HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

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HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby Sven » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:21 am

Four things Neil Warnock must do to get Cardiff City back on track... and why their form has plateaued
By Dominic Booth


Tuesday 19th September 2017


Cardiff City are now three games without a win and, while it's not a crisis, the manager will be keen to get his team firing again


While the rest of the Championship rubbed their eyes in disbelief at Cardiff City's astonishing start to the season, Neil Warnock was less surprised.

The five successive wins that Cardiff achieved to kickstart their campaign was, in his mind, a result of their hard yakka on the training ground. Not to mention the raft of summer signings brought to the club. With one of them, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, a key protagonist, the Bluebirds beat all and sundry.

There was a feeling in the Welsh capital that the hot streak could last forever but football doesn't work that way, and Cardiff's last three games have shown they will face hardships over the course of a gruelling season.

The only outlier has been that 3-0 defeat to Preston North End, with 1-1 draws against promotion-chasing Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday filed under the 'respectable' bracket. But three games without a win is enough to get some supporters twitching. Cardiff's next win cannot come soon enough.

So where have Cardiff faltered in the last three games? And what must Warnock now do to rectify things? Football writer Dominic Booth looks for answers...


1. Reinvigorate Kenneth Zohore

Kenneth Zohore's stats for this season belie his status as a potential Premier League player, with one goal and two assists from eight matches. Everyone connected with Cardiff knows Zohore has the ability to do better — as he showed last season and in the opening few matches of this.

The difference between that Zohore and the one who has struggled in recent weeks can largely be attributed to some smart defending. Centre-backs are wising up to Zohore, not allowing him any space to release shots from his favoured left-foot and matching the Dane for physicality. What was noticeable, against Sheffield Wednesday in particular, was the visitors winning a large proportion of second balls off Zohore's head.

For Warnock to get the best from his main striker again, he must get players closer to Zohore. It worked in the opening weeks of the season when he, Mendez-Laing and Junior Hoilett were forming a fluid front three, but Cardiff's wingers were pegged back by Wednesday's possession football and service into the striker was limited. He needs people running free beyond him.

We will see Zohore back to his best when those wide players — helped perhaps by more adventurous overlapping full-backs — get to the byline and provide him with the crosses he craves.


2. Re-address the midfield balance

You can see why in most cases Warnock prefers a midfield three. On occasion this season it has worked to perfection, Loic Damour partnering Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson to bring the Cardiff centre a solidarity that neither Wolves nor Aston Villa could crack. It was the ideal counter-balance to Fulham's swashbuckling football too.

But often it leaves the Bluebirds too deep in midfield and, thus, Zohore is isolated. It would not take a major overhaul of this Cardiff team to subtlety introduce a No.10 to that midfield in a tactical switch from 4-3-3 t 4-2-3-1. It wouldn't expose Cardiff in the middle, because Ralls and Gunnarsson (or Craig Bryson, or Damour) would still be there to protect the defence.

But it seems such a waste to leave a talent like Lee Tomlin on the bench. Especially when Cardiff are lacking guile in midfield and a top-notch set piece taker to boot.

If Warnock doesn't fancy letting Tomlin loose away from home against the division's big hitters he can always play an energetic player like Bryson or Damour as a No.10 with some licence to get forward. What must not happen, however, is for Cardiff to cede the midfield for long periods like they did against Wednesday.


3. Keep the fear factor

Cardiff's early season purple patch owed as much to a psychological edge as anything more tangible. It was evident especially at Molineux when an unsettled Wolves outfit couldn't live with Cardiff's intensity. It was as if Nuno Espirito Santo's side were cowed by the Bluebirds that day, with Warnock's reputation preceding him and defenders standing off Mendez-Laing as if concerned about the winger's scintillating form.

The Preston defeat might just have damaged that reputation. Alex Neil boldly proclaimed Cardiff weren't 'any great shakes' before the game and was vindicated in the 90 minutes that followed at Deepdale.

