It'll be good to see this man in the EPL again. - Michael Steele
Continuing our look at the freshly-promoted clubs in the EPL, today we take a peek at Cardiff City. Having two Welsh teams in the EPL for the first time should make their derbies quite entertaining.
Who: Cardiff City Football Club, founded in 1899. This is their first season in the English top flight since 1962.
Where: Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Seating capacity of 26,828.
Promoted By: Won the nPower Championship with 87 points, 8 points clear of second-place Hull City. They scored 72 goals (third-most in the league) and allowed 45 (second-least). Their leading scorer was Heidar Helguson, who has since retired, with nine goals. Among players still at the club, Aron Gunnarsson and Peter Whittingham scored eight goals apiece.
Manager: Malky Mackay, in his second managerial job and his first taste of the Premier League. This will be his third season in charge of Cardiff after a two-year spell at Watford, where he stepped up from assistant manager to the big chair after Brendan Rodgers left for Reading.
Tactics: Mackay typically prefers an attractive, flowing brand of football, using a vaguely 4-2-3-1 shape with quick wingers that are responsible enough to press and track back when their team is without the ball. He favors a double-pivot midfield with a holder and a box-to-box recycler, with a creative man in front of them. All-in-all, his preferred tactics are fairly similar to what Rodgers does, which makes sense given their history together.
Featured Returning Players: Aron Gunnarsson is the keystone of Cardiff's midfield, as he buzzes around the pitch breaking up attacks, while crashing the box and scoring goals. The rising Icelandic star might be Cardiff's most important player. Their Captain, central defender Mark Hudson, is entering his fifth season as the rock of Cardiff's defense, and is getting his first taste of the EPL since 2005, when he was with Crystal Palace. Of course, no listing is complete without mentioning former Liverpool man Craig Bellamy, who scored four goals and set up eight more for the Welsh side last season. He looks set to work mostly as an impact sub for Cardiff next season, a role he was used in to great effect during his last stint with Liverpool. Frazier Campbell arrived at a cut-rate price from Sunderland last January and excelled, scoring seven goals in just twelve matches.
New Arrivals: Cardiff's big purchase at this point in the transfer window has been Andreas Cornelius, a 20-year-old full international for Denmark, last seen scoring 18 goals in 32 matches for FC Kobenhavn in the
Dutch Danish Superleague. Now, there's a huge jump in quality from the Dutch Danish league to the top flight of English football, but Cornelius has shown strong technical skills and is very gifted athletically. He also hasn't looked at all out of place in his time with the senior Dutch Danish national team, which is a good sign for his potential. They've also reinforced their fullback depth with John Brayford, and signed Simon Moore to give them a young 'keeper to develop behind Scottish stalwart David Marshall. (belated author's note: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Jebas.)
Update - Of course, just a few hours after this is posted, Cardiff got the centerback they've been aching for in now-former Tottenham man Steven Caulker. How much they paid is currently unclear; there were rumors of a rejected £8 million pound bid late yesterday, with Tottenham wanting £12 million. I'd assume the final number was somewhere in between, but even at Tottenham's requested value this should be a nice deal for the Welsh side. Caulker is a very talented defender, and is strong both physically and technically for the position. Add in the fact that he's just 21, and this looks like an absolutely fantastic deal for Cardiff.
Outlook: Of the three promoted sides, I think Cardiff actually has the best chance at staying up in the Premier League. Their club is well-balanced, and they seem to have avoided over-stretching themselves financially. There are some concerns as to the overall quality of the squad, but they should have room to add some more talent before the window closes. I don't think they'll surprise the world like their Welsh counterparts Swansea did two years ago, but I think they'll manage to solidly establish themselves this season.
Liverpool Fixtures: Saturday, December 21st (Anfield); Saturday, March 22nd (Cardiff Stadium).