Medel of honour
Goalscorer Steven Caulker will take the headlines but Gary Medel's role in Cardiff's south Wales derby victory over Swansea was just as important. Here, we analyse an almost faultless performance
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: 04/11/13 4:12pm
Gary Medel: Crucial in breaking up Swansea's attacks through the likes of Michu
Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay said of Gary Medel at the beginning of September: "He is one of the best signings this club will ever make. I do not think that is over dramatic." Having paid £11million to bring a Chilean with a hothead reputation for red cards to the Premier League in August, it would have been easy to suggest Mackay was merely attempting to justify the signing. But, now, no-one should doubt the judgement amid the turbulent few weeks with owner Vincent Tan.
Having already impressed against Everton, West Ham United and Manchester City among others in his debut season in England, there is little question about former Sevilla man Medel's ability. But in Sunday's victory over Swansea, in which Steven Caulker scored to settle the first south Wales derby in England's top flight while visiting goalkeeper Michel Vorm was shown an injury-time red card, Medel further underlined his status as a midfield master with a superb performance.
From tenacious tackling, glorious passing and positional awareness, Medel was close to faultless and was a main reason why Cardiff collected a vital three points to move them up to 12th position and four points clear of the relegation zone. After picking up a slight injury, which will be a concern ahead of visiting Aston Villa on 9th November, Medel left the field in the 88th minute to a standing ovation.
Cardiff City v Swansea City starting line-ups
Cardiff showed two personnel changes and one positional alteration from their draw at Norwich City as Craig Bellamy and Don Cowie came into the side, with Peter Odemwingie up front in place of Fraizer Campbell in a team captained by former Swansea player Caulker.
With Michu up top and record signing Wilfried Bony on the bench, Swansea boss Michael Laudrup brought Jonjo Shelvey into his midfield alongside Leon Britton and Jonathan de Guzman. Pablo Hernandez's absence meant Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge started on the flanks.
Story of the game
Caulker's 62nd minute match-winning goal was the first Swansea have conceded all season from a corner and the header owed greatly to Bellamy's pin-point delivery. As has been the case all season, Cardiff had carried a threat from set-pieces and the goal settled what had otherwise been a cagey encounter. From Cardiff's nine goals this season, four of them have come from set-pieces and specifically corners.
Steven Caulker: Scored the winning goal for Cardiff against former club Swansea
Bellamy and Caulker reaction
Swansea, though, had started the game as the better team and were being allowed to play their trademark passing game, producing 315 passes to Cardiff's 229 in the first half. But the game had balanced out after the opening 20 minutes and the influential figure was Medel.
In his 88 minutes on the pitch, the Chile international made two tackles, three clearances, one interception and only lost possession five times. Combine this with the fact he gained possession 10 times, a higher number than any other player on the field, and he was integral in winning the central midfield battle.
Medel's passing (yellow), tackles (red) and duels (blue) were all superb
Despite coming off slightly early, Medel touched the ball 97 times, which was another highest total for the game, while he did not lose a single duel of his six with a Swansea opponent. He was the only player who started the game to have a 100 per cent record in that area.
However, it was in his passing in which Medel excelled. He attempted 85 passes at an incredible success rate of 96.5%. Both of those statistics were again highs for the match. Not only that but 30 of Medel's passes were in Swansea's half at a success rate of 93.3%. Medel also played 17 passes to Peter Whittingham in a positive midfield partnership.
Medel played 17 passes to Peter Whittingham in their positive midfield partnership
Medel's passing demonstrates the self-assurance which Mackay had previously pointed to, having also said in September: "There is a confidence about him - an aura which underlines he deserves to be playing Premier League football. He is a natural leader and, as his English gets better, he will develop even more. He settled immediately and gained immediate respect from all players."
The Opta statistics say Medel contributed nothing from an attacking perspective but it was his arcing, long pass to Kevin Theophile-Catherine which led to the corner from which Cardiff scored. Comparing Medel's general overall statistics to the opposing central midfielders of Swansea, Shelvey and Britton, epitomises where the game was won and lost. Medel came out on top in every area, apart from aerial duels.
|Cardiff v Swansea||Medel||Shelvey||Britton|
|Passing Accuracy opp. Half (%)||93.30%||74.30%||83.30%|
|Aerial duels won||1||2||0|
|Aerial duels lost||0||1||0|
Sky Sports expert Alan Smith summed up Medel's performance succinctly when he said: "He has done well, not just with his break-play but with his passing forwards, as well. We have not seen the character, steaming about and picking up yellow and red cards, who was advertised when he arrived in this country."
It was Medel's match in a nutshell and, as he hobbled off shortly before the final whistle, Cardiff's fans acknowledged their new hero this season. Medel's work was done and it meant Cardiff could take the points without too many scares, especially once Vorm had been sent off for clattering Campbell.
"It is a good day all round. It was a hugely important day, in terms of locally to south Wales but also as far as we were concerned in terms of the background noise of the last three or four weeks. That win certainly helps to put a lot of smiles on people's faces and you see the atmosphere, I have never known anything like it and to come away with, not only the win but also the performance as we were playing a really good team here today."
"It was a very tight game, we knew it was going to be that, and they scored from a set-piece. We know they score goals from set-pieces, and from one corner they scored a goal, which was more or less what they had in terms of chances in the whole game. That is how football is and we have to accept it, even if it hurts. Of course, it hurts to lose a derby, but that is how it is."
"It was a sending off [for Vorm] and we talked about the changes Cardiff could make at half-time. I think Campbell would have got on the end of it and he would have put it in. Out of the nine goals Cardiff have scored this season, seven have come in the second half so they look like a team who, after half-time, come out well. We saw, before the goal, they totally dominated Swansea in possession, which is something you do not expect from them."
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|12||West Ham United||29||31|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||29||28|
Cardiff v Swansea
Jonjo Shelvey has been "reminded of his responsibilities" after gesturing to the crowd during the South Wales derby.
Swansea striker Michu is set to miss the next two games after twisting his ankle in Sunday's derby defeat to Cardiff.
Swansea skipper Ashley Williams was very disappointed with his side's performance in the 1-0 defeat at Cardiff.
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