Wednesday pounced on Cardiff's vulnerability four days after too, dominating possession in the first half as if determined to prove themselves as the more dominant force.

Warnock isn't scared by anyone — and actually thrives on the 'underdog' tag — but the job of a football manager is often to massage the egos of his players. If the Bluebirds boss can do that with Zohore, Mendez-Laing and Gunnarsson and make them feel a million dollars again, they will start frightening teams again.


4. Give Danny Ward a chance

How long can Danny Ward continue to be a perennial late substitute? The former Rotherham forward has played 75 minutes this season — over the course of eight matches.

He has been brought on in every Cardiff league match, to great effect at Craven Cottage when he grabbed a late equaliser.

But Bluebirds fans have been scratching their heads as to why Ward keeps being excluded from the first team. Neither centre-forward Zohore nor left-winger Hoilett shone against Sheffield Wednesday, so it might finally be time for Ward to slot in at Sunderland on Saturday.

Ward offers pace and urgency in the final third that Cardiff criminally lacked at Preston, and could have used in the first half against Wednesday.

It is not a freak occurrence that his introduction has coincided with late goals at Burton, Fulham and against the Owls. Whether it's up front or on the wing, Neil, Ward deserves a shot.
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HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

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Re: HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby dogfound » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:33 am

the only thing this bluebirds fan has been scratching is head about...is why do some fans want players dropped when we have had such a good start..??????
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Re: HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby TAP_Sheep » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:08 pm

dogfound wrote:the only thing this bluebirds fan has been scratching is head about...is why do some fans want players dropped when we have had such a good start..??????


I wouldn't drop, just rest. You can't keep the same starting XI throughout the whole season in the Championship. It's just too many games.
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Re: HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby nubbsy » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:17 pm

TAP_Sheep wrote:
dogfound wrote:the only thing this bluebirds fan has been scratching is head about...is why do some fans want players dropped when we have had such a good start..??????


I wouldn't drop, just rest. You can't keep the same starting XI throughout the whole season in the Championship. It's just too many games.



Agree and we've got a great squad. Not asking for an OGS style overhaul just freshen things up a bit.
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Re: HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby TAP_Sheep » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:41 pm

nubbsy wrote:
TAP_Sheep wrote:
dogfound wrote:the only thing this bluebirds fan has been scratching is head about...is why do some fans want players dropped when we have had such a good start..??????


I wouldn't drop, just rest. You can't keep the same starting XI throughout the whole season in the Championship. It's just too many games.



Agree and we've got a great squad. Not asking for an OGS style overhaul just freshen things up a bit.


Exactly, Malky had that ethos where he'd have at least 2,3 players per position in order to be able to rotate. Marshall was number 1 of course and goal keepers don't need much resting but the rest:

RB: McNaughton/Connolly
CB: Hudson/Turner/Connolly/Barnett
LB: Taylor/Connolly/Lappin (he was hopeless I know)
Wingers: Cowie/Conway/Noone/Harris/Mutch/Smith/Bellamy
CM: Kiss/Whittingham/Cowie/Kimbo/Gunnarsson/Mutch
ST: Bellamy/Smith/Gestede/Mason/Helguson/Campbell/Maynard(injury).

All of these players actually had lots of playing time and were all solid enough. Depth makes Champions in this league.
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Re: HOW NEIL WARNOCK CAN GET CITY BACK ON TRACK

Postby TopCat CCFC » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:10 pm

nubbsy wrote:
TAP_Sheep wrote:
dogfound wrote:the only thing this bluebirds fan has been scratching is head about...is why do some fans want players dropped when we have had such a good start..??????


I wouldn't drop, just rest. You can't keep the same starting XI throughout the whole season in the Championship. It's just too many games.



Agree and we've got a great squad. Not asking for an OGS style overhaul just freshen things up a bit.


OGS :roll:
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