After a tumultuous end to the transfer window, attention turned to matters on the field as Cardiff City kicked off at the Cardiff City Stadium for the first time this season.
Luton were the visitors, who drew with Middlesbrough on the opening day of the season.
Aden Flint and Sean Morrison show their credentials
In last week’s analysis, I questioned whether Aden Flint and Sean Morrison could play together. Both centre-backs are big and strong, but lack pace. Against Wigan, they were caught out by balls in behind, with Wigan capitalising on Morrison’s lack of pace for Josh Windass’ goal.
Against Luton, though, the pair answered the questions I had of them and were absolutely solid. Flint (9) and Morrison (7) won more aerial duels than any other defender on the pitch, with the pair equally as good in both boxes.
Flint of course grabbed City’s opener, his first for the club, and the both barely gave Luton a sniff.
Marlon Pack’s leadership will be key
With much of the focus on Bobby Reid’s move to Fulham during deadline day, the arrival of Marlon Pack largely went under the radar. Based on his first appearance in a Cardiff shirt, the £750k signing from Bristol City looks like a real bargain.
Neil Warnock spoke of Pack’s leadership qualities during his unveiling, and they were evident from the off against Wigan. Pack was vocal and communicated with his defence and midfield colleagues throughout the game.
The midfielder also brought a big of calmness on the ball to Cardiff’s game, completing 74% of his passes – more than any other player in blue.
If Pack continues like this, £750k will be the bargain of the season.
Luton dominate the possession, but Cardiff dominate the game
On last week’s podcast, I asked the two Ben’s whether Cardiff had to adjust their style of play to try and keep more of the ball now they are seen as favourites in the division.
Indeed it’s a question that many Cardiff fans asked after the Luton game. The visitors had an astounding 62.5% possession after all.
The thing is, Neil Warnock will never set his side up to dominate possession – even if Cardiff are favourites. In fact, I’d bet that if my Sunday league side pitched up at the Cardiff City Stadium, Warnock would still elect to play a direct style of football.
It’s just how he sets up his sides. And to good effect, so who are we as fans to question him?
Warnock may allow the opposition to dominate possession, but when you delve a bit deeper into the stats it tells a different story. Cardiff made 16 key passes to Luton’s 5. 58% of Cardiff’s passes were into the final third, compared to just 23% of Luton’s.
Warnock’s football is successful and Cardiff fans need to remember that when complaining of a ‘lack of dominance’. Dominance is not determined by possession alone.
Robert Glatzel provides a glimpse of promise
The summer’s big signing, Robert Glatzel, was given the nod from the start as he made his Cardiff debut at the Cardiff City Stadium. While there was no debut goal for the German, Cardiff fans were encouraged by his overall play.
With Cardiff fans accustomed to a lethargic Ken Zohore and a aimless Oumar Niasse in recent times, it was refreshing to see a striker lead the line with pace, work rate and technical ability.
The German striker worked incredibly hard up top, chasing down Luton defenders and trying to make something happen. For a big striker, he was good with his feet and held the ball up well, looking to bring others into the game.
Glatzel managed just one shot on target, but all the signs are promising that Cardiff have finally found the right striker for Warnock’s system.
Callum Paterson a better fit at number 10 than Bobby Reid
The Scottish right-back-come-midfielder-come-striker made his first appearance for the Bluebirds for some five months, having been ruled out with an ankle injury during Cardiff’s Premier League campaign.
Some questioned whether Paterson was fully fit, and while at times he looked a little bit off the pace, his performance showed why he is a better fit at number 10 in Warnock’s system than Bobby Reid.
Patterson won 10 aerial duels during the match, more than any other player on the pitch. It may not be pretty, but Paterson is a menace in the air and allows Cardiff an outlet to play direct.
The Scottish international may not be fully fit, but he showed signs that he will be a key player for Cardiff this season.
Scott is a lifelong Cardiff City fan and freelance football writer. Scott hosts the VFTN podcast.