Every team has now played at least fifteen games in the Championship and, as they going into an extended break for international games, we look at every team and how the first third of the season has gone for them, in current league position order :
Wolves lead the way and are seen as comfortable favourites by the bookies to win the Division and gain auto promotion next May. Having won 11 of their 16 games and being the leagues top scorers, its hard to argue with that. But despite displaying the best form, they have not shrugged off their challengers and cant be seen to be running away with things. That said, they have, on paper, a very favourable set of upcoming games and could really have taken hold of the division by the New Year. The team to beat for sure.
The season’s surprise packages for sure. After storming out of Division 1 last season, survival was expected from the Blades with comparative ease – but lying second after 16 games and looking every inch promotion contenders was not widely expected. The Blades are sharp for sure, with namesake Billy and strike partner Leon Clarke firing in the goals with regularity. Can they last the pace? All signs so far say yes, though a host of big games await them that will really test their Sheffield steel.
Most fans would be delighted with the Bluebirds record and position at this stage of the season, but it feels tempered with a sense of what could have been, as Cardiff have shown stuttering form and dropped points against lowly teams that they feel could have made their start even better. Still, victories over their main rivals harbour hopes that a promotion push is very much a possibility in a season where hope exceeded expectation at the start.
A club that has high aspirations and ambition – the Robins are making a superb fist of this season and are one of the divisions most entertaining teams – losing the fewest number of games of anyone in the Championship so far. However, 6 draws have halted their charge and, much like Cardiff, some of those opponents will be seen as disappointing results. But a very dangerous team and although they have a tough upcoming schedule, we can see the red half of Bristol flying the flag high.
A run of three straight wins has propelled Boro into fifth and rather papered over the cracks that were showing a few weeks ago, as a poor run left them treading water in mid table. But Garry Monk seems to be getting the Boro machine into gear and with, as usual, a very mean defence as their foundation, the wins are starting to come and their quality coming through. With Leeds, Derby and Bristol City as three of their next four games, Boro could well press their claim for auto promotion…or fall back to the mid table madness.
There remains a sense of high frustration and indignation at Villa Park, with their expectant fans very much on the back of boss Steve Bruce, who cannot get much by way of consistency from his expensive charges. Sitting sixth at this point isn’t the worst position to be in, but being nine points off top spot and ‘only’ winning seven of 16 games played is not what Villa fans expected. You sense that a good run is needed and quickly or else Villa could be managerless by Christmas.
The Rams looked to have things nice and sorted, with four straight wins and unbeaten in seven – and then they looked hopeless in a home thrashing by lowly Reading, and its a return to having more questions than answers for Gary Rowett’s men. Derby have been the epitome of inconsistency this season – but five out of their next 8 games are at home, including their game in hand against Ipswich which could, with a win, sit fifth and well in touch with the ones above them. Pride Park is usually a fortress for the Rams…but they need to sort out poor periods of form which makes them tread water and keep their fans on edge as they simply don’t know which team they will see next.
Eight wins from 15 games is good. 7 losses from the same number of games is poor. A tough upcoming set of games will really test the Tractor Boys out and gauge whether they are flying much higher than they should be, or are a few draws instead of losses away from being play off chasing material. A good win over Preston on Saturday dispelled a few notions they could only beat lower teams. We do expect them to slide some though by the time the next review is performed.
Replace 7 losses from Ipswich with 8 and you have the summary for Forest written already. They have shown the can beat anyone on their day…or get thrashed by anyone on their day – with draws seemingly not an option. The general consensus is that Mark Warburton is keeping the Tricky Trees well above a position more expected for them. For how long only time will tell – but for Forest to be in the top ten of the Championship and have a negative goal difference speaks volumes we feel.
A few weeks ago the Peoples Republic of Leeds were shouting loud and proud about their team, as they pressed the top places and looking very good. Then a run of one win and six losses in seven games sees Leeds fall like a stone off a cliff and join the mid table struggle, with potentially looking more nervously down than confidently up. Boro, Wolves, Barnsley and Villa up next for Leeds…ouch. Good luck Marching on Together through those fixtures!
