Cardiff were last in the Premier League in the 2013/14 season where they finished rock bottom and 6 points adrift of safety. During the course of the season they kept 7 clean sheets, compared to 19 under Warnock last season. He has strengthened City at the back and he will hope to continue this throughout the season to come. One key factor into success will be trying to keep clean sheets at home for Cardiff. We have solid defenders in Bamba and Morrison and they will hope to continue their form from last season.
During the 2013/14 season Cardiff averaged less than a goal a game with 32 goals scored and only Norwich scored less goals than them with a dismal 28. However, goals have never been the way of playing for Cardiff. Last season they scored 69 goals which was 13 less than title winners Wolves and less than the two teams who finished below them. The lack of goals brings the emphasis on Cardiff tightening the defence for the season and creating more chances going forward.
I thought it would be good to have a look at the defence, midfield and attacking options Cardiff will have this year in FPL and try and give my pre-season prediction on who might be the best options out there for their respective prices.
This season there will be competition for Neil Etheridge with the arrival of Alex Smithies. They are both 28 and been priced at £4.5m. My gut feeling tells me Warnock liked what he saw when he was caretaker manager at Queen Park Rangers during the 2015-15 season and feels Smithies will bring good competition to Etheridge. However, I think Etheridge will keep the number one spot. He played in 45 out of 46 league games last season and kept 19 clean sheets and conceded only 37 goals. He started his career in the Chelsea academy and I think he has what it takes to play in the Premier League. This is the first chance he’s been given and I hope he grasps at it with both hands. I think it will be hard for Smithies to take his place in the first team. However, I’m not sure how many clean sheets Cardiff will keep this season so I wouldn’t put him at the top of your list as a back up keeper as I think there are better back up options for £4.5m out there.
I’ll echo the last point I made about goalkeepers and I’m not convinced we’ll keep many clean sheets, particularly away from home, but I think there could be some value within the defence.
With 7 goals and an assist last season and with an average of 5 goals a season over the 4 he’s been with Cardiff, there’s no surprise in seeing Sean Morrison as the highest priced Cardiff defender at £5.0m. At this price I feel like he’s too much of a risk to pick in your FPL teams unless you’re going to start him every game at his price. He might pop up with 2 or 3 goals during the season but I’m not convinced he will prove his £5.0m worth. If there’s a defender to go with as a £4.5m back-up I’d choose Sol Bamba. He’s a rock at the back and I’m convinced he will start. I’m not 100% sure on the formation we are going to play: I’m going to be writing an article about this soon! I think if you want to pick a defender from Cardiff, I’d either pick Bamba if you have £4.5m to spend or if you only have £4.0m left, then Peltier would be my next pick but I’m not sure how much game time he’s going to see this season. I’d avoid Joe Bennett as Bamba provides a more secure option at £4.5m. I’m not sure where Greg Cunningham will fit in after arriving this summer at Cardiff but after only playing 20 games last season in the Championship with Preston, I’m not sure if he’s going to be in the starting 11 this season for Cardiff.
I think this is he hardest position to call because of some of the new signings that have been brought in. I think Gunnarsson (£4.5m) and Ralls (£5.0m) will both be in the starting 11 so as 5th midfield options they could be viable. If you have £5.0m left then Ralls may be the better choice because he is our first choice penalty taker but I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket with banking on penalties and I’m sure you could find better £5.0m options out there as a 5th midfielder. The other 4 options I’d consider would be:
I don’t think Mendez-Liang will start the season as a regular for Cardiff as there is now a lot of competition within the midfield but I think Josh Murphy might have grabbed a place within the starting 11 for Cardiff and I think he might prove the best value for money here. Callum Patterson had a fantastic season last season after bagging 10 goals when moved further up the field but I’m not convinced he has nailed down his starting spot. I think Hoilett has but at £5.5m he may be pushed out by Josh Murphy as the best midfield option for Cardiff. However, I’m basing my opinion off the 4-2-3-1 being the best formation for Cardiff to play. But, a lot of teams are adapting to three at the back formation nowadays and if Cardiff also adapt this, then there could be more value in some of the other midfield options. Keep your eyes open for an article about how I think our formation will look like this season in an upcoming article. My player to avoid within the midfield option would be Anthony Pilkington (£4.5m.) I think he’s been priced low for a reason and many may be surprised here but he fell out of favour last season and I don’t see him getting back in to the starting 11, at least not at the start of the season.
This is a position where I think we are limited and I think Warnock is looking for another striker to cement strength in depth. Zohore (£5.0m) is a player that can be hit and miss. He only managed to bag 9 goals last season in the Championship. I think Bobby Reid (£5.5m) might well be in the starting 11 this season but I’m not sure if he’s going to replace Zohore as the striker of if he might play just behind him. I personally would stay away from both strikers as Cardiff are known for not scoring a lot of goals and I don’t think they have much value to show for their price tags. Gary Madine (£4.5m) is one to keep clear after singing for a big fee last season he played 13 games and didn’t score a goal! A massive let down and I don’t expect anything out of him this season.
Thanks for reading. Look out for an upcoming article looking at the possible formation Cardiff will look to use this season and this may help us all to see where players fit in for our FPL teams.