"We know we're up against it." That was the assessment of Neil Warnock following Cardiff's unlikely promotion to the Premier League. But that is nothing new for Warnock, Cardiff weren’t expected to even gain automatic promotion to the Premier League from the Championship by finishing in the top 2. As a matter of fact, they weren't even expected to make it to the playoffs.
But one thing you’ll always find in a Neil Warnock side is commitment, and this Cardiff team is no different. How else do you explain defying the voices that said Cardiff couldn’t do it if the players aren’t committed towards a common cause?
Hard tackles, long throws, a solid defence are solid indicators of the commitment to a common cause and it was precisely the approach last season that finds them in the Premier League today and there’s little to suggest anything’s going to change.
While Cardiff's football may not have been pretty last season, it was effective enough to secure promotion to the riches of the Premier League. The Bluebirds will look to be a threat from set plays, having scored from such scenarios 15 times in the Championship last season - a league high. Cardiff also recorded a Championship low last season when it came to passing accuracy, with 59.38 per cent an indication of their tendency to play long balls and being wasteful with possession of the ball.
The robust defensive pairing of Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison were too strong for second-tier strikers in the Championship, but there is a risk that they will be found out by the pace of Premier League opposition.
In midfield, they boast experience in the shape of the Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson, while Joe Ralls was arguably the most underrated performer in the Championship last season. Ralls joined the club at the age of 16 but, eight years on, is the team’s beating heart.
In attack, Kenneth Zohore’s work-rate sets him apart from the rest but an output of 9 goals in 36 Championship games last season raises questions over whether he’s cut out to lead Cardiff’s attack in the Premier League and score them the goals they would desperately need to avoid relegation. Players like Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will be heavily relied upon.
Cardiff’s 4 new signings in Bobby Reid, Greg Cunningham, Alex Smithies and Josh Murphy are all trusted performers in the Championship but only have a combined 11 Premier League appearances between them with none of those coming in the past four seasons.
Cardiff will not be pretty to watch and might be odds-on favourites to be relegated but one thing is for sure - Neil Warnock has made a side who will be hard to beat and definitely won’t go down without a fight.