It seems a weekly occurrence that we expect the Owls to take flight and charge up the league table….but they too are suffering dreadfully from the inconsistency bug and it just doesn’t seem to be happening for Wednesday, despite some very good results and performances. They remain a talented outfit and it would be no real surprise to see a burst from them….but it needs to happen quickly or else it could just be too late this season.
After a very poor start to the season, a run of eight games unbeaten has left Bees fans buzzing a little more about their team and hope springs eternal they could yet find themselves challenging for a play off place. After Cardiff next up, the schedule looks pretty kind to them and they just could still be the dark horse that was forecast for them pre season. Keep an eye on them.
Norwich join the clubs in the freefall list after a good start, although many will feel their current league position is about where they were expected to be, although a loss at struggling Bolton last time out will be of huge concern. Only three clubs in the Championship have scored less goals than the Canaries. Not much to tweet about there and its clear where the problem lies that they need to improve on. Quickly.
PRESTON NORTH END
Another team who were flying high but a bad run of form has seen them plummet very quickly. Four successive losses and no wins in six from Preston, whom were seen as being very difficult to beat and possible play off contenders a month or so ago. Again, maybe a team for whom their current position is a truer reflection of where they are really at in this division.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Draws against Sunderland and Bolton, followed by wins over Wolves and Sheffield United, then a hammering by Nottingham Forest. The Championship at its finest. We don’t know what to make of QPR…..apart from fifteenth place feels about right for them. A team we leave well alone on the coupons though!
You get the impression that Barnsley would stick with this position right now and fast forward to the end of the season. They are picking up points with just about enough certainty to feel like they can survive, when relegation was forecast pre season by all and sundry, outside of Oakwell. We still feel they may fall closer to trouble – but we also feel there may just be three teams worse than them also.
We are amazed to see Fulham languishing in seventeenth place. Surely they pick up for the team most under achieving so far? You have to imagine (and believe in Fulham fans case) that things will get much better for them soon. They are way too good for a relegation fight…..aren’t they?
Displays at Elland Road and Pride Park show what this team is capable of. Unfortunately though those performances happen all too infrequently it seems and Reading remain floundering towards the nether regions of the table. But we are quietly confident they will move away and although its a reach to say they can be involved in the tussle for a play off place, the top ten isn’t out of reach at all.
A home loss to Burton will have wounded the Lions and damaged those four points picked up from Birmingham and Cardiff. Millwall have three games upcoming against fellow strugglers before a ridiculously tough run of games with 5 consecutive games against teams in the top 7 of the league. Millwall have shown their teeth against top sides before…they may need to again to enhance their survival prospects.
Question : How can a team that have scored 28 goals in 16 games, second only to the league leaders, find themselves in 20th place? Answer : When they have conceded 30 goals in the same number of games, with only two teams having conceded more. Hull’s ability to score goals may just keep their noses out of trouble….their inability to prevent goals make keep them dipping it back in.
The Brewers are struggling, which is not a surprise – but still manage to pick up points that keeps them in the mix and standing a chance against all odds to survive again. Ten goals in 16 games is desperate – although scarily enough not the worst of the Championship…but you fear that their lack of depth and quality will eventually find them out. But we said that pre season….and last year…..
No team has lost more games (10) or scored fewer goals (8) than the Blues – and yet they also find themselves with two teams worse than them and well in touch with the teams above them. But as bad as results have been, they haven’t yet faced Forest, Boro, Sheffield United, Wolves….oh wait, those are their next four fixtures. Gotta fear for the Brummies.
After a shocking start, the Trotters are showing signs of life, with 9 points of the 11 they have collected all season coming in the last five games and them being unbeaten in them. They have also scored more goals in the last 5 games than they did in the previous eleven….can this fightback continue? Upcoming games don’t look bad actually….maybe it can!
The good news for Sunderland is………errrrrr…………anyone? Anything? Ive got nothing, which is about the same as what Sunderland have currently. The writing has been on the wall for weeks now and this weekend saw this once mighty club fall to a position that could well become a regular placing for them for weeks to come, on evidence to date. So expect to see them win 4 of their next 5 and shoot up the table! Then again, no, maybe not…..