What Cardiff City’s best XI looks like now as Leeds United man comes straight in and returning duo start

Cardiff City will have three new players to pick from thanks to their work in the January transfer window.

Cody Drameh joined this week on loan from Leeds United, while Ryan Wintle and Max Watters were called back from their stints at Blackpool and MK Dons respectively.

The trio will add some much-needed vibrancy and new energy to this squad, which is enduring a tough old time of it.

There has been an improvement under Steve Morison, of course, but the league table doesn’t lie and City need all the help they can get.

The incoming trio likely alters what many supporters perceive to be the team’s best XI now.

They will provide a freshness and point of difference within the side and it is hoped they can help to kickstart a positive back end to the campaign.

So, who makes it into Cardiff’s best starting XI, on the proviso everyone is fit?

Well, Alex Smithies most certainly keeps his place between the sticks. While Dillon Phillips did little wrong, really, at the start of the campaign, Smithies has been solid with the gloves in recent months.

Cody Drameh comes straight in at right-back. Morison spoke of the player’s pace and ability to get up and down the line in that wing-back role and Cardiff need someone with a bit of adventure to add to their attack. It is hoped Drameh can provide just that.

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The back three is tricky, it’s fitting four into three. While many will point to this and suggest it should be a flat back four, that simply won’t be happening any time soon, so let’s work on the premise that this will be the formation.

Mark McGuinness has been the breakthrough player of the season and deserves his spot in there. And, for many people’s money, Aden Flint has been largely reliable and has barely put a foot wrong, even though some are quick to criticise any slight mistake he makes.

So, it is between Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson for the other spot. Nelson provides that pace and athleticism which is needed at the back, while Morrison brings that leadership and calm.

No one has played more minutes for Cardiff this season than Nelson, but he has blown hot and cold throughout the campaign.

Morrison started off the season poorly, most likely caused by carrying an injury over from the previous campaign. But he was flawless in the FA Cup win over Preston North End. He is a player you write off at your peril and he would get the nod for the lion’s share of supporters, no doubt.

At left-back, it’s a straight shootout between Perry Ng and Joel Bagan , given Ryan Giles has been recalled by Wolves.

Bagan put in a solid display against Preston last weekend, showcasing his defensive capabilities well. However, in attack there were just a few tweaks and improvements needed.

Fortunately, Cardiff are now in a position whereby they can ease Bagan in and out of the team, rather than throwing him into the deep end while he is still clearly learning his trade, as was the case at the start of the season.

Ng played there last season under Mick McCarthy and while there is an argument to say that right-footed left-backs are not ideal, it should be no trouble for him.

Joe Ralls has been Cardiff’s most consistent midfielder, so he is nailed on in there.

So, too, is Ryan Wintle . He was brought back for a reason; to play. The midfielder has had a stellar start to the campaign with the Seasiders and it’s hoped he can kick on now for Cardiff.

Bluebirds fans are intrigued to see what Wintle brings and why Blackpool fans rated him so highly. This is a big opportunity for him.

In those No.6 roles, Marlon Pack provides ample competition. He is having more influence in this slightly changed system and will have an important role in the back end of the season, too. Leandro Bacuna and Sam Bowen will also be in contention in the coming months.

Then there is the No.8 position, which will be fought out between Rubin Colwill and Tom Sang , one would think.

Both are technically sound, but it will be a case of rotation and horses for courses.

Home games, in which Cardiff think they can attack more against so-called lesser teams, Colwill should get the nod.

Perhaps against better teams, against whom they will need more legs and more defensive stability, Sang would be a nice fit. So it’s certainly between the two former academy stars.

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Up front, provided everyone is fit, a partnership of Kieffer Moore and Max Watters is surely the best combination.

Moore is yet to hit his best form in this campaign, but his importance is not in question. With Watters, buoyed by his early-season form with MK Dons, buzzing around him and providing some much-needed calmness in front of goal, it might just be the combo City need to get them firing again.

Isaak Davies and Mark Harris have performed admirably in recent weeks, stretching defences and adding a bit of verve in the final three, they are both solid options off the bench.

James Collins has shown just what a work horse he is and also provides an alternative. Indeed, in the absence of Moore this weekend, and potentially beyond, he could link up well with Watters, too.

But after the three additions this month, the team has a decidedly more youthful and energetic look to it and one which should excite moving forward.

Lest we forget, there will likely be more additions before this month is out…

Cardiff City’s best XI : Smithies; Drameh, Morrison, Flint, McGuinness, Ng; Wintle, Ralls; Colwill; Moore, Watters.

Pick your best team below

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