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History favours Cardiff's direct approach

Peter Smith and Matt Cheetham (Sky Sports) 17 Aug 2018
Bobby Reid, Cardiff City

Sky Sports findings suggest Neil Warnock's style of management can keep the Bluebirds safe from relegation

Every Premier League team present their opponents with a different challenge, but Cardiff City will be a unique test for most this season.

Neil Warnock’s team earned promotion to the top flight with a distinctly direct approach and the signs are that it is there to stay.

'Highest in the league'

Almost 27 per cent of Cardiff's passes in their 2-0 defeat to AFC Bournemouth were classified by Opta as long.

It was the highest figure of the opening weekend, ahead of the 23 per cent of Huddersfield Town and 21 per cent of Brighton & Hove Albion.

Almost inevitably, that led to them recording the lowest passing accuracy and fewest successful passes in the league by a significant margin.

Team passing in Matchweek 1
Lowest pass accuracy Fewest successful passes
Cardiff 61% Cardiff 175
Newcastle 69% Crystal Palace 258
Everton 75% Newcastle 267
Crystal Palace 75% Southampton 280
Watford 75% Huddersfield 281

It follows on from the trend of last season.

Cardiff sent a league-high 26 per cent of their passes long, while their pass accuracy of 59 per cent and average total of 166 successful passes were both the lowest recorded in the Championship since Opta began collecting such data.

To put those numbers into the context of the Premier League, Cardiff on average completed 495 passes fewer per match than Manchester City in 2017/18.

Fast and dangerous

But this style is not necessarily a negative one.

Those long passes allow them to get the ball forward and into dangerous areas as quickly as possible.

Because of this Cardiff's "direct speed", which measures how quickly a team moves the ball up the pitch in metres per second when in possession, far exceeded the most direct teams in the Premier League last season.

"What do you want as a fan?" Warnock asked last season when questioned on his style. "Do you want to see shots on target or do you want us to pass the ball across the pitch on the halfway line?"

History favours Warnock

There is more than one way to win a football match but will Cardiff’s tactics work in the Premier League?

History is on their side.

During the past 10 seasons, no team averaging less than 65 per cent passing accuracy and under 200 successful passes per match has been relegated.

In fact, they have not even finished in the bottom six, as shown in the table below.

Direct teams to stay up since 2008/09
Club Season Final position
Stoke 2008/09 12
Bolton 13
Stoke 2009/10 11
Bolton 14
Stoke 2010/11 13

The Welsh side may not have got off to the best start but there is evidence to suggest Saturday’s lunchtime opponents Newcastle United are set to face a stern test.

See: Sky Sports' Premier League features

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