The FourFourTwo Preview: Cardiff vs Arsenal

Premier League | Cardiff City Stadium | Sat 30 Nov | 3pm

Billed as

A repeat of the 1927 FA Cup final, obviously.

The lowdown

Cardiff’s win in that inter-war final was the only time the FA Cup has been let out of England (except to be presented at the Millennium Stadium for a few years).
 
However, the Bluebirds haven’t beaten Arsenal in 11 meetings, the last win in 1961. But we suppose you’re after more up-to-date news. Fine, WHATEVS.

CARDIFF FORM

  • Cardiff 2-2 Man Utd (Prem)
  • Villa 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
  • Cardiff 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
  • Norwich 0-0 Cardiff (Prem)
  • Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff (Prem)

ARSENAL FORM

  • Arsenal 2-0 Marseille (CL)
  • Arsenal 2-0 So'ton (Prem)
  • Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal (Prem)
  • Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal (CL)
  • Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool (Prem)

Arsenal travel in full knowledge of Cardiff’s increased threat at home, but in even fuller confidence – overflowing, if anything – that they can smuggle three points back through the Severn Bridge toll. Assuming they travel in one coach it’ll cost the team £18.60 to enter Wales (it costs nothing to leave), so that’s £6.20 per point, which represents good value.

When the Gunners’ Champions League group was drawn, many doubted their chances of progress. They didn’t want to go to Napoli in the final game needing a result. Now they don’t – unless you count avoiding a three-goal defeat as a ‘result’.
 
The red shirts of Cardiff and the blues of Manchester United drew last weekend, possibly because the footballing gods were confused as to who was whom.
 
It was a deserved point, the hosts making up for defensive errors with fight and some good passing moves rarely exhibited this season: for Frazier Campbell’s goal, exquisite passes from Peter Whittingham and Jordon Mutch carved open United through the middle like a Thanksgiving turkey (that one’s for you, American readers).
 
Arsenal will be a different teapot of mackerel because they’ll look to dominate with their own passing game. Cardiff will have renewed faith in their own abilities, but face an uphill task.

Team news

Arsenal are still without Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo and Ryo Miyaichi, in a decreasing sense of how much their fans will mind. Kieran Gibbs has an illness but is likely to feature.
 
Cardiff’s incredible injury run continues: knee-knack-paddy-whacked Rudy Gestede was their only doubt but he has been sent out on loan to Blackburn with a view to a permanent move in January.

Player to watch: Don Cowie (Cardiff)

Sky Sports viewers who saw Cowie last Sunday may well have been asking, “Who is this person? Why is he on my screen? Was his face made as an early prototype of team-mate Jordon Mutch?”
 
It’s true that few Premier League players have done time in the Scottish second tier. But 30-year-old Cowie, who played 90 minutes against each of Chelsea, Swansea and Manchester United, is well-liked by Malky Mackay, mostly for his defensive work. Cardiff have many wide options – Craig Bellamy, Peter Odemwingie, Craig Noone, Kim Bo-Kyung, Tommy Smith (remember him?) – but Cowie is a protective winger, which allows Kevin Theophile-Catherine to attack from right-back. They dovetailed well against Manchester United.
 
His defending is necessary, too: while Theophile-Catherine can take on players, his passing is often shockingly poor: his completion rate against Aston Villa and Swansea was 58% in both games, and just 53% at Chelsea.
Cowie attacks in his own right (check his first-time assist for Peter Whittingham in Cardiff’s excellent team goal against Hull), but also gives the French full-back freedom to get forward by covering his tracks.
 
He probably won’t play now.
 

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Arsenal 4-0 Cardiff (FAC, Feb 09)
  • Cardiff 0-0 Arsenal (FAC, Jan 09)
  • Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff (FAC, Jan 06)
  • Cardiff 1-3 Arsenal (LC, Oct 82)
  • Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff (LC, Oct 82)

The managers

“Don’t sack Mackay, Malky Mackay – we just don’t think you understand,” sang Cardiff supporters at Vincent Tan (to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart, and yes, they stole it from Leicester fans). It won’t necessarily help. There’s a theory – only a theory, mind – that if anything, the club owner is jealous of Mackay’s popularity. But for the moment, the Scotsman’s job looks as safe as it can be with the capricious Tan in charge.
 
No such problem for Wenger. Remember when a number of Arsenal fans were calling for his head? How things can change in three short months.

Facts and figures

Tips and trends

  • Cardiff have conceded first in 4 of their 6 home games, and their first-half record reads D8, L4, scoring just 3 first-half goals in 12 matches. Only Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City have a better record in the second half.
  • Arsenal have won 9 of their last 10 matches against bottom-six clubs, a record only equalled by Manchester United.
  • The Gunners have also opened the scoring in 9 of those 10 games on the way to winning 6 of the last 9 by at least 2 goals.
    Find the best odds with Bet Butler

FourFourTwo prediction

Cardiff 0-2 Arsenal, with the visitors’ attacking movement catching out a static Cardiff defence.

Cardiff vs Arsenal LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone


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