Championship previews, 1 Oct 2016

Below are preview graphics for each of the weekend’s games. These smash together minimalist versions of two visualisations: each club’s E Ratings and their relative positions on the attack and defence scatter graphics. I’ve explained them fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

2016-10-01-birmingham-v-blackburn

The E Ratings may not have fully caught up with these two clubs yet: Birmingham look to be gradually improving while Blackburn are on the decline. However the home side have relied more on defensive resilience than preventing opponents from shooting in the first place, although against shot-shy Rovers they may have a quieter afternoon than they’re accustomed to. With the visitors leaky at the back so far, they’ll need a disciplined performance to get the better of their hosts.
2016-10-01-brentford-v-wigan

Brentford aren’t anywhere near as convincing at the back as they are up front, but they’ve been in fine form at both ends of the pitch so far. Wigan looked fortunate in their win over Wolves in midweek and despite some modest improvements still look to be in for a difficult season: they go into this match as underdogs.
2016-10-01-bristol-c-v-nottm-forest

Bristol City’s supercharged attack could have a field day against the division’s second most permissive defence here. Only Rotherham have allowed opponents more chances than Nottingham Forest, so it will take a disciplined performance – coupled with more of their impressively clinical finishing – for the visitors to take anything from this game.
2016-10-01-burton-v-cardiff

After a promising start Burton are starting to struggle – they’ll surely see a home match against 23rd-placed Cardiff as a must-win game. Their visitors look better than the table suggests but they need to stop the recent rot at both ends of the pitch. While their defence has fared similarly to the Brewers’, their misfiring forwards have been among the division’s most wasteful.
2016-10-01-fulham-v-qprFulham’s industrious but wasteful attack may finally enjoy some luck against one of the division’s leakiest defences here. QPR have looked more convincing at the back than up front, where they’ve been frustratingly quiet, but the relatively few chances they’ve allowed have had an annoying habit of ending up in their net.
2016-10-01-ipswich-v-huddersfield

Two quiet attacks each meet a stubborn defence here, so there may not be many goals on offer. Ipswich’s attack has been on the decline for some time, although their defence is looking stronger of late, and while Hartlepool are undoubtedly solid they currently look unlikely to cling to the division’s summit over the long term.
2016-10-01-leeds-v-barnsley

Leeds’ performances have been improving lately but the same can be said of visitors Barnsley, whose attack in particular has been relentless this season. While the home forwards haven’t fared nearly as well, the Tykes look relatively open at the back and may be vulnerable if they commit too heavily on the offensive.
2016-10-01-preston-v-aston-villa

Aston Villa’s seven draws this season are less mysterious when you combine a stubborn defence with a profligate attack. Preston haven’t looked all that convincing up front either, so perhaps this is another game where a stalemate is a likely result.
2016-10-01-reading-v-derby

Derby’s comically wasteful finishing has seen them underachieve from some otherwise pretty respectable performances, while Reading are flying high despite seeming to have continued last season’s decline. The Rams’ defence has looked very strong – unlike their hosts’ – and could be key to them getting a result here.
2016-10-01-rotherham-v-newcastle

This looks like the weekend’s biggest mismatch, with Rotherham having taken the fewest shots and allowed the most this season while Newcastle are among the best performers at both ends of the pitch. The Magpies’ attack in particular has found another gear lately and could make short work of the division’s worst-rated defence if the hosts can’t find a way to contain them.
2016-10-01-sheff-wed-v-brighton

This looks to be one of the more intriguing fixtures of the weekend, with both clubs looking capable of a promotion tilt. Brighton’s defensive resilience has compensated for a slightly wasteful attack, which may not get many opportunities against Sheffield Wednesday’s well-organised back line, but they remain the best all-round performers in the second tier.
2016-10-01-wolves-v-norwich

Norwich have been clinical up front but a leaky defence has seen only six clubs concede more often so far. While Wolves’ attack is in a better state than at the end of last season their defence has looked reliable for a while, so they stand a decent chance of edging this one.