A test in patience and guile for Tottenham’s new-look attack.
On paper, an expensively-assembled Spurs outfit should expect to overpower the slightly-more-modestly-assembled promoted side. But the game isn’t played on paper, because that would be silly.
- Hull 1-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Accrington 0-2 Cardiff (LC)
- Cardiff 3-2 Man City (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-0 Tromso (EL)
- Tottenham 2-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-0 Tbilisi (EL)
- Tottenham 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
Instead, Andre Villas-Boas could have a few questions to answer if his team is to take the necessary three points from this visit to Wales. Will Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen, a slick, jinking breath of fresh air against Norwich on his debut, be bullied by the Pitbull, Gary Medel? Will Cardiff’s three-man central midfield crowd out Mousa Dembele as he brings the ball forward into attack? An intriguing tactical battle may await, and much could depend on Villas-Boas’ reading of the game and second-half substitutions.
Cardiff have taken a highly-credible four points from their first two home matches against Manchester City and Everton. Malky Mackay has always been one to prioritise home form and any coach, pundit or six-year-old child will tell you that getting positive results at your own manor is crucial to a promoted team’s hopes of staying up.
City will be hard to break down and ready to take their chances from set-pieces, just as they did in their 3-2 win over Manchester City. They’ve lacked a bit of creativity this season – their excellently-crafted goal was one of only two shots on target against Hull, and they tested Everton’s keeper just once despite being at home – but you suspect Mackay would be content with a third draw from five games here.
Wingers Aaron Lennon (ouchy foot) and Nacer Chadli (buggered hip) are still out, as is midfield enforcer Etienne Capoue (distressed ankle).
Cardiff are missing keeper David Marshall (hip), striker Andreas Cornelius (square) and wide-man Craig Bellamy (34).
We’ve got some words left over here, so we’ll mention that between them, Cardiff and Spurs have scored four goals from open play in eight league games this season.
Player to watch: Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Thanks to Cardiff’s unique lop-sided formation
, Danny Rose is likely to be the busier of Tottenham’s full-backs. Walker should have plenty of opportunity to get forward on the right, and in a match where the visitors’ creative players could be frustrated by Cardiff’s central midfielders, it’s vital that he both launches and contributes to attacks.
The 23-year-old has been a regular threat for Spurs this season. Impressively for a full-back, he has had more touches on the ball than any other player in the league. Against Norwich he made the most passes in the final third (31 out of 39), the most passes anywhere on the pitch (86 out of 99) and created five chances, the joint-most in the game with Dembele.
The key to unlocking Cardiff’s defence may not lie in the palms of Eriksen or Dembele, but from Walker attacking his opposite full-back at pace.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 4-0 Cardiff (FAC, Jan 07)
- Cardiff 0-0 Spurs (FAC, Jan 07)
- Spurs 1-0 Cardiff (LC, Oct 02)
- Spurs 2-1 Cardiff (Div 2, Jan 78)
- Cardiff 0-0 Spurs (Div 2, Jan 78)
Both managers will be fairly content with their start to the campaign, and both have a fascinating few weeks ahead of them as they seek to decide upon their preferred starting XIs.
Mackay signed eight players over the summer at a cost of over £30m; Villas-Boas, seven players for more than £100m. New faces means experimentation, and just as Erik Lamela is yet to start for Spurs, Peter Odemwingie awaits his Cardiff debut. How Mackay and Villas-Boas manage their respective squads will be crucial for their different aims. This game may give an early indication of what they have in mind.
Facts and figures
- Cardiff have played the highest proportion of long passes in the Premier League this season (15.4%).
- Christian Eriksen has created four goals in his five league appearances in 2013/14 (Premier League and Eredivisie combined).
- Tottenham have only been caught offside once in total in their opening four games.
- Tottenham have scored exactly two goals in five of their last seven Premier League away games.
- Andre Villas-Boas’ outfit have hit more shots than any other side this season (59 excl. blocked) but have scored only 4 times.
- Jordon Mutch has made four appearances this season, but all of them as a sub coming on in the closing minute.
- Three of Tottenham’s four goals this season have come in the 15 minute spell after half time.
- Cardiff City are one of five Premier League sides yet to score a first half goal this season.
- No player has assisted more Premier League goals than Cardiff’s Don Cowie this season (2).
- Tottenham won all six of their Premier League games against newly-promoted sides in 2012-13.
Cardiff set out to frustrate Tottenham and unexpectedly succeed. 0-0.