What do Cardiff need to do to stay up? Here, Jack Carter takes a look at what Huddersfield did last season – and what Cardiff can learn from them
Finishing position: 16th
Total points: 37
Goals scored: 28
Top scorer: Steve Mounie (7)
With the lowest wage bill in the league and the bookies’ favourites to go down, arguably the biggest story of the 2017/18 Premier League season was Huddersfield’s survival. It is under the same conditions that Cardiff will begin their top flight campaign against Bournemouth on 11 August, albeit with one difference – our wage bill is half of Huddersfield’s.
Formation and style of play
When manager David Wagner was brought in from Borussia Dortmund in 2015, the German side’s famous high pressing system arrived with him. It was this style of play that took the Yorkshire side from a 19th place finish in the 2015/16 season, to 5th place and up through the play offs the following year.
However, in order to clinch survival, Wagner abandoned the gegenpress philosophy entirely. Instead, their style of play became far more dogged, built on the foundations of a compact and disciplined back four, with two tireless defensive midfielders ahead of them. On the attack, they deployed two pacey wingers that could break quickly up the pitch and pump balls into the box for alternating strikers Mounie and Depoitre (a style of play otherwise known as Warnock Ball).
While some Huddersfield fans bemoaned a lack of conviction in their game, staying solid and being able to hold on to a lead is what got them over the line in the end (of their nine wins, five victories came within a one goal deficit). This is Cardiff’s bread and butter and we will be well drilled to deal with the onslaught when we find ourselves one-nil up with ten minutes to go. Stamina will be key for us, however, and whether Warnock decides to spend the rest of the transfer kitty on quality or quantity could be vital.
The big results
Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Huddersfield Town
Cardiff fans are no strangers to the pandemonium Huddersfield fans experienced in the away end at Selhurst Park when the Terriers beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on the opening day of the season.
With City’s opener against similar opposition in Bournemouth, a convincing victory on the south coast would be both a marvelous and quite conceivable result. Huddersfield saw just how vital wins in August are for newly-promoted sides. If we can get anywhere close to the seven points the Terriers registered in their first three games, it would be an superb achievement.
Huddersfield Town 2 – 1 Manchester United
It was Huddersfield’s one and only major scalp of the season, and it was under the floodlights of a sold-out John Smiths Stadium. Despite Marcus Rashford’s consolation, coming after two first half goals for the home side, the Terriers held on for their first victory over United in 65 years.
The season inevitably throws up a few major upsets, and Cardiff will be a good bet to clinch one or two of their own. If new Gunners new manager Unai Emery gets off to a shaky start, Arsenal at home on 2 September could be a fantastic opportunity to leave a mark on the top six.
Chelsea 1 – 1 Huddersfield Town
Chelsea away has historically been a nightmare fixture for newly-promoted sides, but a defensive masterclass gave Huddersfield the point they needed to ensure they were safe from relegation. In truth, they couldn’t have picked a better time to head to Stamford Bridge, with the Blues’ season ending in something of a tail spin under Conte. That being said, hanging on for a draw only days after earning a point away at Manchester City is one hell of a way to earn another season in the top flight.
Unfortunately, Cardiff’s run-in is just as troublesome, with five of last season’s top seven to play in the final seven games. Hopefully the Bluebirds can capitalise on some very winnable fixtures in February and March, but a big result against one of the top teams will likely be required.