Cardiff v Wigan: the Warnock effect

warnock

Neil Warnock

Cardiff City have improved instantly under Neil Warnock. He has changed to a 4-1-4-1 system and that suits midfielders such as Aron Gunnarsson and Peter Whittingham. Gunnarsson relishes playing just in front of the defence, as he did successfully for Iceland at the Euros and his long throws were a handful against Bristol City.

Whittingham’s lack of athleticism means he has struggled in a two man midfield, but with Gunnarsson and the ever-lively Joe Ralls alongside him he has not had to cover as much distance. One player who can cover distance at some speed is Junior Hoilett, who has impressed on the wing since joining. Hoilett was a highly-rated young player four years ago, completing more dribbles in the Premier League during the 2011-12 season. Injuries and questions over his application saw the Canadian’s career decline somewhat but Warnock has begun to coax the best out of him.

The team’s progress under the 67-year-old might have influenced Wigan Athletic’s decision to sack young manager Gary Caldwell, in similar circumstances. Before Paul Trollope’s dismissal, Cardiff had played a lot of games in which they competed well in the first half but fail to capitalize and then lose a goal, sometimes to a set piece. It had been a similar story for Wigan in that they were not getting dominated for 90 minutes, but the game’s fine margins went against them.

Defensively, they have looked reasonably strong in recent weeks, helped by the holding midfield displays of Shaun MacDonald. Since they found a more consistent back four, the West Lancashire side have conceded just four in their last seven games, Jake Buxton finding form and fitness at centre-back. However, Wigan failed to score in five of those seven games, despite having scored in six of the previous seven, when they were leaking goals at the back.

The Latics had been unable to marry good organization with quality attacking play. The latter has not been helped by the injury to bright midfielder Alex Gilbey, or Will Grigg’s loss of form. Graham Barrow, who is likely to take temporary charge on Saturday, hope’s to relight Grigg’s fire and get the best out of Yanic Wildschut. The Dutchman makes 4.5 dribbles per game according to WhoScored but his end product is limited, evidenced by 1 assist and no goals in 858 Championship minutes.

Cardiff’s goals may not come from Rickie Lambert, who picked up an injury at Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening. With question marks about Marouane Chamakh’s fitness and application, Anthony Pilkington may be favoured as a central striker, having played there quite successfully under Russell Slade.

Defences have sometimes squeezed Lambert out by playing a high line, but Pilkington has the mobility to get in behind. Wigan tend to push high up the pitch and as we have seen, particularly earlier in the season, this made them prone to individual errors and vulnerable in the transitional phases of play. Cardiff have the aggression and dynamism needed to take advantage of that and this blog backs them to record a third win in four under Warnock’s tutelage.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-0

Other Championship Predictions
QPR v Brentford Both teams weak when behind – first goal key. 2-0
Barnsley v Bristol City Victorious return to Oakwell for Lee Johnson. 1-2
Brighton v Norwich Canaries 4pts/4 vs top 7, Seagulls 6pts/3. 1-0
Derby v Sheff Wed Both teams involved in tight games. 0-0
Fulham v Huddersfield Cottagers poor at home, Terriers over mini-blip. 0-1
Ipswich v Rotherham Tractor Boys doing enough to scrape pts vs lesser sides. 2-1
Leeds v Burton Monk’s men in-form, Brewers yet to thrive away. 2-1
Preston v Newcastle A second win against PNE in 3 days for Toon. 0-2
Reading v Nottm Forest Royals picked up 10pts/5 vs bottom 8. 2-1
Blackburn v Wolves Rovers steadily improving, Wanderers 1pt/possible 15. 2-1
Birmingham v Aston Villa Tight derby, both sides afraid to lose. 1-1
Last week: 6 correct results/12, 2 exact scorelines – Wigan 0-1 Brighton, Nottm Forest 1-2 Cardiff

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