First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com
Cardiff City face a critical run of fixtures in December that could make or break their season.
The Bluebirds go into December off the back of a tricky month where they faced pre-season favourites Newcastle and Aston Villa and unexpected promotion contenders Huddersfield.
But now Neil Warnock’s men will be looking to build on encouraging performances against some of the division’s top sides.
Cardiff ended November with a 3-1 loss away to Aston Villa. The Bluebirds will feel aggrieved by the result as it doesn’t truly effect how even the game was. That result now leaves Cardiff back in the relegation zone but the performance and the fixtures ahead fans can still remain positive.
Cardiff start and end December with fixtures against Brighton who recently appointed former Cardiff head coach Paul Trollope to their vacant assistant manager’s position.
But the last time the two sides met Cardiff game out 4-1 winners in arguably the best performance in the Russell Slade era.
Brighton currently sit second in the Championship, just two points behind leaders Newcastle and are now on a ten-game unbeaten run. Chris Hughton’s side will be by far the hardest test of the month for Cardiff.
The rest of the games in December see the Bluebirds face four team in the bottom half of the table, which offers a great opportunity to gain points from the side around them.
Cardiff go onto face Ipswich Town away and Wolves at home in their next two games. Both teams are currently situated very close to Cardiff in the table and wins could see the Bluebirds leap-frog them both.
Ipswich have been very hit and miss this season. They’ve pulled off good results against Quen’s Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday but have failed to bet Rotherham and lose 2-0 at home to Nottingham Forrest.
Wolves on the other hand have grossly underperformed after they’re new owners invested heavily in the side but they have currently sit 21st, only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
Next up for Cardiff will be Barnsley at home and a trip to Brentford who are also currently struggling to break into the top half of the table.
Brentford and Barnsley both sit just four points ahead of the drop zone and are definitely two games where Cardiff can make up ground and pull themselves outside of the bottom three.
There’s no doubt that this will be a month that will test the strength and depth of the Cardiff squad.
There’s no such thing as an easy game in the championship but on their day Cardiff are one of the hardest sides to beat in the Championship. The tactical changes that Neil Warnock has implemented have got the best out of the players.
The likes of Aaron Gunnarsson and Peter Whittingham have been crucial to the success of the Cardiff team and continue to run the game from midfield.
New signings Sol Bamba and Junior Hoilett have proved themselves to be bargains after signing for free upon Neil Warnock’s arrival.
The Bluebirds’ goal drought has also ended with the introduction of what has become known as the ‘lopsided 3-5-2’ – the formation that Cardiff used in order to put three goals past high flyers Huddersfield in November.
It’s very important that the players begin the charge up the table now in order to lay the foundation of a top half finish and attract the players in January that will turn the team into a play-off contender.