Joe Ralls has endured a tough start to this season with Cardiff City.
The Englishman, such a leading light in Russell Slade’s play-off push in the previous campaign, has come under increasing scrutiny for his performances this season from the Bluebirds’ faithful who are used to seeing better from the homegrown talent.
While Ralls still retains a starting berth in midfield — for now — the stats prove that he is enjoying life a little less than last year, when the 23-year-old walked away with Cardiff City’s Young Player of The Year award for the second successive season.
And with the hard-working Stuart O’Keefe returning to fitness and Mr Versatile Kieran Richardson joining on a free transfer , Ralls’ place might now come under question as Neil Warnock takes stock of his squad. Warnock won’t jettison Ralls quickly but he needs to harness the midfielder’s obvious ability.
Here are the statistics that show Ralls’ troubles so far this season and how the young midfielder might be able to overcome his early season struggles under new boss Warnock.
Average passes this season: 41.8 per game
Last season: 53.5 per game
While maintaining a pass success rate of around 79 per cent, Ralls is simply on the ball less than he was last year. The hefty difference in passes per game may be an indication of Cardiff’s form and lack of possession, but after such impressive playmaking efforts for the Bluebirds last year. It seems Ralls is struggling to have the same influence this season. The 23-year-old needs to fight for a foothold in games and start dictating the tempo once more.
2. His passing is less accurate
Accurate short passes this season: 30.3 per game
Last season : 38.5
Accurate long passes: 2.9
Last season: 4.2
Ralls impressed under Slade with a fine mix of short and long passes, yet his decreased success rate with both in the current campaign is a major concern. You suspect Warnock wouldn’t discourage his midfield man to play long balls when necessary but the new Cardiff boss also needs Ralls to rediscover his passing touch.
3. He’s making fewer KEY passes
Key passes: 0.4 per game
Last season: 1.3
When you consider that Ralls was coming up with at least one key pass per game last season — one which unlocked a defence, creating a clearcut chance for his teammates — this season’s key passing statistic is poor. He averages less than a key pass every two games this season. No wonder Cardiff weren’t creating much under Paul Trollope. Inevitably, Ralls needs the right movement from his forward players if this stat is to improve.
4. He hasn’t got an assist yet this season
Last season: 7
With the Bluebirds notoriously goal shy in the early part of the season, this won’t come as a surprise to Bluebirds fans. And while goals aren’t a natural part of Ralls’ game, assists and key passes are. The Englishman will he hoping to register an assist soon if he wishes to surpass last season’s tally and with flying wingers like Craig Noone and Junior Hoilett now given free rein under Warnock, that may soon change.
5. He’s making fewer interceptions
Interceptions: 0.8 per game
Last season: 1.7
Defensively, Cardiff’s central midfielder isn’t offering much either. He has averaged less than one interception per game when he was closer to two for the whole of last season. Ralls will be required to get stuck in and share the defensive midfield burden with Aron Gunnarsson if he wants to remain in Warnock’s first XI. The former QPR and Crystal Palace boss demands ‘blood and thunder’ from every member of his side.
6. He’s making fewer tackles
Tackles: 1.8 per game
Last season: 2.2
It’s not alarmingly down on last season but Ralls is making fewer tackles. When you consider how poorly Cardiff have played up until the win over Bristol City on Friday night, you’d expect the midfielders to be putting more tackles in than last season. Another stat which will surely shoot up under the no-nonsense Warnock.
7. He’s making fewer clearances
Clearances: 0.2 per game
Last season: 0.7
With Cardiff regularly on the ropes this season, you’d expect everyone in the team to have made more clearances. Unfortunately, that is not the case for Ralls and it’s another area Warnock will be highlighting as he calls on his midfield to support the back four — something Ralls, Gunnarsson and company did superbly in Friday night’s Severnside derby.
8. His overall rating is 6.55
Last season: 6.99
Ralls’ overall rating is a modest 6.55 according to Whoscored.com , which is his lowest of any season since a 2013 loan spell with Yeovil Town. If Warnock keeps faith in the young midfielder, he will be hoping to increase his overall rating to a level similar of that last season. Simply put, the 23-year-old needs to have a greater impact on games.
Another edited piece done for WalesOnline. Unfortunately they could not put me as a named writer: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/how-can-neil-warnock-best-12038201