Four wins, three draws, and four defeats, an average start, but a perfect overview of how amazingly random and unpredictable the Championship can be. I mean, just three points separate first placed West Brom and ninth placed QPR. Magnificent.
Cardiff have huffed and puffed at times, and before last Saturday went seven unbeaten, which is some feat for perhaps the World’s most exciting league.
A number of new faces have freshened up the City starting XI and have been, on the whole, strong additions. The squad looked light after the departures of Aron Gunnarsson, Bruno Manga and Bobby Reid, plus the loss of loanees Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa. The latter has since only managed one appearance for Palace this season. What a waste.
Though (some of us) continue to grieve over our losses, it’s not all bad. The additions of ex Bristol City pair Aden Flint and Marlon Pack, Northern Irish winger Gavin Whyte and Robert ‘I scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich’ Glatzel in particular have all brought the squad back to full strength and all look to have settled in the Welsh capital remarkably well.
But if anything, the first eleven games have shown that this City side is still one getting used to playing with each other, and this has shown in some of the City performances, which have caused the usual social media outburst of negativity.
Since the last day of the season against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United (arguably the beginning of the end for OGS), City have failed to win away from home and their worst performance of the season came away to Reading at the Madejski. Their youthful team full of fancy footwork and pace thumped City 3-0. The Reading game is also the only chance that Will Vaulks has had to show the ability that he consistently portrayed at Rotherham last season.
The Welsh midfielder has had a tough start to his Cardiff career, failing to get ahead of Ralls, Pack and Bacuna, who have all been superb at times this campaign. It must be remembered that the Championship season is long and challenging. Vaulks will have his chance to play his part throughout the remainder of the season and after choosing him as our signing of the summer a few weeks back, I hope he can prove me right, but I fear that may not happen.
Back to Cardiff’s away form. Since the Reading game, City have drawn three and lost one away from the CCS and will hope to win away at Milwall after the international break, to give them some sort of momentum going in to THAT game at the Liberty Stadium at the end of the month.
As has become the case in recent Championship seasons, Cardiff have made the CCS a fortress, remaining unbeaten in the Welsh Capital this season (in the league at least). In fact, during his three years at the club, Neil Warnock has played 46 home games in the Championship, with 30 wins, 9 draws, and 7 defeats. That’s NINETY-NINE points in a full Championship season of home games. Outstanding.
It’s no surprise to say that Cardiff’s home form will be crucial, but it will also provide a basis for us to push on and achieve more on the road, as both are crucial for a successful season in the Championship.
In all honesty, it’s not the start to the season that the fans would have wanted, but it’s important to remember that Cardiff are just six points off West Brom at the top and are yet to see the side click 100%. Performances haven’t yet been outstanding and that should give fans hope. As was shown against QPR, City were second best for most of the game, yet emerged as 3-0 winners. Once the performances start to improve, surely so will the team’s position in the table. Or so one would hope.
A 6/10 would be a fair rating for the first 11 games, with much more to be offered by a City team full of talent, tenacity and spirit. There is definitely room for improvement, with the City faithful still yet to see Josh Murphy’s true potential, and Robert Glatzel still getting used to football in the Championship. But the emergence of Leandro Bacuna as a stable starter in the team has been like a new signing all together and he was even crowned VFTN’s player of the month for September.
Talk of individual players is all good and well, but it’s a team game, and though this team is more than strong enough to challenge for the top four places in the league, that isn’t going to happen overnight. If we can keep pace with the top seven until Christmas time, I can see us being real favourites to start the new year in a strong position heading into the final stretch of the season. For that to happen performances have to improve.
But, it’s also important to remember that this will be Warnock’s last season with us and whether or not you think that a good or bad thing, surely there should be a greater emphasis on what is to come over the next few seasons. Are changes coming to the club? Well that all depends on who replaces arguably the club’s greatest ever manager. (See Paul Gronow’s dive into Cardiff’s future here: https://viewfromtheninian.com/2019/09/18/time-to-back-the-future/ )
For this season though, there is a chance to regroup now over the international break, with an aim towards continuing our unbeaten home run against Sheffield Wednesday and then look for our first away win of the season at the Den. Two games in the Championship can change everything and maybe that’s why we love it so much.