Championship 2015-16 Preview: Part Two
Last season finish: 8th (77 Points)
Bookies' rank: 1st
It seems odd to have the team ranked 1st to have finished outside the playoff spots last year. On the one hand, they were unlucky not to get into the playoffs given their points total. On the other, their conversion rates were running red hot all season and there was probably a good serving of luck in their points total. With a surprisingly average SoTR of 0.523, their strong results were driven by a high conversion rate (that said, their late season collapse was equally unprecedented).
Over the summer, Derby have replaced Steve McClaren with Paul Clement and significantly strengthened the squad (and riled up Sean Dyche) in their quest to play against the likes of Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and John O'Shea in the Greatest League in the World. Having finished with respectable points totals the past two years, with financial backing and a talented, it's easy to see why they are one of the favourites. It seems probable that they will do a better job of dominating the shots next season; however, even if they continue to focus on making high quality opportunities rather than quantity, it is unlikely that their aptitude for converting shots into goals will remain so strong.
Last season finish: 4th (85 Points)
Bookies' rank: 2nd
Last season, Middlesbrough’s promotion campaign was built upon a solid defence. They conceded the fewest goals and shots on target in the league. Perhaps unsurprising from a team coached by Mourinho’s ex-assistant and complemented by a rolling cast of Chelsea loanees. This meant that despite a slightly above average tally of 4.65 shots on target per game, Boro recorded a strong SoTR of 0.588 (3rd in the division). However, if there is one cause for concern it is their save %. Last season, Boro’s opponents converted their shots on target at the second lowest rate in the league. It’s easy to suggest this is just good goalkeeping, but generally, save % and scoring % are known to be extremely variable and so a feat like this is unlikely to be repeated.
Nonetheless, last season’s losers in the Richest Game in Football at Wembley last year are back. Only this time without forwards Player of the Year Patrick Bamford, part-time hashtag Jelle Vossen and Lee Tomlin. Sound bad? Well probably not when it comes with the return of Stewart Downing to Teeside. Oh, and a spare 4.4 shots per 90 striker kicking about (Kike-ing about?).
Middlesbrough will be a strong side again this season. They face a tough August schedule and could be in a misleadingly low position come September. Likewise, less depth in attack than in 14/15 is a slight concern; however, put simply, that is not the foundation on which Middlesbrough’s successes last year were based.
Last season finish: 18th in the Premier League (35 Points)
Bookies' rank: 3th
Hull City were 2014/15's victims to Sunderland's almost inexplicable anti-relegation voodoo and it seems cruel that out of Lambert/Sherwood's Villa, a spectacularly calamitous Newcastle team (can we even call them a team?) and Sunderland, Hull were the ones to go down. Having recruited two Arsenal loanees, two right backs (one from the Premier League and one of Premier League quality) and Samuel Clucas from Chesterfield, Steve Bruce has covered for the loss of a bunch of his squad players.
Despite this, Hull City still have one of the strongest squads in the league and ought to be deep enough to withstand most injuries, too. One of the favourites, the aggregated odds give them a roughly 1 in 5 shot at automatic promotion and they have a decent shot at getting back into the Premier League.
Brentford (By Tom Worville @Worville)
Last season finish: 5th (78 Points)
Bookies' rank: 4th
Considering you've found yourself on Stats Bomb, you're probably familiar with Brentford's status as every numbers-nerd's second team. This summer has seen some interesting moves, that will shape how the team plays in the 15/16 season.
For a start, they've upgraded the front line with the signing of Lasse Vibe and Philipp Hoffman, giving Andre Gray some much needed competition. Vibe was excellent with his previous team in Sweden, with his scoring contribution per 90 (goals + assists) of 0.9. Hoffman is a German Under-21 international, whose greatest asset is his height - 1.95m.
Hoffman's height will be useful for Brentford's numerous set piece routines, which they and sister club FC Midtyjlland are starting to become known for. Gianni Vio, a set piece magician formerly with AC Milan and Fiorentina, has also been brought in this summer to perfect these further.
It is this signing which is arguably the most exciting. If Brentford can turn the odds in their favour in dead ball situations, they could become a very dangerous team from all over the pitch.
Their TSR last season was 0.53, with the signings of Andreas Bjelland and Yoann Barbet aiming to reduce the shots against numbers. Bjelland is the stand out name and probably a Premier League quality player, but Barbet could be used from dead ball situations alongside new-joiners Ryan Williams and Akaki Gogia - who both look like your classic "dead ball experts".
Overall the influx of these new personnel does not raise questions about the quality of the team - as they are one of the better sides in the Championship - but how quickly all of the new coaches and players can gel together as a team. If they can get that right quickly, it could be a very good season.
Read more about Brentford's season on Tom's blog here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Last season finish: 19th in the Premier League (33 Points)
Bookies' rank: 5th
Having lost Jason Shackell, lured to Burnley by the offer of higher wages, to a team offering higher wages, Sean Dyche was not happy. It was a loss that probably stung all the more following the departures of Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier, replaced by Jelle Vossen and Matt Lowton, respectively. These three players contributed a high proportion of Burnley’s league minutes in the Premier League last year and their losses will likely be felt accordingly.
