Cardiff City’s stay in the Premier League was short-lived, and after a whirlwind nine months in the top-flight, they are back in the Championship.
The season was full of ups and downs; both on and off the field, but it could be argued that there is no club in the Championship more prepared for a promotion fight than the Bluebirds.
Looking back at last season it is clear where the club went wrong. Their start to the season was abysmal. In the opening eight matches, the club could only muster two points; a factor that left them rock bottom in the Premier League. That will be a matter that will need to be addressed on their return to the Championship, and Neil Warnock will need to ensure a strong start is achieved to maximise their chances of an instant return to the top-flight. However, with Cardiff’s 3-2 defeat to Wigan on the opening day, fans have reason to be worried. Neil Warnock’s side need to put this behind them and focus on their next fixtures, which on paper, they should be able to achieve at least 10 points in their next fixtures. Their next five fixtures are:
- Luton Town (H)
- Reading (A)
- Huddersfield Town (H)
- Blackburn Rovers (A)
- Fulham (A)
Considering that the Bluebirds are playing no sides that featured in the top half of the Championship last season; should they have any hopes of promotion they will be expected to get off to a near-perfect start.
Where are Cardiff Likely to Finish this Season?
There is no reason why the Bluebirds can’t target the automatic places. At the very least they should be aiming for a top-six finish. CompareYourOdds.com currently make City 12/1 to win the Championship, and 7/3 to win promotion. It would be hard to bet against them after considering the expertise that Warnock has at this level, as well as the proven Championship quality they have in their squad. They will be among the leading contenders, but a strong start to the season is essential.
The club’s ability to keep hold of Neil Warnock could have been an early turning point in their return to the Championship. No manager has achieved more promotions than Warnock, and Cardiff’s chances are undoubtedly increased by having the Englishman as their manager. It could be argued that the Bluebirds may have been relegated earlier last season if it wasn’t for Warnock’s ability to deal with off-field problems and setting up his team acutely to maintain winning positions.
It’s not just off the field where they have leaders; as the Bluebirds have been able to keep hold of Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison. The latter of which was in outstanding form throughout the 2018-19 season and his relationship with the fit-again Bamba will ensure that the Bluebirds are difficult to beat in the Championship. The signing of Aden Flint from Middlesbrough also means that the backline has another leader, and his knowledge of the Championship will be crucial for City. No other club in the second-flight boasts the number of defensive options that Cardiff do, and that is a solid foundation in their aim of promotion.
Cardiff’s Weak Points
Last season there was one area that Cardiff struggled in more than most, and that was scoring goals. Only Huddersfield Town recorded a lower tally than City’s 34 goals. They lacked a striker that was able to score the goals to keep them up, and that was highlighted with their top scorer Bobby Reid only having found the net on five occasions. Victor Camarasa also ended the season with five goals, but the club have failed to extend his loan with the club. The Spaniard was the only player in their team last season that was capable of passing through the line of packed defences, and he will understandably be a miss for the club.
The return of Lee Tomlin after his loan spell with Peterborough United last season could be the answer to this dilemma. Tomlin’s eye for a pass was crucial in Peterborough’s promotion push, and his calibre in the Championship is undisputed. Whether Warnock looks to play a number ten could be essential to his first-team chances. Instead, the Englishman may opt to revert back to a 4-4-2 formation, which excelled in Cardiff’s promotion season. Reid is a proven Championship goalscorer, and there is little doubt that he will flourish back in the second-tier. The same can be said of Danny Ward; who will be the second-choice striker for the 2019-20 season following the departure of Kenneth Zohore. The Bluebirds may yet look to add another striker to their squad, but they may already have enough firepower for the Championship.