August in Review – Championship Results So Far
A dramatic opening month in the Championship has seen Leeds and Swansea impress, while Stoke fans continue to suffer.
Here’s our in-depth look at the first month of the 2019/20 EFL Championship season.
Championship Review – August
Marcelo Bielsa could be reaping the dividends from his decision to keep the faith with his Leeds Utd project after considering his future in the summer. Shaking off a play-off hangover is rarely a given at Championship level, but the Argentine has so far managed to channel that disappointment into a motivating force as Leeds finally look to get over the line in 2019/20. Squad depth remains a slight concern. Some shrewd acquisitions in the loan market already look to be paying off, however, with Ben White and Eddie Nketiah already seizing the opportunity to impress at this level.
Despite a few slip-ups, Fulham look best-placed of the relegated Premier League sides to make an instant return, although Scott Parker might need to find ways of occasionally winning ugly over a 46-game season if Fulham’s fluent playing style occasionally falters against more canny Championship opposition. The front three of Ivan Cavaleiro, Anthony Knockaert and Aleksandar Mitrović alone should be enough to keep them tucked firmly in the automatic promotion race all season.
If they slip up, a few leftfield promotion candidates are already emerging, with Steve Cooper’s winning formula at U17 level already translating to a senior environment at Swansea City as he continues Graham Potter’s good work in South Wales. The Swans have the swagger to outplay opponents but may not have the stamina to fully last the pace.
Finally, Bristol City regularly look streaky under Lee Johnson but if he can cut out the Robins’ inconsistency they could also challenge after a decent start to this season and steady improvement across recent campaigns.
Lee Bowyer and Charlton Athletic. Many expected the Addicks to be season-long relegation fodder in the Championship, but the South London side have built on the momentum from winning last season’s play-off win and made a mockery of many pundits’ pre-season predictions.
Even if Charlton fall away, they look to have enough nous about them to carve out a comfortable mid-table finish. An impressive end to the transfer window should also give Addicks fans renewed hope they can punch above their weight in this division despite their ongoing ownership issues. Loan trio Beram Kayal, Tomer Hemed and Jonathan Leko are all players that could all easily be accommodated into two-thirds of Championship sides.
An honourable mention should go to Lee Bullen at Sheffield Wednesday. Bullen surely deserves a crack at full-time management after guiding the Owls through a turbulent pre-season and into the new campaign with the minimum of fuss.
Work to do
There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Brentford FC making a sluggish start to a Championship season. The Bees’ recent play-off bids have been scuppered by a failure to click fully into gear until after Christmas.
Thomas Frank’s side will be disappointed to have only picked up four points from what looked a generous set of fixtures to start the season. Could this be the year constant player churn finally catches up with them? New signings look to be taking time to bed in as they try and fill the shoes of Neal Maupay, Esri Konza and Romaine Sawyers.
Neil Warnock’s retirement season is already looking rocky at Cardiff City after a middling start to the campaign. Another tilt at automatic promotion looks in the balance unless the veteran boss can tighten up what currently looks a leaky Bluebirds defence. One thing’s for sure – only a fool would rule out Warnock getting things right by May.
Big month ahead for…
Philip Cocu and Derby County. The former PSV man started life in the Championship with a composed away win against relegated Huddersfield Town but has failed to pick up three points since. The Dutchman’s decision to field a weakened team in their EFL Cup tie against Nottingham Forest has already alienated some Rams fans. The plan backfired badly as they slipped to a heavy 3-0 defeat against their main rivals. It’s still too early to determine just how high this current Derby squad should be pitching their ambitions this season. However, Cocu needs to turn draws into wins to start fully convincing.
After the disastrous reign of Jan Siewert (win percentage: 5.3%) Huddersfield Town now have a huge call to make. With confidence at an all-time low after failing to find any early-season momentum back in the second tier, the club’s next managerial appointment could be one of the most important in their history. Losing becomes a habit – just look at Sunderland. The Terriers need to find a fresh voice to avoid falling into a tailspin.
Sack race contenders
Huddersfield wasted little time at all in dispensing with Siewert’s services, but after only four wins in 28 games, Nathan Jones could be next for the departure lounge. Jones demonstrated at Luton he’s a manager who can deliver a coherent footballing philosophy provided he is given time, but in the cutthroat world of Championship football, the Stoke board could be forgiven for getting cold feet. The expected arrival of new recruitment chief Phil Chapple – known to Jones from his Brighton days – suggests for now at least, Stoke are prepared to stand by their man.
That leaves Paul Cook at Wigan Athletic looking the most likely candidate for the chopping block. The Latics have so far failed to address their Achilles heel from last season – poor to non-existent away form.
Heavy defeats against Preston and QPR suggest Cook hasn’t learnt his lessons. If the Latics boss can’t change the script away from the DW Stadium, that leaves the Liverpudlian banking on home comforts alone to drag Wigan away from the relegation battle.
All image sources from PA Images
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