Newly-promoted Cardiff City are certainly underdogs for Premier League survival this season. However, with the right managerial approach, tactical system, self-belief and a bit of luck, the Bluebirds can confound the odds and live to fight in the top flight for another campaign.
A solid foundation is already in place in the team at the Cardiff City Stadium. In goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, centre-backs Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba, midfielder Harry After and winger Josh Murphy, the Bluebirds’ have a solid spine to their first XI.
For manager Neil Warnock, the challenge is to get this group of players, who lack reliable quality beyond the aforementioned group, playing in a manner that maximises the strengths of their key men and guards the deficiencies inherent in the group.
The key to this is returning Cardiff to the basics. By deploying a simple style of play, and ensuring that individuals commit to their instructed tasks, they can become very difficult to beat. That’s a start.
Whilst they certainly lack a quality centre-forward – surely a top priority for January – they have an exciting, explosive wide attacker in 23-year-old Murphy. His two strikes so far this season show that he has end product too.
In maximising their greatest attributes – physicality and organisation – Warnock can get the best out of this team. However, perhaps their greatest means of ensuring survival lays in their mentality. Against Arsenal and Liverpool already this season Cardiff have shown they’re willing to scrap to the bitter end of every match and won’t give up because they’ve gone behind.
This mental resilience is vital to their chances of a strong season. If Warnock can continue to successfully cultivate and maintain this mentality, and keep his side sticking to doing the basics well, then Cardiff have a fighting chance.
It may not be pretty, but Cardiff should not shy away from their physical, long-ball approach. If their powerful striker Kenneth Zohore can find some form too then they will have the perfect focal point for the likes of Arter to target and Murphy to play off of.