The start of the Premier League season has largely been a predictable one, and it is no great surprise to see the bookies’ favourite for relegation winless, and only separated from the foot of the table thanks to the alphabet. What is more of a surprise is their apparent compliance in their fate.
Cardiff were priced at 7/10 for relegation at the beginning of the season. Shocks and underdog stories are not too uncommon in the Premier League, and they could be initially forgiven for having confidence in their own abilities to do enough to avoid the drop.
What has become clear after the opening weeks however is that one of two things has occurred – they are either wildly deluded in their own abilities or more worryingly, well aware and accepting of their eventual relegation.
Sometimes a club in the relegation zone will sign proven Championship players in January with one eye on their likely relegation, to allow new recruits to hit the ground running at the start of the next season.
What has never been seen before is a club employing such a recruitment strategy before the season has even kicked off.
Neil Warnock decided to keep faith with the squad that won promotion, and decided to supplement it with promising Championship prospects in Josh Murphy and Bobby Reid.
There was no suggestion in their transfer dealings that Cardiff were aware they had in fact been promoted. The squad is devoid of not just Premier League but top-flight experience.
The European markets in which Cardiff could have flexed their relative financial might have been practically ignored, leaving a squad desperately out-of-place in the top division, as shown last Saturday against Manchester City.
Cardiff’s transfer business over the summer with hindsight looks more and more like a waving of the white flag.
The rationale for this caution in the market is to point the finger at Cardiff’s previous season in the Premier League. An over indulgence by owner Vincent Tan, led to financial trouble following their immediate relegation.
However, drawing direct comparisons between now and 2013 ignores the financial reality of the Premier League at present.
Since Cardiff’s last season in the top-flight, a new TV deal worth 3bn over 3 years, a 71% increase on the previous deal has been agreed.
Premier League clubs dwarf their European counterparts financially, and even the Premier League’s bottom clubs take their pick of player from Europe’s non-elite. This is a trend that Warnock and Cardiff must have missed.
With the increase in TV money inevitably comes the increase in parachute payments. Whilst Cardiff received £16.6m upon their relegation in 2014, last season’s relegated trio received £41.6 apiece.
To put it simply; the financial dangers of four years ago are not the same.
The attempt to not make the mistakes of four years ago has led to an over-cautious approach with the prioritisation of limiting the impact of their relegation in May.
This does beg the question as to what the point of being in a division is if there is no serious attempt to even remain in it.
Warnock described the upcoming season as his :hardest challenge by an absolute mile”. Given that every other one of his Premier League challenges (far easier by his own admission) have ended either in his sacking or relegation, it has to be seriously doubted if even he thinks Cardiff have a chance.
Warnock’s quotes from the start of the season also appear damning. He cites Burnley’s first season in the Premier League as an example to follow, as they ended up establishing themselves as a top-flight club despite initial relegation.
On top of immediate relegation being an odd template to try to imitate, the comparison neglects to mention that this isn’t Cardiff’s first season in the Premier League.Following Burnley’s model, they should be nearing Europe in a few years.
There seems to be very few winners from the situation Cardiff find themselves in.
There is no ‘correct’ way to play football, but attempting to draw every game 0-0 hardly sets the pulse of the neutral racing, and their clash with Burnley on Sunday is the least appealing televised fixture in recent memory.
Their fans remain in good spirits for now and were in full voice even at five down on Saturday.
However if results continue in the same vein, the novelty of the Premier League will surely start to wear off.