Can Neil Harris lead Cardiff City to an instant return to the Premier League?

Graham Ruthven by Graham Ruthven / 19 February 2020, 09:09

The outlook for Cardiff City was rather bleak when Neil Warnock left the club back in November. 

A poor run of results which culminated in a home defeat to Bristol City proved to be the end for the 71-year-old in South Wales, with the Bluebirds slumped in 14th place in the English Championship. 

Now, however, Neil Harris is turning Cardiff City’s fortunes around. 

Cardiff are one of the division’s form teams. Their last league defeat came on January 1 away to QPR, with the Bluebirds winning three of their last five English Championship fixtures. 

Here is a look at Harris’ stewardship of the club...

What is Harris doing right?

As recently as the end of December, Harris looked to be toiling in the Cardiff City job. 

The 42-year-old’s team seemingly lacked an identity with a string of disappointing home draws raising questions against the new man in the job. Since then, though, the Bluebirds have started to take flight under Harris.

Defensive stability has been found of late with Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson giving Harris a foundation to build upon. Will Vaulks shone in the recent away wins over Luton and Huddersfield, pulling the strings from his position in the centre of the pitch. Lee Tomlin has also found some form, notching a goal and an assist in those two games. 

Organisation has been key for the Bluebirds under Harris. 

This is a team that lacks obvious difference-makers, players who can win a game on their own, and so their shape and discipline is most significant. 

This is what Harris has brought. He is a pragmatist and while this might not be to the liking of some supporters he is making progress in turning Cardiff around.

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Cardiff City are now knocking on the play-off door

Who are Cardiff City’s key players?

The aforementioned defensive pairing of Morrison and Nelson are key to Cardiff’s chances of making the playoffs as is Vaulks in the centre of the pitch. 

Josh Murphy has the ability to be the Bluebirds’ difference-maker and has hit a decent vein of form recently, but the feeling that the 24-year-old still has more to offer persists.

If the Bluebirds are in need of one thing between now and the end of the season it’s the emergence of a true goalscorer. 

Indeed, Cardiff City have so far lacked a reliable number nine to lead the line with Lee Tomlin their top scorer on just seven goals. Robert Glatzel, the German who has most frequently been deployed as Cardiff’s primary centre forward this season, has just four goals from 19 appearances.

How far can Harris take them?

Harris has grown increasingly bullish on Cardiff City’s hopes for the second half of the season. 

“We are up to eighth, which shows just how tight the league can be,” he said after the watershed win over Luton. 

“We spoke all day yesterday and this morning as well about if we want to be serious contenders for the top six, well at some stage you do have to put a little run together.

"The players feel we are so close, we do as staff as well, it's just making sure you're consistent over 90 minutes and then consistent over a week.”

Saturday’s home draw against lowly Wigan represented two points dropped, although the damage could have been much worse with the Latics taking the lead twice. 

This weekend’s trip to face Stoke City is another winnable fixture before two matches against Nottingham Forest and Brentford which will offer something of a gauge on the Bluebirds’ play-off chances. These are the sort of teams they are competing against.

England - Championship: Outright Winner Odds

West Brom
Nottingham Forest
Bristol City
Preston
Blackburn
Millwall
Swansea
Cardiff
Derby
Middlesbrough
Stoke City
Sheffield Wed
Barnsley
Birmingham
Charlton
Huddersfield
Hull City
Luton
Reading
Wigan
Odds Correct as of 2020-03-16 08:54:27

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