Championship previews, 18-20 Nov 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.
Brighton and Derby look the likeliest to win this weekend, with the Seagulls’ superior ratings making them firm favourites at home to Aston Villa while the recovering Rams – whose poor start had more to do with poor finishing than a dip in overall performances – hosting bottom side Rotherham.
The closest match of the weekend is Sheffield Wednesday‘s trip to Fulham, with the Owls looking far better than their league position suggests and their hosts continuing to improve.
The most-fancied away side are Newcastle, considered likely to burst Leeds’ bubble, and Norwich, who can take advantage of the turmoil at QPR.
Brighton’s performances this season have been excellent – along with Newcastle they’re my model’s strong favourites for automatic promotion at the moment – so this will be a tough test for Steve Bruce. While Villa are far from terrible, they’ve declined to a “mid table” level and there aren’t yet signs of a new manager “bounce”.
Barnsley’s performances have ebbed worryingly of late, although they retain a seven-point lead over weekend visitors Wigan who sit in the uppermost relegation place. The Tykes’ attack has performed well enough to compensate for a leaky defence so far and the away side’s wastefulness in front of goal so far may let them off the hook. In case you missed it, I dug out a pretty tasty – albeit slightly depressing – Barnsley stat earlier this week.
In the same post as that Barnsley stat I noticed that Birmingham have gone longer than any other current EFL side without being bottom of a division (it last happened at the start of April 1994). The Blues appear likelier to move up than down this weekend, as narrow favourites here despite Bristol City looking in better shape overall. The visitors’ attack is their strongest suit, with only Newcastle having taken more shots so far, so the home defence will need to be in top form.
Brentford’s attack has looked far better than their defence this season but with Blackburn one of the division’s least industrious shooters they may not find themselves overly tested here. The Bees have only won one of their last six but still look better than their league position suggests and shouldn’t be written off as play-off contenders just yet.
Cardiff are another side who look to be sitting deceptively low in the league table at the moment, while Huddersfield remain higher than their apparent true level despite just one win in five. A home win therefore looks the most likely outcome, although if the hosts’ poor finishing continues to be a problem then the visiting Terriers could well leave Wales with something.
Derby are already looking more adventurous under Steve McClaren so it’s probably a bad time for Rotherham to be visiting them. The obscene number of shots allowed by the Millers this season suggests that their hosts will have ample opportunities to nudge their shot conversion numbers closer to respectability.
Fulham are looking increasingly dangerous as the season goes on, with a consistently impressive attack and a much-improved defence. Visitors Sheffield Wednesday have underachieved at both ends of the pitch this season and this tough-looking away trip is unlikely to offer much breathing space, so a focused performance will be required. With both clubs just two points outside the play-off zone, this promises to be one of the weekend’s most interesting fixtures.
With Ipswich weak up front but strong in defence and Forest the opposite, this is a tough one to call. The visitors have been making modest improvements lately but still look vulnerable at the back, although the shot-shy Tractor Boys may not be able to take advantage.
Both of these clubs have looked better at the back than up front, so this may not be a goal-heavy encounter, although a change of manager at Wolves adds a randomising element. Preston’s chance conversion has been above-average while the visitors are leaky at the back this season, which may give the home side the edge.
Norwich won’t get many better chances to record an away win this season than against an out-of-sorts QPR having just undergone a change of manager. Regardless of whether Ian Holloway proves a capable replacement something needed to change at Loftus Road given the downwards drift in Rangers’ ratings, and given the quality of opposition in his first game he has an early chance to impress.
Reading continue to overachieve on some modest underlying performances and could well fortify their position in the play-off zone given Burton’s frustrations in front of goal this season. The Brewers have adapted impressively to life at this level but remain just four points from the relegation zone thanks to some wasteful finishing. The visitors shouldn’t be written off here though: they deserve credit for attacking teams this season rather than parking the bus to grind out points and have looked a credible threat going forward.
The Sunday match will provide a useful reading on just how much Leeds have improved under Garry Monk. While undoubtedly a better team than last season, their current sixth place looks a tad high, but their performance against the most terrifying team in the division will allow a more accurate assessment of their true level.