Cardiff City make their return to the Premier League following a runners-up finish in the Sky Bet Championship last season. The Bluebirds were last in the top flight for just a solitary season, being relegated in last place in the 2013/14 season. However, their squad coming into this campaign looks far more capable than the group from last time around.
Cardiff City Season Preview
Last Time Out
After steering the club clear of relegation in the 2016/17 campaign, Neil Warnock set a club record at the start of last season by winning the first three games of the season, something Cardiff had not achieved at all in their history beforehand; quite the upturn in form. One of those wins also came against the eventual champions, Wolves, who they beat 2-1 at Molineux.
Cardiff made steady progress throughout the season and they had only lost three times before December. A rotten run over Christmas looked to have derailed their Premier League charge as they lost four consecutive games, scoring just three times and conceding nine. Four of those came against a Fulham team that pushed the Bluebirds right until the final day.
They managed to rectify their form post-Christmas and Warnock took his team of a magnificent 14-game unbeaten run, which saw them constantly closing the gap at the top of the table. Their next loss, though, was against the one team they could not afford to lose to; the leaders, Wolves. A stunning free-kick from Ruben Neves meant Wolves left the Cardiff City Stadium with all three points, and Cardiff suffered a similar fate in their next game as they went down 1-0 to Aston Villa.
This small sequence of losses, including a further loss two weeks later and a 0-0 draw on the final day, meant that Cardiff missed out on winning the league, but did mean that they went up automatically as Fulham failed to gain a point at Birmingham on the final day. It was a magnificent achievement for Warnock and his squad who were given almost no chance of even challenging the promotion spots, let alone being in one once the season had concluded.
Manager – Neil Warnock
Although he might not be the most well-liked manager in the business, it’s hard to deny that Neil Warnock has had a successful career. Although he has never quite cut it at the top level, his record in the Football League speaks for itself, with eight promotions in his career, the most of any manager.
The Sheffield-born manager seems to be able to get the best out of his players whilst also not splashing the cash on them. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, influential in Cardiff’s success, was signed on a free from Walsall, as was Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Rochdale. Additionally, top-scorer Callum Paterson was signed for a reported fee of just £400,000.
What was evident last season was that the players seemed to want to play for Warnock. They were a fantastic unit and that’s something created by a manager. With much of the group from last season staying put, this season looks set to be Warnock’s most successful in the top flight.
Goals seemed to come from all over the pitch last season for Cardiff. Defender Callum Paterson finished as the season’s top scorer in the league with 10, winger Junior Hoilett was one behind with nine, and defender Sean Morrison came in joint-third place with seven.
Kenneth Zohore, the Danish striker, looks to be their most valuable asset. He has scored21 times since his arrival at Cardiff in 2016, nine of which came last season. It could be argued that Zohore is not a ‘goalscorer’ despite playing so far up the field, as his height is enough to scare defenders into following him, allowing space to open up for his teammates instead.
Despite this style of play, he still contributes enough to the goalscoring to not be considered a flop, and his style should suit the Premier League well.
Although there has been high praise for Cardiff over the last season, their squad does look significantly weaker than any other currently in the league. They have made two signings in Josh Murphy and Bobby Reid, both of whom were big assets to their previous clubs. There is still time, but it’s not enough at the moment.
Expect them to put up a fight, but it is likely to be a swift return to the second tier for Cardiff.
Predicted Finish: 18th