As expected, Kieffer Moore is Cardiff’s first signing of the summer, and there are several reasons why that is reason to celebrate.
Firstly, he’s a good player. Far better than some give him credit for. Yes, he’s a big lad, but he’s also got good technique and an eye for goal. He’s a worker too, so that will go down well. Graft masks a multitude of sins, especially at Cardiff, which will always be a blue collar club, despite the periodical flirtation with sophistication amongst some supporters.
Secondly, it represents the club backing Neil Harris, which is the least he deserves after an impressive first season in charge. They’re giving him what he wants, which is a strapping centre forward. For years, former Welsh international Steve Morison, now an important part of the youth set-up at Cardiff, was the Harris go to guy up top. When he retired last summer, Harris replaced him with QPR man mountain Matt Smith.
Moore represents an evolution on those two, just as the football played by Harris is a more refined version of how Cardiff played under the other Neil. A pursuit in January came to nothing and it was always likely that Harris would return for him. Despite an impressive second half of the season, he has managed to pick him up for less than he was willing to pay, due to Wigan’s scandalous relegation to League One.
So far, so good. How he will fare remains to be seen, but it is not a signing without concerns.
To put it bluntly; Cardiff is a graveyard for strikers. Go speak to Gary Madine, the prototype Kieffer Moore. Ask Robert Glatzel if this is what he was expecting. It’s a thankless task, feeding off scraps and chasing shadows, with your midfield 30 yards behind you.
Not many have managed to make it work in the last decade or so. Fraizer Campbell was a notable success and ran so hard that you half expected his legs to fall off. Kenneth Zohore found the sweet spot for a while and looked the perfect blend of pace and power, but it didn’t last. Similarly, Callum Paterson made the role his own for a while, all keen as mustard, but never more than an able deputy.
Moore won’t begrudge the donkey work and should prove effective, but its hard to understand Cardiff’s long-standing obsession with a target man. It’s not a prerequisite and it hasn’t worked for them either. Cardiff haven’t really had a prolific goal scorer since Jay Bothroyd and its not like they haven’t had good strikers in those intervening years. Its just that the dice are loaded and the game is rigged against them.
It feels like Cardiff keep achieving differing degrees of limited success and that won’t change until their approach does. Moore has thrived playing for Wales and Wigan, but Wigan and Wales don’t play like Cardiff. Not many do. They concede so much possession that it is always going to be tough for whoever is leading the line.
If that’s the case, then it’s the system that needs to change rather than the personnel, which begs the question of whether that will happen with Moore up front. For all his talents, if you put a big striker up front in a side that tends to play it long, don’t be surprised if that’s what happens. That’s what happens with Glatzel and that is clearly not playing to his strengths.
You feel like it wouldn’t take much tinkering to play to Glatzel’s strengths, but they are instead going for the easy option of a round peg in a round hole. It makes perfect sense, but maybe the hole should be a triangle.
None of this is the fault of either Moore or Glatzel of course. It’s institutional. As things currently stand, it is a transfer that makes all the sense in the world. Had Harris landed Moore in January, you wonder if Cardiff might have fared a little better than losing in the semi-finals of the play-offs. If Harris wants to go at least one better next year, then this is a step in the right direction.
Eventually though, Cardiff need some jam tomorrow signings and a long-term plan. With the oldest line-up in the division, their permanently short-termist approach will have to change and they will need to finally decide what they want to be when they grow up.