Cardiff City fell to a 1-0 loss to Leicester City on Saturday in a game that was about so much more than football.
It feels strange to write an analysis of such an emotional game. Events on the pitch pale into insignificance compared to the tragic events that took place at the King Power Stadium the previous week.
There was a return for Harry Arter in midfield, which saw Victor Camarasa move to the right of a midfield four. Bobby Reid continued in the number ten role behind Calum Patterson.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) November 3, 2018
Leicester’s brave and courageous players lined up in an identical 4-4-1-1 system, with the impressive James Maddison playing in behind Jamie Vardy.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 3, 2018
What the stats say
As expected, Cardiff City had less possession and completed less passes than Leicester City. We’re used to that with Neil Warnock’s style of play, but the stats show that the Bluebirds were simply outclassed all over the field.
Only two shots on target at home is disappointing and the Bluebirds also failed to dominate in the air, as they usually do. Leicester won 45 aerial duels to Cardiff’s 42.
Cardiff huffed and puffed, but failed to threaten
It was a poor game for Cardiff City. Perhaps the occasion was overawing for them (understandably). Perhaps Leicester were just the better side.
What was noticeable on Saturday was Cardiff lack of ability to really threaten the Leicester City goal. Just two shots on target says it all, but Cardiff lacked the true creativity to threaten.
Bobby Reid, who played in the crucial number ten role, managed just 23 touches on the ball and failed to complete a single dribble during the game.
Victor Camarasa, often Cardiff’s most positive runner with the ball, also failed to complete a single run with the ball. Josh Murphy, Cardiff’s main direct outlet, undertook three dribbles and was dispossessed twice.
Jamie Vardy created space in behind
Jamie Vardy is a bit of a bastard. I mean that as a complete complement; he is absolutely horrible to play against. Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison found that out on Saturday.
While Vardy didn’t particularly cause many direct threats on Cardiff’s goal – apart from forcing a great save from Neil Etheridge when one-on-one in the second half – he played a really smart game.
Vardy’s constant movement meant that he was able to create space and penetrate it – or vacate the space for the on-running Maddison, Gray or Albrighton.
In the example below, Vardy has pulled Sean Morrison out of position and spins instantly to penetrate the space they have vacated. This results in a good chance for Leicester.
Leicester movement, Cardiff’s poor tracking cause goal
The Leicester goal was a really nice goal – and one they thoroughly deserved. When analysing it, though, there are three takeaways:
- A lack of concentration/communication: In the lead up to the goal, Cardiff actually win the ball back. Aron Gunnarsson dispossesses the Leicester player but is quickly dispossessed himself by Jamie Vardy, who presses from behind. Whether it’s a lack of communication from a teammate to warn Gunnar that Vardy is coming (it certainly looks that way from the Icelandic captain’s reaction) or a lack of concentration, Cardiff cannot afford to lose the ball in dangerous positions like that.
- Space in behind Manga: Three things here; Cardiff’s man-marking system means that Manga has gone to press his man. Leicester’s brilliant movement means that Albrighton, the right-winger, has moved to infiltrate the space in-behind Manga. Camarasa’s tendency to drift in-field, due to his natural position in the centre of the park, means he is not out-wide to double up with Manga.
- Joe Bennett caught flat-footed: Cardiff actually have a man over in the box. Just two players can threaten goal; Vardy and Gray, and both are marked. The problem arises when Vardy makes a run to the front post, leaving space in the centre of the box. Joe Bennett is caught flat-footed and is unable to track Gray, who slots home.
Cardiff were simply outclassed on an emotional game in South Wales. Perhaps the most important analysis to take from the game, though, is that the club and the fans did ourselves proud and I know that Leicester fans will forever be grateful to us for that.
Also, massive shout out to Cardiff City and their fans for their exceptional attitude today. You are a real credit to football and I for one wish you the best of luck for your challenge in the remainder of the season #ccfc #CarLei #lcfc
— Ollie Curzon (@NoisyVuvuzela) November 3, 2018
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.