Match report: Rep. of Ireland 0 – 1 Wales

Wales recorded their second victory in as many months against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday night.

Wales have only won three competitive games without Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey in twelve years, however a magnificent free kick from Harry Wilson ensured that Wales’ footballing future is most definitely in good hands.

The first chance of the game fell to Ireland, when Matt Smith slipped on the edge of the 18-yard box, following Giggs’ instruction of passing from the back. Cyrus Christie pounced on Smith’s mistake guided the ball towards Hennessey’s bottom left corner, forcing him into a good save in the opening ten minutes.

Ben Davies and Connor Roberts started to push high in attack, with Matt Smith or Joe Allen dropping into back four in their absence. Despite forcing Ireland to press high, Wales could not force an opening to hurt Ireland.

The first 30 minutes saw both teams cancelling each other out. Wales and Ireland enjoyed spells of possession but struggled to find a way to break each other down.

Ben Davies was booked on 32 minutes for a rash challenge on Harry Arter, meaning he will miss Wales’ final Nations League match against Denmark in November.

David Brooks was by far Wales’ brightest player in the first half; his quick feet and guided movement caused Ireland problems down the right side.

A low ball from Brooks into Tyler Roberts looked dangerous, but the forward couldn’t get enough power in his strike to trouble Darren Randolph.

Matt Smith recovered well from his earlier mistake by throwing his body on the edge of the 18-yard box to block a powerful Irish shot. His passing was excellent and looked comfortable next to Joe Allen in midfield.

The first chance of the second half fell to Wales, when Arter brought down Connor Roberts on the edge of the box.

Harry Wilson, who scored a world-class free kick against Man Utd recently, stepped up and struck it straight into the top left corner, leaving Randolph no chance of a saving it.

Wales looked much brighter after going 1-0 up, but Ireland almost found a reply when Jeff Hendrick edged through the Wales defence and shot straight at Hennessey.

On 73 minutes, Smith started a Welsh counter attack by playing a through ball to Lawrence, and the Derby winger was able to force a corner.

From that same set piece, James Chester almost scored his first goal in a Wales shirt from Wilson’s perfectly drilled cross, but he headed wide.

Wales continued the pressure, this time with Tyler Roberts, who was slightly off balance when he hit the ball wide.

Ireland’s counter attacks were few and far between. A break in the 81st minute only led to a comfortable save for Hennessey, even though Ireland were throwing players forward into the Welsh half.

Giggs enforced a more defensive shape for Wales with three new introductions late in the second half. George Thomas played in an unfamiliar central midfield role, Chris Gunter came on at right-back and Andy King came on to make a three in midfield.

The result looked confirmed as the game headed into the 90th minute, but McClean almost changed that with a powerful strike. Hennessey’s solid performance between the sticks continued when he saved the shot and followed this up by collecting a cross with ease.

The final Welsh chance of the match fell to youngster, George Thomas. Tyler Roberts played him into a one-on-one with Randolph, but he squandered this golden opportunity to secure the game with a second goal for Wales.

Ireland had one more opportunity and sent Randolph up for a corner in a desperate attempt to equalise. However, this came too late for the Irish and Wales secured their second win over Ireland in a matter of weeks, taking them to first in the group with one game remaining.

Player ratings:
Wayne Hennessey (7), Connor Roberts (6), Ashley Williams (7), James Chester (6), Ben Davies (6), Joe Allen (6), Matt Smith (7), David Brooks (7), Harry Wilson MOTM (7), Tom Lawrence (6), Tyler Roberts (7).

Subs: George Thomas (6), Chris Gunter & Andy King (not enough time on the pitch).

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Read more:
• Chris Mepham is “loving” his season with Wales and Brentford
• Giggs and Williams speak ahead of clash with Spain 
• Harry Wilson eager to fulfil childhood dream 
• Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up 

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 

Rep. of Ireland pre-match press conference with Ryan Giggs & Ashley Williams

I attended the pre-match press conference this afternoon ahead of the game against the Rep of Ireland. Ryan Giggs and Ashley Williams answered questions on tomorrow evening’s match, the upcoming Denmark game on Sunday, playing in Cardiff again and more.

Continue reading “Rep. of Ireland pre-match press conference with Ryan Giggs & Ashley Williams”

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”

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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What we learned from Cardiff’s first two Premier League fixtures

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”.

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