Remember 2018? It was a lovely year, wasn’t it? 2019, not so much. The new year started with a 3-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the Cardiff City Stadium.
This game was almost a free hit. You’re against all the odds to beat a big six team and the four points over the festive period against Crystal Palace and Leicester gave City a bit of breathing room.
Still, a 3-0 loss isn’t ideal. But look on the bright side, City remain three points outside of the relegation zone, although that could change after tonight’s games.
Where was the game won and lost? What went right and what went wrong? We investigate in the VFTN Analysis.
I’ve written previously about Warnock’s favoured man-marking approach. He likes his players to go man to man across the pitch and follow their man across the pitch.
It’s an extreme approach, but on a whole it’s worked well. Against Leicester, City were able to nullify the threat of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy by suffocating their space.
Against Spurs, though, it was a disaster. The Premier League title challengers have superb movement and used that to pick Cardiff apart.
In the example above, Harry Kane has dropped deep to the half-way line to receive the ball, pop it off and make a run. Just out of shot is Sean Morrison, who has followed Kane.
This movement has to be applauded. Throughout the game, City’s defence were pulled all over the place. At one point in the second half, Greg Cunningham was on the right-wing having followed his man across the pitch!
Spurs runners cause damage
All of that movement I mentioned above meant that there were holes all over City’s shape. With Morrison or Bamba on the half-way line with Kane, Cunningham on the right wing with Son and Gunnarsson out of position with Alli, there was space to exploit.
Spurs were just brilliant at doing that. Playing with the three attacking midfielders (Son, Eriksen and Alli), they were able to push runners beyond Kane and into the space vacated by the England international.
Above is the scenario before Son’s goal, Spurs’ third. There’s no Kane in sight and you can see Sean Morrison miles out of position.
It’s 3v2, with Eriksen running beyond his man (Arter) and Sissoko beyond Murphy. Son, of course, carries the ball into the box and slots home, but it perfectly shows how Spurs were able to get in behind Cardiff.
Reid a lost man up top
Poor Bobby Reid. He tries and shows flashes of quality, but is set up for failure by Warnock by sticking him up top against two giants.
Warnock opted to stick Callum Paterson on the right-wing, clearly targeting Danny Rose (Spurs’ left-back) as a weak link aerially. It simply didn’t work. Rose won four of the aerial battles and while City’s Paterson also won four, they were not effective as he was stuck out wide away from goal.
Where Cardiff really suffered was in the centre of the attack. Bobby Reid is 5ft 7. Dávinson Sánchez and Toby Alderweireld are both 6ft 2. The City striker had no hope.
Reid won zero aerial battles and spent most of the game isolated. Reid deserved to start, but would’ve been better playing out wide with Paterson remaining through the centre of the attack.
A day to forget for Cardiff City. Whilst nobody expected the Bluebirds to win this match, Warnock and the fans will be disappointed with the manner of the defeat.
Attention turns to Huddersfield on the 12th of January – a real relegation six-pointer.
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.