English football is finally back this weekend, and I’ve had a look at how the season will pan out.
I’ve asked the brilliant Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLreab) to assist me in this season preview. Last season Newcastle and Brighton were superior at the top of the table, while Rotherham were hopeless at the bottom. Will we see similar traits this season?
Before reading make sure to check out his award-winning site http://www.thefootballab.co.uk
There is a host of teams who will fight for the top six spots and promotion this season. You have the regulars, the dark horses and the relegated teams. Especially the battle for top six will be an interesting one. A team like Reading who last year ended sixth over-performed massively throughout the season scoring more goals than their expected goals value, and conceding less than expected goals conceded. This season they will have lost two of their better players in Ali Al-Habsi and Danny Williams. I believe that they will have it tougher this season. Even with Jaap Stam as manager I cannot see them in the top six this season.
Another team who many would have expected to be up there is Derby. Initially my thinking is that they’ve got one of the best British managers in Gary Rowett, but having lost important players in Tom Ince, Will Hughes and Cyrus Christie I cannot see them ending among the top six. In time, however, I do believe Rowett will take them there.
Leeds were in the top six for most of last season only for it to end with a bitter 7th spot finish. They’ve lost Charlie Taylor and Kyle Bartley (returned to Swansea), but have signed 6 first team players, and will have plenty of cover. New manager Thomas Christiansen will have an easy job adapting the players to his style as he fancies the same 4-2-3-1 that predecessor Garry Monk used. Wolves will have the talent to fight for the play-off spots this season with added quality in Ruben Neves, Miranda and former Porto and Valencia manager Nuno.
Aston Villa will have to be up there as they have too many good players. That doesn’t mean they’ll be used correctly, or function well, but when you have Scott Hogan, Jonathan Kodjia, Conor Hourihane, John Terry, Mile Jedinak, Alberto Adomah, Sam Johnstone, Henri Lansbury, James Chester, Neil Taylor, Gary Gardner and many more there’s just too much quality to fail. The pressure on Steve Bruce to get promoted this season will be massive. Gabriel Sutton sees Villa in a similar matter:
“The style of football Steve Bruce favours suits powerful players, rather than the types of midfielders and forwards brought in. With such a striking clash of tactical ideas, it is best to stay away from the Villans this season”
Sheffield Wednesday have become a regular in the top six in the last couple of seasons. They’ve crumbled in every play-off attempt so far meaning that the pressure for Carlos Caravahal to get his team promoted will be big. Their attack is magnificent with incredible depth having Jordan Rhodes, Steven Fletcher, Fernando Forrestieri, Sam Winnall and Gary Hooper competeting for the attacking roles. I see them as the third best team in the league right now, and wouldn’t be surprised if they pushed for automatic promotion.
My two favourites to go up this season are relegated Middlesbrough, and Fulham. Slaviska Jokanovic have done absolute wonders with Fulham since joining 18 months ago. He’s turned them into one of the best teams in the league whilst playing magnificent football. This summer he has impressively managed to keep highly sought-after players
like Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney as well as signing a new contract himself. Their midfield-trio of Tom Cairney, Stefan Johansen and Kevin McDonald is second to none in the league, and will surely dominate many matches this season. They’ve added adequately this summer, and are perhaps only a solid goal keeper away from direct promotion. Gabriel Sutton had this to say about Jokanovic’s men:
“Fulham backers will feel a little more confident if they have a good week between now and Saturday’s opener with Fulham. The goalkeeping issue remains unresolved, a striker to replace Chris Martin’s hold-up play is yet to join while Tom Cairney and Kevin McDonald hope to recover quickly from minor injuries. If the Cottagers can repeat the passing and movement they showed last season however, whilst fixing small pieces of the jigsaw, they are capable of dominating this division.”
Boro have few weaknesses, if any, and a brilliant manager in Garry Monk. Last season their defence was solid, despite being relegated, as only 9 teams had a better defensive record. It was their attack that lacked the cutting edge under Aitor Karanka. They now have that in Britt Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite. Gabriel Sutton agrees as he believes they are in the best shape amongst the relegated clubs:
“The most-fancied team this season is Middlesbrough and I can only follow the crowd on that one. They have more attacking quality than their defensive tactics last year led many to think and have strengthened up top with Braithwaite and Assombalonga
joining. Good strikers and midfield general Jonny Howson add to a sturdy rear-guard, which puts them in the best position of the three relegated clubs.”
If they can also keep hold of Ben Gibson in defence, then they will be my favourites to win the league.
Rotherham were dreadful last season, and only a rescue mission from Neil Warnock the season before made sure they managed to stay in the division for one season longer. It’s doubtful we’ll see such a poor side in Championship again for a few years. Gabriel Sutton had this to say about potential relegation candidates:
“Two teams who could struggle are League One’s promoted clubs, Millwall and Bolton. The Lions game plan, which revolves around power, aggression and set pieces, could suffer against better-rounded sides. With a similar approach, the Trotters have a lot of players who were found wanting when last tried in the second tier. Both would have survived at this level largely on work ethic 10 years ago, but as old-school teams, they could struggle to keep up in a modernizing division.”
The Dark Horse
Last, but not least, the dark horses. The few select teams who can surprise us this season. Brentford will be a great attacking force this season. Their foundation is terrific with Bentley at the back having Henry, Egan, Dean, Bjelland and other to protect him in defence. Up the field they have one of the best players in the league, Jota, who’s linked with a move to the PL as well as Sergi Canos, Lasse Vibe and new signing Ollie Watkins. Gabriel Sutton is also a keen admirer of The Bees:
“In the final 15 games of last season, Fulham were the only team to score more goals than Brentford (31), who look set for a good season. The Bees have a fluid system that inherently creates chances and is not wholly reliant on the quality of individuals, as their form after Scott Hogan left showed.”
They have a genuine chance to push for a top six spot, and will surely be up there and around 6th-9th. A season bet I really like is:
Brentford to get a top-half finish @ 2.00 (BetVictor)
2 units (out of 3) will be placed on this bet as I find great value in this, and can be found in my spreadsheet: https://valuewins.com/bet/202203
Here is my prediction for the top six this season:
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