Cardiff City Preview: Clipping The Bluebirds Wings

If managers build teams which are a reflection of themselves, Neil Warnock succeeded admirably. A dour, gruff Yorkshireman, his Cardiff mob hasn’t scored in the Premier League yet this season. How I bet he wishes they faced us on the opening day of the season.

It’s a match we’re expected to win. We are the Arsenal, and even a misfiring one is heading for three points. We’ll work hard for them, make no mistake, but we’ll win. Just as we did last season; over-confidence, at the moment, is misplaced. This is going to be hard work. Not because Cardiff are a good side, but because we’re not entirely sure what we’re doing.

Indeed, Warnock is doing all he can to hamper Cardiff’s survival. His tactical masterplan is to target Aaron Ramsey and “rough him up a bit”. All delivered with the laddish grin and a laugh, with a gruff “Only joking lads, I’ll be ‘ere all week. Which is more than that Mourinho fella can say! Eh? Eh? Oh, Eh!”.

There’s no guarantee Ramsey will play. With the expectation of a tough midfield battle, surely this is the time for Torreira? The Uruguayan, paired with Xhaka, offered a good balance last week against West Ham. The Swiss, for one, looked a lot more settled with someone to take on the defensive burden.

Which leaves the third midfield spot. Guendouzi or Ramsey? A strong case for including either can be made. The Frenchman is quick to use the ball while Ramsey is quick to move forward in support of the attack. I can’t see Iwobi being dropped so assume Aubameyang is staying central.

We lack numbers in attack which is where Ramsey’s inclusion becomes inevitable, I think. Unless he’s played on the right to offer more protection to Bellerin.

Star Man, Waiting On The Bench

Or do both play with Mkhitaryan missing out? Emery seems to prefer a narrow midfield with the full-backs providing the width. It’s tough on them but will Ramsey offer more defensive protection than the Armenian? It’s that balance we’ve yet to strike on the right.

Bellerin is criticised for leaving gaps but the midfield who should be filling them get off scot-free because of the chasm in the centre of the pitch. There’s a lot of work to be done before we’re good at compressing the play which is the quality Emery’s scheme relies upon to be successful.

All of which is tough on some players. Mesut Özil will be on the bench, despite training all week. Just in case there’s a recurrence of his sickness bug which periodically strikes. Alexandre Lacazette? More influential than Aubameyang but if we’re playing on the counter is not as quick as the Gabonese. Not that much slower, however.

It’s nice to have some uncertainty about it all. There’s nothing predictable about the line-up bar the defence and goalkeeper at the moment. The mistakes we’ll make are entirely predictable but not the players doing it.

Ultimately, we’re looking for this match to give us three points but reassurance that the plan is progressing is equally important. I said in yesterday’s belated post that we need to get back to being flat-track bullies; this is as flat a track as you could wish for.

We were humbled and humiliated away from home last season. Finding the travel sickness cure is a giant step toward challenging for the top four. At the moment, it’s an unrealistic prospect for us this season. We’re on a steep learning curve with inevitable faltering steps along the way. This can’t be one of them, surely?

And They’re Off!

The line-up I’d expect to take the baby steps is:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Guendouzi, Torreira, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ramsey; Aubamyang

The XI, flexible between a two-man barrier and a trio, is good enough to win. Can they put us into the international break with three points? I expect a low-scoring narrow win for us to be honest. Anything more than by 2 – 0 is a bonus.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


56 thoughts on “Cardiff City Preview: Clipping The Bluebirds Wings

  1. Good day YW merci encore pour an insightful post.

    I’d go with Miki personally over Ramsey. Bellerin and Miki have started to form a partnership. Early days but it’s notable.

    Ramsey for me is to much of a wild card. He’s at his best in the last third of the pitch where he can be involved in flicks and 1-2s.

    He contributes very little in build up play.


  2. I think we should start Laca. They will likely sit deep so there won’t be space for Auba to work and his forte is not intricate passing to break down the defense, ideally we would play both but UA doesn’t seem to want to try the attacking g combination that has worked best for us the last month and even last season and play them both up top.

  3. I think Xhaka/Guen is not a good partnership. Torreira with either of those is more balanced. But this is very attacking except is Ozil on right? Harsh on Mkh who has been our best attacker combining well on right with Bellerin. Or will this be a diamond? If so, Xhaka at base is a mistake, perhaps.

