Talking Tactics

The promoted: Cardiff can shake things up

By Adrian Clarke 10 Jun 2018
Huddersfield Town v Cardiff City

Adrian Clarke explains why Neil Warnock's Bluebirds will be tough opponents in 2018/19

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Cardiff City

Cardiff City’s collective application, physicality, and strength in the air were all core strengths of their promotion to the Premier League.

But Neil Warnock’s tactics played a big part, too.

The 69-year-old’s defensive ploys were a feature of the Championship campaign.  

Warnock's rigorous plans adapted to nullifying the opposition and were often superbly executed by his players.

The Cardiff defenders closed down space aggressively, often following the players they were designated to mark into midfield areas.

Often, Sol Bamba, the centre-back, or full-backs Lee Peltier and Joe Bennett were stationed in midfield, with the two wide men, Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, dropping to cover the wings.

This led to lopsided shapes, but the ploy was effective.

Cardiff’s record of 39 goals conceded was the joint-best in the division.

Warnock’s favoured systems were 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, but they were used only in 60 per cent of matches over the course of the season.

The manager used nine formations in total, including a back three in nine matches, as he adapted his approach according to the opposition.

Expect this to continue in the Premier League.

Percentage play

Cardiff are not a possession-based side.

They prefer to get the ball forward quickly in a direct manner, especially from transitions.

The hard-working forward, Kenneth Zohore, is their main outlet, but their game becomes neater inside the final third.

This has led to some unusual statistics from last season.

In terms of accurate distribution their numbers were incredibly low for such a successful side.

However, they spent the largest percentage of any team on the ball inside opposition territory.

Cardiff in 2017/18
  Per match League rank
Short passes 207 24
Pass accuracy 59.4% 24
Average possession 45.4% 21
Aerial duels won 34.5 1
Time spent in final third 34% 1
Set-piece danger

Wide free-kicks and corners were a regular supply of goals for Cardiff.

Thanks to some excellent training-ground routines and the accuracy of the deliveries from Joe Ralls and Hoilett, the Bluebirds were brilliant from set-pieces.

Cardiff always looked like scoring from set-pieces, either through the towering central defenders Sean Morrison and Bamba, or via the expertly timed runs of midfielder Calum Paterson.

Warnock is sure to focus on maintaining this threat in the Premier League.

Also, the long throws of Aron Gunnarsson are another part of the Bluebirds' armoury.

Cardiff set-piece goals 2017/18
Type Goals
Corners 9
Free-kicks 10
Throw-in 2
Tactical style

Warnock’s men are physical, direct and efficient in the way they operate. They are terrific at playing vertical football based on winning second balls.

With each individual working hard and drilled in what is needed off the ball, they will make life difficult for opponents in the upcoming season.

Scoring enough goals from open play may be an issue, but their togetherness is a real asset.

Also in this series 

Part 1: The promoted: Fast Wolves can take their big chance
Part 2: Wolves: Three players to watch
Part 4: Cardiff: Three players to watch
Part 5: The promoted: Fulham set to return in style
Part 6: Fulham: Three players to watch

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