An in-depth analysis of Cardiff City’s £2.1m acquisition of Will Vaulks and what he would bring to the fore

A closer look at Cardiff City’s new signing Will Vaulks 

According to BBC Sports, Cardiff City have completed the signing of Welsh international midfielder Will Vaulks on a three-year deal from newly-relegated outfit Rotherham United for a fee believed to be worth an initial
£2.1 million.

Vaulks is not the Bluebirds’ only summer signing so far, though, with the same report claiming that Neil Warnock’s side have also secured the services of goalkeeper Joe Day from Newport County and centre-back Curtis Nelson from Oxford United.

Cardiff were in the market for a new midfielder following their relegation from the Premier League, with Vaulks believed to be at the top of Warnock’s priority list for the summer transfer window, although the 25-year-old also had offers on the table from other Championship clubs. In the end, it was the Bluebirds who managed to have the final say in the race to sign the Welshman. (h/t BBC)

Vaulks was one of the few shining lights of Rotherham United’s otherwise disappointing campaign in the Championship last season which ultimately ended in relegation to League One.

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The 25-year-old held his own and caught the eye with his consistently impressive performances in central midfield over the course of this past campaign, as Paul Warne’s side failed to beat the drop to the third-tier for the second time in a space of three years.

Meanwhile, Cardiff City’s honeymoon in the Premier League didn’t last long either, as the Bluebirds suffered relegation back to the Championship after just a single season in the top-tier.

Now that they are back in the Championship for a long and hard slog next term, it is not difficult to understand why Neil Warnock is looking to focus more on the recruitment of domestic and homegrown players from the lower echelons of English football.

The likes of Joe Day and Curtis Nelson have outgrown their humble surroundings in League Two and League One respectively, while Will Vaulks definitely deserves to be offered an escape route in the Championship following the Millers relegation to the third-tier. 

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Cardiff will be expected to challenge for promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking and the arrival of someone like Vaulks, who was one of the best in his position in the Championship the last term, should enhance their chances of securing an immediate return to the top-flight.

The 25-year-old’s character and resilience, as well as his big-game temperament and work-ethics, earned him plenty of plaudits from fans and pundits alike and he might as well go on to play a key role for the Bluebirds next season.

Let us take a closer look at Cardiff City’s latest signing Will Vaulks- his background, style of play and what he could possibly add to the Bluebirds’ ranks. 

Background

Born in Wirral, England, Will Vaulks started playing at the youth ranks of Tranmere Rovers, although he never made a senior competitive appearance for his boyhood club. He joined Scottish Championship club Falkirk in February 2013 following a loan spell at Workington in the Conference North. 

Vaulks made only 6 appearances for Falkirk in the 2012-13 season but he went on to establish himself as one of the mainstays of the club’s midfield in the subsequent campaigns, featuring in the 2015 Scottish Cup Final against Inverness, as well as in two Scottish Championship playoff finals. 

The 25-year-old accumulated a total of 14 goals and 15 assists in 142 appearances for Falkirk in all competitions over the course of three-and-a-half years at the club before moving south of the border to join Rotherham United in the Championship in the summer of 2016. 

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The Welshman only managed to score once in his first season in the Championship, as the Millers got relegated to League One at the end of the 2016-17 campaign. However, he contributed with 5 goals and 5 assists in 44 appearances in the third-tier in the following season to help Rotherham secure promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Vaulks enjoyed his most fruitful season in English football the last term, as the 25-year-old went on to accumulate 7 goals and 7 assists in 41 league outings for the Millers.

His impressive performances in the Championship prompted Wales boss Ryan Giggs to hand him his first ever international call-up for the games against Slovakia and Trinidad and Tobago in March 2019.

Vaulks is now a full-fledged Wales international and recently featured in his nation’s 2-0 defeat to Croatia in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Style of Play

Essentially a central midfielder by trade, Vaulks is capable of playing in holding, defensive and box-to-box roles in the middle of the park, as evident from the way Millers manager Paul Warne used him in multiple positions in the midfield and also as a centre-back last season.

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Vaulks might not have the dazzling dribbling skills or the impeccable technical attributes as some of his counterparts but he makes up for it with his strength, tenacity, tough-tackling nature and tireless running up and down the pitch.

Strong on the tackle and blessed with the supreme aerial ability for a player in his position, the 25-year-old is not only adept at breaking up the play with crucial interventions but he is also very much capable of contributing to the attack with powerful driving runs forward.

The Welshman’s pass success rate of 64.3 in the Championship last season doesn’t do justice to his range of passing, given that Rotherham, as a unit, struggled over large quarters of the campaign. However, he did manage to rack up impressive figures in terms of breaking up the play, registering 2.2 tackles, 1.7 interceptions and 2.3 clearances per game. 

Vaulks averaged 4.3 successful long passes, 1.5 key passes and 4 aerial duels per game, numbers which speak volumes of his well-rounded attributes. Not only that, but the 25-year-old also impressed with his exploits in dead-ball situations and carved out a reputation for himself as a potent distance shooter from outside the box. 

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What would he bring into Cardiff City’s ranks?

The Bluebirds lost the services of their long-standing central midfielder Aron Gunnarson, who departed for Qatari club Al-Arabi this summer upon the expiry of his contract.

That, coupled with the departure of loanees Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa to their parent clubs Bournemouth and Real Betis left Neil Warnock short of depth and quality in central midfield, meaning that the Bluebirds are probably looking at Will Vaulks as someone who could offer a ball-winning and box-to-box presence in the middle of the park.

Vaulks might not be as creative or technically-gifted as someone like Camarasa but his contribution in terms of goals and assists in the Championship last season, coupled with his ability to win the ball back for his team and switch the play with accurate long passes, suggest that the 25-year-old might go on to establish himself as a mainstay in Cardiff’s midfield next season.

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The Bluebirds have the likes of Leandro Bacuna, Loic Damour and Joe Ralls as viable options in the middle, and while the gigantic Callum Paterson is also capable of filling in, someone like Vaulks is likely to add a lot more depth and quality in a key area of the pitch for Warnock.

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He is a player who would probably suit the manager’s style and it would be fair to say that Cardiff have landed themselves a massive bargain ahead of the upcoming season.