Championship previews, 18-19 Oct 2016
Below are the individual preview graphics for each of the weekend’s games arranged in a gallery format. 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:
- The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
- A probability forecast for the match based on the ratings;
- Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.
Before we launch into them, here’s each match is listed in descending order of how likely a home win is. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is NOT betting advice – there’s loads of relevant stuff that the model doesn’t factor in (e.g. injuries and suspensions) that will surely have an impact.
I’ll pick out a few of the more interesting games below before launching into an alphabetised slog through the rest.
Wolves are looking increasingly like a club that can challenge for a play-off place so it will be interesting to see how they fare at highly-rated Brighton. The Seagulls were incredibly unlucky to drop points against Preston at the weekend and still look the best all-round performers in the division, so this will be a tough examination for the visitors. The strength of Brighton’s attack compared with that of their visitors’ still-improving attack doesn’t bode well.
Closest contest & best chance of goals
This is usually two categories but one game fulfils both criteria. Fulham are a pretty solid guarantee of goals at both ends of the pitch: their swashbuckling attack creates plenty of chances but leaves them vulnerable at the back. Norwich don’t dominate matches to the same extent as the likes of Newcastle, but they’ve been ruthless up front and could easily punish the Cottagers. However they’ve dealt poorly with the relatively few chances they’ve allowed so far, which could see them come unstuck against their seemingly fearless hosts.
Likeliest upset & most likely to end 0-0
Another dual-category match. Ipswich are the “goal kryptonite” of this division: their attack has looked increasingly blunt at the expense of a sturdy defence, which may prove too streetwise for visitors Burton. The Brewers look capable of sustaining themselves at this level but the big scorelines they were involved in at the start of the season have evaporated in favour of more pedestrian fare.
Most pivotal game
Both of these clubs have seen their performances decline to the point where a frustrating season looks likely, although a win for either here would go a long way to soothing relegation fears at the other’s expense. Some sharp Forest finishing has partially compensated for their defensive frailties while Blackburn’s deteriorating defence looks increasingly unable to support the misfiring attack in front of it. The visitors look better equipped to exploit a meeting of leaky defences, but if Owen Coyle sets his side up aggressively then he should be rewarded.
While Barnsley’s attacking improvement looks to have stalled in recent weeks, whatever Rafa Benitez changed at Newcastle is continuing to pay dividends. The Tykes’ defence has been among the division’s leakiest so far, which doesn’t bode well for the visit of the free-scoring Magpies.
Gary Rowett has upgraded the Birmingham attack this season and while their defence continues to ride its luck somewhat it looks far healthier than that of midweek visitors Rotherham. The Millers’ plight is such that they’ll be underdogs in most of their matches this season: they rank bottom at both ends of the pitch and look unlikely to upset the Blues here.
Steve McClaren oversaw a sharp rise in Derby’s ratings the first time around, so it will be interesting to see if he can repeat the trick. He’s inherited a very strong defence but needs to revive a flagging attack. Brentford’s defence seems to have relied too heavily on heroics this season and they were beaten comfortably by Newcastle at the weekend, so there’s a readily available baseline to assess the Rams against.
An improving Leeds have the chance to move into the top half of the table here, while Wigan could escape the bottom three with only a draw thanks to their relatively healthy goal difference. Neither side has looked that assured up front but the hosts’ defence has looked much healthier under Garry Monk and that could be enough to tip this game in their favour.
The division’s most industrious attack visits one of its quietest here, with Bristol City having averaged five more shots per game than QPR. The away side have been far more capable at dealing with the efforts they’ve faced too, which could give them an edge in what looks likely to be a relatively close game.
Reading are a bit of an enigma this season: they’re sitting in a healthy league position despite their performances seemingly having deteriorated. Villa are also struggling to convince, albeit without the Royal’s knack of picking up points regardless, but still look more solid overall despite their lowly league position. Both clubs have been more wasteful than average up front so the goals may not flow freely here, although the home defence has been worryingly porous.
Cardiff have been nowhere near as bad as their league position suggests while Sheffield Wednesday can also be frustrated at not sitting higher: both have seen leaky defending and wasteful finishing disconnect results from performances. They both registered convincing wins at the weekend and will surely be keen to build on these, so I’m hopeful that we’ll see an energetic contest here.
Huddersfield have been overachieving this season but are far from a bad side and should be capable of giving Preston a game. The Lilywhites built last season’s campaign on a strong defence but that appears to have deserted them this time around, with only two teams having allowed more shots. Their visitors have coincidentally created the third fewest chances, so may find themselves with more freedom than they’re used to, but shouldn’t let their league position relative to their hosts make them complacent about the task ahead.