It’s been a very up-and-down season for Joe Ralls, who admittedly hasn’t always hit the heights that he reached last campaign. However, after admission from the starting eleven, the Aldershot-born midfielder has found his feet once again.
With Cardiff suffering casualties in midfield to key players such as Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter, the ball was in Ralls’ court. After a rough defeat away to Newcastle, every player knew they needed to step up following the tragic disappearance of Emiliano Sala. With a trip to the Emirates lurking, Warnock and co. knew that it would be a tough challenge to pull off a result against Arsenal.
The Bluebirds performed admirably, narrowly falling to a 2-1 defeat. There were definitely positives, however; one of the main positives being Joe Ralls. Despite Cardiff’s midfield not having heaps of possession, the Englishman made the most of his time on the ball, picking out Niasse with precise through balls on many occasions.
The former Yeovil loanee has been subject to scrutiny this season and in my opinion has frequently been the scapegoat when City’s midfield has been overrun. However, with resilient performances in mammoth games such as Bournemouth and Southampton, I feel that for Watford, at least, he should be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
An Unsung Hero?
In the wake of Cardiff’s first consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since April 1962 and after close analysis, Ralls has really shown how diverse and varied his abilities are. Against Bournemouth, despite being pressed constantly, Ralls kept calm and composed whilst under pressure and picked his passes out intelligently. With Bobby Decordova-Reid cruising his way throughout the fixture, it allowed Cardiff’s number 8 to express himself in a deep-lying playmaker role. With Cardiff playing with more confidence, Ralls controlled possession in midfield when the Bluebirds found themselves on the right side of the ball.
This contrasts hugely to his perfomance at Southampton, however. Away from home and playing alongside Arter and Gunnarsson meant that Ralls had to play in a much more compact team. Whereas against Bournemouth his control shone through, against the Saints he was a cog in a midfield machine that grinded out a massive result. Even after the introduction of Leandro Bacuna the Englishman was able to chase down the ball and hold onto possession with the same efficiency as when Gunnarsson was on the field.
This was all epitomised when his interception in the dying embers of the game created the goal that sealed all three points for Neil Warnock’s soldiers. Watching the once-promising youngster now celebrate as a man in-front of the traveling Cardiff faithful, just goes to show how much Joe Ralls has grown, not only as a player but as a professional and as a person.
Written by Owen Deacon (@OwenRhysDeacon)