Mick McCarthy issues Cardiff City squad assessment as opening day edges closer
Cardiff City manager Mick McCarthy speaks to the press following his side's 1-1 draw to Rotherham United / Photo by Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

Cardiff City acted quickly to complete their summer shopping spree and utilised the market of free agents and loan signings following the extensive ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which many Championship outfits are still left in financial disarray from.

Adaptable recruitment saw them swoop for experienced forward James Collins, beating off the interest of a number of second-tier rivals to allure the former Luton Town man to South Wales.

Then, they sought to develop a well-documented operation of decreasing the squad's average age by bringing in young defender Mark McGuinness from Arsenal, who had impressed on loan at Ipswich Town the season prior.

Acquiring McGuinness seemingly came in tandem with yet another representation of shrewd business, as Ryan Wintle arrived at the club after leaving Crewe Alexandra on a free. 

The one signing which really appears to have incited excitement and zest among the City faithful, though, is that of Ryan Giles.

Having caught the eye in loan stints with Coventry City and Rotherham United last term, the jet-heeled utility player made the season-long switch from Wolverhampton Wanderers and has already captivated in pre-season, with his crossing prowess and dynamism surfacing as real causes for delight. 

And while there has been an air of optimism surrounding the individuals that Cardiff have recruited, there is a harboured belief that more needs to be done if the club are to staple a realistic promotion push next campaign.

Supporters have been unified in their outcry for an additional enforcement of creativity in the squad. Gifted playmaker Harry Wilson engulfed the fanbase through iFollow streams with his ingenuity and ability to transform the motion of a game, although the expiration of his loan deal has left a gaping hole of inventiveness. 

It is imperative to note that Cardiff have Lee Tomlin striving to return to full fitness after a year marred by physical difficulties, although it is yet to be seen if the maverick can maintain a clean bill of health.

Meanwhile, a new winger has also been pencilled on the collective list of demands. Wilson and Sheyi Ojo both shone on loan before heading back up to Liverpool, whereas Junior Hoilett left following the expiration of his contract.

Currently, Josh Murphy is Cardiff's sole natural candidate in that role after Gavin Whyte departed on loan to Oxford United. Ex-Bristol City winger Marley Watkins has been training with the club and has even appeared in friendlies against Bath City and Southampton, though McCarthy has given no suggestion that he will be tied down to a contract.

Giles has been utilised there in pre-season, where his endeavour and willingness to jet upfield has been showcased to optimum. 

However, last term, a secondary striker running the channels and getting in behind was commonly utilised by McCarthy, with Murphy being the only player capable of really fulfilling that responsibility, too.

McCarthy's verdict

In spite of the ever-increasing demand for further additions , McCarthy remains positive in his squad and believes they have not only the ability, but also the depth required to brave the tide of what promises to be a long, hard Championship season. 

"I've got no complaints with what I've got," McCarthy explained to WalesOnline

"We've got two good goalkeepers. I think we've got five good centre backs. Certainly, when they are fit and firing, our wing backs are excellent, but they are all recovering from something or other.

"Sangy (Tom Sang) with a toe operation, Perry (Perry Ng) with Covid, Joel Bagan with a dislocated shoulder just coming back, although I can use Ryan Giles as cover for that position or Ciaron Brown. If we are to be a bit more attack-minded then Ryan Giles would certainly be there.

"Then midfield, we are covered in there. Sam Bowen has added to that.” 

McCarthy also remains wholly positive about the supplementation of firepower in the final third and feels that last season's stars along with young prodigies and new recruits will all make an impact.

"If you think we've got Kieffer Moore, James Collins, Rubin Colwill, Josh Murphy, Ryan Giles, we are alright up the top as well.

"In terms of the squad we've got, I'm pleased with it. I'm happy. But I need all of them fit."

Even though the upcoming campaign is yet to open its curtains, Cardiff have already been swarmed by varying issues restricting key players from registering minutes under their belts.

Moore, Colwill, Ng and the positionally flexible Leandro Bacuna have all contracted COVID-19 at different stages during the summer, which has consequently prohibited them from constructing much-needed momentum and fitness ahead of the season. 

The woes and worries do not end there, either, with one of last season's breakthrough starlets Tom Sang still in the recovery process following a toe injury in an away match at Brentford.

You then have the Isaac Vassell conundrum. The forward, who has seen his City career harnessed by a string of serious injury setbacks to date, had looked to be on the road to recovery by impressing in pre-season, but a knee injury sustained in training has decelerated that process. 

Vassell, when fit, can be a useful proposition at this level and his explosiveness threatens to insert a new dynamic in Cardiff's frontline, and McCarthy will be hoping he is back firing before long.

It is a fair assessment to say that Cardiff are still threadbare in certain areas of the pitch, although to their credit, numerous positions of need have been addressed in a market that has proved to be extremely challenging.

Encouragingly, Cardiff's new signings have started brightly from the offset, giving supporters an inkling as to what they may be in for this season.

Collins has already hit the mark running with an outlay of four goals, while Giles has looked equally impressive through his speed and technical quality.

And though McCarthy is no doubt pleased with the way in which Collins and Giles have embedded so quickly, one player has particularly stood out.

"I thought Mark McGuinness was the pick of the bunch (against Southampton)," McCarthy added.

"I've no doubts he's going to be a good player for us."

Many would find it difficult to contest McCarthy's sentiment on the 20-year-old. 

During pre-season, he has displayed real composure and comfortability in possession - a clear result of his days at the Hale End Academy - and has also been able to complement it with a distinctive reading of the game, anticipating danger well before others have latched on.

With Morrison now at the age of 30 and Aden Flint two years his senior, McGuinness' progression is definitely worth monitoring over the coming years as Cardiff prepare for a new evolution in the way of central defenders. 

He may just turn out to be a coup, this one.