As we begin the second of this season’s International breaks, it gives players and managers in the Premier League an opportunity to rest and reflect on the opening eight games of the season. At the top, the race for the title is already taking shape with Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all tied on points, but at the other end, the threat of relegation is already looming large for some clubs.
Huddersfield, Newcastle and Cardiff occupy the relegation spots – all of whom still in search of their first Premier League win of this season. Holding up the table is Cardiff. The Bluebirds have been dealt a tough start to life back in the top flight after a four year absence, having faced four of the top five already.
Their only points so far have come from goalless draws with relegation rivals Newcastle and Huddersfield, the latter they share the titles of fewest goals and most conceded with (four and 17 respectively). But the club’s position at the foot of the Premier League is, and certainly was, to be expected.
The ‘muck and nettles’ of the Championship
Last week was Neil Warnock’s two year anniversary as Cardiff City manager, after replacing Paul Trollope after 12 games of the 2016/17 season, and the club at second-bottom of the Championship.
The appointment proved it’s worth, and Cardiff’s return to the promised land was secured by a record eight promotion for Warnock last season, his side mustering 90 points and finishing second in dramatic fashion on the final day.
As impressive as the feat was, promotion from the Championship under Warnock is not uncommon. He did so with Sheffield United in 2007 and Queens Park Rangers in 2011, though with United he was relegated, and by Rangers was sacked in the New Year. It makes for an unflattering Premier League record of 17 wins in 82 games in Warnock’s career – a win percentage of just 20.73%.
Ahead of Cardiff’s 2-1 defeat to Burnley last month, Warnock had told Sky Sports News that he doesn’t enjoy the Premier League like he does the Championship, saying he prefers the “muck and nettles” of England’s second tier. This time round though he said he was going to try and enjoy it, and most of all give the fans something to enjoy too.
Money doesn’t buy you wins, does it?
Behind the scenes at Cardiff remains Vincent Tan, the man who changed the club colour to red for their 2013/14 Premier League campaign, and has been subject to stag-do fancy dress ideas, with his iconic shirt-over-shirt and shades look.
That season Tan allowed manager Malky Makay to spend £45 million in transfers on the likes Gary Medel from Sevilla, and Steven Caulker from Tottenham. This season though has been a different story, with the club spending £28.5 million on Championship players Josh Murphy from Norwich, and Bobby Reid from Bristol City, amongst a few obscure loan deals – ranking 16th on the Premier League spending table for this season.
Spending vast amounts of money on the best players with the fanciest haircuts does not necessarily bring you success, but it certainly helps. Last seasons top four teams in the Premier League were amongst the top six of spenders that season, whilst relegated Stoke spent the least amount (£25 million).
Having said that, West Brom spent over £42 million on finishing 20th last year and this season, Spurs became the first team to not spend a single penny in the Summer Transfer Window since it began in 2003, and currently lie just two points off leaders Manchester City after eight games.
Cardiff then lie in an awkward position – winless at the foot of the Premier League table, and led by a man who would probably prefer a job back in the Championship. It may or may not be unfair to say that about Warnock, after all he’s managing a club in the most prestigious domestic league in the world.
Nevertheless, Cardiff precarious position in the table is result of a short-term solution manager in Warnock, who has little to no Premier League credentials, and of insufficient backing by the board.
The question for Tan is does he stay loyal to the man who got him back into the top flight, or does he try to divert to safety what looks like an ever-sinking ship.