Talking Tactics

Wingers will be central to the hopes of Cardiff

Adrian Clarke 16 Aug 2018
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing-Junior Hoilett composite

Adrian Clarke says the winners of the wide battle between Cardiff and Newcastle on Saturday could come out on top

Adrian Clarke looks at the tactical battles set to take place in Matchweek 2.

Cardiff City v Newcastle United

Finding space in wide areas will be central to the plans of both Cardiff City and Newcastle United on Saturday.

Both teams rely on their wingers for creativity, dynamism and end product. 

Catching Magpies cold

Cardiff will look to release David Junior Hoilett, above right, and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, above left, as early as they can on the counter-attack.

When this happened last season, Neil Warnock’s men were direct and incisive.

They moved the ball up the pitch at a direct speed of 2.2 metres per second, a rate way in excess of the 1.6 metres per second averaged in the Premier League.

This trend continued in Matchweek 1 with 27 per cent of Cardiff’s passes against AFC Bournemouth measuring as long.

They will look to switch defence to attack as quickly as possible in this their first home match.

If swift breakaways can stretch Newcastle and drag their centre-backs towards the flanks, their two wingers could be match-winners.

Defensive downside

Out of possession Cardiff also ask a lot of Hoilett and Mendez-Laing.

Warnock’s wide forwards are instructed to drop into the full-back areas to help form a six-man defence.

This allows left-back Joe Bennett and right-back Lee Peltier to stay narrow or man-mark their opponents.

They often cover the full length of the pitch as shown in the image below of their touch maps at Vitality Stadium last weekend.

AFC Bournemouth v Cardiff City - Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing touch maps

Unfortunately for Cardiff, PL teams are more adept at exploiting such things.

Thanks to excellent movement, speed of thought, and good pass quality, AFC Bournemouth’s forwards had success with runs into the channels vacated by Bennett and Peltier.

With the full-backs dragged inside, Callum Wilson wreaked havoc by spinning into wide areas and scored, assisted as well as winning a penalty.

It is too early to suggest this approach from Cardiff will not be successful in the Premier League but it will be far harder to successfully replicate.

Attacks are executed with greater speed, movement and precision at this level so if their wide forwards are not in position early enough to supply cover, problems will occur.

Players to exploit  

Newcastle have players who can trouble Cardiff in this facet of play.

When the left-footed Matt Ritchie comes in off the right and drags Bennett with him, Joselu, Salomon Rondon, Ayoze Perez and DeAndre Yedlin will all naturally target those spaces with runs.

And in Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Kenedy the Magpies boast players who can pick the right pass when a gap is spotted.

To gain a positive result Cardiff must learn from the difficulties they faced down the wings at Vitality Stadium.

Then they should find a way to make their own wide players the central figures.

Also in this series 

Part 1: Arsenal can stop Jorginho with pressing
Part 3: Brighton have their own Pogba in Bissouma
Part 4: Wan-Bissaka has the tools to stop Mane

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