  4. LSG,

    His lack of tracking back and series of mispasses last week won’t help him. Agree re guendouzi and Xhaka. I’m surprised it wasn’t Torriera and Xhaka tbh. Perhaps trying to maintain consistency or its part of a game plan. It is odd though, especially as Torriera was V impressive in his 30mins last week and really freed up Xhaka

  5. Looks like your crystal ball is a bit cracked today YW. Iwobi dropped and no Torreira. Ozil plays and so does Lacazette. Fro what it’s worth I agree Torreira should be in the side, and without him we look a bit fragile in the middle. Still should be more than good enough to beat Cardiff but we may have to grind out a result with a late goal. Hopefully Ramsey to score it and rub salt in the wound for Warnock.

  6. we may be many things these days but at least our games aren’t boring…not sure my nerves can handle it

  7. We are unrecognizable really
    Mustafi our playmaker
    Cech scary
    Everyone else interchanging

  8. yikes… same story today and agreed my nerves cant handle it haha. Still looking fragile, might be able to sneak out a win but nothing appears to have changed with the gunners, not yet.

    Laca looks sharp but still fluffed a couple, offense looks capable of a few more but not too convincing! Playing out from back is a joke, how many disasters/game does Cech need to make before we see the new boy in goal???

  9. Score could really be 3-3 right now. Shame that the gunners allow Cardiff their first goal of the season. Teams still smell blood when they play us and it is easy to see the strategy, kick the ball as far as possible and let our trio of Cech/Sokratis/Mustafi munge it up somehow. Hoof it 100 times a game , about 30 chances on net, 5 or 6 goals easy :p

  10. Lucky to have only been punished once for three potentially goal conceding errors. I like Laca at CF. He holds the ball up well and shows some fight. Can we take this as our excuse to drop Xhaka?

  11. Thrillbo,

    It bothers me that Emary just isn’t sorting out the Cech playing-out problem. Either he must adapt his instructions or switch keepers.

  12. Disastrous at the back. Whether we get a result today or not, we are going to struggle all season if we continue to defend like this. We already know from Wenger’s tenure that you can’t expect to outscore your way in the Prem without a decent defence. Emery has to work out how to get the team defending as a unit. Xhaka is too careless on the ball to deserve to start. He’s surely had more than a fair chance under both Wenger and Emery. I not seeing any improvement in our defence whatsoever.

  13. Cardiff City haven’t managed to score against Bournemouth, Newcastle or Huddersfield but have tucked away two against us.

  14. Patience and all that but the defending in the last two victories has been so poor they’ve barely felt like wins.

  15. Leaky Defense, but hard fought 3 points on the road …..

    Got to figure out the Midfield Unai, it is still weak when Xhaka plays with Guendouzi and Ozil playing…..It must be either Xhaka and Torreira or Guendouzi and Torreira….If Ozil is playing

  16. Torreira made a big difference and set up Laca’s goal. I’m not sure why he isn’t starting but hopefully he will. But even his defensive awareness isn’t going to cover this hapless defense.

  17. Happy we won and I’m happy that playing Laca and Auba finally got its results. Torrieras stats…. 20mins, 1 assist, 100% passing accuracy, 3 tackles, 4 interceptions and 6/6 duels and 2/2 one on one tackles.

  18. Glad people can see we don’t have a #10.
    Õzil doesn’t fit the style and neither does Ramsey. If we had a solid #10 it would be awesome.

    Defence is a bigger problem to solve.

  19. lari03,

    Laca should be the 10 basically. Just put the right midfield together behind them. Laca creates, presses, holds up the ball, shoots, scores and will work hard enough.

  20. It would be churlish of me to offer much criticism after an away win, but I hope Unai Emery will stop this seemingly nervous inter-passing involving Cech and other members of our defence and mid-field, at the start to every match. Today we could have conceded a silly goal within the first minute.
    I know some players like to get a feel of the ball as early as possible but I wonder whether they appreciate that the procedure causes much raised blood-pressure to those supporters of a more mature age. 😉

  21. lari03,

    Let’s be honest… Defensive issues were not going to be solved over night. We’ve 10 years of wengers tactics to unteach. Similar to klopps Liverpool start, scoring a lot but also conceding.

    We need a run of games for it all to start gelling. Europa gives us a chance to get more games under our belt using this system. Additionally, was never going to olbe easy game today especially away from home. West ham was nervy as we NEEDED

    But…. Ramsey, Xhaka, Mustafi…. All looking to be replaced soon I feel.

