Cardiff City’s January window, analysed. Have the Bluebirds done enough?

By all accounts, it was an eventful month in the Welsh Capital – and it had to be.

There was an inexplicable weight of pressure and expectation placed on the January transfer window in South Wales, with the desperate need for reinforcements well-expressed amongst the Bluebirds faithful.

Overall, three fresh faces made their way to the Cardiff City Stadium, whilst a further five sought the exit door. 

The general view of Cardiff’s performance in the market evokes a divisive aura. But in football, what does not?

Here, I will be providing my take on Cardiff City’s activity across the month, analysing each arrival and departure. 

Incomings

Perry Ng

According to former boss Neil Harris, the Bluebirds had been tracking the former Crewe Alexandra skipper across the last three windows. And if Ng’s start to life in the second tier is anything to go by, Cardiff’s relentless pursuit is very easy to justify.

The arrival of Ng was met with both excitement and a united sigh of relief. Cardiff’s perilous problems at right-back have been well-documented- losing loan signing Jordi Osei-Tutu to two successive hamstring injuries over the course of the campaign

As a result of having a distinct lack of cover in that area of the pitch, tenacious midfielder Leandro Bacuna has often been required to deputise there against his will, a matter that has only added to the Bluebirds’ series of struggles.

But in Ng, it seems Cardiff have unearthed a future stalwart on the right-hand side of the backline.

A wise head on young shoulders, the Crewe academy product possesses an excellent understanding of the game and barring a few expected initial nerves, a real calmness on the ball to boot.

Along with this, Ng is an accomplished tackler and adds that extra oomph to every challenge he makes, showcasing a passion-laced nature that earned him so many plaudits prior to his switch to South Wales.

Although still very much a student at Championship level with a vast footballing curriculum yet to learn, the early signs regarding Perry Ng are promising nonetheless.

Max Watters

A name synonymous with the back of the net, there was a degree of rightful excitement when Cardiff City announced the signing of Crawley Town hotshot Max Watters.

Watters had captivated the interest of clubs all over the country after registering sixteen strikes in nineteen outings for the Red Devils, who were unable to turn down Cardiff’s reported 1M bid.

Seemingly an investment visioned primarily for the future, Watters’ arrival serves as a symbolic example of the club’s philosophy- snapping up and developing the hottest talent from the lower leagues before eventually gaining a hefty profit.

In the world of primadonnas and overpaid has-beens, I am all for that ideology. 

Cultured in the rigours of non-league football, Watters provides a physical presence and streetwise attributes to accompany great match intelligence and chiefly, a sense of ruthlessness in front of goal.

If you are expecting the former Doncaster forward to transition into the Championship overnight, you may be a victim of self-engineered disappointment. 

Though if Watters can continue his trajectory and potential, the future bears a plethora of success for the Englishman.

Jonny Williams

It came as little surprise when Mick McCarthy sought to make Jonny Williams the first signing of his tenure at the Cardiff City Stadium. 

Joining from League One Charlton for a reported fee of 200,000, the transfer facilitates a renaissance between the pair who enjoyed a fruitful working relationship together during Williams’ two separate loan spells to Ipswich Town.

Speaking on the move, Williams said “I’m delighted. I’m really looking forward to working with the Gaffer and TC again.

“They’re great. I think I played the best football of my career under them at Ipswich. They gave me the belief and freedom to express myself.”

Affectionately dubbed ‘Jonniesta’ by the Welsh crowd, the Crystal Palace academy product has racked up 25 appearances for the Red Dragons since making his debut in 2013, scoring a solitary goal in the process.

Most effectively deployed in the number 10 role, Williams shoulders that raw ability to turn a game on its head in an instant.

 A jinky, diminutive operator blessed with a low centre of gravity and an air of dynamism to his game, the Welsh International could well inject that desired sense of energy to Cardiff’s midfield, which has come under a wealth of criticism for slow, static movements in and out of possession all campaign

And whilst Williams’ ill-fated injury-stricken past is far from secrecy, the 27 year old is a real gem of a footballer when he can stay off the treatment table. 

Outgoings

Filip Benkovic

Boasting International pedigree and an encouraging rapport from loan spells at Celtic and Bristol City, the loan signing of Filip Benkovic was also met with a great deal of excitement by Cardiff supporters.

Frustratingly though, the fact that parent club Leicester City chose to terminate the Croatian’s spell in the Welsh Capital is rather indicative of how the deal turned out.

In all honesty, it is hard not to feel a degree of sympathy towards Benkovic. To the bewilderment of many, the young defender only graced the field once during his time at the club- making his sole appearance as a substitute against Wycombe Wanderers.

Despite Cardiff’s consistent struggles to keep the ball out of the net, the twenty three year old was never given a fair crack of the whip and it is more than justifiable why the continued decision to leave Benkovic out fuelled so much uproar and discontent amongst the Cardiff City faithful.

Benkovic has since been loaned out Belgian outfit OH Leuven, with a future at the King Power Stadium becoming increasingly unlikely.

