What needs to be done to end Cardiff’s winless campaign?

It’s a long season in the Premier League. With 7 matches played, there are still 31 left (a total of 93 points to play for). That seems to look pretty positive on paper, but it’s becoming very difficult to see where the points are going to come from.

Last season, Southampton needed just 36 points to achieve 17th place. The 2016/17 season saw Watford finish 17th with 40 points – but 18th placed Hull only managed 34.

It would be fairly safe to say 38 points would win the club survival – 36 more for Cardiff after two draws with Newcastle (H) and Huddersfield (A).

Cardiff’s next six fixtures look like this:

Tottenham (A) – 4th
Fulham (H) – 17th
Liverpool (A) – 2nd
Leicester (H) – 7th
Brighton (H) – 15th
Everton (A) – 11th

All three away matches are very tough and it would be a bonus if any points were picked up in those. Cardiff’s home form has to change drastically and the games against Fulham, Leicester and Brighton already look like “must not lose”, if not, “must win” fixtures.

What went wrong against Burnley?

It was a very poor result on Sunday, there is no getting away from it. Brighton (15th), Southampton (16th), Fulham (17th), Newcastle (18th) and Huddersfield (20th) all lost on the weekend and it was a golden opportunity to get out of the relegation zone.

A mixture of poor defending and a lack of creativity in the final third led to another loss. The thing that was most disappointing was the woeful defensive mistakes for both goals conceded.

First goal:

I’m totally baffled as to why Sean Morrison is taking long throws in every single area of the pitch, including Cardiff’s own half, and this is what ultimately led to conceding the first goal.

Morrison takes a throw deep into the Cardiff half and it is thrown straight to a Burnley player who boots it back towards the 18-yard box. This leaves the defensive line all over the place and Cunningham is forced to clear it out for a Burnley throw in the attacking third.

 

Circled are the four defenders. In the second image, Manga is too far up the pitch to be in shot. Morrison is out of position because he was just taking the throw. Cunningham questions Etheridge on why he didn’t come out of his box, but there’s no way he could have sprinted 25 yards in 2 or 3 seconds.

 

6ft Cunningham is then up against 5ft10 Gudmundsson and the shorter player gets a full head height above the Cardiff defender. Etheridge shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post.

Second goal:

Just after a brilliant first-time finish from Josh Murphy, who was the best player on the park for Cardiff, sloppy defending cost the game yet again.

 

A simple ball over the top for Gudmundsson to chase. Morrison and Bamba are far too slow to react and Vokes connects to the cross to put Burnley 2-1 in front. Cunningham should be challenging for the ball but doesn’t make any contact again.

What needs to change?

  • Long throws can be an asset for Cardiff, but taking them in every area of the pitch is ludicrous. Burnley clearly worked on this as they knew Morrison wouldn’t be in his central position every time; a big gap in the Cardiff defence would be exploited. Keep the long throws for attacking positions only.
  • Harry Arter is comfortably the best midfield option available and he needs someone alongside him to do the same job i.e. ball winning and distributing. He was doing far too much of this on his own against Burnley and would be helped by a near-fit Aron Gunnarsson.
  • Zohore is clearly not settled this season and can’t be relied upon to start matches. Danny Ward is a far better choice to lead the line and showed his worth against Arsenal and Chelsea.
  • Cunningham was poor against a fairly average Burnley side, it would be preferred that Joe Bennett was reintroduced.
  • Neither Bamba or Morrison have looked solid at centre back this season and that has become a massive worry after doing so well in the promotion season. It might be time to give Richards a run in on the right side so Manga can come in to play alongside Morrison.
  • Murphy needs to start every game when he is match fit. He is by far the best attacking option at hand and looked much brighter than Hoilett and Mendez-Laing have done this season. It might be an option to bring Bobby Reid back into the side and play him on the other flank.

What is the best formation?

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 13.24.47

I think that could be the best team that can be put out for now, but it’s very hard to tell as performances have been mostly poor.

What I like about this is Camarasa and Reid can swap positions when necessary, but three are still kept in midfield. Richards is far better on the ball than Bamba and Manga is safer on the ball in his more natural central position. Murphy is a dangerous attacking option and Ward has shown in recent times that he is the best option to play as a no.9.

Hopefully, Neil Warnock has realised playing route one for 90 minutes does more damage for this team than good.

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Read more:
• Three Welsh players net their first club goals this season
• Wales Watch: Harry Wilson shows his quality in the League Cup 
• Wales Watch: Ramsey and Wilson hit form 

Wales Watch: Harry Wilson shows his quality in the League Cup

On-loan Derby midfielder, Harry Wilson, scored his first goal for the club on the weekend. On Tuesday night at Old Trafford he did something spectacular; a piece of skill the world’s best would be proud of. Derby were 1-0 down against Manchester United away from home and won a free kick 30 yards out on 58 minutes. Wilson stepped up and did this:

The Liverpool loanee even showed the Man Utd fans the “five times” celebration at Old Trafford, as Fernando Torres did when he was at the club (referring to Liverpool’s five Champions League trophies). Derby won the match 8-7 on penalties after the game finished 2-2; Wilson scored his penalty and won the man of the match award for his exceptional performance.

Danny Ward‘s heroics for Leicester against Wolves showed that he is ready to step into the first team in place of Schmeichel if needed. The game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and penalties were to follow. Ward ended up saving three penalties at Molineux and Leicester went on to win 3-1. Considering Ward has only played one other game this season, he seems to be in top condition.

