Change the system or change the personnel? Steve Cotterill faced the ultimate strategical dilemma going into the October international break with Bristol City bottom of the league with just seven points from ten matches. Something had to change. However, with little room for manoeuvre in the transfer market, Cotterill opted to persevere with 3-5-2.
Instead of asking new questions of his next opponents, Cotterill shuffled his pack - most notably in the wing back positions - and asked some searching questions of his own players. The Robins have since rallied well, putting together arguably their two best performances of the season back to back, the televised win over Nottingham Forest followed by an unfortunate defeat at leaders Brighton.
My 24-match ratings make Cardiff decent value at 6/4 here, ruling the Bluebirds to be superior by an extra 0.27 goals compared to the market. By that rationale, the home win should probably be no bigger than 11/10. But, instinctively, it’s not a bet that generates great excitement in contrast to a better proposition in the goalscorer markets.
Derrick Williams has been much more involved in the opposition half since switching to the left-sided wing-back role for the visitors in the 2-2 draw at Ipswich. It’s a demanding job that had been getting the better of Joe Bryan prior to that but the Irishman has thrived since switching from his usual position as one of the mobile centre backs on the outside of Aden Flint.
After setting up Aaron Wilbraham for his second goal in the early destruction of Forest, Williams himself opened the scoring with a well-struck volley at the end of a counter attack at Brighton. Therefore, it’s a surprise to see him chalked up at 40/1 to repeat the feat in the Welsh capital, with odds of 16/1 also available on the anytime market.
One way or another, the wing backs will invariably be pivotal whenever 3-5-2 comes up against 4-4-2 and the 22-year-old Irishman was anything but defensive in his mindset against the Seagulls and displayed bags of energy to get up down the pitch, his goal coming at the end of a lung-bursting 40-yard run.
Moreover, that early strike at the Amex evidently gave him an appetite for more. The former Aston Villa man then tried his luck from distance on two further occasions, the first of which was arrowing towards the bottom corner when David Stockdale intervened with a full-stretch fingertip save.
Put simply, the bookies are still pricing Williams up as a centre back and haven’t cottoned on to his greater licence in open play. To put his odds into context, Norwich loanee Elliott Bennett is expected to operate on the opposite flank for the visitors and he’s only 16/1 to score first and 6/1 to score anytime.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.