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Talking Tactics: Bluebirds swoop for Lamouchi to save their season
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Jamie Gordon
Sabri Lamouchi has taken over at struggling Cardiff
Sabri Lamouchi has taken over at struggling Cardiff

Cardiff have appointed former Nottingham Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi as their third manager of the season.

The Frenchman is joined by Bluebirds legend Sol Bamba, who played for him when he was Ivory Coast chief, in the dugout and the duo inherit a club in crisis, beset by fan protests against their owners.

Without a league win since November, they sit 21st in the Championship table and only three points from danger — Lamouchi has plenty of work to do to save the Welsh outfit.

We take a look at his previous roles to see how Cardiff may line up under the 51-year-old ahead of their trip to in-form Luton on Tuesday.

Tricky Trees

Lamouchi took over Forest in 2019 and had his side in the Championship top six for the majority of the season but they ultimately missed out on the play-offs on goal difference after failing to win any of their last six games.

He was sacked after a poor start to the following campaign but remains a popular figure in Nottingham with a reputation for making his side hard to break down and playing counter-attacking football.

Setting up in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1, Lamouchi deployed Lewis Grabban as a lone striker to great effect.

Defensively, Forest opted for a low block with Grabban pressing the centre-backs to force them to play the ball out wide when his team-mates then joined the hunt.

Once they won the ball back, Lamouchi's side wingers, central midfielders and wing-backs looked to get forward as quickly as possible in support to take advantage of any space left while the centre-backs and holding midfielder formed a three-man defensive platform.

Grabban, the Championship's third-highest scorer that season with 20 strikes, was key to both formations as he was required to hold the ball up long enough for support to arrive. 

In Callum Robinson, Cardiff have a player suited to this role although he lacks the killer instinct of Grabban. Youngster Kion Etete could also be deployed as a target man.

Resilient Rennes

Bluebirds icon Sol Bamba will return to Cardiff as their first-team coach
Bluebirds icon Sol Bamba will return to Cardiff as their first-team coach

Lamouchi's first role in European football came with Rennes in his homeland.

He took over a side who had just four wins from 12 Ligue 1 matches in November 2017 and led them to the Europa League via a fifth-place finish only to lose his job the following December.

Rotating between variations of a 4-5-1 and 4-4-2, his side ranked just 11th in the division with a 48% possession percentage but were third for passes into the final third and fourth in progressive runs.

With him in charge, only Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon and Montpellier conceded fewer goals than Rennes' 29 — a defensive resilience that has been typical of the Lyon-born tactician.

Preferring to launch fast attacks down the flanks, his team were not prolific but managed to accumulate points thanks to their impressive rearguard.

On the world stage

Sabri Lamouchi led the Ivory Coast to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Sabri Lamouchi led the Ivory Coast to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Lamouchi began his managerial career when he took over the Ivory Coast in 2012 and led the Elephants to the 2014 World Cup with four wins and two draws in qualifying before a two-legged victory over Senegal in the play-offs.

They headed to Brazil ranked 23rd in the world and won their opener against Japan before crashing out thanks to defeats at the hands of Colombia and Greece.

In qualifying, Lamouchi switched between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 but opted for a more robust 4-2-3-1 in the tournament.

Regardless of the formation, box-to-box midfielders, attacking full-backs and pacey wingers were expected to supply chances for a focal point up front — in this case Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.

In their World Cup opener, Japan went ahead in the first half and Lamouchi showed his tactical flexibility, switching to a 3-4-3 for the start of the second half and then 10 minutes later opting for an aggressive 4-2-4 which paid off with strikes from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho.

Success on the Cards?

Cardiff's last competitive win was a 1-0 triumph at Sunderland on November 5 with the Bluebirds losing four and drawing five of their league clashes since.

Comfortably the second-tier's lowest scorers with just 21 goals from 28 outings, the South Wales outfit do at least fare better in defence with 31 conceded.

The return of Mark McGuinness from his successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday should further improve their backline and the lifting of a transfer embargo opens the door to potential arrivals.

Owner Vincent Tan has been reluctant to dip into his pockets so it is unlikely Lamouchi will oversee a major overhaul of the squad in the remaining days of the window but the foundations are there to implement his style.

He has already admitted: "It’s difficult for me. I have just arrived. I know the club worked before on that. But we will discuss it.

"I am focused with my squad and the game in Luton. 

"The club are working for one or two good surprises. I don’t know. If some new players arrive I will be happy, if not, I will be happy as well."

Perry Ng is a competent wing-back and on the other flank converted winger Callum O'Dowda can provide pace and guile. McGuinness and Cedric Kipre can develop into a solid centre-back pairing between them.

Ryan Wintle is likely to anchor the midfield with Andy Rinomhota, Joe Ralls and Ruben Colwill in more attacking roles. Mark Harris, Jaden Philogene and Isaak Davies should prove to be a good fit on the flanks, with top scorer Robinson and Etete competing to play as a lone striker.

Potential line-up to face Luton (4-3-3): Ryan Allsop; Perry Ng, Mark McGuinness, Cedric Kipre, Callum O'Dowda; Andy Rinomhota, Ryan Wintle, Joe Ralls; Mark Harris, Callum Robinson, Jaden Philogene.


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