England confirmed their 2019 World Cup place in France by beating Wales 3-0 in Newport.
It’s the start of a new era for Welsh football. This morning’s squad announcement for the upcoming games against Ireland and Denmark included uncapped players and talented youngsters, which will generate a healthy mix of experience and youth.
With Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing likely to miss next weekend’s home clash with Arsenal, it means that Josh Murphy is the only first choice winger available. Cardiff still haven’t scored a goal in 270 minutes of football this season – a slight worry that the squad will be mulling over. However, Arsenal’s defence can be vulnerable (as was witnessed v Chelsea) and this could be the best opportunity in September to win 3 points.
Option 1: the same 4-3-3 system
- Gives Kadeem Harris his first chance at making a mark this season and provides a great opportunity for him to take the place of NML/Hoilett.
- Cardiff have kept two clean sheets in the first three Premier League games with this formation.
- The back four will remain unchanged.
- Gives the players another go at playing the same way against an Arsenal defence that has conceded six goals already this campaign.
Option 2: 3-4-3 system with wing-backs and two no.10’s
- Shifts Manga from right back into his natural central position and Jazz Richards comes in to play the right wing-back role, in which he has excelled in for Wales. Bennett switches to a more attacking full back on the left.
- Gives Richards to get his long-awaited chance to play in the Premier League. As well as the job of marking Iwobi, he will be looking to burst forward to attack Monreal, who has looked exposed in games this year.
- Harry Arter would play as a deep-lying midfielder and Joe Ralls would occupy more of a box-to-box role.
- Gives a chance for Reid to play in his natural no.10 position, along side Josh Murphy, who would have the freedom to switch between playing centrally and drifting out wide on either flank in counter attacks.
Option 3: a flat 4-4-1-1 formation, safe system to nullify Arsenal
- Switches Murphy from the left to the right, to make room for Joe Bennett to play on the left wing and Greg Cunningham to make his Cardiff debut at left back.
- Could also play this system with Harris on the right and Murphy keeping his place on the left.
- Has Reid in a no.10 position behind Zohore. Danny Ward or Gary Madine could also play in place of the striker.
- Could be very difficult for Arsenal to break down, with 9-10 players behind the ball every time Arsenal are in possession.
Regardless of the formation Warnock decides to opt for, it is highly important that Cardiff do not lose this home game going into the international break. This is probably the best time to play Arsenal; Emery is still getting to know his squad and Ozil is currently being left out of the team because of an alleged “training ground row”. Aubameyang hasn’t hit form and Ramsey hasn’t got to his usual level either, only playing one game this season for 90 minutes. They have conceded six goals in two games, a weakness that Cardiff desperately need to exploit.
With an apparent upset Arsenal dressing room that is massively lacking togetherness, this is a golden opportunity to beat The Gunners at home and win the first 3 points of the season.
In another Real Madrid win, Gareth Bale scored his second of the season against Girona. A classic from the no.11, a burst of pace to run in behind onto a beautiful through pass from Isco, to be followed with a sidefoot finish into the bottom corner. Bale also managed an assist for the fourth goal, a low cross for Benzema to finish for Madrid to make it 4-1.
Aaron Ramsey was back in the starting line up for Arsenal on Saturday after rumours he was dropped to the bench because of ongoing contract issues. He played his first 90 minutes of the season in the no.10 position and scored a goal that was disallowed for offside. Ramsey will face his hometown club, Cardiff next Sunday in the last set of club fixtures before the international break.
Newcastle’s Paul Dummett looked good at the back for Newcastle, despite them losing 2-1 against Chelsea on Sunday. He also looks to have improved his quality on crosses from last season. With just two defenders playing regularly in the Premier League, it is likely that Dummett will be called up this week.
David Brooks was able to play out an hour in Bournemouth’s draw against Everton. Tom Bradshaw was introduced for Millwall in the second half after signing on loan from Barnsley in midweek and Ben Woodburn came on for the last 5 minutes to see out Sheffield United’s 3-0 win against Bolton. Louis Thompson managed 81 minutes for Norwich in a 3-0 defeat to Leeds, but Tyler Roberts continues to be omitted from the Leeds 18.
The two goalscorer’s for Derby in midweek, Tom Lawrence and Joe Ledley didn’t manage to find the net in Derby’s 2-0 win this weekend. Ledley was replaced after 49 minutes because of an injury. Harry Wilson remains sidelined and it is unknown whether he will be fit enough to be called up to the Wales squad this week.
