Efe Ambrose would be a good signing for Cardiff City in January
According to Plymouth Live, Cardiff City are interested in signing Nigerian international centre-back Efe Ambrose after the 30-year-old terminated his contract with Scottish Premiership side Hibernian.
Neil Warnock’s side are desperate to bring in some reinforcements in January to boost their chances of survival in the Premier League. Cardiff are currently placed 17th in the standings with 18 points from 21 games, just a couple of points clear of Southampton in the relegation zone.
The Wales-based club has the second worst defensive record in the Premier League this season, having conceded 41 goals already with a goal difference of -22. The Bluebirds cannot afford to ship goals at such an alarming rate in the second half of the season and they should aim to improve on their goal difference, something which can be turn out to be a deciding factor in their bid for survival.
Sol Bamba has been the standout figure at the back for Cardiff City this season and the veteran has also chipped in with a couple of valuable strikes. However, Sean Morrison and Bruno Manga haven’t been too consistent, letting the team down with occasional lapses in concentration.
To put things into perspective, Cardiff should not hesitate to add another experienced defender to their squad to achieve a better defensive record in the second half of the season. And that is exactly where someone like Efe Ambrose fits the bill.
Ambrose is best remembered for his heroics in Celtic’s 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League in 2012. He played for Bayelsa United and Kaduna United in his native land before joining Celtic in 2012 following a brief spell in Israel. Ambrose established himself as a seasoned campaigner at Celtic Park and played there for five seasons before joining Hibernian on loan in 2017.
The 30-year-old, who has 51 international caps for Nigeria, won the silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and was an integral part of the Super Eagles team that tasted glory at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He was also a part of Nigeria’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Standing at 6ft. 3 inches with a towering frame, Ambrose is known for his versatility to play as a centre-back, right-back and also as a central midfielder due to his good range of passing and composure in possession.
He is a strong and powerful defender blessed with good aerial ability, who contributes a lot to the team with his work ethics. Furthermore, he is a hugely experienced customer with good leadership qualities and his presence at the back can be an invaluable asset to a team like Cardiff.
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Cardiff still have a good chance of surviving in the Premier League if they can string together a consistent run in the second half of the season. And the acquisition of Ambrose will only to a world of good to their chances of staying up in the top flight.
5 of the biggest upsets in the 2018/19 season of the Premier League
2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets
There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.
As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.
In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.
The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.
We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.
When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.
The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.
Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.
1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day
Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.
Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.
Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.
It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.
However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you?
Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.
Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.
The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.
2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December
Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.
Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.
Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.
The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.
Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.
De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.
3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December
Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.
Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.
Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.
Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.
However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.
Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter.
4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January
Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.
With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.
And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.
Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.
However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.
City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.
Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.
5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May
Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.
Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.
United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.
Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.
Cardiff City beating Derby County to sign this 25-year-old Welsh dynamo would be a massive statement of intent
Cardiff City Opinion: Bluebirds should go all out in their pursuit of Will Vaulks this summer
According to Wales Online, Cardiff City are interested in signing Welsh international midfielder Will Vaulks from recently-relegated club Rotherham United, with reports claiming that playoff finalists Derby County are also in the race to sign the 25-year-old.
Wales Online understands that the Bluebirds have monitored the central midfielder for quite some time now and the 25-year-old is believed to be one of Neil Warnock’s top targets for the summer.
There were speculations earlier in the week that Cardiff were set to announce the signing of Vaulks by Tuesday but sources close to the club have revealed that no such agreement has been reached just yet. (h/t Wales online)
Vaulks was one of the few shining lights of Rotherham’s otherwise disappointing campaign in the Championship this past season, as the Millers finished third-last and suffered relegation back to League One after just a single season in the second-tier.
The 25-year-old earned rave reviews for his consistently impressive performances this past season and it is no surprise to see that the likes of Cardiff City and Derby County are prepared to offer him an escape route to stay in the Championship.
Vaulks accumulated an impressive 7 goals and 7 assists in 41 Championship outings for Rotherham United last term, with his scintillating run of form catching the eye of Wales boss Ryan Giggs, who handed the 25-year-old his first senior international cap back in March.
A youth product of Tranmere Rovers, Vaulks rose to prominence north of the border at Falkirk in the Scottish Championship. The Welshman registered 142 appearances for Falkirk in all competitions over the course of four seasons before moving back to England to join Rotherham in the Championship back in 2016.
His first season at New York Stadium ended in relegation to League One but Vaulks was one of the architects of his club’s promotion-winning campaign in the third-tier in the following campaign. The Millers might have suffered the drop once again but the 25-year-old looks likely to play in the Championship next season.
