After our Europa League victory over Dnipro, we return to Premier League action this weekend, as the Bluebirds come to town for Spurs vs Cardiff.
Both teams have changed managers since we met in Wales and emerged with a 1-0 victory. So, what can we expect from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new-look side and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Cardiff this time?
Cardiff’s more attacking style
The major change between Solksjaer’s Cardiff and the Malky Mackay side we faced is their attacking intent. The Norwegian has used a mix of 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 so far, but has been much more aggressive in possession.
Mackay’s Bluebirds were very much a counter attacking side that were well organised defensively. They would look to break quickly and hit Frasier Campbell running in-behind.
Solskjaer’s set up has seen them getting more men forward and therefore being much more open at the back.
The reason for this is that he often goes with a 4-4-2 at home with Kenwyne Jones as a target man and Frasier Campbell looks to run off him. On the road he has gone 4-2-3-1, but has used a more direct dribbling and shooting number ten in Craig Bellamy, rather than a more traditional passing playmaker. This has often seen his side also look more 4-4-2 on the road even when setting up in a 4-2-3-1.
In both formations they have been much more open, as well as making defensive errors.
Cardiff conceding goals
Being more attack minded has seen Solksjaer’s Cardiff being much more open and opponents have taken advantage. The problem has been three-fold.
Firstly, there has been much more space between the lines and teams have been able to find through balls. The defence, which includes several new faces brought in during the January transfer window, doesn’t play like a cohesive unit yet.
Swansea exposed this on their opener in the South Wales derby, as Pablo Hernandez found Wayne Routledge running in-behind new Cardiff recruit Fabio.
Last weekend, Nikica Jelavic found Shane Long in acres of space on Hull’s second goal. Long had split the centre backs, with neither picking him up, as new boy Juan Torres Ruiz pointed and Steven Caulker was caught ball watching.
This is the second problem for the back four, picking up players and marking, which has lead to conceding goals from crosses.
Nathan Dyer stole in to add Swansea’s second in Cardiff’s trip to the Liberty, as both he and Bony weren’t tracked.
Last weekend against Hull, Nikica Jelavic was left unmarked in the build up, seemingly having the freedom of the penalty area.
The cross then came back in from Liam Rosenior and Jelavic had the simple task of nodding home uncontested.
The third problem for the defence is errors from errant passes. Two of Hull’s goals last week arrived this way, as firstly Magnus Wolff Eikrem passed the ball straight to Nikica Jelavic. Tom Huddlestone ended up scoring, but Cardiff had so many men forward to attack that they were caught massively over-committed.
Hull’s fourth goal was also the result of a major communication error as Andrew Taylor passed the ball towards Craig Noone. Ahmed Elmohamady swept in to start the beak the other way and Jake Livermore finished the rout. Cardiff had again committed a lot of men forward, leaving them vulnerable.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Cardiff should look to see us take advantage of Cardiff’s defensive problems. The back four is not a cohesive unit yet, often getting dragged around and failing to pick up runners. By playing a more open style, Gary Medel is having to fight fires in midfield, rather than being able to sit in front of his back four and halt attacks as he was under Mackay.
With the arrival of Kenwyne Jones, what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has focused Cardiff on is crossing.
Since the Norwegian has taken over, only Man Utd and Southampton have attempted more balls in to the box than the Bluebirds. This is inspite of Cardiff averaging just 48% possession in Premier League matches under Solskjaer.
With another new recruit, Wilfried Zaha, offering a dribbling and shooting threat from the left, the focus has been to cross from the right. This saw Cardiff pepper the Hull box last weekend from this side.
Even away at Manchester City where Cardiff had just 38% possession, they were able to hit a ton of crosses in from this side.
One of Cardiff’s goals that day arrived from a corner. Being a threat from set pieces was something that Malky MacKay instilled during his time in charge and it continues under Solskjaer.
MacKay would spread five bodies across the six yard box whilst leaving a sixth on the penalty spot looking to hoover up anything that was knocked down or deflected out. Solskjaer also looks to get numbers around the six-yard box and so far Cardiff have scored twice from corners during his seven Premier League games in charge.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Cardiff here would see us do well to extinguish Cardiff’s crossing threat from open play by pushing them back down their right side. Swansea did this extremely effectively through their use of Wayne Routledge and Ben Davies in Cardiff’s last away Premier League match.
Containing Cardiff at set pieces is more difficult. AVB would often go with Jan Vertonghen at left back so that he could get three central defenders on the field in these type of games.
He would do this to cope with teams that had a lot of height or a dangerous man in the air such as Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke, or as we have here in Kenwyne Jones. Tim Sherwood doesn’t have that option with both Vlad Chiriches and Younes Kaboul out injured and so set pieces could be an area of concern.
Spurs vs Cardiff outlook
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come in, Cardiff look like a team that are still getting to know each other with all the new faces that they have. This has naturally given them cohesion problems as they get used to what the new manager wants, most notably in their defence.
In light of this, Tim Sherwood could really go with two strikers to put Cardiff on the back foot, especially seeing the joy Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic had last weekend.
Both teams need the points and this could well be an open and entertaining game if we don’t suffer from another Europa League hangover.
Spurs vs Cardiff prediction: Spurs 2 Cardiff 0.