By Anthony Thomas Sports Brain (www.sportsbrain.net)
Understanding the mentality and preferred tactics of your opposition will usually give you an advantage.
It doesn’t always work, but in football as in any sport, there’s a fine line between success and not achieving your goals.
Leaving no stone unturned and doing everything possible to increase your chances of success and accepting and learning from any outcomes or results. If you have done everything you can, then neutral thinking and learning reduces the lows that undeserved or deserved defeats or draws cause and prevents yo-yo thinking.
Knowing how, for example Palace will likely set up will lead to your tactical options and choices to deal with that style of play.
Earlier in the season, Cardiff were defensively well drilled and performing well against Chelsea before the ridiculous Samuel Eto’o goal. In the second half Mourinho got his team to sit back and allow Cardiff to come onto them which then created space for Chelsea’s speedy midfield and forwards to exploit.
Cardiff need to be patient, intelligent and flexible with their approach and look at the many ways to unpick Tony Pulis’ very tight and resilient defence. Palace will likely play a controlled series of defensive lines when Cardiff are in possession, unless City actually counter them. Palace, despite only scoring 6 goals on their travels this season, are a team that will also attack. City would ignore that at their peril. They will need to be controlled and intelligent in defence and defensive midfield.
They also have to be very positive, confident and creative in their play. Sometimes that will mean doing similar to Mohammed Ali’s rope-a-dope trick and hit Palace on the counter and during other passages of play try other practiced and rehearsed plans.
Play a one dimensional game plan and that will aid Palace’s chances of getting a result. Keep Palace guessing, opening them up whenever Cardiff get a chance is one key to their success.
Chances are likely to be at a premium, so it is essential that players in positions choose the right option at the right time. This comes down to well drilled practice sessions with great communications and understandings.
Also essential playing against a defence minded team is to get shots on target through traffic. Speroni has been in excellent form, but as has been seen with goals conceded by the excellent David Marshall the hardest to save are those that the keeper see late and with a deflection or two. We have seen this time and time again with all teams this season.
Fine lines when Seamus Coleman scored the winner for Everton with a miss hit shot again deep into injury time. If Coleman had hit his shot accurately, then the ever impressive Marshall, in goal for Cardiff was in position to block the shot. It was the mentality and skill of Gareth Barry where he managed to somehow head the ball accurately into the oncoming Coleman from an overhit and very deep cross. It was Barry’s skill, but most importantly his determination to attempt, and succeed to head the ball when it looked like the cross would go out for a goal kick.
It was this same mentality that saw the passage of play from a very tired Jordon Mutch and the energetic Wilfred Zaha go down the right wing leading to the cross that found Ben Turner. Turner had the determination after initially losing control of the ball, at full stretch to toe poke it and just a split second before an Albion defender could get his foot to the ball, to the effervescent Mats Moller Daehli whose close control saw his shot deflected into the goal that resulted in the craziest finish to a game in recent Cardiff and Premiership history.
It is this mentality that often change games and gain extra points that become invaluable at the end of a season.
Five out of the last seven Premiership relegation battles have been decided by one point (on two of those occasions relegation has been decided on goal difference).
This season looks as though it will be no different.
The average points to survive in the Premier League over the last 10 seasons has been 35.9 points.
Looking in some detail at the bottom six, with their home, away and recent form records, along with the same analysis for their opposition it would be fair to say that 36 points will likely be very close to the points total required this season too, possibly as low as 34 points.
Twists and Turns.
Fulham and Cardiff have only one game against a top 7 team, whereas Sunderland have 5, Norwich 4, Palace 3 and West Brom 3.
Everything and anything is possible when it comes to results in the Premiership. Nothing is guaranteed, though some results are more likely. We have seen what can happen within just one game. What can happen in 40 games is totally unpredictable.
Goal difference could favour Cardiff, if they are to gain a couple of wins and avoid any heavy defeats. Compare this to Norwich and Sunderland whose goal differences are likely to suffer some very real damage with teams at the top aiming to further their momentum by inflicting some heavy defeats against teams who are struggling.
There are very fine lines that we have seen above and there are many more examples for every team for virtually every game. Shots that hit a post, a great save from a keeper, the ball just being cleared from the line at the last split second. These are the moments that fans love to see and which makes football so exciting.
It is testimony to the athleticism, skills, tactics and mentality of players who are able to push themselves to their limit.
There is much more but simply put, to combine this with the well drilled tactics for playing against each opposition, along with well rehearsed game situations along with excellent communications and understandings between manager, coaches and playing staff in practice and team mates and units during game time.
This leads to individual players, units and the team as a whole reaching its absolute potential.
If any of the eleven players on each team has a weakness in any of these areas they will look to be exploited by the opposition.
However, all of these fine lines in each game decide, with a little bit of lady luck whether a goal is scored or prevented.
Whether momentum is gained or lost.
Whether a team can gain a draw from the jaws of defeat, a victory from a draw.
Whether a team stays up by the odd point or goal difference.
Whether those players become heroes and legends.
Whether fans enjoy the off season or not.
All possibly decided by one moment, one split second, one fine line.