The Bluebird’s first goals of the season from Victor Camarasa and Danny Ward were not enough to win any points against Arsenal.
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.
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”.
Neil Warnock has managed to recruit six players this summer in preparation for Cardiff’s first season back in the Premier League, four of which came at the start of pre-season. Camarasa & Arter have signed on transfer deadline day as Warnock sought other options to bring in central midfielders, following a failure to sign Marko Grujic from Liverpool.
|Player||Transfer fee||Previous club||Position|
|Greg Cunningham||£4m||Preston North End||Left back|
|Josh Murphy||£11m||Norwich City||Winger|
|Bobby Reid||£10m||Bristol City||Forward|
|Alex Smithies||£3m (rising to 3.5m)||QPR||Goalkeeper|
|Victor Camarasa||Season-long loan||Real Betis||Centre midfield|
|Harry Arter||Season-long loan||AFC Bournemouth||Centre midfield|
A quick look at all of the new signings:
|Aged 27, 6ft, Irish international
Previous clubs include Preston, Bristol City, Nottingham Forest, Leicester City & Manchester City
A reliable left back who has been one of the most consistent players in the Championship for the past 3 years, offering strong competition to Joe Bennett for a first team place.
He hasn’t played for the Republic of Ireland since 2013 but a continuation of his quality at Premier League level will surely be enough to earn him a call up.
|Aged 23, 5ft8, former England U20 international
A pacy, skilful winger with a keen eye for goal, Murphy bagged 11 goals and 3 assists for Norwich last year.
His twin brother, Jacob Murphy, is also a professional footballer who plays as a winger. They played together at Norwich for four years before Jacob moved to Newcastle in 2017.
Josh has played a season in the Premier League once before, in the 2013/14 season, the same year Cardiff were relegated. Norwich were also relegated the same year.
|Aged 25, 5ft7, English born
Bobby has spent most of his career at Bristol City as well going out on loan to Cheltenham and Oldham, before 3 different loan spells at Plymouth.
He was one of the best strikers in the Championship last season, scoring 19 league goals in 46 games. He also netted 2 goals for Bristol City in the League Cup. They got to the semi-final, eventually losing to Man City over two legs.
He was named in the Championship team of the year, along with Sol Bamba.
As well as playing as a striker, he is also capable of playing at the tip of the midfield diamond in the no.10 role.
|Aged 28, 6ft1, former England U19 international
He’s only played for two different clubs in his career so far, Huddersfield and QPR.
Smithies has been linked to a number of Premier League clubs throughout his career, but this season will be his first chance to play at the top level.
He kept 7 clean sheets in 43 games for QPR last year, averaging 2.16 saves per game. His average claim success was 95%. Comparing to Etheridge who made 2.09 saves per game and had a 97% average claim success rate. He will be eager to battle for the no.1 spot with Etheridge.
|Aged 24, 6ft, former Spain U21 international
He signs from La Liga outfit Real Betis on a season-long loan. He has also played for Levante and Alaves.
Camarasa is a box-to-box midfielder who will bring more physicality to the current midfield.
He was on the bench against Cardiff last week in their final pre-season friendly but did not make an appearance due to playing against Bournemouth the previous day.
He has played with the likes of Marco Asensio, Hector Bellerin and Gerard Deulofeu for Spain’s U21 team.
|Aged 28, 5ft10, Irish international
Arter has spent the last 8 years of his career at Bournemouth, as well as spells at Carlisle, Charlton, Woking, Staines and Welling. He joins Cardiff on a season-long loan.
He can play as a holding midfield player, with strong attributes in tackling and passing.
Although he didn’t feature much for Bournemouth last season, he has been a Premier League regular since their first season at the top in 2015.
Arter will be vital in Cardiff’s bid to stay up this season, offering Warnock a good option for the defensive role in midfield.
