Cardiff City August Review: perfect start

During this two-week break from the Championship for internationals, we review how all 24 teams have looked in their first five league games. Here’s our assessment of Cardiff City.

What we said in pre-season

Form under Neil Warnock has excited Cardiff City fans, but after last year’s reliance on set pieces, it remains to be seen whether they’ll have more weapons in their armoury. Direct football got the Bluebirds out of trouble, though they may lack the variation to become a top six proposition. 15th 

Have they surprised us so far?

Yes. Last season, they had scored the Championship’s sixth-fewest goals from open play whereas so far this year, they have scored the second-most. Last season, many fans said more pace was needed in midfield but that has certainly been resolved: only Forest have made more dribbles per game than their 12.2. Neil Warnock’s side have also had more shots on target than any other team with 37, refuting any pre-season fears of defensive football.

The positives

Five wins from five with the league’s second best goalscoring and defensive record is self-explanatory. The positive August has been very much a team effort, but special praise can be reserved for Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. The Championship’s joint-top scorer has completed 10 dribbles per game – only three wingers have completed more and that trio have not scored as many combined as Mendez-Laing.

The negatives

Not so much a negative as something to be wary of: they average the second-least possession (45%) in the Championship. Their attacking play centres itself around the front three running in behind, but there might come a time when opposing teams drop deeper to deny space for the early forward balls. At that point, they might have to be more patient with the ball.

Late business

The main task was to keep hold of their best players. Junior Hoilett and Kenneth Zahore remain present and correct as does Mendez-Laing, while winger Craig Noone leaves for Bolton to be replaced by Liam Feeney. Craig Bryson adds depth in midfield, hoping to replicate the form he showed at Derby a couple of years ago.

The Football Lab’s Grade

A 100% winning start – it’s full marks for Cardiff and Warnock so far. A