There have been few summer signings from Cardiff City that have piqued this writer’s interest more than Romain Sawyers.

Every time the midfielder played against the Bluebirds, he always impressed. Sawyers was impressive when Neil Warnock’s Cardiff beat the Hawthorns 4–2 in 2019; he controlled the game.

So it was surprising to see him fall out of favor following the departure of Slaven Bilic from the Midlands club. Seeing him as a playmaker and centre-back, he proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Cardiff after they themselves were relegated from the Premier League.

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But for some reason, Steve Morrison couldn’t find a suitable role for him, despite the few inspiring early performances.

Playing in the wing of midfield for the first half of the season, Sawyers was struggling to find his rhythm. He was unable to unlock the defense as expected and would often slow the game down when City went forward. However, he delighted a little with a series of long-range shots that found their target as Cardiff struggled to score.

Sawyers’ season was in danger of being derailed by the appointment of Mark Hudson. Despite playing regularly under Morrison, Hudson quickly challenged the midfielder and left him out of the squad.

A real challenge for someone who sees himself as a key part of the team this season.

Under Hudson, who played in 18 games, Sawyers played just 394 minutes of football. He was on the field just 24 percent of the time Hudson was on the bench.

With Sabri Lamouchi in charge? Well, that number goes up to 100 percent. In seven games, he started and ended each one. It shows what the French think of him.

He also has a new role, that of an attacking midfielder, from which he commands the squad. He has 12 key assists in the last seven rounds, more than his previous 16 games combined.

We’ve also seen him more confident with the ball at his feet, dribbling past opponents, something he’s surprisingly done less often despite being in a more advanced position at the start of the campaign. With Lamouche, he was fouled eight times, more than the entire season combined.

And in defense he also produces. As this article suggests, you don’t really associate Sawyers with cleaning up ‘dogs of war’ in front of three central defenders. But he’s stuck, and it’s an aspect of his game that has received far less attention. Under Lamouchi, he made more tackles (10) than he had in 17 games before head coach was appointed.

Of course, he came on as a substitute in many games before Lamouche’s tenure began, but the point still remains.

Midfield has been a concern for Cardiff for some time. Well, since they’ve been relegated from the Premier League, actually. Too many like-minded people and too little balance.

Cardiff lacks a true leader who can attack, defend and lead. Neil Warnock believed that Marlon Pack could be the answer, but the former Bristol City man never did, despite threatening at times.

One of the most impressive aspects of Sawyers’ gameplay is the pieces that can go unnoticed. When players are substituted, Sawyers invariably calls them over and explains their roles in detail. Even if he doesn’t wear the armband, it’s an unmistakable act of leadership and proof not only of his astute footballing mind, but that he is clearly in sync with Lamouche’s plan and how best to reach the ultimate goal.

Check out the screenshot below of Sori Kaba and Kion Etete taking on Norwich City as they run straight into Sawyer, who explains in detail the gameplan, their roles within it, and how best to execute it.



Romain Sawyers of Cardiff City talks to Sori Kaba and Kion Etete

His words clearly carry weight in the pack. At 31, he is the oldest player on this Bluebirds side and is one of the few with Premier League experience, as well as more than 200 league appearances and 136 League One appearances.

For those of you who watch the games regularly, you’ll hear Sawyer’s voice more often than the others. Cardiff’s new team this season is hardly full of vocal leaders, so this is another important string to Kittitian’s bow.

The problem with that lopsided midfield now appears to have been resolved, as Sawyers is now lined up alongside the smart but technically sound Wintle. With Joe Ralls, Andy Rinomhota or perhaps a fit Rubin Colville to choose from if another body is needed, this is a good spot for Lamouche.

Of course, seven games is just a small sample and sometimes there’s a tendency to get carried away by that game, but Lamouchi seems to have unlocked real Romain Sawyers; a player who was seen by many as a major signing last summer. Cardiff’s win rate with Sawyers in the starting line-up this season is 37.5 percent, without him it drops to just 21 percent, perhaps the most telling figure of all.

Cardiff fans will be hoping Sawyers’ influence will continue to yield positive results as the Bluebirds look to continue their rise out of the relegation zone.

Source: Wales Online