Premier League: What next for promoted trio Cardiff, Fulham and Wolves?
With the international break upon us, Ben McAleer takes a look at how the promoted teams have fared upon their Premier League return after the opening games of the season...
"Fulham made 12 new signings over the summer and they were never going to gel immediately, however it's only a matter of time before the team clicks into place"
It been an entertaining opening four weeks of the 2018/19 Premier League season. Three teams boast a 100% start to the campaign, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford, respectively, occupying the top three places of the league. At the other end of the table, five teams are yet to pick up all the spoils in a league match thus far.
West Ham, Burnley, Newcastle, Huddersfield and newboys Cardiff sit in the bottom five spots of the Premier League coming into the international break.
Is Warnock the man to guide Cardiff to safety?
One of the main reasons the Bluebirds aren't in the bottom three ahead of the domestic hiatus is due to their solid backline. Neil Warnock's side have conceded just five goals in their four Premier League outings this season, three of which came in Sunday's loss to Arsenal.
Indeed, looking at those below them, Newcastle (6), Burnley (9) and West Ham (10) have all shipped more and the best form of defence has proven to be their good defence so far.
However, they can't simply rely on defensive resilience to consolidate their Premier League spot. No team has scored fewer goals than Cardiff (2), both of which came against a Gunners outfit that is still struggling at the back under Unai Emery.
Considering Cardiff rank in the top half for shots per game (12.5) and relatively low for shots conceded per game (11.5), a hint of misfortune can be attributed to their poor start, but it still doesn't excuse the fact that the lack of ruthless streak could prove to be their downfall.
While Cardiff are 16th after four matches, at 1.46, the Bluebirds are the favourites to be on the Exchange and there is better value to be had elsewhere, particularly in the manager market. At this point, if the results continue to go against Cardiff, then the board may lose patience with Warnock, who has shown in the past a lack of top-flight pedigree when it comes to managing in the Premier League.
As things stand, Warnock [5.8] is the fourth favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave. While Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez may yet depart from their respective positions earlier than the 69-year-old, there is value in backing Warnock to be the next to leave the Cardiff City Stadium, particularly if results don't quickly pick up after the international break.
Will Fulham finish the season as the top promoted team?
The same cannot be said of fellow promoted pair Fulham and Wolves. The duo at the very least have their first wins on the board of the campaign following respective victories over Burnley and West Ham. The former should've had a second under their belt, only to throw away a two-goal lead and draw 2-2 with Brighton at the weekend.
However, there are positive signs for the Cottagers over the coming months. Aleksandar Mitrovic is the joint-top goalscorer in Europe's top five leagues, with four goals to his name after four matches, and in the final third, they have been hugely effective.
At the back, there remain issues. Only West Ham and Huddersfield (both 10) have conceded more goals than Fulham (9) in the Premier League this season and things don't get any easier after the international break as they face Manchester City, Watford, Everton and Arsenal when domestic action returns. Slavisa Jokanovic is aware that Fulham need to solidify at the back, with the weekend's draw at the AMEX Stadium likely to be a wake up call for the west London side.
That being said, with the number of new arrivals, a bedding in period was always going to take its toll on the squad. Fulham made 12 new signings over the summer and they were never going to gel immediately, however it's only a matter of time before the team clicks into place and Jokanovic really maximises the immense quality running through the squad.
The Fulham boss has a couple of areas that he needs to rectify in order for the Cottagers to consolidate a Premier League spot, but with the signings made and the overall standard of the players at Jokanovic's disposal, there is value in backing Fulham [3.10] to finish as the top promoted team.
Are Wolves well-equipped to secure a top-10 finish?
Wolves, of course, won't merely roll over and let Fulham take all the glory for the promoted teams and after nabbing their first victory at the death on Saturday, confidence at Molinuex should begin to steadily build.
They were unlucky to draw with Everton on the opening weekend of the campaign, while they were desperately unfortunate to lose to Leicester, with Wolves dominating but ultimately coming undone by the Foxes after a Matt Doherty own goal on the half hour mark swung the tie in the Foxes favour.
They'll need to be more ruthless going forward, but Adama Traore's late goal at the London Stadium was preciously the result required for Nuno Espirito Santo's side.
They proved they can keep going until the final whistle in the capital and this determined mentality will only serve as a boost over the duration of the season. Santo's team is arguably the strongest to have come of the three and they have made a number of smart additions to the squad in key areas of the pitch.
Given how tight the Premier League was in mid-table last season - just seven points separated Leicester in 9th and Brighton in 15th - Wolves will undoubtedly fancy their chances of landing a top half finish this term. Indeed, Wolves [1.92] to finish in the top half of the table is certainly worthy backing given the managerial expertise of Santo at helm and the experience within the squad.
Of the 12 matches played, Cardiff, Fulham and Wolves have won just two league games between them so far, but that should change once the campaign really gets up and running after the international break. Fulham and Wolves are perhaps better placed than Cardiff to stave off the drop, yet plenty will change between now and May as the trio aim to nail down a top-flight spot.
Back Wolves to secure a top-10 finish at [1.92]
Back Neil Warnock to be the next Premier League manager to leave at [5.80]