By Dominic Booth
The winter transfer window is always “difficult”, as Neil Warnock and Mehmet Dalman have been at pains to reiterate in recent weeks.
And Bluebirds fans’ anguish at missing out on signings, compounded by miserable performances against Gillingham and Huddersfield, have made for a rather dark scene at Cardiff City Stadium right now.
Of course that could all change very quickly.
But what are the dream, nightmare – and likely – resolutions to this month’s transfer activities?
Cardiff land a top striker, right wing-back and midfield cover
Warnock has always insisted that he needs three players to mount a realistic push for Premier League survival. But with just two weeks remaining of the window, that means the pressure is now on.
After being stung by Nathaniel Clyne and pulling out of the Adrien Tameze deal, the Bluebirds might now struggle to land the trio they want.
But if they can land a striker – their top January priority – the rest might just fall into place.
Emiliano Sala is clearly Warnock’s No.1 choice to fill the void up front, possessing the size, strength and aerial ability – not to mention a superb goal record in a top league – to tick all the right boxes.
Dalman believes the money is there to sign Sala, so if a deal could be struck for the Nantes forward sooner rather than later, Cardiff could concentrate their efforts elsewhere, appeasing supporters in the process.
In terms of a right wing-back, a position Warnock wants to strengthen to give himself more tactical flexibility, Victor Moses is among the players Cardiff have tracked as an alternative to Clyne.
Signing Moses on loan would be a coup and wouldn’t take too much (other than wages) out of the transfer kitty.
That would leave a central midfield as the remaining piece of the puzzle: someone in the mould of Tameze for less than £10million, which would be realistic and see the Bluebirds head into February having spent less than £30million on three top class players.
It’s difficult to imagine Warnock going through January without signing anyone, given his record of striking last-minute deadline day deals.
For that reason, not even the most pessimistic of Bluebirds fans would dare predict a completely barren month of transfer activity.
But the possibility of Cardiff missing out on a striker is very real, and would be hugely concerning.
If Sala doesn’t sign and the Bluebirds cannot complete a swoop for Oumar Niasse, their options may become severely limited. Mbwanna Samatta has emerged as a reported target from the Belgian league, though nothing seems imminent on the striker front just yet.
Warnock has even hinted that Kenneth Zohore could come back into the fold.
But for all Zohore’s strengths he’s been inconsistent at best this season and the pressure on both his and Callum Paterson’s shoulders for the rest of the season may be too great.
And it would be very unfair to burden the other option up front, Rhys Healey, with that kind of responsibility.
Compromise is the name of the game in January, so the Bluebirds would have to be content with securing two of their three targets.
Whether it’s Sala, Niasse or someone else (possibly Samatta), one of those must be a striker. You suspect Warnock will pull out all the stops to secure a frontman he believes can power a survival push.
That could be a loan, or a permanent deal, leaving room in the kitty for perhaps one more transfer.
With Warnock content with the current efforts of his first-choice midfield – Aron Gunnarsson, Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa – he may be forced to wait until the summer to bolster that area.
Cardiff need a right-back almost as much as a striker, so necessity might force their hand on that one too.