Cardiff v Norwich: Warnock’s demands

warnock

Neil Warnock

With Cardiff City 11 points clear of the drop zone, attentions in the Welsh capital are now on matters off the pitch as much as on it.

They have picked up 28 points from 18 games under Neil Warnock, but the Yorkshireman left Rotherham for budgetary reasons after keeping them up and could do the same if he is not given reassurances.

Dynamic midfielder Joe Ralls has impressed for the Bluebirds, who now look a more combative outfit than they did under Paul Trollope. However, their current boss wants a record breaking eighth career promotion, to achieve which, his team needs more pace and a cutting edge in forward areas.

Kenneth Zohore works hard and Rickie Lambert brings experience but it is difficult to envisage either firing the team into the top six. Goals are not so much the problem for Norwich, who have scored more than any Championship side bar Newcastle and Barnsley.

Steven Naismith is now putting a shift in with some good performances while Jacob Murphy has come back into form. The Canaries have scored nine goals in January’s four league games, five of them without top scorer Nelson Oliveira on the pitch. The Portuguese striker, who netted a hat-trick against Derby at the start of the month, is the team’s most reliable finisher, but Cameron Jerome excels at running in behind and stretching play.

Jerome provided a counter-attacking threat in the 2-0 win against Birmingham and hopes to do similar damage to another of his former clubs, Cardiff City. This time, he faces a sturdier defence with Sol Bamba’s arrival looking an excellent piece of business. In front of him, long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson has been rejuvenated by captaining Iceland at the Euros.

Both players, particularly Bamba, would improve a Norwich squad in need of an aerially dominant centre-back. Timm Klose, who netted the second goal against Birmingham last week, adds class in that department but it is difficult to see Sebastien Bassong, Ryan Bennett or captain Russell Martin partnering the Swiss in a promotion-winning side.

Building one will be the aim for both managers over the next 18 months, if they remain in charge. Though Warnock is the more popular with his team’s supporters, of the two he is less likely than Alex Neil to be in the same dugout come August.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-1