What we learned from Cardiff’s first two Premier League fixtures

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Cardiff’s return to the Premier League hasn’t been inundated with surprises. In fact, a point from the opening two fixtures is not a bad outcome when you consider Neil Etheridge has saved two penalties in as many games. The difficulty for Cardiff this season will be scoring goals; just two shots on target in 180 minutes of football is worrying, but this is a long season of football and hopefully things will soon improve.

1. Murphy and Hoilett will come good

Murphy looked very dangerous on Saturday and did almost all the things that were asked of him, the only one missing was the goal. His clever interplay with Zohore, speed on the wings and natural ability to beat his man caused Newcastle havoc. He is also very street wise; he won free kicks in key areas that on a different day might have changed the result.
Both Murphy and Hoilett kept putting the ball into the box, but without anyone finishing off the crosses being delivered. Pace is vital in this division and it’s good to know that it is plentiful – Murphy, Hoilett, Mendez-Laing and Reid all have it in abundance, now is the time to start making it count.

2. Neil Etheridge has made the step up to the Premier League

There were question marks over his no.1 position between the sticks before the start of the season, but he has improved massively since his Cardiff debut in August 2017 v Burton. He won Cardiff the first point of the season with his 96th minute penalty save against Newcastle, not forgetting his other penalty save against Bournemouth last week. He commands his box very well, and is certainly a safe pair of hands for now behind the Cardiff defence. It is safe to say that he will be keeping Alex Smithies out of the team if these performances continue.

Etheridge picked David De Gea over himself in his fantasy team:

3. The other striker’s will get their opportunity

Gary Madine and Danny Ward haven’t started for Cardiff yet and it looks likely that both will get their chances with 0 goals scored. Madine hasn’t scored at all for the club in 14 appearances, while Ward netted 4 times in 19 games last year. It’s slightly worrying that Neil Warnock was unable to bring in a proven Premier League striker, and I’m unsure if that shows huge belief in the players he has available or whether the funds weren’t there to sign the right player.
Whatever the case, with Huddersfield, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City on the horizon, goals are going to have to come from somewhere and the players at disposal will have to step up to another level if the club is to be in with a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.

4. Service from the full backs could be advantageous 

As goals are the main issue at the moment, it’s interesting to see that the full back berths have only been used as defensive options, even when Cardiff have been desperate for a goal. Joe Bennett has the most crosses from left back with 3. Lee Peltier delivered just 1 cross (unsuccessfully) against Bournemouth and Bruno Manga didn’t put in any against Newcastle.
Jazz Richards will be wondering when his chance is going to come. He is a proven crosser, very assured with the ball at his feet and definitely has more pace to offer than Peltier and Manga on the right. Though he didn’t play much last season due to injury, I think the Premier League will suit his game a lot more. We might see Warnock choose a back 5 against some of the top sides in the coming weeks and the right wing back role has to favour Richards, or potentially Paterson, dependant on how Warnock sees the latter positionally.

5. Arter, Ralls, Camarasa and Gunnarsson have to stay fit in the long run

Harry Arter proved against Newcastle that he is no stranger to this division. He played some beautiful balls through the middle to Zohore, as well as showing he has the quality to pick a pass from anywhere. His tough tackling ability slowed down Newcastle’s counter attacks, something that was greatly lacking against Bournemouth. Both he and Camarasa set a new standard in midfield and with a bit more luck on the day, might have seen the first 3 points on the board. With a midfield three of Arter, Ralls and Camarasa, as well as Gunnarsson to come back from injury, I’m confident that this midfield ticks the boxes to stay up.
No disrespect to Sol Bamba, but I would not like to see him play a holding role in the Premier League again this year. To quote Craig Bellamy on Saturday, “the ball is not his friend”.

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