Championship previews, 28-30 Oct 2016
Below are the individual 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:
- 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.
Whoever faces Rotherham at the moment is automatically predicted to be one of the weekend’s likeliest winners, and this time it’s Ipswich‘s turn, with Brighton similarly fancied to defeat Norwich and Cardiff fancied to take advantage of Wigan’s malaise.
Newcastle are unsurprising favourites at Preston, making them the only away favourite this weekend, although the Lilywhites are far from terrible.
Both of these clubs started their campaigns with some eye catching attacking displays which have since ebbed slightly, but Barnsley remain one of the division’s sharpest finishers and Bristol City one of its most industrious chance creators. With neither looking as convincing in defence there’s a good chance of goals in this one.
Walter Zenga’s departure came as a surprise to me: Wolves have looked noticeably stronger than last season so I was expecting the results to follow eventually. Owen Coyle appeared to be in far greater danger of the sack, having presided over Blackburn’s decline at both ends of the pitch. The model doesn’t factor in managerial changes, but if the visitors stick to the usual plan then I’d still fancy them to leave here with something.
Norwich are by no means incapable of challenging for promotion but they haven’t been outplaying teams to the same extent as Newcastle or weekend hosts Brighton. The Seagulls’ performances so far – particularly in defence where they’ve proven incredibly difficult to breach – suggest that they should be running the Magpies close for the title and therefore this represents one of the Canaries’ toughest away trips.
Both of these sides have long looked capable of bettering their disappointing early league positions, so ejecting their respective managers may turn out not to have been necessary. Cardiff’s defence in particular appears to have been unlucky and should be targeting a clean sheet at home to an attack with slightly worse finishing problems than their own.
Ignoring the league table, the respective performance levels of these two sides still suggests a spectacle on par with a promotion six-pointer. Derby’s finishing has been too bad even to be explained by Nigel Pearson’s failure to get them shooting regularly from decent positions – something that Steve McClaren managed ably the last time around – so their goalscoring rate is likely to improve, while their defence has reamained strong. Sheffield Wednesday have sustained a high level of performance themselves so this promises to be intriguing.
Fulham have been the division’s entertainers so far: they’ve looked as dangerous up front as they have vulnerable at the back. Visitors Huddersfield have looked dull by comparison, having taken among the fewest shots and allowed opponents similarly few in return. The Terriers look to have overachieved so far but should remain in the promotion picture and are perfectly capable of taking something from games like this.
With the division’s worst-rated attack hosting its worst-rated defence, on one levels this feels like an inversion of the “unstoppable force meets immovable object” scenario. However with Rotherham also struggling in attack while Ipswich are looking solid in defence, the hosts’ overall prospects look far healthier.
Leeds are looking far better since Garry Monk took over but need to be careful of a potential banana skin here. Burton may have begun this season among the relegation favourites but they’ve adapted impressively to this level and are sustaining a mid-table level of performance.
Preston’s quiet attack was compensated for by a strong defence last season but the latter hasn’t re-emerged this time around. The Lilywhites are far from a bad side but look vulnerable to Newcastle’s supercharged front line and may struggle to create chances against an almost equally impressive visiting defence.
Both of these clubs look to have taken a step backwards since last season. While only Forest’s league position reflects this at the moment, experience tells me that Reading won’t remain in the top half of the table without changing something. With these two attacking more convincingly than they’ve defended so far, a close game with a few goals in it looks a probable outcome.
While Birmingham’s improvement looks to have stalled recently they’ll surely still fancy themselves at home to a limping Aston Villa. While the visitors remain a solid-looking side, a change of managers adds a randomising element and Gary Rowett has regularly overachieved in his time at St Andrews.