Cardiff’s squad list looks like this:
Goalkeepers: Neil Etheridge, Alex Smithies, Brian Murphy
Central defenders: Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba, Bruno Ecuele Manga, Matt Connolly
Full backs: Lee Peltier, Jazz Richards, Greg Cunningham, Joe Bennett
Central midfielders: Joe Ralls, Aron Gunnarsson, Loic Damour, Victor Camarasa, Harry Arter, Callum Paterson, Lee Tomlin, Stuart O’Keefe
Wingers: Josh Murphy, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Junior Hoilett, Kadeem Harris
Forwards: Kenneth Zohore, Bobby Reid, Danny Ward, Gary Madine, Anthony Pilkington, Rhys Healey
Four of those players have to be cut from the list to finalise Cardiff’s 25 man Premier League squad, and it would be likely be four of the following:
Rhys Healey, Stuart O’Keefe, Matt Connolly, Anthony Pilkington, Lee Tomlin, Kadeem Harris.
1. Andy King
A Premier League winner, a European Championship semi-finalist, 47 caps at senior international level and 94 Premier League appearances for Leicester and Swansea.
It must be agreed that Andy King’s career on paper is very impressive for any professional footballer. However, he has found himself surplus to requirements for Leicester City, featuring only 11 times last season before being loaned out to help Swansea battle relegation from the top division. Swansea were unable to avoid the drop and King is now back at Leicester, looking extremely unlikely to feature in their side this year.
He would offer Cardiff versatility in midfield, be able to play as a no.10 having done so for most of his career for Leicester, as well as a deeper role as he done for Wales in the recent Euro and World Cup qualifying campaigns.
King would likely be a much cheaper option than most midfielders with his experience and wouldn’t demand crazy wages that Cardiff couldn’t pay.
2. Ryan Woods
An incredibly intelligent midfielder that could no doubt make the big step up to the Premier League.
Ryan Woods has already racked up 206 league appearances for Shrewsbury and Brentford by the age of 24 in a career that has spanned just 6 seasons. Just over half of these games have come at Championship level.
He can play in a variety of positions across midfield because his wide range of attributes allow him to hold that flexibility. A great passer, strong tackler with a near-perfect sense of positioning in midfield.
Brentford would likely demand a transfer fee of £10 million+ for Woods this summer and currently Swansea are favourites to sign him.
3. Alfred N’Diaye
The tough tackling central midfielder that Cardiff are desperate for in their bid to stay up this season.
He was instrumental in Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League last season and spent the summer playing for Senegal at the World Cup. He would no doubt provide much needed competition to Aron Gunnarsson and Loic Damour.
Neil Warnock has already publicly stated his interest in N’Diaye when Grujic became unavailable to sign.
Even still, if no other option becomes available Cardiff might have to increase the budget in a desperate attempt to bring in some more quality.
4. Scott McTominay
McTominay could be a potential season-long loan option from Manchester United after breaking into their first team last season, as well as debuting for the Scottish national team.
I’m not sure how likely he could be to sign for anyone on loan this season, but looking at the options Man Utd have in midfield (Pogba, Fred, Pereira, Matic, Fellaini, Herrera, Mata) you would think McTominay is currently bottom of the central midfield pecking order.
He lacks experience at the highest level but showed glimpses of fantastic quality last season. He stands at 6″4, has a good first touch and is strong on the ball. He can play as a box-to-box midfielder or a holder that breaks up play. He would also provide an aerial threat at set pieces, something Cardiff will definitely look to exploit this year.
5. Daniel Amartey
A hard-working, strong midfielder eager to find his feet in the top division.
Like Andy King, Amartey has found himself behind a number of central players at Leicester and could be another one to make a move away from the King Power Stadium before the deadline next week. An international for Ghana with 22 caps, he can also play at right back.
He has only played 37 Premier League games for Leicester since joining in January 2016, the same year Leicester won the title. He featured 5 times in the 15/16 league winning season. Amartey was massively hyped as being the successor to Kante after he left for Chelsea but things haven’t quite ended up that way.
His work rate can’t be doubted, he has just lacked quality in some areas (interceptions, key passes), which is often why he has found himself on the bench.
A loan would probably do all parties some good if Cardiff are still looking for midfield competition next week.