Chris Maxwell and Andrew Hughes started for Preston for the second consecutive game against Middlesborough on Tuesday. This game also went to penalties following a 2-2 draw, however, Maxwell was unable to replicate Ward’s fine form and didn’t save any penalties.

Real Madrid were hammered by Sevilla 3-0 and Gareth Bale played 90 minutes after being benched on the weekend. He came close to scoring in the first half by hitting the post, but it was a poor night overall.

Ashley Williams played the full match for Stoke, but they lost 3-2 against Nottingham Forest. Stoke were 3-0 down after just 50 minutes and Joe Allen was an unused sub.

Arsenal kept Aaron Ramsey on the bench until the last 5 minutes of the match, where they won 3-1 against Brentford. Chris Mepham was rested and didn’t come on.

Ben Davies played 90 minutes for Tottenham at their temporary new home ground, Stadium MK, for one game. Watford equalised when Capoue’s shot deflected off Davies in the 89th minute. Spurs drew 2-2 but won 4-2 on penalties, Davies didn’t take a penalty.

Louis Thompson played 76 minutes for Norwich in a dramatic 4-3 win against Wycombe and Sam Vokes came on for 10 minutes at the end as Burnley lost 2-1 away to Burton.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive all of the latest updates.

Read more:
• Wales Watch: Ramsey and Wilson hit form
• Tyler Roberts was the star player of the midweek games 
• Club football restarts: Welsh player updates 

Club football restarts: Welsh player updates

Marley Watkins scored for the second time in as many games on Saturday. After coming on as a substitute in the 62nd minute, he went on to score the winning goal in Bristol City’s 1-0 win against Sheffield United. Ben Woodburn was an unused sub in the same match.

David Brooks continued his good form for Bournemouth in their 4-2 win over Leicester City on Saturday, and his performance earned him high praise from the home fans. He left the pitch just after an hour when Bournemouth were 3-0 ahead.

No goal for Gareth Bale this weekend for the first time in 8 La Liga games, however he did manage to whip in an excellent ball for Isco to finish.

Cardiff took a 4-1 loss against Chelsea on the weekend and Jazz Richards made his first Premier League appearance of the season, coming on for an injured Harry Arter at half time. Richards played predominantly in midfield, switching between playing centrally and out wide on the right, but couldn’t impact the game.

Wayne Hennessey got his second clean sheet of the season for Crystal Palace in a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. Other Welsh goalkeepers, Danny Ward and Chris Maxwell still can’t get league game time for their clubs. Adam Davies remains in goal for Barnsley, who lost 1-0 against Coventry.

Aaron Ramsey made headlines this weekend, but not for anything performance based in Arsenal’s 2-1 win. Arsenal manager, Unai Emery criticised the Welsh team for playing Ramsey for 90 minutes in both Nations League games. Paul Dummett played the full match for Newcastle in the same fixture.

Christian Doidge made his Championship debut for Bolton on Saturday and was handed the no.9 shirt. He didn’t impact the scoreline in his first 90 minutes following a deadline day move from League Two club, Forest Green Rovers. Tyler Roberts also made his Championship debut on Saturday for Leeds after winning his first two senior Welsh caps for the national team last week. Leeds drew 1-1 against a Millwall side that included Tom Bradshaw, who came on after 70 minutes to replace Steve Morison.

Welsh Championship defenders are now of huge popularity and competency. Chris Mepham has been the outstanding performer so far and kept another clean sheet for Brentford in their 2-0 win, taking them to second place. Villa pairing, James Chester and Neil Taylor played 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Blackburn. Ashley Williams remains on the bench for Stoke.

Swansea had three Welsh players in their back four that kept a clean sheet against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Connor Roberts and Joe Rodon were the two regular names and Declan John made his first league start for the club, after moving from Rangers in the summer.

Matt Smith kept his place in the FC Twente team in a 2-0 win, following his first Welsh senior cap on Thursday last week.

And finally, it was a really bad day at the office for the Welsh contingent at Derby. Tom Lawrence was sent off in the second half, Joe Ledley was an unused sub and Harry Wilson didn’t make the match day 18.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive all of the latest updates.

Read more:
• Denmark 2-0 Wales: Video analysis
• Wales 4-1 Rep. of Ireland: Video analysis of the four Welsh goals 
• Are we witnessing the birth of another ‘golden generation’? 
• James Chester: “I think this is a time that’s only going to be exciting” 

Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland

International football is back this week, in the new form of the Nations League. If you are unaware of what the Nations League is, feel free to read this explanation article I posted last month. In one simple sentence – they are competitive games and not friendlies.

Continue reading “Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland”

Cardiff’s opening Premier League goals were not enough for their first 3 points

The Bluebird’s first goals of the season from Victor Camarasa and Danny Ward were not enough to win any points against Arsenal.

Continue reading “Cardiff’s opening Premier League goals were not enough for their first 3 points”

All of the summer transfer moves for Welsh players

Here is a comprehensive list of all of the notable moves for Welsh players in the 2018 summer transfer window. Bold players are those who have won senior caps for Wales.

Continue reading “All of the summer transfer moves for Welsh players”

Three ways Cardiff could line up v 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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 15.07.47

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 15.07.28

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 15.08.07


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.

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