Analysis: How each Championship team is performing against the first 12 games of last season
With a quarter of the 2018-19 EFL Championship season already done and dusted, which clubs are improving their fortunes on last season and at which end? Michael Bailey crunches some numbers for Norwich City and beyond.
If it only takes a second to score a goal, the mind boggles at what we can learn over 12 games.
With the second international break providing a welcome pause to 2018-19 Championship proceedings, it also gives us a chance to work out who has improved and where – or quite the opposite.
And following the first dozen is a neat point at which to do so, with a foot into the second quarter of the campaign and enough trends to let us circumnavigate the irregularities of the fixture list – plus the fact it takes a lot of patience to wait for every side to have at least played everyone once.
First things first, the gap from top to bottom is smaller: a 21-point spread from Wolves to Bolton last term is currently 17 from Sheffield United to Hull and with none of the anecdotal judgments over there being a runaway winner, as always seemed on the cards this time last year.
Eyes in these parts of course will be immediately drawn to Norwich City, where the current campaign continues to only tweak their last: an improvement in goals scored yet a point and place worse off.
The Canaries’ story this season hinges far more on how things play out between now and Christmas.
Down the road in Suffolk, there is no hiding Ipswich’s issue regardless of their shock win at Swansea before the break. They sold their goals and with it, have halved their points tally 12 games in.
Only Alex Neil’s Preston have suffered a worse drop in comparative position – and North End’s issue is just as stark: scoring three more goals is irrelevant when you’ve shipped triple the amount at the other end. If the Scot really did learn from his time at Carrow Road, he’ll be able to stem the tide.
Leeds’ improvement is genuine and impressive given they also started last season well, while Tony Pulis’ influence has clearly taken hold at Middlesbrough; two of those six conceded goals came at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Nigel Adkins is having a similar impact at the other end for Hull – to the point where he’ll soon have to start a search party for the Tigers’ missing goals.
No doubt Brentford fans may look at the table with a sigh, given Dean Smith’s defection to Aston Villa is still so raw. However, his Bees’ replacement will have an excellent set-up to build on and a decent platform in the table.
In turn, Smith and John Terry will almost certainly spend their first weeks at Villa Park closing the back door; something to consider come Tuesday week and their opening away game at Carrow Road.
Norwich host Brentford and head to Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday in their next five games, and our table illustrates the challenge awaiting them this term compared to last.
And while City’s form from here is the crucial bit, they need not let their ambitions drop.
At the same stage last season, Fulham also had 18 points on the board before ramping up their form, finishing third and securing promotion via the play-offs at Wembley ahead of Villa.
But then, that story will also fuel most of the other 11 sides currently perched in the second tier’s top half – and almost certainly a few more below.
Such is the life of a Championship club, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to the next 12 games, and beyond.
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