Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

A trip to South Wales beckons later today as we are on TV for the second time in less than seven days. It’s not worth getting into the whole TV debate as I’ll be able to ramble for hours, let me just leave you with one point. The game against Cardiff will finish at roughly 22:00, the last train back to Wolverhampton departs at 21:50. How on earth is that fair game for the travelling Wolves fans? Yes, alternate methods of transport are available, but you don’t get the same levels of freedom that you do with the train. Football is supposed to be played on a Saturday at 15:00, there are no two ways about it. Yes, that’s the price you have to pay to play in the Premier League, nonetheless, it doesn’t make it any more acceptable. Rant over. Moving on…

It will take something very special for tonight’s game to match last season’s in terms of drama. Cardiff squandered two stoppage time penalties in the second-half as Ruddy saved one and the other failed to hit the target. A Ruben Neves free-kick gave Wolves the three points which effectively sealed promotion and the title. At this moment in time, I’m sure Nuno would bite Warnock’s hand off if he offered him a repeat of last year. I’m not certain my heart could take it, mind.

Four At The Back = Attack, Attack, Attack

Every game this season (according to WhoScored) Cardiff have played with four at the back. We tend to fare better on the attacking front when facing four at the back as it means our wing-backs are able to pull opposing defences all over, leaving gaps for late runs. Huddersfield showed on Sunday that if you restrict our wing-backs from playing, we do find it very difficult to get going. It’s also not a very well kept secret that if you pack the midfield, we will also struggle and bearing in mind that Cardiff sometimes use five in the middle, it’ll be interesting to see if Nuno shuffles the pack.

In the opposing dugout, Neil Warnock has a decision to make. How much respect does he give Wolves? If he plays a 4-4-1-1 with a slightly bigger emphasis on attack, it will play into Nuno’s hands, you would think. On the contrary, if Warnock selects an extra man in the middle and goes for a 4-1-4-1, it’ll be an almighty battle. So, the bigger question is, does Warnock believe he can win? At home to Brighton and Fulham, Warnock has played 4-4-1-1, yet at Goodison Park at the weekend, the 4-1-4-1 was implemented. My gut is telling me Warnock will see it as a game he can win. We’ll see how he plays out.

Play Our Own Game

Nuno will more than likely keep faith with the 3-4-3 that has served him so well since he arrived in the Black Country in the summer of 2017. While that may be admirable, Nuno also needs to recognise when things need changing. If it’s 0-0 at halftime and we’re struggling to bypass their midfield then he needs to switch it up rather than being too proud about it. Saying that, we shouldn’t be letting teams like Cardiff dictate to us. Play our own game on point and we will win. That was the problem with the Huddersfield game, nobody really played well. In fact, nobody played well full stop. Yes, there were a couple of moments of class from Vinagre, but that aside, it was a poor performance all round.

Turning our attention back to the hosts for the time being, they’ve won two of their last three home games and it’s clear that if they’re going to stay in the Premier League, it’ll be down to their home form. They’ve won nine points thus far this campaign and sit second bottom and all but one of those points have come in South Wales. If they were to beat us, they would move up to 15th in the table before everyone else plays. Most recently at the Cardiff City Stadium, Warnock’s side got a late, late winner against Brighton. Let’s put the spotlight on that very game.

High Line

When you think of Neil Warnock’s Cardiff, words such as grit, determination and discipline spring to mind. Be that as it may, you could argue it was somewhat surprising how they conceded against Brighton. It all started after Cardiff conceded a free-kick on their defensive right-hand side.

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Too much of a gap between the back line and Etheridge.

Bamba has been placed on Lewis Dunk, which in turn means he’ll probably be placed on Willy Boly. Jimenez, Bennett (if he starts) and the others will all be milling about, ready to pounce. It’s hardly a surprise what happened next.

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Dunk puts Brighton into the lead.

Brighton opt for the outswinger which disables Etheridge’s ability to collect the ball. Granted, he could try, but it would more than likely end up a suicide mission. Bamba completely misjudges the flight of the ball and Dunk says thank you very much and goodnight. Now, what can we take away from this? #1 outswingers cause mayhem and #2, outswingers cause mayhem. It’s that important, I said it twice. No doubt, Cardiff would have worked on this situation since it happened, however, there’s every chance they’ll make a mistake at one set piece. Our delivery has to be on point.

