In their final game of 2018, Cardiff City recorded their first away win of the season. It was a long time coming, but boy was it worth waiting for.
A superb performance against Leicester City – including a penalty save from Neil Etheridge – saw Cardiff take all three points thanks to a wonder goal from Victor Camarasa.
But how did the Bluebirds pull off a win against a side that has just beaten Chelsea and reigning champions Manchester City? We investigate in the VFTN Analysis.
A return to the tried and trusted shape pays off
Before kick off, a number of fans were slightly bemused why Warnock ditched the 5-2-2-1 shape that worked so well against Crystal Palace. The gaffer got it spot on, though, and a return to the tried and trusted 4-5-1 shape paid off.
The key was in defence, where Leicester only play with one striker; Jamie Vardy. That meant that having three centre-halves was overkill, with Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison able to marshal Vardy throughout the game – which they did very effectively.
What Cardiff did well also was blocking the passing lanes through to Maddison and Vardy. In the example below, you can see Harry Maguire has the ball and through pressure and good shape, Cardiff are able to restrict him to an aimless long ball.
Unbelievable pressing from City
Watching the game, there were a number of periods where Cardiff City were on top of Leicester. Not necessarily in terms of possession, but in terms of momentum.
It was obvious that James Maddison was Leicester’s key man and they looked to him to create opportunities. City did well at getting bodies around him and forcing mistakes or turnovers. Below, Aron Gunnarsson is tight to the England international, with Camarasa, Arter and Bruno Manga all ready to press him.
Cardiff’s pressing was superb, with the likes of Harry Arter setting the tempo. Cardiff swarmed Leicester like wasps and forced a number of mistakes.
The pressing really put Cardiff on the front foot and created a number of opportunities. In the example below, City’s forwards press Ndidi, with Paterson creating a turnover and an opportunity on goal.
Credit to Junior Hoilett
I’m going to hold my hands up here. I’ve been very critical of Junior Hoilett this season. The two wonder goals apart, I think that Hoilett has been very poor and hasn’t brought much to the side.
On Saturday, though, Hoilett proved why he is so important to Warnock’s side. While his attacking play often left a lot to be desired, it was Hoilett’s defensive work that was so important.
Throughout the game, Hoilett worked incredibly hard to nullify the threat going forward from Ben Chilwell and help Bruno Manga with Demarai Gray. He won 100% of his tackles, completed two clearances and an interception.
While questions still remain of Hoilett’s attacking potency – he was dispossessed more than anyone else on the pitch – he showed at Leicester why he is such an important player for Neil Warnock.
If we’ve learnt one thing from the Leicester game, it’s that Neil Warnock isn’t the ‘dinosaur’ so many critics unfairly label him as. He’s adaptive and responds to the opposition, which he really deserves credit for.
In the last two games, Cardiff have picked up four points away from home, and that comes down to Warnock adapting his tactics to the opposition in front of him.
Cardiff were superb all over the pitch against Leicester and executed the perfect away performance.
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.