon Pack, plus an indifferent start to the season for Will Vaulks, meaning that the midfield weren’t able to often create a consistency. If only as cover, Mowatt could prove a key component. His contract also officially ends this month, with an option to potentially extend for another year, therefore City would be able to swoop in for him with at a far reduced fee.
Emile Smith Rowe
As an on-loan player from Arsenal in the Championship this season, Smith Rowe has undeniably been a standout player in a poor Huddersfield side. Though only having few opportunities to play, he has shown his ability to torment defenders and unlock defences, contributing to four goals in 10. Able to play on the flank, or further infield as a 10, Smith Rowe’s close dribbling allows him to suck in defenders and open up space for attackers.
When Cardiff’s pacey wingers are fit, it can be argued that they are one of the most dangerous counter-attacking sides in the division, with the likes of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Josh Murphy able to tear past retreating defenders. Smith Rowe is a player who is able to see this potential attack two steps ahead of others. However, having been out on loan for the past season and a half (at both RB Leipzig and Huddersfield), perhaps the Englishman would want to push for a role in the Arsenal first team.
A stalwart of the Chris Coleman Wales setup, it wouldn’t be a difficult task for Williams to earn the support of City fans. A player who has all the ability to unlock a defence, he has been terribly unlucky with his injury record, however he has played a combined 2,000 minutes over the past two seasons, perhaps indicating a turnaround in fortunes. Playing in the heart of a Charlton side who are likely to be relegated, Williams would be an experienced asset to pick up when his contract soon expires, enabling Neil Harris to rotate Lee Tomlin. Having had success in acquiring relegated teams most exciting players, see Vaulks, this signing would allow for City to maintain the free-flowing football they are attempting to rebrand to, even without the constant presence of Tomlin.
Another Welshman who would benefit from consistent first team football, the young Liverpool fullback has earned plenty of plaudits from Jurgen Klopp during his brief stints in the first team. Touted as the ‘next TAA’, Williams is defensively solid, on average making 5.78 interceptions per game, along with recovering lost balls 8.34 times. Additionally, his attacking competence would fit perfectly into Harris’ team, making 5.45 successful dribbles per game, along with completing nearly half of his eight attempted long balls.
If Cardiff are unable to complete the signing of Dion Sanderson, a loan offer for Williams could prove valuable, given the past relationships between Klopp and Cardiff, mainly the loan spell of one Marko Grujic. With Liverpool looking to mold the fullback in the same way they did Harry Wilson, a loan to the Championship is the likeliest move and who better than to play week in week out at the Cardiff City Stadium.
It won’t come as a surprise that Sanderson is included here. Currently on a short-term loan from newly established Premier League Wolves, he has had an excellent campaign thus far for Harris. A tall, rapid attacking full back who has shown a high level of defensive competence for his age, Sanderson has made the RB spot his own after the shock departure of Lee Peltier in January.
With half a season under his belt for the Bluebirds, it’s obvious why Wolves fans regard him highly. However, with his competition for a regular spot in Nuno Espirito’s side next season coming from experienced Matt Doherty and highly rated youngster Luke Matheson, maybe his fortunes lie elsewhere. Having settled already in South Wales, making his loan deal permanent, or extending it, would be an astute bit of business.
An experienced midfielder that has played his football at League One, Championship and Premier League levels, Jack Colback is out of contract at the end of the season. A deft passer of the ball who screens in front of the back four, he would add an abundance of knowledge and experience. With the proposed takeover of Newcastle seemingly getting closer and closer to completion, it would be presumed that a 30-year-old Colback wouldn’t be in the future plans of the club. With both Longstaff brothers being seen as the future of the Toon midfield, Colback could do no worse than look to a Championship side with high aspirations, giving Harris more options in his midfield three.
Touted as being the next breakthrough star from the prestigious Carrington academy, James Garner’s minutes under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been few and far between. With consistency in the Cardiff midfield missing throughout the season due to injury, a loan move for Garner could be smart. An athletic, deep-playing midfielder, the Birkenhead born youngster is incredibly comfortable with and without the ball. He is constantly looking to split the lines with a long pass while in possession, showing maturity and intelligence above his age to be able to anticipate and shut down any attacking threats.
Additionally, Garner has scored 8 goals in 10 appearances in the PL2 this season, threatening with long shots from outside the box and providing an aerial threat from corners. Cardiff have already shown their interest in the 19-year-old, amongst other Championship sides. If successful, it could mean that both Ralls and Vaulks are given more freedom in attacking phases, giving City much more potency going forward.