Cardiff City shook off their away form hoodoo by picking up just their second away point of the season in the 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace.
We examine the good, the bad and the ugly in the View From The Ninian analysis.
The back three and a change in shape
In the last away match’s VFTN Analysis I argued that it was perhaps time for a change in system away from home. It seems that Neil Warnock is a big fan of the column, as he did exactly that on Boxing Day.
He opted for a 5-2-2-1 system, which gave defensive solidity and the players to be able to launch a counter attack.
While City still struggled in possession and didn’t create too many chances – the Bluebirds recorded four shots on target – it made them extremely difficult to break down.
The back three of Manga, Bamba and Morrison were absolutely superb and marshalled an attacking Palace side well.
City man mark effectively
One thing we’ve seen consistently from Neil Warnock this season is a man for man marking system. Basically, he’s asked his players to man mark the opponent – which has often seen his players drop into unfamiliar spaces.
In the example above, Kadeem Harris has tracked Wan-Bissaka down the pitch and finds himself further back than left-back Joe Bennett.
City effectively did this throughout, frustrating Palace’s key players, including former Cardiff man Wilf Zaha.
New system gives City the legs to break forward
Whilst Palace were the better side and created more opportunities, City were able to break forward more than they have in recent away games. Having the back three gave more freedom to players to break forward on the counter attack.
In the example above, City have five players pushing forward trying to threaten Palace’s goal, something we’ve not seen too much in away games this season.
The system also gave the likes of Joe Bennett licence to push forward in support of the attacks, a great asset to his game.
Nowhere near perfect, but a much improved Cardiff away performance. It was almost the perfect away smash and grab, if Khadeem Harris had finished his glorious opportunity in the second half.
That said, City will be pleased with this point. They defended well and frustrated Palace, who beat the champions Manchester City the previous week. Lots of positives, but Cardiff can’t afford to give their opponent 31 shots on goal every week.
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.