Joe Day

Subjected to his second loan stint away from the club in January, it appears that Joe Day’s rather peripheral Cardiff City career is drawing to a natural conclusion.

Very often City’s third-in command between the sticks, the Brighton native has only a solitary Championship appearance to his name since making the short move from Newport County in 2019.

In fact, Day was tipped to serve as a deputy for Neil Etheridge, with the future of Alex Smithies seemingly in doubt at the time of his arrival. However, much to the detriment of the former Wimbledon man, Smithies ultimately remained at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Consequently, there could be little dispute over the decision to send the 30 year old Severnside with Paul Tisdale’s Bristol Rovers until the end of the campaign. 

With a two-year contract set to reach its expiration date in the Summer, picturing Day in City colours again seems an improbable vision.

Gavin Whyte

With prior experience in the third tier of English Football, the loan deal of Gavin Whyte is undoubtedly a major coup for Hull City.

A seven goal haul in the 18/19 campaign enticed newly-relegated Cardiff City to cough up an estimated 2m fee for Whyte’s much-sought after services, fighting off interest from fellow Championship rivals Nottingham Forest.

After a bright start to life in Wales, the former Oxford winger’s ascent nosedived, failing to catch the eye of then-coach Neil Harris following the departure of christened club legend Neil Warnock- who it has to be said, was a keen admirer of the talents displayed by the Northern Ireland International.

Unsurprisingly, Whyte’s return of only one goal and one assist has provoked critique in regards to his end product. However, an element of the 25-year old’s game that rarely emerges as a token of debate came is his work ethic.

A real duracell bunny of a footballer, Whyte thrives in the cardiovascular side of the sport and can almost always be spotted pressing opponents, hacking at the heels and racking up the hard yards in various areas of the pitch.

Owing to his slim, diminutive build, the fleet-footed wide man also displays fantastic agility. Combining this with an abundance of speed on and off the ball makes Whyte a tricky customer in full throttle.

Adventuring into his prime years, I for one would contest that Gavin Whyte still has a career at Cardiff. However, I believe that how the Belfast-born attacker fares for the League One high-flyers will prove decisive to that.

Greg Cunningham

Quite simply, it has not worked out as desired for Greg Cunningham since making the move down south from Preston North End in the Summer of 2018.

After two and a half years away from Deepdale, the Irishman has now returned to Preston, joining the Lilywhites on a loan deal that runs until the end of the season.

For me, this is a move that benefits all parties.

Owing to damned luck with injuries and the blossoming of young left-back Joel Bagan, the 30 year old slipped down the pecking order in South Wales, registering five appearances all campaign for the Bluebirds.

Without a doubt, Cunningham is a very competent operator at this level- as exhibited over a number of years with the likes of Leicester, Nottingham Forest, and Preston. But to Cunningham’s misfortune, the same could be said for promising young Bagan and City dependable Joe Bennett.

All things considered, the prospect of Cunningham receiving a fresh contract in the Welsh Capital is an unlikely one. And with his current deal expiring in the Summer, you can virtually conclude the end of the versatile left back’s time at Cardiff City.

You can certainly feel a universal degree of frustration that Cunningham’s Cardiff career failed to materliaze.

Robert Glatzel

Moments of class from gangly German forward Robert Glatzel have ignited optimism that the 27 year old could come good for Mick McCarthy’s side. That belief is still harboured amongst Cardiff City supporters, although consistency has often eluded the striker.

Glatzel, who arrived from Heidenheim for a fee of 5m following the Bluebirds’ relegation, completed a deadline day move back to his homeland, joining Bundesliga outfit Mainz 05 until the end of the season- a move which emulated widespread vexation throughout South Wales.

In spite of beholding a mighty 6’4 frame, doubts regarding Glatzel’s physicality and suitability to the rough-and-tumble nature of Championship football arose almost immediately. And whilst players like Kieffer Moore and previously Callum Paterson have endeared themselves into the ‘Cardiff City way’- that is, the way of lumping it long, enjoying 30% possession and hoping you win your duels- Glatzel is not accustomed, nor cut out for that style of play.

To succeed as a forward in the English second tier, you need to be streetwise- perhaps even a bit sly. Subtle shoves and tussles are so commonly weaponized to gain advantage over your opponents but this is not a compartment of Glatzel’s footballing locker.

Although the German is a physical outcast amongst his Championship colleagues, the demoralising decision to sanction a temporary exit for the attacker with no replacement could be one the Bluebirds may live to regret.

Already, there is a significant reliance on Kieffer Moore for the team’s source of goals. In the event that the Welsh International sustains another injury, there is a lack of dependability on the other striking candidates at the club.

Max Watters is still very much untested at this level. Mark Harris, who has made his first team breakthrough this campaign, is commonly regarded to be more-effectively deployed as a second striker. And Isaac Vassell has played twice for the club since joining in 2019.

Collectively, the trio have three Championship goals between them.

As a result, it seems almost imperative that the free agent market is explored by the Cardiff City hierachy.

Who would you have looked to sign, or move on if you were at the helm last month?