Cardiff are four points off the Championship summit and everything’s looking rosy in South Wales. How would you sum up the Bluebirds’ campaign so far?
I guess it has lost pace a little bit over the last few weeks with some mixed form, but it started off like a house on fire mainly due to Neil Warnock, his influence and his signings. The one that caught the headlines was the signing of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Rochdale; he scored five goals in five games at the start and he’s integral to the way they play. I don’t think Cardiff have been as surprised as everyone else as to how they’ve done, but they’ve certainly exceeded expectations.
The last three seasons haven’t been particularly exceptional in comparison– what changed over the summer?
It’s mainly down to Warnock getting a full pre-season in with a group of players that he wanted. He inherited a pretty weak squad last season, with signings from both Russell Slade and Paul Trollope, but now you get the feeling it’s Warnock’s team. He’s brought in some real generals – the first thing he did when he arrived was to bring in Junior Hoilett and Sol Bamba on free transfers and they’ve formed the fulcrum of the side, playing almost every game. If you look at the team now, it bears little resemblance to a year ago. A change of personnel but also crucially a manager who is desperate for a record eighth promotion is what changed over the summer.
With a third of the season already in the can, what is a realistic aim for the club at this point?
I think Cardiff should be getting in the Play-Offs and they’ll be disappointed if they don’t, considering the start they had to the season. There are a few strong teams like Middlesbrough, Derby and Villa all swooping below Cardiff, so I think one of those three will probably come good and join Wolves in the automatic places.
After signing a two-year extension in the summer, ex-Brentford loanee Kadeem Harris suffered an injury that’s kept him out of action since August. How big a bonus will the 24-year-old’s return be?
It’s probably fair to say he hasn’t been missed a huge amount because of how good Mendez-Laing and Hoilett have been on the wings, but he will certainly be a very good option when he returns; Cardiff play a lot through their wingers, they rely on pace and Harris fits the bill. He was really good last year, got a full season under his belt and Warnock seemed to really like him.
Which Bluebirds player should Brentford be most wary of?
If Mendez-Laing is fit he will be the biggest danger, but he did hobble off after just seven minutes in the last game against Bristol City, which contributed massively to that defeat. Hoilett is also in a rich vein of form and is looking like the player he was a few years ago at Blackburn and QPR, so either one of those two.
What should Dean Smith’s men expect in terms of the way Cardiff set up?
It’s usually been a 4-3-3, with two very hard-working central midfielders just ahead of a more defensive, deep-lying midfielder, and a very quick front three. Cardiff will take the game to teams at home – it’s fast football. They sometimes struggle when they are favourites in front of their own fans and struggled to break down Millwall and Derby recently, but are still unbeaten at home. They could bring Lee Tomlin in as a number ten – that helped against Ipswich – so that may be the way they set up against Brentford.
If you could add one Brentford player to Neil Warnock’s squad, who would it be?
One player I’ve been impressed with whenever I’ve seen him is Ryan Woods. He looks like a really tidy player, I’m not sure if he’d suit Cardiff or not, but I like the way he looks after the ball in the middle of the park.
What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
I have said in our own channels that this could be the game where Cardiff’s unbeaten home record goes, so I’m inclined to say that Brentford might nick it 1-0.