With the Premier League season almost upon us, we cast our eye back to last season’s success. Promotion was never the expectation, but it’s what Neil Warnock delivered.

We look at the stats behind Cardiff City’s incredible promotion season and what they tell us about the upcoming Premier League season.

Average ball possession

With an average ball possession of just 45.2%, Cardiff City had the second lowest average in the whole division. For many a side, that would be a problem, but Neil Warnock built his Cardiff side to make the most of the game without the ball.

Cardiff focused on getting the ball out of their defensive area into the attacking zone with quick transitions via a long ball. It was in the final third that Cardiff started to play their football, but this style of play led to a low average possession.

It’s hard to see Cardiff averaging a higher possession rate in the Premier League. Two of last season’s relegated sides (Stoke and West Brom) both averaged below 44% average possession last year.

Newcastle, Brighton and Burnley all showed that you can be successful in the Premier League without much possession of the ball, with all three averaging less than Cardiff’s 45.2% average last year.

Expected Goals (xG)

Expected goals is one of those fancy, modern new stats, but it’s an interesting indicator. “Put simply, it is a way of assigning a “quality” value (xG) to every attempt based on what we know about it” say the BBC.

Last season, Cardiff had the second highest xG in the Championship over the course of the season, with just Fulham above the Bluebirds.

This stat tells you a lot about how Cardiff play. Many will label Neil Warnock’s side as long-ball specialists, but the xG stat shows that Warnock likes to get the ball into the box to create goalscoring opportunities.

Cardiff’s xG will no doubt be lower in the Premier League, but I’d expect them to create good chances due to the nature of Warnock’s play. The Bluebirds are dangerous from set-pieces and also possess enough attacking firepower to hit teams on the break.

Expected goals against

Like xG, Expected Goals Against gives you an idea of the quality of chances against your side. For Cardiff, a 37.95 xGA average indicates Cardiff’s defensive power.

Last season, their xGA average was the fourth lowest in the Championship – an impressive statistic considering the amount of possession the opposition usually have against the Bluebirds.

This year, you’d expect Cardiff’s xGA to be among the highest in the division, considering the attacking talent they will face. The defence is one of the side’s strongest aspects though, so if they can stay strong and withstand the heavy pressure Cardiff will face, City could have a successful season.

Total Fouls

Last season’s Championship season saw Cardiff City record more fouls than any other side in the league. Warnock’s men racked up a total of 646 fouls over the course of the season.

It was to the annoyance of fans and managers of the other Championship sides, with many accusing the Bluebirds of time wasting tactics and unsportsmanship behaviour.

While that does a disjustice to Warnock’s side, breaking up opposition attacks are key to the side’s tactics.

It will be likely that Cardiff will accrue plenty of fouls over the course of the season. It won’t be popular among in the Premier League – we already saw the fallout when we played Manchester City in the Cup last year – and it’ll no doubt make City a disliked side, but it will be imperative when City come up against the big boys to have a bit of bite and stop opposition attacks whenever possible.

Passes per 90 mins

With an average of 69.5 passes per 90 mins, Cardiff City were by far the side with the lowest average amount of passes per match. The second nearest side were Millwall, with 71.5 passes per 90 mins.

Coupled with a low amount of average possession over the course of the season, the stats are indicative of Warnock’s style of play. He favours structure and defensive solidity over playing out from the back.

Whereas Wolves or Fulham will take seven or eight passes to reach the final third, Cardiff will often do it in just one or two.

I’d expect this to continue in the Premier League. With sides like Liverpool looking to pen the Bluebirds in their own box, a long ball up to the attacking trident of Zohore, Hoilett and Murphy is the obvious route where Cardiff can hurt the opposition.


Stats are obviously subject to conditions, and you have to remember that the Championship is a whole different ball game to the Premier League. It’s hard to see Warnock changing his style of play though and expect much of the same when Cardiff start their Premier League season is less than two weeks time.