Premier League preview – Cardiff City

Last season:

Championship: 1st

FA Cup: 3rd Round

League Cup: 1st Round

Following a five-year chase consisting of high expectation, nerves and repeated collapse, the evening of April 16, 2013 saw the Bluebirds finally seal promotion to the Premier League under the spotlights of a packed Cardiff City Stadium.

A half-century absence from Britain’s top flight means a new experience for the vast majority of those associated with Cardiff City, so survival will require plenty of fight from a Bluebirds squad offering minimal Premier League experience. Despite that, manager Malky Mackay has built a group willing to play for each other and, ultimately, one that gets the job done.

As proven by the likes of Norwich and Southampton in recent seasons, those two aspects – along with a few notable squad improvements – can keep a team up after a gruelling 38 games; and that should once again be expected from within the Welsh capital.

Despite assuring that those heavily involved in last season’s promotion-winning side will have their chance to shine in the Premier League, Mackay has pronounced that the majority of new recruits will improve his squad, rather than make up the numbers. The former Watford manager has become known for his thorough research and patience in the transfer window, and has this summer managed to bring in international talent such as Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Andreas Cornelius, as well as added depth in John Brayford and Simon Moore, all for a combined price of £28m.

Judging by pre-season outings, Mackay seems keen to try out a 4-1-4-1 formation, a positive change following the dull switch between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 in the Championship. Steven Caulker looks to be a guaranteed starter, whilst club captain Mark Hudson, Ben Turner and Matthew Connolly will offer plenty of central defensive options. The signing of Derby’s John Brayford then adds further competition for veteran right-back Kevin McNaughton and, while it can be argued that another left-back is needed, the rising talent of academy star Declan John will mean Andrew Taylor is kept on his toes.

As for midfield, club record signing Gary Medel is likely to rotate his holding role with Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson, with class-acts Peter Whittingham and Kim Bo-Kyung in more advanced positions. It’s then assumed that star name Craig Bellamy will start on the left of midfield, with a rotated offering between Craig Noone and Tommy Smith on the right. Mackay is thought to be in want of a new winger, though, so that side of the pitch may receive a new lease of life.

Denmark international Cornelius has been signed in an attempt to rectify Cardiff’s lack of a prolific striker, with the now-retired Heidar Helgusson standing as last season’s top scorer having claimed just eight goals. January signing Fraizer Campbell managed to knock seven of his own in just 12 games last term, but is yet to prove his worth in the Premier League following spells at Manchester United, Tottenham and Sunderland. Nicky Maynard and Joe Mason are also options, while Etien Velikonja’s hopes of a look-in remain in tatters.

Cardiff have a fair amount of quality spread throughout the team, but that alone won’t secure Premier League football for another season. The work ethic implemented by Malky Mackay will give the club every chance, though, and could even see them floating above 15th position come the end of the season.

Having taken Cardiff to promotion Malky Mackay now has to keep them up

Manager – Malky Mackay: Since being appointed in 2011, the Scot has not only rebuilt a Cardiff squad left bare following the departure of Dave Jones, but produced a Championship-winning side thanks to his extensive research in regards to player recruitment and a do-or-die attitude forced upon his players.

Key signing – Steven Caulker: Considered to be a future rock in England’s defence, Caulker adds much-needed Premier League experience at the back for Cardiff. His £8m move from Spurs came as a surprise to many, but the centre-back is hungry for games as he looks to guarantee a spot in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup 2014 plans.

Key sale – none: As mentioned, Mackay is looking to give his existing team every chance in the Premier League. Just one player has departed, with youngster Ben Nugent now on loan at Brentford. Though other fringe players are expected to follow before the transfer deadline, the sale of a key figure is unlikely.

Keep an eye out for…Kim Bo-Kyung: Kim took close to six months to settle into life in Cardiff following his £2.5m move from Japan’s Cerezo Osaka, but played a key role in the club’s promotion fight from January onwards. Hard-working, skilful and boasting a similar play style to Manchester City’s David Silva, the South Korea international has the potential to play at the highest level.

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