It all went wrong for Cardiff against Crystal Palace on Saturday but the disaster of this season runs deeper than one game. The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by Vincent Tan has proved to be a total disaster.
There have been three key moments at Cardiff City Stadium since Solskjaer took over and City have blown them all. In January a devastated and shell-shocked West Ham came to Cardiff on the back of two cup hammerings but still left South Wales with a 2-0 win. In February, Hull City won 4-0 and these are the teams that ultimately decide a struggler’s fate in the league Solskjaer tinkered with his squad again -- he’s made several changes every game since taking over -- and once again his selections and formations failed to deliver. Cardiff haven’t found a shock result or produced a performance that made you think they can actually rescue their season. They still might of course because there are still five games to play but it’s unlikely. Very unlikely. Ole is a really nice guy and has a great personality but he is completely out of his depth as a Premier League manager. His record since taking over has been dreadful. Two wins and two draws in 13 matches is relegation form in any division but at this level it’s just simply not good enough and Cardiff are facing the drop after just one season in the Premier League. His signings have weakened the side rather than improved it. Cardiff needed to average a point per game to survive this season and when Malky Mackay was sacked in December they were just about on course with 17 from 18 games. Mackay’s style might have been industrious but he was grinding out results and playing with a settled and organised side. Solskjaer is grasping at straws each game as he struggles to find a settled team. Players are out of the squad one week, starting a match the next and then bombed out the following week. The tinkering has not worked and Cardiff are going to pay the price for making a mess of their chance of glory.
They romped to the Championship title last season, leaving fellow promoted sides Hull and Crystal Palace in their wake. As this season started, they looked to have adapted well to the Premier League with a win over Man City, a draw against Everton and encouraging away performances at Hull and Fulham. That was about as good as it got. After the win at Craven Cottage, there were rumours of dressing room unrest, unpaid bonuses and interference from Tan. Soon after, Malky’s right hand man Iain Moody was sacked and the public embarrassment of Mackay was played out until he was finally dismissed in December. Solskjaer’s arrival was hailed as a coup with chairman Mehmet Dalman claiming to have captured his only target. But since then Cardiff have not only dropped into the bottom three, they have found themselves cut adrift with a six point gap to safety with only five games to play. Three of those five games are away from home and the final game of the season is at home to Chelsea. The away matches are significant because Cardiff have only won once on the road all season. Crystal Palace fans drowned out the home support on Saturday as they celebrated going eight points above their vanquished rivals. They brought the best fans to the stadium this season and had a day out that City fans have failed to experience since last September. The reality of relegation -- a first since 2000 -- has hit home now and no matter how much talk comes out of Cardiff City Stadium, the fact is they have not delivered where it matters. The club need a miracle to survive. I’m not holding out much hope at all.