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Neil Warnock is not totally bullet proof

last updated Friday 30th August 2019, 1:20 PM

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock
Cardiff City manager
Neil Warnock
His Wiki page
In a variety of ways, Neil Warnock has done more for Cardiff City than perhaps any manager in the club's 100-plus years history.

More important than even winning promotion to the Premier League was bringing Wales' capital club back together again, fans, manager, players and Board of directors as one.

As such Warnock deserves more latitude than anybody else involved in Welsh football right at this moment in time.

It is why, when the Bluebirds were relegated from the top flight, the fans sang his name with gusto during the final two games against Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

Teams don't get relegated with harmony like that. The love for Warnock was, if not quite unequivocal, certainly stronger than the bond shown for any Cardiff manager since Eddie May's time in charge.

Probably eclipses that, too.

But, football being what it is, grumblings of discontent have started to emerge amongst some supporters over Cardiff's less than impressive start to the 2019-20 campaign.

Results, style of play, and level of performance have come under the spotlight.

Not even Neil Warnock, it appears, is totally bullet proof, although he still has more rope than any other manager in the Championship.

Tuesday night's shocking 0-3 League Cup defeat, to a Luton side who were in League Two a couple of seasons back and yet dominated 70 per cent of the possession, played out in front of a paltry crowd of just 4,111 has seen little cracks appear.

Cardiff have a proud Wembley history in the past 11 years, reaching the finals of the League Cup and FA Cup. On Warnock's watch they've lost at home to Gillingham, Norwich, Fulham, Burton Albion and Luton, while only drawing 0-0 with Mansfield.

The cups clearly are not the manager's priority. Nor should they be. Evidently, though, that mind-set filters into the dressing room. How else can you explain away such awful results against some mediocre opposition?

The league is where Warnock really earns his corn and he will know more than anyone a massive result - and performance - is needed from his Bluebirds when Fulham visit Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night.

It's far too early to judge Cardiff, but the mantra during the summer was to keep the best players, build on that and have a right old crack at automatic promotion again.

It sounded good and plausible. With Bobby Reid and Josh Murphy on board, this team indeed looked a whole lot better than the one which previously achieved promotion under Warnock.

But Reid has gone, Murphy didn't feature for a single minute in a 3-0 loss at Reading and Robert Glatzel and Aden Flint have yet to prove they are upgrades, or even comparable to, the departed duo of Kenneth Zohore and Bruno Manga.

At best, Cardiff's league results thus far have been mixed. Three goals conceded at Wigan and Reading, a 0-0 draw with Blackburn, last-gasp home winners versus Luton and Huddersfield.

Don't expect too many of those sides to finish in the top half of the table. One or two might even be in the bottom five.

But there are no easy games in the topsy-turvy nature of Championship football, a league Warnock knows better than anyone, and plenty of Cardiff fans will continue to trust him to get things right.

Which, Warnock's imperious record tells us, he hopefully will. Cardiff may be 14th, already languishing six points behind arch-rivals Swansea City, but he knows nothing is won or lost after just five games.

You can make a much more reasoned judgement about what's likely to be in store after 10 matches. The Bluebirds follow Fulham on Friday night with further home clashes against Middlesbrough and QPR, and away games at Derby and Hull.

On paper, it's a far more daunting sequence of fixtures than the opening five matches, but if the Bluebirds can build up a head of steam they are more than capable of winning a fair few of them.

However, for that to happen Warnock will be as aware as anyone major improvement is required upon what we have witnessed thus far.

Clearly he will not deflect from his route one style, which if anything has got even more direct this season. Some fans love it, others hate it.

Whatever, within that game plan Cardiff have still got to show more creativity, Glatzel has to start scoring goals, the doubts over the Sean Morrison-Aden Flint partnership at the back need to be erased and the midfield have to begin bossing games.

A prolonged run in the team for Lee Tomlin, who could turn into the unexpected talisman, will certainly help provide a spark in the final third that has sometimes been missing.

WalesOnline columnist and Bluebirds fans' favourite Nathan Blake argues Cardiff are forced to chase games because their direct approach means they lack midfield control.

These are the Cardiff possession stats from the matches thus far - 44 per cent v Wigan, 37 per cent v Luton, 48 per cent v Reading, 39 per cent v Huddersfield, 40 per cent v Blackburn, then that 30 per cent against Luton again in the cup.

If a team is not winning but playing well, you know things will eventually turn in your favour. It's when you appear to be outplayed, and aren't winning, when things need to be addressed.

Warnock will argue the possession stats are irrelevant. Despite having limited ball versus Luton and Huddersfield at home, they still found a way to win.

But his Bluebirds do need to begin imposing themselves far more on the opposition, in every sense. More resolute defence, tough-tackling and physical in midfield, a danger at every set-piece, goal threat in the final third.

That mantra, coupled with the depth of squad available, was meant to drive the Bluebirds to the top. Warnock, and the Bluebirds hierarchy, feel it still can.

Others are beginning to express doubts.

It is why the showdown with Fulham takes on extra significance.

This is 90 minutes of football right up Warnock's street. The fashionable London club who are title favourites, boast a glittering array of talent, play stylish tiki-taka and over the past two years have been locked in an intense rivalry with his Bluebirds.

Tom Cairney, Harry Arter, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro. These are Premier League quality players.

Bobby Reid can't even get into their team.

Despite back-to-back defeats of their own, Fulham will arrive in the Welsh capital as favourites, full of confidence, planning to play Cardiff off the park with their brand of easy on the eye football and fully expecting to win.

But it's Cardiff City Stadium, the usual rip-roaring atmosphere for a Friday night game and the kind of backs-to-the-wall approach Warnock has positively thrived on down the decades.

The team who crashed against Luton contained a glut of first-teamers - Aden Flint, Will Vaulks, Callum Paterson, Gavin Whyte and Junior Hoilett amongst them. Six million pound man Gary Madine didn't even get on until the 65th minute.

It was a woeful evening and needs to be banished from the memory banks.

Source Paul Abbandonato at Wales on Line
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