Cardiff City prepare to unleash their best ever midfield
Should Cardiff secure the services of Craig Bellamy, there are even suggestions that Liam Lawrence may also return to the club, they will surely have their best ever midfield to call upon.
Aron Gunnarsson, Don Cowie, Kim Bo-Kyung, Filip Kiss, Stephen McPhail, Jordon Mutch, Kadeem Harris, Craig Conway, Peter Whittingham, Joe Ralls with Bellamy likely and Lawrence a possibility. Three Championship-standard midfield's worth. Good luck keeping everyone happy Malky.
In Malky's favoured formation, the assumption is that Bellamy would play on the left, Bo-Kyung on the right with Mutch and Gunnarsson either side of Whittingham. Solid, creative with pace and balance, it looks the perfect blend, but surely Malky will seek to include Don Cowie? A fixture in the side last season and during his time at Watford, it's hard to imagine him kicking his heels on the bench.
Kiss will want regular football to maintain his Slovakian international prospects while McPhail will also want to play as much as possible at this stage of his career, having missed so much of the last few seasons. It is possible that Ralls and Harris may be loaned out for regular first team football to aid their development, or alternatively they may remain amongst the Academy prospects.
Having signed Heidur Helguson and Etien Velikonja, Malky may decide to field a more traditional 4-4-2 formation to utilise both, as he has in all of Cardiff's pre-season games thus far. Twice he has paired Earnshaw with Velikonja, with Helguson also lining up alongside the Slovenian international on two occasions.
With Joe Mason waiting in the wings, midfield opportunities may prove even more scarce than last season, when the available options were far less impressive. Whittingham is a certain starter, so Malky may be forced to choose between Mutch, a recent £2m signing, or Gunnarsson, one of last year's outstanding performers.
With strength in depth and an array of options, Malky cannot fail to select a talented, imposing midfield combination. Unfortunately, while the standard of the midfield ascends, other areas of the squad appear to be suffering.
Although the settled back four of Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Ben Turner and Andrew Taylor remains solid, the departures of Anthony Gerrard, Lee Naylor and Paul Quinn have left the defence looking short of numbers. Darcy Blake may also leave in the coming weeks, making the failure to land Richard Keogh even more disappointing.
Up front, Helguson is a like for like replacement for the much maligned Kenny Miller, while Velikonja is likely to need time to acclimatise to the Championship. With Earnshaw, Mason and Rudy Gestede as alternatives, it remains to be seen whether this pool of strikers is capable of supplying the goals required for a promotion push. Having previously failed with bids for Marvin Sordell and Jay Rodriguez, the collective also appears underwhelming in light of these ambitious yet ultimately unsuccessful offers.
Despite concerns at either end of the pitch, the heart of the team appears to be in rude health, with the season fast approaching.