  22. nicky,

    I think we are all running the risk of heart attacks watching that! I don’t think Cech was that bad except for that terrible pass, but the defenders put him in trouble frequently and midfielders don’t give him options quickly sometimes. Slow decisions, slow balls back make for racing hearts.

  23. Away 3 points is big. Let’s do it again, but more convincingly please!, v Newcastle. You know Rafa Benitez saw many weaknesses to exploit.

  24. By far the strongest part of our squad is having 2 forwards who are legitimate threats to score 15-20 league goals and they came thru for us today. We need to somehow improve our defense and then build our attacking strategy around those 2 forwards if we want to have any chance to finish in 4th. Fingers crossed they pea and Lacazette can both stay healthy and neither go thru any long dry spells.

  25. Just watched a very good breakdown of the game as i unfortunately missed it….Cech and Xhaka are looking very weak….For their first, Xhaka had so much time and pace to aim at and it goes straight to a cardiff player. Additionally, Cech just does not look comfortable playing from the back, i wonder if the Leno struggling is only reason keeping him in the team.

    thought Ozil grew into the game but needs to be make more of a mark when he’s playing. Laca looked motm by a country mile….Ramsey at RW doesn’t cut it, a winger is definitely on the cards in Jan/Summer as we’re really missing an industrious speedy winger.

    Fact we tried to sign that LWB who’s name escapes me shows Emery wanted more speed, i think once Leno is bedded in, a new CB and winger and we’ll look a more balanced squad.

    I’d DEFINITELY take Troure from Wolves…..absolute tank. Pitty he’d probably cost about 50 million now.

  26. I don’t blame Cech too much apart from that bad pass to Arter. He keeps getting bad balls passed back to him with opponents ready to pounce, slow rolling balls too. It isn’t his forte but he isn’t getting great options and spacing/movement from back line and midfield.

    It is a weakness but a team weakness. I can’t see Leno doing so well if he doesn’t have options or receives poor passes traveling slowly with a man closing him down so quickly either. He might do better but this is a Team style and we haven’t perfected it. Plus Xhaka is really susceptible to the press. I’ve noticed he hasn’t been dropping between the CB’s as frequently to receive the ball.

    I just see this as a risky strategy when you have an unbalanced team. Sarri came later but got Jorginho in, a key player for his style and who can translate on the pitch his ideas and strategy. A lieutenant. Who is Emery’s? Until he has that, there are other approaches. And slowly Emery is starting to play a team that accentuates our strengths—2 strikers. Next time start Torreira. Eventually, play mid diamond or 3 at the back. This defense has no leadership and organization. Play 3 CB’s and make Lichtie the right sided CB, for example. Then we might have a shot at top 4. Meanwhile in Jan splash out on a dominant left sided CB to partner and complement Sokratis with Mustafi competing/backing up as right CB. Holding or Mavro as backup to the new guy and the other goes on loan.

  27. I think we have a lot of rebuilding to do. I don’t know how Torriera will work out but other then pea and Lacazette and perhaps Nacho, I can’t see anyone else in our current squad who would be playing high leverage minutes on any of the other top 6 teams. That was my impression before the season and the first 4 games have not really changed my mind.

  28. Sure wish you people wouldn’t dwell on these unfortunate technicalities. 😉

    Wavey: Cardiff City haven’t managed to score against Bournemouth, Newcastle or Huddersfield but have tucked away two against us.

  29. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Tend to agree, I could see Ramsey and possibly Xhaka sold in the winter if Ramsey doesn’t sign and Xhaka still struggling. I do think Torriera and Leno must start from now on and I do wonder if Emery was waiting until after the international break to give Leno and Torriera more time to bed into the tactics and system in place.

    3 points and both Lacazette ans Aubameyang getting goals despite a shaky defense, I’ll take it. Ozil even looking better in putting in a shift that most want to see.

    I will say, for all the heat that Mustafi gets, I do wonder if Sokaritis is built to play this way at this stage in his career.

  30. LSG – Did you notice how Cardiff knew that when Sokrates got the ball it was time to press him and the gk? So, you’ve got a goal keeper who can only pass to his left and a full back on that side who is very average on the ball. Emery should, at least, move Mustafi over to that side.
    Laca is a perfect No 10 / false nine. Been trying to contact Emery for months. He won’t return my calls.
    Torriera is so much better than Xhaka it is not funny. Better defensively. Better with the ball at his feet. His assist to Laca came because he is confident receiving the ball close to the Cardiff backline. Then it was just a short pass into space. Xhaka would have stood off, terrified he would lose the ball and then lose the footrace.

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