By Dan Cope
CARDIFF City suffered their second home defeat in a row after two goals from former Swansea City midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and one from Dominic Calvert-Lewin increased the mounting pressure on the relegation-threatened Bluebirds.
Here’s what we learned from the game on Tuesday night.
Cardiff’s defensive woes
With captain Sean Morrison fully fit, Neil Warnock decided to slot the Cardiff hero straight back into the heart of the Bluebirds’ defence but this decision seems to have disrupted the Cardiff backline.
Recently, particularly at home to Bournemouth and away to Southampton, Cardiff had looked solid at the back with centre back partnership of Sol Bamba and Bruno Ecuele Manga, only conceding once in those two games.
Since Morrison’s return they have conceded eight goals in two home games which is an embarrassing statistic for any team. He wasn’t directly at fault for any of the goals but he is yet again at the heart of a poor defensive display from Cardiff.
Of course, none of Cardiff’s defenders, Bamba and Manga included, have been world class this season, but fans have moaned through the year that Morrison may indeed be the weak link in their Premier League defence.
There is no doubt that the Bluebirds captain is a talented player but this has not been his season and his performances since returning to the side suggest that. He looked shaky and seemingly lacked the confidence needed to lead the Cardiff defence against Sigurdsson and co.
Warnock also insists on playing Manga out of position at right back where he looks lost. It showed against Everton when Richarlison and then Bernard (for the second goal) constantly got the better of the Gabon international. It may be time for Manga to return to his centre back duties and for Lee Peltier to return to right back.
Reid and Zohore need to start
Fans have been clamouring for Bobby Reid and Kenneth Zohore to form a dynamic partnership upfront. Instead they have settled for the versatile Callum Paterson and Oumar Niasse over the last few months. Granted Zohore has struggled with form and injuries have blighted his Premier League campaign but fans finally got their wish to see the duo in action against the Toffees.
Even though there were no goals and not even a shot on target, both players showed signs they can lead the line for Cardiff. Reid showed his quality and was the energy source and playmaker in the “number 10” position, constantly looking to thread the ball up through to the big Dane. He was always on the charge, looking to use his pace and power to rattle the Everton defence of Keane and Jagielka and carve out chances for Neil Warnock’s men.
Both Reid and Zohore have scored vital goals for Cardiff against Bournemouth and Southampton respectively this season that could help their survival bid. Was this each other’s best game? Not by any means, however they certainly showed signs they could form a positive partnership for Cardiff in the long run.
Cardiff’s survival hopes dented
After the shock 2-1 away win to fellow relegation rivals Southampton, fans and pundits alike were confident Cardiff would remain in the Premier League for another season to come.
However, a 5-1 drubbing at home at the hands of Watford followed by Tuesday’s 3-0 home defeat to Everton seems to have completely washed away those hopes. Cardiff still remain 17th, one point above Southampton and eight points above Fulham who sit 19th and travel to Saint Mary’s on Wednesday night in what will be a close game.
A draw or even a Southampton loss could do wonders for Cardiff’s survival chances but their performance against Everton, a team not enjoying the best of spells either, was not that of a team desperate to remain in the Premier League.
There was no real innovation from the midfielders, almost every time Cardiff got the ball they would panic and give it straight back to Everton to attack. In games where Cardiff were the underdogs, such as away to Arsenal, they piled on pressure to the defence and forced the opposition into errors that would, in turn, create chances for the Cardiff forwards but none of the pressure and willingness to challenge for the ball was on display again.
Overall, Cardiff also lacked quality. Gylfi Sigurdsson cost more for Everton than Cardiff’s entire team put together and his has been the case for most of Cardiff’s opponents where in one player has cost more than their team.
This means teams like Everton have that quality advantage over Cardiff and even though they weren’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, players like Sigurdsson, Bernard and Idrissa Gueye turned up and provided the goods.
In tough situations like these, Cardiff lack the necessary quality needed to take the fight to those teams above them and Tuesday’s performances highlighted that.