These days, you never know what you’re going to get from Cardiff. Not just from game to game, but also between individual passages of play. They can veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. Well, not quite sublime, but you catch my drift.
Who to blame though, because you have to have someone to blame, right?
Well for most, Neil Harris carries the can, and as manager, that is certainly the case, but whether you could say its his fault, I’m not so sure. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, right across the board at the moment.
Take Filip Benkovic, for example. A talented, 23-year-old, Croatian centre back, signed on loan from Leicester and as yet unutilised. He probably should have thrown him a bone by now, but has not and while he remains untried and untested, he somehow represents the solution to all Cardiff’s problems.
People that have never seen him play will claim, with absolute authority, that he is better than Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson. He is, after all, yet to be tarnished by playing for Cardiff.
This is a problem created by Harris, but he is within his rights to pick whatever side he pleases and while I would like to see Benkovic play, I respect that Harris has not buckled to external pressures. Maybe he just doesn’t like what he sees?
Harris also stands accused of not getting the best out of Harry Wilson, a prodigiously talented Welsh craftsman. Is he better on the wing or centrally? Some claim he is evidently not a winger, despite him establishing a name for himself in that very position. Also, if you ask a Derby or Bournemouth fan, they will tell you that he is a player of moments and that they used to have the same conversation.
Harris is too conservative, but he inherited a conservative squad. He’s not as honest or charismatic as Neil Warnock either. Well not many are. Cardiff don’t play enough football, yet statistics prove that they perform better the less of the ball they see. He tried to get them playing, but recognised his mistake and reverted back.
The problem is that you go round and round. Maybe a new manager would make the world of difference, but maybe they would make them worse. Maybe Cardiff will kick in to gear again, like they did at the end of last season, or maybe they won’t.
Cardiff are not terrible all the time, just occasionally, and randomly. Sometimes they look great. In beating Barnsley, they showed rare swagger and it was a joy to behold. Whereas last time out against Brentford, they looked strong in the first half and as weak as a kitten after the break. How do you explain that?
How do you account for two goalkeeping blunders from the ever-reliable Alex Smithies? How can you legislate for Leandro Bacuna, impressive in the first half, allowing Sergi Canos to walk past him in the second? Or defenders standing off Norwich for both their goals.
I can’t explain it and, seemingly, neither can Harris. He sometimes looks so frustrated in post-match press conferences that he looks like he might cry. You could say that its his job to identify and fix these problems and you would be right, but its never the same mistake and never the same players.
Rotten luck with injuries certainly hasn’t helped. Lee Tomlin is the biggest miss, followed closely by Kieffer Moore and Jordi Osei-Tutu. Cardiff are not alone in that regard though, as squads up and down the country are ravaged by a ridiculously condensed schedule.
So, Cardiff are not very good and I’m not sure why. They have good players and should be better than this, but they’re not. Everyone has their own theory and some are set in stone, but I don’t think its any one thing. If they were always shit, it would be far easier to put a finger on it, but they’re not. Maybe it will all fall in to place, or maybe it will all cost Harris his job. But then what?
It’s Wycombe next and when their backs are against the wall, Cardiff tend to come out fighting, but maybe they won’t this time. Who can say.