What did we learn from Cardiff City's opening day draw with Barnsley?
Cardiff City's Kieffer Moore celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Barnsley  / (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Naturally, the pre-match build-up was immersing. It was the culmination of a testing, emotional 16 months which had sought to isolate supporters from their haven. 

As fans entered the turnstiles of the Cardiff City Stadium for the first time in what felt like an eternity, the feeling was euphoric. Old times had been rekindled, the atmosphere incited goosebumps and excitement was through the stratosphere. 

However, what actually unfolded on the pitch was far from replicative of the optimism and captivation that had dominated the air prior to kick-off. 

By all accounts, it was a clash of similarities as comparative styles for both outfits yielded similar results. Neither side could impose themselves into the ascendancy, and while solidity and structure was demanded from each dugout, the attacking rhythm was more anonymous.

It was only when Marlon Pack met Ryan Giles' exquisite corner delivery in the 54th minute, that the tempo began to mirror what had illuminated the city for the entirety of the afternoon. 

Barnsley transitioned into first gear and as such, they earned their rewards shortly after through Toby Sibbick, who raced upfield and exploited space to latch onto Josh Benson's delightful long ball.

Despite the hosts' best efforts to reclaim their position in the driving seat- which even saw them call upon substitute Kieffer Moore late on- they were found needing an injection of creativity, and that proved to be their eventual restriction as they claimed a point from their opening fixture.

The result proved divisive among the Cardiff fan base, with some supporters exhibiting discontent with their side's showing, while others were satisfied with obtaining a draw from a team that finished in the play-offs last season.

In the Championship, their next mission briefing lies towards a trip to  Blackpool next weekend, whereas new Barnsley boss Markus Schopp takes his troops back to Oakwell for battle against Coventry City.

Both sides will have gained an early learning curve from Saturday's showdown, and here is what Cardiff may have learned from their inaugural Championship fixture. 

Ryan Giles will be integral

It is not a rarity in football for a player to require a period of time to adapt to a new system, along with a new environment. That adjustment is easier said than done, however, Ryan Giles has embedded to Mick McCarthy's modus operandi seamlessly and has instantly endeared himself to the Cardiff faithful.

All through pre-season, Giles enthralled supporters with his electrifying displays up and down the left flank and he has continued in a similar vein in the second-tier, running Barnsley ragged with his speed and dynamism.

His blistering pace is tailor-made for a Cardiff side who often look to utilise quick transitional plays and hit opponents on the counter attack, providing the energy that they have been accused of lacking in the final third.

However, throughout the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee's weaponry, his real party piece comes in the form of his pinpoint crossing.

Being able to craft exquisite deliveries is, quite simply, the most vital quality that a Cardiff player can have. It is imperative to have first-rate crosses coming in from wide areas with the likes of Moore, Aden Flint and Sean Morrison in the side and Giles is widely expected to rack up a high volume of assists this term.

Over the course of the affair, he created a match-high six chances and saw his inventive, risk-taking approach rewarded with an assist to midfielder Pack, which briefly fired the Bluebirds into the lead.

Giles' tactical flexibility will also transpire to be key for Cardiff heading into a demanding 46-game slog. McCarthy does seem to fancy the speedster on the left-hand-side of a dynamic front three, however, he can also operate as a wing back and even in midfield, fulfilling both of those roles whilst on loan with Coventry and Rotherham United last term.

They do not currently have many players that can offer what Giles can in so many areas of the pitch, meaning that he will be a crucial cog in the team wherever he is deployed. 

Another cause for encouragement is that Giles is still only 21 and has plenty of education ahead of him. His game is not perfect, there are still certain areas that need to be ironed out, but the early showings are extremely promising and his progression is worth keeping a close eye on, as the Bluebirds target an ambitious assault on the promotion places this season.

He will only get better and is sure to play a big part in wherever Cardiff end up come May 7. 

Kieffer Moore makes all the difference- regardless of how long he is on for

Even though his minutes were rather minimal, Kieffer Moore's difference to how Cardiff play was still evident as he came on as an 86th minute substitute. 

Within an instant, Cardiff seemed more licensed to play their natural game, with Moore's hulking 6'5 frame and ability to dominate opponents aerially allowing them to do what they are best at.

His knack of drawing defenders in and creating space in tandem also helped Cardiff to apply the pressure in the closing stages, although the Tykes stood firm defensively to take a well-earned point back to South Yorkshire.

Nonetheless, Moore's brief showing incited further encouragement as to how he could fare this term, having found the back of the net 20 times last time out to propel his side within touching distance of the play-offs.

He once again showed that his all-round game consists of so much more than just being a goalscorer, and fuels an extra dimension into City's attack each time he steps out onto the pitch.

An aching absence of creativity

An issue that was illuminated by supporters during pre-season, Cardiff have a real dearth of creative options within their squad at the minute.

Welsh International Harry Wilson weaved his wand on proceedings while on loan with the club last season, eventually racking up an outlay of seven strikes and 11 assists, however, the void left by the now-Fulham flyer has yet to be truly filled.

Replacing an individual of Wilson's magnetising expertise was always going to be a tall order- perhaps one too monumental for a side that failed to make the top six last season- but the deprivation of a genuine inventive spark is still glaring, and it is paramount for Cardiff's ambitions this year that it is addressed swiftly, in one way or another.

A lot of this hinges on Lee Tomlin.

Tomlin transpired as a sheer revelation across the 2019/20 campaign, re-emerging from the periphery to notch eight goals and 10 assists, which unsurprisingly proved the catalyst for a play-off finish upon their first season back in the Championship.

However, varying injury and fitness issues terminated the maverick's involvement the following year as he only featured in five matches, scoring once and receiving his marching orders in an early-season fixture at Blackburn Rovers.

Without a doubt, though, Tomlin keeps company with the division's very finest creative midfielders on his day. He shoulders the talent and mercurial unpredictability to turn a match on its head in a split second, while being able offer a goalscoring presence from all different ranges. 

At his best, he is an invaluable component for Cardiff to have in their ranks, and having participated in pre-season, it is universally hoped that he can embrace a resurgence for the second time in his City career.

And that is because, without Tomlin, Cardiff really lack that guile in the final third. They have Giles, of course, and he will surely be stapled as one of their most integral performers, but he does not offer the same form of elegant creativity that the 32-year-old has at his disposal.

Rubin Colwill is also expected to have a big season after earning his stripes at the back end of last campaign and even forging his way into Robert Page's EURO 2020 squad, however, he still has plenty to learn at the age of 19 and it is to soon to solely rely upon him. 

Meanwhile, in midfield, they have struck a balance; Joe Ralls implements bite, energy and an all-action approach, Will Vaulks brings tenacity, Leandro Bacuna breathes vigour and robustness into the system, while Pack and Ryan Wintle are accomplished passers from deep areas.

Yet, it is missing one gaping constituent- a sprinkle of stardust.

How Cardiff act upon constructing creativeness into their side could well dictate the outcome of their season.

 

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