Essentially a central midfielder by trade, Will Vaulks has the versatility to switch between defensive and box-to-box roles in the middle of the park. A strong, tenacious and hard-working midfielder noted for his drive, determination and tough-tackling nature, the 25-year-old has the ability to shoulder both defensive and attacking responsibilities.
Adept at breaking up the play and winning possession back for his team with crucial interventions, the Welshman’s awareness to make late attacking runs into the box coupled with his eye for key passes and set-piece ability make him a good all-around player in the middle.
Vaulks averaged 4 aerial duels, 2.2 tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 2.3 clearances, 4.3 successful long balls and 1.5 key passes per game in the Championship this past season.
To put things into perspective, Cardiff City have every reason to make Will Vaulks a top priority this summer, given that the Bluebirds have lost quite a few of their key players in the middle of the park in recent times.
Long-standing Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson departed the club to join Qatari side Al-Arabi, while loanees Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter and back at their parent clubs Real Betis and Bournemouth respectively.
The departures of last season’s mainstays Gunnarsson, Arter and Camarasa have left Warnock short of cover in central midfield, although the manager still has the likes of Leandro Bacuna, Jazz Richards and Joe Ralls to call upon.
However, one can get the feeling that bringing in Will Vaulks, who was quite brilliant playing for a bottom-table outfit in the Championship last season, could possibly add another dimension to Cardiff’s midfield.
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Indeed, the arrival of Vaulks would provide Warnock with much-needed cover and competition in a key area of the pitch, and given that the 25-year-old isn’t likely to cost the Bluebirds a fortune, they should complete this deal at the earliest before the other teams begin to firm up their interest.
Cardiff City signing this 26-year-old centre-back for free would be a shrewd move to add some much-needed solidity
Cardiff City Opinion: Curtis Nelson could add a little bit more depth to the Bluebirds’ backline
According to Wales Online, Cardiff City are closing in on a deal for Oxford United centre-back Curtis Nelson, with reports claiming that Sunderland are also keen on securing the services of the 26-year-old central defender.
Nelson, who is out of contract at the Kassam Stadium this summer, has refused to sign a new deal with his current club and Oxford manager Karl Robinson has admitted that the 26-year-old is about to depart Home Park on a free transfer (h/t Wales Online).
Jack Ross’ Sunderland are also in the market for Nelson but it is understood that the 26-year-old is keen to test his credentials in the Championship next term after spending three seasons in League One. (h/t Wales Online)
The Black Cats missed out on promotion to the second tier following their defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic in the playoff finals, and Cardiff City, who recently got relegated from the Premier League, is believed to be the front runners in the race to sign the centre-back.
Nelson made a total of 55 appearances and scored 4 goals for Oxford United in all competitions this past season, as Karl Robinson’s side finished mid-table in the third-tier.
A youth product of Stoke City, Nelson plied his trade with Plymouth Argyle for six seasons in League One and League Two before making a move to Home Park back in 2016.
The 26-year-old has been one of the mainstays of Oxford’s backline in League One over the course of the past three campaigns, scoring 8 goals and registering a total of 121 appearances in all competitions. Nelson has shown strong signs of promise in the third-tier for a mid-table outfit, and at 26, the time might just be right for him to take the next big step in his career.
To put things into perspective, Cardiff City are set for a long and hard slog in the Championship next term and the Bluebirds are likely to bring in a few fresh faces this summer, whilst anticipating the departure of some high-profile players following their relegation from the top-tier.
To be honest, Cardiff didn’t spend too much in the Premier League last season. Neil Warnock already has quite a lot of Championship experience in all areas of his squad, but bringing in some standout performers from League One could prove to be a gamble worth taking for the club.
Curtis Nelson hasn’t played in the Championship before his exploits for Oxford should prompt the Bluebirds to make a move for him.
Bruno Manga is out of contract towards the end of the month and it is still unclear whether he will be at the Cardiff City Stadium next season, whilst Sol Bamba is already 34.
Sean Morrison and Matthew Connolly are both experienced centre-backs at the Championship level but someone like Nelson could add a little bit more depth in a key area of the pitch for Warnock.
Long-standing midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and Real Betis loanee Victor Camarasa have already departed the club, and while Nelson’s links hardly has anything to do with those departures, it is a no-brainer that Cardiff do need to bring in some reinforcements.
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Cardiff will be looking to secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking and the acquisition of Curtis Nelson as a free transfer could just be the perfect start to the summer for the Bluebirds.
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