Cardiff vs West Ham, Saturday 15:00
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer guided Cardiff to a 2-1 victory in his first game at the helm at Cardiff, with goals from Craig Noone and Frazier Campbell ensuring that the Bluebirds progressed to the fourth round.
Solksjaer would have been delighted with the spirited performance of the Cardiff team, particularly after the disappointment of coming so close to holding Arsenal in their last Premier League game. Kevin McNaughton made his first appearance of the season against the Gunners and he certainly showed his commitment to the cause as he attempted 7 tackles, the third most in the league.
As we pass the halfway mark in the season, it is clear to see who Malky Mackay built his side around. Peter Whittingham and Steven Caulker are the only players in the Cardiff squad to have featured in every minute for the Bluebirds this term, and it will be interesting to see whether the new boss has the same unwavering faith in the duo.
One real bright spark for Cardiff in an indifferent first half of the campaign has been central midfielder Jordan Mutch, with the young Englishman showcasing his excellent offensive ability. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights this, as not only has the midfielder completed a pass in the opposition half at an impressive rate of a pass every 5.3 minutes, but he has also made 7 goalscoring contributions (based on goals and assists).
Craig Bellamy may not have featured as much as he’d have liked this term due to injury problems, but he has shown his timeless class in the opportunities that he has been given. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he has hit the target with 60% of his shots this term, a more impressive percentage than any of his teammates.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham continued their indifferent form in their last Premier League game as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away to Fulham. January looks to be an important month for big Sam as he looks for signings to steer the club away from the drop zone.
Allardyce will be hoping that the acquisition of Roger Johnson helps solve West Ham’s centre-back crisis as injury problems meant that he fielded two unnatural centre halves against the Cottagers. Joey O’Brien was one of the men asked to step in, and he showed his natural defensive awareness as he made a total of 9 clearances – the most in the West Ham squad.
Matthew Taylor has always been a firm favourite of Sam Allardyce having played under the manager at Bolton and now at West Ham, with his ability to operate at left back or left midfield a real asset for any team. He was deployed on the left wing against Fulham and demonstrated his excellent offensive ability by making a total of 21 attacking contributions (based on passes in the opposition half, shots on target, dribbles and crosses).
By examining the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, it isn’t difficult to see why the absence of centre halves has hit the Hammers so hard as their excellent tackling ability has been on show all term. The preferred centre backs, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and James Collins, all have a tackle success rate of over 75%.
Sam Allardyce described Kevin Nolan as ‘irresponsible’ following his red card against Fulham, and mentioned that his actions not only affected the team in the game, but also in the subsequent fixturess in which he will be forced to serve a suspension. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights precisely how integral Nolan is to the Hammers team, as so far this season he has made a total of 8 goalscoring contributions – the most in the West Ham squad. His absence will certainly be felt against Cardiff this weekend.