James Chester put in a strong display against Reading for 90 minutes, at least that was until he mistimed a tackle in the penalty area in the dying minutes. Reading scored the penalty and the game finished 1-1; Neil Taylor made an appearance in injury time just before this mishap. Chris Gunter is still not back in the Reading squad, but he managed to play the first half for the U23 side on Saturday.
In League Two, Mark Harris continues to be very impressive for Newport. He had a strong claim for a penalty denied by the referee just before half time in their 1-0 win over Grimsby. Meanwhile, Newport born Christian Doidge and former Wales U21 international Michael Doughty got the goals in the 1-1 draw between Forest Green and Swindon.
A rare thunderous 20 yard strike from Joe Ledley saw Derby on their way to a 2-0 win over Ipswich. Tom Lawrence has been on dead balls for The Rams this season and saw another of his free kicks hit the back of the net for the second goal, helped by some poor goalkeeping from Bartosz Białkowski.
The Welsh Stoke boys, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen had a torrid time against Wigan at the bet365 Stadium. Williams was sent off in the 78th minute for a second bookable offence, while Allen conceded the penalty that made it 0-3 to Wigan. Lee Evans was happy to be on the winning side; his second spell at the club has been nothing but positive and he’ll be utilised by Giggs in upcoming matches if his performances stay at this level.
James Chester and Chris Mepham played 90 minutes against each other on Wednesday night but neither were able to keep a clean sheet in a match that finished 2-2 at Villa Park.
Fleetwood Town’s dramatic 5-0 win away from home against Scunthorpe saw both Welsh forwards, Wes Burns and Ched Evans, bag a brace each in the first half. Incredibly all 4 goals were scored within 13 minutes! George Thomas was on the receiving end and came off after the hour mark.
Connor Roberts put in another hardworking performance on the right in Swansea’s 2-2 draw with Championship rivals, Leeds. Joe Rodon kept his place at centre half.
Mark Harris grabbed his second goal of the week in a 3-2 win over Notts County.
Gareth Bale kicked off the new La Liga season with a goal against Getafe in a 2-0 win. After a strong pre-season with 3 goals in 4 games, he reopened his league account with a finish into the bottom corner from an Asensio cross. He hit the bar with a diving header and also whipped in the ball that Getafe were unable to clear, Carvajal eventually heading it over the goalkeeper and into the net. Now that Ronaldo has left Real Madrid, there is a new pressure on Bale to become the talisman; his recent performances have shown he can be the main man at the Bernabéu.
Hal Robson-Kanu scored the seventh goal in West Brom’s emphatic 7-1 win over QPR. After being on the pitch for just 8 minutes, he was able to turn in a cross from the right side to finish from 5 yards out.
David Brooks continues to impress for Bournemouth, playing 78 minutes of their 2-1 win against West Ham. His involvement in Bournemouth’s attacking play is brilliant to watch and adding goals to his game will be a welcome addition.
Joe Allen got his first assist of the season, floating in a stunning free kick for Peter Crouch to head in after 61 minutes to finish the game 2-2. Ben Davies played another 90 minutes at the weekend and was used in a wing back role for Spurs in their 3-1 win over Fulham, as Pochettino decided to opt with a 3-4-3 system.
In a surprising turn of events, Paul Dummett has allegedly spoken of his desire to return to the Wales setup, following his international “retirement” in late 2016. He has continued to put in solid performances for Newcastle at left back in the Premier League and did so again at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Gwion Edwards continued his good run of form for Ipswich. A scintillating run that began in his own half almost ended with a goal, only to be denied by the crossbar. He consistently caused Aston Villa problems down the flanks in a side that featured James Chester but no Neil Taylor (unused sub). Edwards has the best ‘dribbles completed per game’ average in the Championship this season, ahead of the likes of Jack Grealish and Samu Saiz.
Chris Mepham was in tremendous form again for Brentford at the heart of defence, securing another clean sheet and another win for the Championship club. Young gun and former Cardiff City youth player, Ash Baker played at right back for Sheff Wed in the same match.
Swansea’s 0-0 draw against Birmingham on Friday night saw Connor Roberts and Joe Rodon both get 90 minutes each and a clean sheet for the second game running. Daniel James also made his first team debut for the club after 65 minutes.
