Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to move forward.
I’ve thought this on several occasions already watching Cardiff this season. They’ve made a solid, unspectacular start, which is exactly as you would expect from such a solid, unspectacular side, but they need to be better if they have any designs on challenging in the upper echelons of the Championship.
So, I’m here to provide a solution.
We may as well tackle the Leandro Bacuna situation first because it appears to be the one that has everyone hot under the collar. Mick McCarthy is adamant that he’s not a right back, yet may be the only one that sees him in an advanced, attacking role, and that incudes Leandro himself. His influence and strengths are neutered, as whole games seem to pass him by.
In Leandro’s defence, he’s been on international duty all summer, then contracted Covid and as soon as he was fit, he was straight back in the side. All of the players that tested positive have struggled to get up to speed, yet Bacuna is the only one that is getting it in the neck, but he gets it in the neck for everything, as we all know.
Mick has justified playing Bacuna so far forward by explaining that he has good feet, a good engine and makes all the right runs, but he is doing him no favours by playing him there. Not only is he struggling, but he is also blocking the pathway for Rubin Colwill and Mark Harris, two of Cardiff’s brightest prospects.
So drop him back. Play him alongside Joe Ralls, who has made a bright start to the season. They compliment each other well and that would allow you to play Pack at centre back.
Pack played in defence briefly at the tail end of last season and it was a brief glimpse of what Cardiff could be. Sit him between Sean Morrison and Aden Flint, as a sweeper of sorts, and give him free reign. Cardiff can build from the back and play more football, or if you have to go long, you have someone capable of raking a 50-yard pass back there.
Cardiff have been exposed on the break time and again already this season, so having someone with the football brain of Pack back there to sniff out any danger can only help. Admittedly, he’s no quicker than any of the existing three, but the first few yards are in your head, as they say.
I’m loathe to break up the Ralls and Pack partnership, which has been a source of strength so far this campaign, but sometimes you have to take a step… yeah, you get the picture.
Ideally, dropping Bacuna back would pave the way for Josh Murphy to get a run in the side and we can all witness his renaissance, but we’ve been waiting three seasons for that and Lee Tomlin appears no closer to full fitness, so maybe its time to focus on Colwill and Harris.
With Bacuna back in his favoured role and Pack installed as quarterback, Cardiff would have a little bit of everything. It won’t happen, I know, but it’s one to ponder during the long international break.