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Ask the Expert: Cardiff City (H)

19 December 2020

Having finished in the play-off places last season, Cardiff City are battling for promotion again this campaign after adding to their talented squad with a few good summer signings.

We spoke to Glen Williams, the Cardiff correspondent for Wales Online, last week, about the Bluebirds' prospects this season and what changes he has seen under manager Neil Harris. Cardiff City had a really good finish to last season and have started the current campaign well. Do you see a steady progress under Neil Harris since his time in charge?

GW: There have been so many ups and downs during Harris' reign. It's been a case of two steps forward and one step back at times. He has progressed the club as a whole during his time here, in terms of his work with the academy especially, and has tried to evolve the style of football. Whether he has been successful or not seems to be up for debate at the minute. But they are a good Championship side under him, of that there is no doubt. The Bluebirds managed to get in the play-offs last season. Do you think, following the recruitment during the summer, that they are in a better place to challenge for promotion this season?

GW: Recruitment-wise, yes. I think they bought smartly in the summer window and made two or three excellent additions to bolster this squad. The squad, on paper at least, looks like one which can challenge near the top, although I don't feel they have played as well as the sum of their parts up until now. At least not consistently. If they find that consistency, this group of players is more than capable of earning promotion.

2020-11-03T214500Z_2047060606_UP1EGB31OF01K_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-ENGLAND-CDF-BRS-REPORT.JPG Harry Wilson was a surprise capture during the last transfer window for Cardiff City. How much of a danger man is he and what has his form been like this season?

GW: He was an amazing signing, one which no one saw coming until the 11th hour, really. He has such quality and is adored in this corner of the world, given his Welsh roots, and is far too talented to be playing in this division for any length of time. The winger started excellently but just tailed off thereafter following a slight change of system which put him out on the right-hand side of a 4-4-2. But he will come good, he has shown his quality with the couple of goals and assists he has contributed so far, plus his set-piece delivery is fierce. Cardiff City currently win more aerial duels than any other side in the Championship. With that in mind, how much of a goal threat do they offer from set-pieces?

GW: At last check, I think set pieces accounted for around 50 percent of their goal tally this season, so there is your answer in a nut shell. They are set-piece masters and it is very effective at this level. Don't forget long throw-ins, too, Will Vaulks can launch them and they have a few big men in there to make those a real asset. The Norwich defenders will have to be braced for a barrage from the set piece, I'm afraid! Kieffer Moore is another Welsh player performing very well in the Cardiff City side this season. Other than his goal threat with eight already to his name, what does he bring to the team?

GW: Well, for starters, he has won more aerial duels than anyone in this division this season, comfortably, too. Cardiff use him to gain relief when soaking up pressure, lumping balls up to him and allowing them to reset. With his back to goal he is terrific but he has also shown a number of cute finishes, too, which make him a real threat. He is proving to be a quality signing, some are even dubbing him the best striker Cardiff have had for a decade or so, since the days of Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd. However, he is likely to be out with a hamstring injury for Saturday's game. Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson have played the majority of the season so far. How strong is that defensive partnership?

GW: It is a pretty settled pairing back there, they've been first choice for almost a year now. Morrison is an experienced campaigner at this level and brings leadership and a cool head, while Nelson is more the athlete, the speedster who is also physically quite strong. Morrison is also a menace at the set piece, too, so beware his threat from corners and throw-ins. There has been the odd silly mistake this season, uncharacteristically so, too, given Cardiff are known for their resolute defence. But it is a solid centre-back pairing, no doubt.

2020-11-03T204509Z_2040733396_UP1EGB31LN9WQ_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-ENGLAND-CDF-BRS-REPORT.JPG Norwich like to play a possession based game, where they more than often play out from the back. How are Cardiff likely to tackle that threat?

GW: It is the complete antithesis of how Cardiff play. A total contrast in styles of play. Cardiff will try to press high and force the mistake, they did that excellently in the 3-0 win over Huddersfield recently, but Norwich will be confident they can find some joy, too, just how Swansea City did in the recent derby clash. By and large, Cardiff will try to pack the midfield and stay in the game long enough so that they can nick a goal on the counter or from the set piece late on. There have been lots of games in December. Are there currently any key players missing from the squad going into Saturday’s game?
GW: I'm writing this having just learned that Kieffer Moore could be out with a hamstring injury, which will be a real blow. Jordi Osei-Tutu, the Arsenal loanee, has been out for some time now and is unlikely to return in time for this one owing to a hamstring injury. Lee Tomlin, last year's player of the season, is also out after undergoing surgery on his groin.

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