Despite conceding two goals on Monday evening, Wayne Hennessey put in a decent performance for Crystal Palace against Liverpool. Both Danny Ward and Chris Maxwell are sitting on the bench at their clubs currently, so Wayne will no doubt be starting the Nations League matches (barring injury).
Cardiff loanee, Mark Harris was able to get his first goal for Newport on Saturday to win a point away at Exeter. The Wales U21 international will really want to show his worth in League Two and become a star for Newport this season.
Youngster Matthew Smith played his first 90 minutes in the league for FC Twente, as they opened their campaign with a 2-1 win. Emyr Huws played 45 mins for Ipswich U23’s v Hull and managed to an assist with a cross after the half hour mark. Adam Davies kept a clean sheet for Barnsley and Ched Evans got his second goal of the season for Fleetwood in a 2-2 draw.
Cardiff’s return to the Premier League hasn’t been inundated with surprises. In fact, a point from the opening two fixtures is not a bad outcome when you consider Neil Etheridge has saved two penalties in as many games. The difficulty for Cardiff this season will be scoring goals; just two shots on target in 180 minutes of football is worrying, but this is a long season of football and hopefully things will soon improve.
1. Murphy and Hoilett will come good
Murphy looked very dangerous on Saturday and did almost all the things that were asked of him, the only one missing was the goal. His clever interplay with Zohore, speed on the wings and natural ability to beat his man caused Newcastle havoc. He is also very street wise; he won free kicks in key areas that on a different day might have changed the result.
Both Murphy and Hoilett kept putting the ball into the box, but without anyone finishing off the crosses being delivered. Pace is vital in this division and it’s good to know that it is plentiful – Murphy, Hoilett, Mendez-Laing and Reid all have it in abundance, now is the time to start making it count.
2. Neil Etheridge has made the step up to the Premier League
There were question marks over his no.1 position between the sticks before the start of the season, but he has improved massively since his Cardiff debut in August 2017 v Burton. He won Cardiff the first point of the season with his 96th minute penalty save against Newcastle, not forgetting his other penalty save against Bournemouth last week. He commands his box very well, and is certainly a safe pair of hands for now behind the Cardiff defence. It is safe to say that he will be keeping Alex Smithies out of the team if these performances continue.
Etheridge picked David De Gea over himself in his fantasy team:
3. The other striker’s will get their opportunity
Gary Madine and Danny Ward haven’t started for Cardiff yet and it looks likely that both will get their chances with 0 goals scored. Madine hasn’t scored at all for the club in 14 appearances, while Ward netted 4 times in 19 games last year. It’s slightly worrying that Neil Warnock was unable to bring in a proven Premier League striker, and I’m unsure if that shows huge belief in the players he has available or whether the funds weren’t there to sign the right player.
Whatever the case, with Huddersfield, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City on the horizon, goals are going to have to come from somewhere and the players at disposal will have to step up to another level if the club is to be in with a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.
4. Service from the full backs could be advantageous
As goals are the main issue at the moment, it’s interesting to see that the full back berths have only been used as defensive options, even when Cardiff have been desperate for a goal. Joe Bennett has the most crosses from left back with 3. Lee Peltier delivered just 1 cross (unsuccessfully) against Bournemouth and Bruno Manga didn’t put in any against Newcastle.
Jazz Richards will be wondering when his chance is going to come. He is a proven crosser, very assured with the ball at his feet and definitely has more pace to offer than Peltier and Manga on the right. Though he didn’t play much last season due to injury, I think the Premier League will suit his game a lot more. We might see Warnock choose a back 5 against some of the top sides in the coming weeks and the right wing back role has to favour Richards, or potentially Paterson, dependant on how Warnock sees the latter positionally.
5. Arter, Ralls, Camarasa and Gunnarsson have to stay fit in the long run
Harry Arter proved against Newcastle that he is no stranger to this division. He played some beautiful balls through the middle to Zohore, as well as showing he has the quality to pick a pass from anywhere. His tough tackling ability slowed down Newcastle’s counter attacks, something that was greatly lacking against Bournemouth. Both he and Camarasa set a new standard in midfield and with a bit more luck on the day, might have seen the first 3 points on the board. With a midfield three of Arter, Ralls and Camarasa, as well as Gunnarsson to come back from injury, I’m confident that this midfield ticks the boxes to stay up.
No disrespect to Sol Bamba, but I would not like to see him play a holding role in the Premier League again this year. To quote Craig Bellamy on Saturday, “the ball is not his friend”.