Patience Is A Virtue

Cardiff’s equaliser against the Seagulls was a well-worked goal that went from side to side before Kadeem Harris took charge of the situation. He collects the ball on the edge of the area and miraculously finds his way to the byline before pulling back.

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Now you see me, then you don’t.

Harris drives at the heart of the Brighton defence and the biggest problem I’ve got with this is that I can see us allowing them to do exactly the same. If you look at Cardiff’s #13, Paterson, he’s not being picked up that well and it’s him that eventually scores.

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Cunningham is ready and waiting.

While the ball took a fortunate deflection from Cardiff’s perspective, Harris had done all the hard work. Montoya makes the error of trying to play Paterson offside and then can’t get back into position, thus leaving Paterson with an easy finish. And that’s how the equaliser was scored. I’m not sure what it is about this move, but it smacks of how Cardiff will likely score tonight. Fingers crossed, I’m wrong. The third and winning goal of the game came late in the second half.

Stereotypical Cardiff Winner

Aron Gunnarsson’s long throws have been a fixture in Cardiff’s play since 2011. There’s a very Rory Delap & Stoke feel about it all, nonetheless, if it works, why on earth wouldn’t you do it?

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Carnage!

Gunnarsson launches the ball in towards Manga who is the first port of call. As you can see, the situation developing behind Manga has evolved into a 4 vs 3 situation in Cardiff’s favour. Poor defensive work from Brighton or good movement from Cardiff? I’ll leave that one up to you. What happens next is effectively a giant game of pinball.

Cardiff City Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
This doesn’t tell half the story.

Prior to this happening, Bamba’s bicycle kick hits the post. Seemingly, Brighton think the damage the Ivorian can do has been and gone. INCORRECT. He’s first to react to the ball cannoning off the crossbar and rifles an attempt into the top corner. Again, similar to the first goal they scored, I can see this happening to us and that does worry me ever so slightly.

There you have it, Cardiff have got players that can produce individual bits of brilliance. Additionally, they’re more than capable of going right the other way and playing route one. If we perform how we did against Huddersfield, Cardiff will beat us. If we perform how we did against Arsenal, we’ll beat them. Is there a question about the players being motivated enough to play the ‘lesser’ teams? I’ll come back to you with an answer on that when I do the analysis. An intriguing match-up awaits.

Team News

Not a great deal to really report from either side. Nothing new on our part, Jonny is still injured and will be for the foreseeable, the only questions that are being asked at the moment are in relation to the formation and the front three. Should Traore be given another go from the start? Should Jota be recalled? Is 3-4-3 likely to work? All questions that Nuno will be only too aware of, it’s how they’re answered which will perhaps decide the outcome of the match. Warnock might change a couple of things, nothing too drastic.

Final Thoughts

For what I believe is the first time this season, we’re going into a game and I’m feeling somewhat despondent about it all. Whether it’s because the Huddersfield game was eerily similar to the Watford one which means we haven’t learnt anything or something completely different, I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be livid if we lose tonight, all the same, it’ll be a case of, well, I saw that coming. Enough of the negativity – man for man we are better than Cardiff and on our day we can wipe the floor with them. Let’s hope tonight is our day.

Until the next time.

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I've got an unhealthy obsession with Wolves, Wolverhampton Wanderers, WWFC, whatever you fancy calling us today. When we win I'm on top of the world, when we lose I'm a nightmare to be around. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and people tell me that you're meant to grow out of it, however, I don't envisage that happening anytime soon. Anyway, I'm the lead analyst on here and while I try and keep my opinion out of my writing, sometimes it's too difficult to do that. I also use the terms 'we' and 'us' when talking about Wolves and I do try and remain impartial although it's debatable whether or not I do. In hindsight, I'm probably over critical of Wolves in the same manner that I'm over complimentary, so I guess it all balances itself out in the end. Grab yourself a cuppa and have a look around.