City’s winners and losers after their tough start
CARDIFF City fans may not be feeling too positive as we enter the second international break of the season, but there’s no doubt this Premier League campaign has already had a fair amount of ups and downs.
From a desperate defeat to Burnley to close calls against the big teams, Neil Warnock’s side can count themselves fairly unlucky to sit bottom of the table after eight games.
But who have been the winners and the losers from the season so far?
WINNERS Neil Etheridge
Taking the Premier League storm with penalty saves in his first two appearances in the top flight, Etheridge has come a long way since his League One days with Walsall.
The goalkeeper has been Cardiff’s most consistent performer so far this season, putting to bed any debate over who might become the Bluebirds’ No.1 between the posts (more on Alex Smithies later).
Etheridge may have been at fault for one of the goals in Cardiff’s 2-1 home defeat to Burnley , but otherwise he’s adapted better than any of their players to the top flight’s rigours.
Deadline day loan signings
Warnock made a fantastic point before the Spurs game: “Where would we be without those two?” – referring to Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter. How right he is. The loan duo have become vital to the Bluebirds’ engine room in no time, Arter’s tenacity and Camarasa’s class proving a decent combination.
Arter has endeared himself to the Bluebirds faithful with some crunching tackles and willing running, while Camarasa’s ball-playing skills have been very welcome. Warnock just needs to find the midfield blend to allow them both to shine.
Grudgingly, you have to admit the referees have got most of the big calls right in Cardiff games this season.
Both Isaac Hayden and Jonathan Hogg rightly saw red for offences against the Bluebirds, while you cannot really argue with any of the penalty calls given against Cardiff.
The games against Newcastle and Bournemouth saw correct spot-kick decisions given, the same when Sol Bamba fouled Willian at Chelsea.
Warnock may rail against the Joe Ralls red card , but the officials seem to be doing a competent job.
The Cardiff City fans
In an exclusive interview with WalesOnline last week, Warnock called the Bluebirds fans his biggest drive this season, saying: “We might not be number one, but I know our fans are.” He cited the incredible support of the travelling ‘Barmy Army’ at Stamford Bridge, not to mention crowds of more than 30,000 for every Cardiff home game.
If Warnock’s men are to have a chance of staving off relegation, they will need that support all season long. It’s been nothing short of sensational.
LOSERS Kenneth Zohore
Can the old Kenneth Zohore please stand up?
Cardiff’s failure to land a striker in the summer started as a minor worry, but is now a pressing issue that’s been exacerbated by the failure of any current incumbents to find anything close to form.
Zohore appears well short of his best, unable to bully the Newcastle or Huddersfield defences in his usual fashion and now way down Warnock’s pecking order.
Danny Ward has had a go, Gary Madine is not fancied and the fact Callum Paterson now appears to be Cardiff’s first choice striker shows how badly they’re missing an in-form Zohore.
Harry Arter’s disciplinary record
Four yellow cards already.
This is the only concern when it comes to Arter, especially with Ralls suspended now for the next three games. Warnock needs to rein in the on-loan Bournemouth star.
Warnock has insisted he’s not too unhappy with his team’s forward play, nor their performances.
But major lapses at the back cost the Bluebirds dearly against Burnley to Warnock’s frustration, while they could have done better against Arsenal and Chelsea too. It’s particularly odd to see Cardiff concede goals Mustafi for Arsenal, Otamendi for Man City, Dier for Spurs – from set-pieces.
The two-week break will hopefully give Warnock’s staff the chance to eradicate such issues.
Cardiff were renowned for their cast-iron defence in the Championship. That reputation needs to return.
Alex Smithies, remember him? The goalkeeper signed in the summer, who has not even been on Cardiff’s bench for a few weeks now.
Warnock has selected Brian Murphy as his substitute goalkeeper for the past five games -- ever since an unconvincing performance from Smithies in the Carabao Cup against Norwich.
It leaves the former QPR goalkeeper in limbo until January presumably, with Etheridge committed to Asia Cup duty in the New Year. Even then, based on recent events, Smithies may not get a shot.
Neil Etheridge, Kenneth Zohore (top right) and Harry Arter have enjoyed mixed fortunes this term