Cardiff City are on a torrid run. A 2-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday meant it was three losses in a row for the Bluebirds.
Where did it all go wrong for Warnock’s side? We investigate in the VFTN analysis.
Warnock dramatically changes the system
After two disappointed performances in losses to Watford and Everton, Neil Warnock made dramatic changes to his Cardiff City side. Out was Bruno Manga and in was Lee Peltier, with Sean Morrison pairing Sol Bamba at the heart of the defence.
The major changes came in attack, with Warnock opting for a diamond 4-4-2 system. Aron Gunnarsson was the base of midfield, with Joe Ralls and Victor Camarasa located in the centre. Bobby Reid spearheaded the diamond.
Up front Ken Zohore and Oumar Niasse started a match together for the first time.
It was a bold choice from Warnock, and one I struggle to understand. To me, it seems like a case of throwing the kitchen sink at the game and not really having any strategic reason for it.
Wolves target the wings
While Wolves played a 3-5-2 formation, a lot of their play came down the wings. Rueben Vinagre and Adama Traore occupied the wide positions for Wolves, with the former Middlesborough man particularly impressive.
With Cardiff playing with no width, Wolves were able to target the wing areas and isolate Cardiff players.
Joe Bennet, in particular, had a tough time at left-back, facing Adama Traore one-on-one. The Cardiff man did okay, winning five of his eight attempted tackles, but the Wolves man was able to complete five of his six attempted dribbles.
Traore was always going to be a danger and it just felt like Warnock’s system allowed him to get at Bennett. Playing a winger would’ve forced Traore back and given Bennett some support in defence.
Ultimately, Cardiff were sloppy and the mistakes prove costly
We can analyse all we want, but ultimately it’s the mistakes that cost Cardiff City on Saturday. For the third game running, the Bluebirds made life easy for their opponents and were poor on the ball.
Sol Bamba’s mistake is the obvious one here, playing around with the ball and squandering possession in a dangerous area. It’s a part of Bamba’s game that he needs to stamp out. He gets away with it a lot of the time, but it can prove costly.
What is perhaps most worrying, though, is Cardiff’s inability to complete a pass. Just 68% of Cardiff’s passes were complete, showing Cardiff’s poor form on the ball.
In the Championship, you can afford to pump the ball long, but in the top flight you need to spend a bit more time taking care of the ball. Cardiff are failing to do that.
Cardiff need to put the last three games behind them and get the mistakes out of the system. The players have been poor – and need to hold their hands up – but equally, Neil Warnock needs to be getting his tactics right.
His tactics, I believe, have been poor in the last three games. Against Wolves, that was the case again. Adama Traore was their most dangerous player, but he was given the freedom to run directly at Joe Bennett, who was isolated 1v1 against the dangerous winger.
Lessons to be learnt, but they need to be learnt fast. With just nine games remaining, Cardiff City need to step it up on all fronts if they are to survive in the Premier League.
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.