EFL Championship – Early Season Verdict – Part 2
We’re two months into the Championship season and the league table is starting to take shape – but how is each team faring compared to pre-season expectations?
Here are our snap verdicts on each Championship team so far…
Current position: 11th
Verdict: Patience is a virtue, and the Canaries might just be reaping the results of holding firm and giving Daniel Farke time to develop his side at Carrow Road after an indifferent first season.
After understandably being overlooked by many at the start of this campaign, Norwich look potential dark horses with many of their new signings now bedding in nicely.
Current position: 9th
Verdict: It’s been a slow burn for Aitor Karanka so far at the City Ground, but Forest find themselves nicely perched just outside the play-off positions despite not really hitting top gear so far this season.
That’s always a good position to be in and suggests Forest’s expensively-assembled squad could begin to motor if things really start to click. Can Karanka get a second Championship promotion on his illustrious CV?
Preston North End
Current position: 24th
Verdict: Alex Neil’s side were tipped by many at the start of the season to be surprise packages towards the top of the table.
In fairness to Preston, fine margins have gone against them so far this season, and they don’t look the worst team in the division, but Lilywhites fans will be nervous at memories of the end of Neil’s spell at Norwich where a promising first 18 months was followed by a gradual slide in fortune.
Queens Park Rangers
Current position: 16th
Verdict: Things could have been a whole lot worse for the Rs after a horrendous start to the season which left many fans questioning the appointment of Steve McClaren.
The signings of Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed have helped add much-needed firepower, but another lower mid-table finish looks to be the best Rs fans can realistically hope for this season.
Current position: 20th
Verdict: The recent win against fellow strugglers Hull gave Paul Clement’s side some much needed respite after a difficult start.
However, the Royals still look like a side that haven’t moved on significantly from their struggles last season. With the newly-promoted sides all looking competitive, Reading will have to improve their performance levels significantly to avoid dropping into the third tier.
Current position: 19th
Verdict: With perhaps the smallest budget at this level, the Millers are under no illusions that they will be scrapping for every single point this season, and they’ve made a very decent start in that regard, winning three of their nine games.
This side already look far more competitive than the team that limped out of the league under Warne in 2016/17, but they will need to maintain their strong home form to keep their heads above water.
Current position: 4th
Verdict: The Blades fell away badly last year after looking like genuine promotion contenders for the first half of the season.
Chris Wilder’s side look better for that experience, and now seem to have a squad that can cope with the gruelling physical and mental demands of a full Championship season. The automatic places might still be a stretch, but Utd look strong contenders for a play-off spot.
Current position: 10th
Verdict: Expectations have been revised at Hillsborough after a lack of transfer activity over the summer suggested last season’s mid-table finish might be the new ‘norm’ after a few seasons of trying and failing to get the Premier League.
Nevertheless, Jos Luhukay has quietly kept things ticking over for the Owls, and recent performances suggest this season will be stress-free, if not exactly stunning, for a Wednesday side scaling back their ambitions.
Current position: 18th
Verdict: The Potters made a real statement of intent this summer with the appointment of an experienced Championship operator in Gary Rowett and a number of big moves in the transfer window, but nothing seems to be clicking so far for the former Derby and Birmingham boss.
Given how some of their rivals have started, reaching the automatic places already looks a big ask, but the play-offs are surely still the minimum expectation for a Stoke board still reeling from last season’s surprise relegation. Can Rowett turn it around? The pressure is mounting.
Current position: 14th
Verdict: Given the tensions behind the scenes at the Liberty, new manager Graham Potter deserves credit for keeping the Swans on an even keel after relegation from the Premier League and squeezing the most out of a stripped-down squad.
Goals remain a problem and they will need to keep star man Oli McBurnie in January to make sure Potter can build on a reasonable start to life in South Wales. An easier run of fixtures ahead could well determine how a young-looking Swans side will fare this season.
West Bromwich Albion
Current position: 3rd
Verdict: After his fantastic caretaker spell towards the end of the season, West Brom kept the faith with fan-favourite Darren Moore over more experienced names at this level.
That decision currently looks inspired, with the Baggies currently looking the pick of the relegated sides to make an instant return to the top tier. If Moore can improve their away form, this squad has more than enough quality to claim one of the automatic spots.
Current position: 5th
Verdict: Arguably the team of the season so far, Championship new boys Wigan have replicated Sheffield United last year in mounting a surprise promotion push on the back of their League One-winning momentum.
Encouragingly for Latics fans, Paul Cook has taken to this level like a duck to water, but their staying power will surely be tested as the fixture list starts to stack up towards Christmas. Do they have the squad depth and nous for an unlikely play-off push?