Five things learned from the Championship season so far
Frank Monkhouse | 14 January 2017
We take a peek at form in the second-tier
With the first 25 games of the English Championship season in the books, and the division taking shape at both ends, our football guys pick out the top-five lessons learned to date.
Not so easy for Newcastle
Having come down from the Premier League last season, and holding on to highly-rated manager Rafa Benitez, experts predicted Newcastle would take the Championship by the scruff of the neck and bounce back at the first time of asking, courtesy of a morale-boosting title win.
It’s been glaring obvious that Newcastle can’t get away with just turning up and, if they are to finish as champions, then must earn it. We are beyond the half-way stage and they can be found in second behind Brighton. The Magpies lost six times last year, and started 2017 with defeat. Four of those have been at St James Park and they’ve failed to score in three home defeats. The weight of expectation looks crippling.
What we’ve learned – Newcastle are a top side at this level, but when they fall behind they rarely show the fight to get back. Titles are won and lost on home form and they look to be coming up short when tested. Coral offer 8/13 in the outright market.
Seagulls nicking wins
In stark contrast to their rivals for top-spot, Brighton have shown a real will to win, and have been seen rolling up their sleeves and grinding out results. They came from a goal-down in London against Fulham recently to win 2-1 and four of their last half-dozen victories have been by a single-goal.
Chris Hughton’s side lost 2-0 at St James’ Park back in August, but, after 24 games played, they have a two-point cushion at the top over Newcastle, who have played a game more. Brighton boast the best defence in the league and aren’t shy in front of goal either, putting five past Norwich.
What we’ve learned – Brighton are shaping like a title-winning side, defending well and coming out on top in close matches. They could be on track for an upset and can be backed at 11/8 to win the league.
Stam doing a right royal job
They’ve been flying under the radar but Reading, guided by former Man Utd favourite Jaap Stam, have hauled themselves to third in the table and started the year with a 3-2 win over Bristol City.
With six-points to find to match the top-two automatic promotion places, it may be too early to say, but if that proves to be a bridge too far, they look to have every chance of going up via the play-offs. Reading are scoring plenty, conceding plenty and wining plenty in style.
What we’ve learned – Jaap Stam can’t seem to put a foot wrong at present and he’s a breath of fresh air at the Madejski. They are bang in the promotion picture and Coral offer a hefty 5/1. Don’t miss the value!
Forest can’t see a way out
Things look to be going from bad to worse for Nottingham Forest and after finishing last season in 16th, they are, again, flirting with relegation. Seven wins from their first 25 starts leaves them just two-points better than the drop zone.
An overly generous defence is to blame for their current predicament and they have conceded the second-highest number of goals in the division at 45, with bottom-club Rotherham the only side worse off. Philippe Montanier’s crew ended 2016 with three defeats in-a-row, conceding seven-goals in the process.
The Latics look licked
A return to Championship football hasn’t worked out for Wigan and they find themselves in the relegation zone, struggling to score goals. Warren Joyce’s side failed to win any of their last six-matches of 2016, and also started this year with a 1-0 loss to Huddersfield.
The Latics are the lowest-scorers in the league at the minute and if they can’t bring in reinforcements in January, the writing will be on the wall. Their last league win came back in November and they’ve failed to score in five of their seven outings since.