By Reece Chambers
When I first arrived at the Cardiff City stadium back in August, the feeling that filled the south Welsh air was one of excitement but also a realistic view that this is going to be a long season.
Staying in the Premier League, Neil Warnock believes, will be a far bigger achievement than getting there in the first place. On the whole, it’s hard to argue with that considering the club’s financial inferiority to around 90% of the teams in the league.
Cardiff’s two Championship promotion counterparts, Fulham and Wolves, spent £98million and £66million respectively last summer compared to Cardiff’s £27million which shows the first hurdle that Warnock and his side have to tackle – a lack of Premier League quality.
The ruthlessness you need to stay in the Premier League is something that Cardiff have failed to show so far this season. They could have easily taken three points from Arsenal earlier in September when Petr Cech showed on several occasions why he is not suited to Unai Emery’s expansive style of football.
Both Harry Arter and Bobby Reid had glorious chances against the Gunners but showed just why such a large number of fans and pundits are tipping Cardiff to not only be relegated this season, but finish rock-bottom.
Those who are giving Cardiff no chance this season are forgetting one crucial thing: this is football. This is the sport that saw Leicester City win the Premier League and Wales reach the semi-finals at EURO 2016.
Football is gloriously unpredictable but that won’t keep Cardiff in the Premier League alone. The one thing that can keep the Bluebirds up is the determination and endeavour they have shown in the opening two months of the season to go toe-to-toe with every side they face.
Warnock’s side had Arsenal on the ropes at the Cardiff City Stadium and even took the lead at Stamford Bridge. Cardiff host Manchester City on Saturday afternoon which promises to be another tough challenge. Whether or not Cardiff get something from that game, though, is largely irrelevant.
The games Cardiff are expected to win are not those against the so-called top 6, but against lower league opposition. Indeed, losing against the better teams puts more pressure on matches against the likes of Burnley, Huddersfield and Southampton.
A cruel run of games including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City is an incredibly tough task for any side in the league, let alone the side expected to finish bottom. That said, the Bluebirds have taken many positives from their opening set of fixtures.
From an outsider looking in, it’s hard to fault the team spirit and determination of the Cardiff City team. Neil Warnock has a side that makes up for their deficiencies in quality with a hard-working side that will give anything for the Cardiff City badge.
Therefore, the long, long road that lies ahead for Cardiff City is not one that should be feared but, instead, embraced.
If Warnock can maintain such high levels of diligence and combine that with more ruthlessness in front of goal, the Bluebirds have every chance of defying the odds that are heavily stacked against them this season.