Championship previews, 13-14 Dec 2016
Below are the individual preview graphics for each game in the forthcoming round of fixtures. 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.
A home match against lowest-rated side Rotherham would make most teams the favourites to record a win, and Fulham are no exception given their recent improvements and consistently strong attack.
The top two – Brighton and Newcastle – are both away at struggling sides so, along with Derby, are heavily fancied to win despite being on the road.
The visit of the division’s lowest-rated attack gives Birmingham’s defence a chance to breathe after some worrying recent performances. However Ipswich’s own back line has remained solid – if anything it seems to have been bolstered at the expense of their offensive capability – so the hosts may struggle to break them down.
Blackburn’s defence is a shadow of its former self, which makes them ideal opponents for a Brighton side that has struggled for attacking fluency of late. Meanwhile the Seagulls’ own tough back line will provide an interesting challenge for their hosts’ improving attack, although overall this looks like a match that the visitors are likelier to win.
With these two sides looking far more capable going forward than at the back, it’s tempting to assume that there will be plenty of goals here. Both look capable of troubling the play-offs overall, so it’s strange to see both in the bottom half at the moment and perhaps this match will reveal which is likelier to surge furthest up the table over the course of the season.
If Burton can foster a more reliable cutting edge in attack then they should be able to keep themselves clear of the bottom three, but the visit of Huddersfield – who allow the fewest shots in the division – may not be the best place to start. The visitors have struggled to convert their own chances so this may not be a classic, although the leakiness of the Terriers’ defence provides some hope for their hosts.
Both teams will surely be going all-out to win this one and claw themselves away from the relegation zone at the other’s expense. Both have been leakier than average in defence, although Cardiff’s wasteful finishing may prevent them from taking full advantage of any generosity provided by Wolves.
Even if they continue to build on their modest improvements in recent weeks it will be a while before the model has anything encouraging to say about Rotherham. A trip to Fulham – who operate one of the division’s most formidable attacks – may prove to be a bump in the road at least.
I’m surprised that either of these two teams are in the top six, although Leeds at least seem to be a better side than they were last season. Reading are probably the biggest blot in the model’s copybook so far and have defied far worse chances of success than this already, but it still looks like a matter of time before they suffer a bad run of results.
Norwich have had an awful time lately, with the efforts of a clinical attack undone by the division’s leakiest defence, but breaking out of their bad run here is far from an impossible task. Aston Villa’s results may have picked up under Steve Bruce but their performances have remained strangely mediocre, so perhaps both sides have bubbles which are ready to burst.
Sheffield Wednesday continue to underachieve while visitors Barnsley look to be doing slightly better than the model would expect, so this game could impose corrections on both teams’ campaigns. The Owls need to watch out for their visitors’ energetic attack, which has compensated for a vulnerable defence so far, and could do with some of the Tykes’ midas touch in front of goal given their own wasteful finishing.
These two teams look to be performing at a similar level at the moment, although Forest’s existence has been far more chaotic overall. The home side are among the division’s most clinical finishers but have also seen a disproportionately high number of efforts find the back of their net, with the latter phenomenon potentially exploitable by Preston’s own relatively sharp attack.
QPR are in crisis at the moment, having just lost to bottom side Rotherham, and the visit of upwardly-mobile Derby comes at a bad time. The hosts’ attack has been almost as wasteful as the Rams’ (whose average is still skewed by their poor start despite them making up for lost time since then) and the visitors’ defence looks more than capable of frustrating an under-prepared opponent.
These two attacks are almost the opposite of each other: Wigan’s the most wasteful and creating little, Newcastle’s the most efficient and with enviable supply lines. While both clubs have been above average at soaking up their opponents’ chances, it looks likely that the home side will have their hands far more full here.