Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
Managerless Cardiff City are the visitors to Emirates Stadium on New Year's Day, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Terry Phillips.
The issues surrounding Cardiff City’s off-field problems implies that the club have been performing below expectations, but the Premier League debutants have done well against most of the title challengers.
They defeated Manchester City, earned a deserved draw against Manchester United, and recently caused Liverpool problems, even in a 3-1 defeat. Arsenal’s comfortable 3-0 win at Cardiff in November was an exception.
Cardiff have found a fine balance between structure and creativity, and one of the defining features of their play is the discipline of the attacking players.
"Their organisation without the ball means Arsenal must attack quickly on the rare occasions Cardiff get men into the opposition half"
The likes of Craig Bellamy and Peter Odemwingie have been used on the flanks, but have worked tirelessly without the ball, shutting down opposition midfielders and protecting their full backs. What might seem like a brave, attack-minded starting XI on paper could actually be more solid, rigid and cautious.
Cardiff depend upon a reliable, strong defensive core without the ball. Goalkeeper David Marshall, plus centre backs Steven Caulker and Ben Turner and holding midfielder Gary Medel start every game, and Cardiff rarely allow the opposition space, either behind the defence or between the lines.
Medel will be joined by two other central midfielders. Jordon Mutch has become a regular in recent weeks and offers an aerial threat at set-pieces - he’s Cardiff’s joint-leading scorer.
Aron Gunnarsson, Kim Bo-Kyung and Peter Whittingham are more reliable in possession, with Whittingham boasting a tremendous left foot which can be dangerous in both open play and at set-pieces. Arsenal must avoid conceding cheap free-kicks inside their own half, because Cardiff are excellent at dead-ball situations.
Overall, expect Cardiff to play reactively, and spend long periods on the back foot. They have very few attempts from open play, and possess one of the division’s poorest pass-completion rates.
However, their organisation without the ball means Arsenal must attack quickly on the rare occasions Cardiff get men into the opposition half. They’re much less astute at defending against counter-attacks, compared to when the midfield is in a position to shield the back four.
TERRY PHILLIPS, SOUTH WALES ECHO
Cardiff's City's off-field problems have had a massive effect on their results. The manager went so quickly after the defeat to Southampton so that must have been a shock to the players. They then had another game against Sunderland where they conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes to drop two points. And now they come to Arsenal who have been in sensational form.
However, the players are a very tight group and they are just sticking together and will be putting in 100 per cent effort to get a result at the Emirates on Wednesday.
"David Kerslake is a former Spurs player and of course Caulker was signed from Tottenham so that will add an extra bit of spice to the game"
Steven Caulker has been absolutely fantastic this season. He's the captain at just 21 and has put in a string of impressive performances at the back. There have been several others who have done really well, with the likes of Gary Medel, Craig Noone and Jordan Mutch all proving that the Bluebirds have a squad to compete in the Premier League.
They will try to keep it tight on Wednesday. They can't really afford to give Arsenal too much room. They need to take their chances when they come because they won't get too many of them. They know how tough it's going to be but they're up for the battle. Caretaker manager David Kerslake is a former Spurs player and of course Caulker was signed from Tottenham so that will add an extra bit of spice to the game.
At home against Arsenal they were only 1-0 down until the 80th minute so they'll think they have a chance, having beaten Manchester City this season. They will certainly play with no fear.
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