One month down, eight more to go until the Championship takes its final shape, the season is very much underway. Now, after six games, there is the usual excitement, disappointment and all things between for football fans across the country. Swansea City are the early pace-setters, while Stoke City prop up the league, but of course that could all change. Let’s take a look at how the Championship has shaped up after the month of August.
The Shape of the EFL Championship: August
Early Surprise Packages
Not many people would have expected Swansea City and Charlton Athletic to be league-leaders. The Welsh side finished 10th last year, and after financial struggles in the summer, another mid-table season was expected. Yet, new manager Steve Cooper has restored the ‘Swansea Way’, and the Swans are flying at the top.
Charlton, meanwhile, are newcomers to the league, after coming up narrowly through the League One play-offs. The Addicks, though, do not seem daunted by the prospect of a new, tougher league, unbeaten in their first six games. However, only two of the sides they have faced finished in the top half of the league last year. It remains to be seen if Charlton can maintain their current level against tougher opposition.
Too Soon for Concern at the Bottom?
Meanwhile, there is less cause for enthusiasm at the other end of the table, where Stoke City and Huddersfield Town prop up the league. They represent arguably two of the division’s biggest sides, both with recent forays into the Premier League. However, that means nothing once you drop into the Championship, with many sides still battling to claw their way back in.
Stoke City’s misery continues from last season, now with Nathan Jones in his first full season at the club. The change of manager has not brought an added impetus, though, with Jones enduring an even worse record (12% win rate) than his predecessor Gary Rowett (30% win rate). With one of the most valuable squads in the league, something needs to change fast, otherwise their return to the Premier League will have another hurdle.
Huddersfield are another side who seem to have carried bad records from last season in this one. Their 16-point haul last year saw them finish bottom of the Premier League; now, winless after six games, the threat of another relegation grows. Whomever the Terriers bring in to replace Jan Siewert could be key to them kicking on with their season.
Contrasting Fortunes for New Managers
Going into the new season, ten sides had appointed new managers. While some like Steve Cooper and Slaven Bilic have enjoyed unbeaten starts to the campaign, there has been less joy for Jonathan Woodgate and Phillip Cocu.
Cocu won three Eredivisie titles while in charge at PSV, but is finding replacing Frank Lampard at Derby more difficult. The Rams have just one win in August, as they recover from their play-off misery of last season. Sharing the same record as Derby are Middlesbrough, who were aiming to go one better than last year and finish in the play-offs.
However, this Middlesbrough side don’t seem to boast their usual defensive solidity. New man Jonathan Woodgate would have expected better from his side if he is to better last year’s return.
The Marksmen Leading the League
On an individual level, the race for the golden boot this season already looks hotly contested; Jordan Hugill, Borja Bastón, Lyle Taylor and Aleksandar Mitrovic all share the top spot with five goals. Mitrovic is living up to the pre-season hype of being favourite for the golden boot, while Bastón has, surprisingly, come out from the cold to be central to Swansea’s success.
The oft-maligned Patrick Bamford is among those on four goals, aiming to deliver the goals to drive Leeds’ promotion push. Daniel Johnson has been involved in seven of Preston’s 11 goals this year, also scoring four from midfield. Meanwhile, Karlan Grant is a bright spark in a disappointing campaign, scoring four of Huddersfield’s five goals.
Of course, the standings mean nothing until May rolls around. At this stage last season, Norwich City, the Champions, were on five points, sitting in 17th place. Bolton Wanderers were in eighth place after a quick start, but ultimately finished 23rd. With months of football on the horizon, the Championship is only just taking shape. So much could change between now and May, but this season is already shaping up to set pulses racing.
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