Remember when right back was Cardiff’s problem position? Not anymore. It already feels like a while ago now, such has been Perry Ng’s instant impact.
Admittedly, after several months of Leandro Bacuna filling in, a genuine right back was always going to make a significant difference, but that’s only half the story.
Jordi Osei-Tutu, on loan from Arsenal, is a long-term absentee in this position. So long in fact that I think some have forgotten just how impressive he looked earlier in the season. Mick McCarthy does not appear to be aware of his existence, often forgetting him in press conference and admitting that they have yet to speak to each other. He will give Ng a run for his money on his return, but that only highlights how good both are and how fortunate Cardiff will soon be.
Cardiff have always had reserved full backs, or maybe they just become reserved when Cardiff gets hold of them? Ng is effectively replacing Lee Peltier, who was built like a middleweight boxer and very much a no-nonsense defender. The air would get a little thin when he ventured past halfway, but that was never a problem under Neil Warnock, who liked his defenders to defend and little else.
Ng was a parting gift from Neil Harris, who admitted that he had pursued him in three windows. With an expiring contract, Cardiff decided to make their move in January, rather than compete with various others for him when he became a free agent in the summer. That now looks a smart move as he has immediately helped shore up a leaky, error prone defence.
My first impression of Ng was that he’s a lot taller than I was expecting. His babyface appearance in photos activated preconceptions that he would be quick and timid, but he is in fact the opposite.
Ng is not afraid of a tackle, snapping in to challenges and usually emerging with the ball. He’s also very composed. Not at all rattled by the Championship and he has comfortably made the step up.
His distribution is over par for Cardiff, but it would be hard to be under par in fairness. He is comfortable in possession and ventures so far forward that he is discovering new lands. He has also already shown a propensity for cutting inside and unleashing on goal, which is now a handy weapon in Cardiff’s arsenal.
The switch to wing backs has solidified the side and while it’s a more defensive five at the back rather than an attacking three, there is licence to roam, as demonstrated by Joe Bennett on the other flank, who scored the winner on Tuesday with a far post header late in the game.
I felt for Ng and Max Watters, who saw the manager that had signed them almost immediately dismissed, but Ng has probably been Cardiff’s best player since McCarthy arrived and he has already stated his admiration for the Crewe academy graduate. Ng was Crewe’s captain and while he may not be a shouter, he leads by example and has already taken more than his fair share of responsibility at the back.
It’s early days, but the signs so far have been vg. Perry Vg.