Sean Dyche has continuity on his side, having been manager since 2012, and the fact that Burnley spent responsibly (or as responsibly as paying 2 million Great British pounds for Lukas Jutkiewicz can be) in the top flight, which should serve them well for the long term. Their last season in this league in which they escaped through automatic promotion was a bit of an outlier for Burnley; in both Points and Goal Difference, they’ve been pretty consistent throughout their Championship seasons.
Given their squad turnover and year-to-year volatility of the Championship, I’m wary of placing too much importance to these historical results. They ought to be a good team, and the aggregated odds imply a roughly 40% chance of a shot at promotion come May; however we ought to be equally wary of raising our expectations based solely on their presence in the top flight last term.
Last season finish: 7th (78 Points)
Bookies' rank: 6th
Like Derby, Wolves were pretty unspectacular by the numbers last term. However, like Derby, they are rated fairly highly for this year’s competition (though not quite as highly). Hitting an almost bang-on league average (202) shots on target for (198) and against (203), it is the talented forwards in their squad who will be expected to make the difference.
Unfortunately for Wolves fans, Bakary Sako has departed but the remaining two prongs of their attacking trident, Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko remain. Benik Afobe, contributed an impressive 0.90 Goals + Assists per 90 in his time in the Championship last year. Though his shot contribution (shots + key passes) of 3.4 per 90, wasn’t earth shattering, it is encouraging that 1.9 of the 2.4 shots p90 he took himself came from inside the box. At 22 he will be expected to improve, too. Meanwhile, Adam LeFondre and Ojo have arrived on loan to compensate for the loss of Sako.
A finish in the automatic spots will probably be too much for Wolves; however, they ought to challenge for the playoff spots, an exciting prospect given the outlook a couple of seasons ago.
Queens Park Rangers
Last season finish: 20th in the Premier League (30 Points)
Bookies' rank: 7th
The latest stop on the Harry Redknapp Road to
Financial Ruin Adventure got relegated (again) last year in a turn of events described by many a 'pretty predictable' and 'wholly unsurprising'. Thankfully, transfers have taken a different tack; the squad has been revamped with some of the oldies being swapped for younger models. Tjaronn Chery is the star among these, plucked from the Eredivise during this summer's ransacking of the Netherlands.
Given the talent they've picked up from their recent yoyo years (and wages they can offer), it feels unlikely that they won't end up in the playoff spots. However, things could easily take a turn for the worse (just ask Derby) and as the bookies' odds suggest, (aggregated odds give them a roughly 1 in 20 chance if taking the top spot) they aren't one of the favourites.
Ipswich Town (by Ravi Mistry @Scribblr_42)
Last season finish: 5th (60 Points)
Bookies' rank: 8th
Ipswich are entering a record 14th straight season in the Championship, and last season’s performance was a surprise for all, including many fans who were pleasantly surprised by the team’s affluence and flirtation with automatic promotion – a story which starred a 32 year old Irishman in the form of his life. Daryl Murphy scored left, right and centre, finishing with an impressive 0.71 Scoring Contribution (NPG+A) per 90 (0.577 NPG p90) & 27 goals firing him to the top of the goalscoring list. However failure in the play-offs against Norwich has not dampened any of the hopes of the Blues following who are certain that Mick McCarthy's men can be surprise promotion challengers once more.
What does this season hold for Ipswich?
The most notable departure was Tyrone Mings, departing for newly promoted Bournemouth for a sizable £8m, with Ryan Fraser joining the East Anglian side on loan as well as Brett Pitman joining for 'no fee'. This was an incredible piece of business for all involved; Fraser will be able to kick on from his impressive 2.58 Key Pass + Assists per 90 whilst Brett Pitman featured as a potential ready-made replacement were Daryl Murphy to leave.
Read Ravi's full length Ipswich preview here: https://marginalscribbler.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/squad-development-signings-a-new-season/
Last season finish: 13th (60 Points)
Bookies' rank: 9th
Sheffield Wednesday were a solid, if unspectacular team in 2014/15 and (ex) manager Stuart Gray had them playing at a level above what many would say was their intrinsic talent level. A TSR of 0.514 and SoTR of 0.478 are fairly average. However, they equalled a club record of 17 clean sheets in the league and conceded fewer goals than everyone bar Norwich, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough. Given this stingy defence, it would be easy to use it as a reason for their away form; Owls scored more points on the road than at home. However, from season to season this doesn't appear to be a very repeatable trait and could regress this term.
Of course a stingy defence and roughly 50% shot and goal share means a weak attack. Only Leeds, Charlton and Blackpool took fewer shots on target last season. Now Gray has been replaced by Carlos Carvahal and fans will be hoping his compatriot Lucas Joao, one of two attacking minded players brought in from Portuguese cub Nacional, can hit the ground running.
Last season finish: 17th (52 Points)
Bookies' rank: 10th
For a team in such spectacular disarray it seems amazing that Blackpool came second in both Shots on Target conceded and Shots conceded. What's even more amazing is that neither of the teams besting (or worsting I suppose) Blackpool in these measures were relegated. One of these teams was Charlton (1st for Shots conceded) the other, as you have no doubt guessed by now, was Fulham. Fulham narrowly edged out Blackpool in the Shots on Target stakes thanks to one of the leakiest defences in the league conceding 4.20 Shots on Target per game and 1.80 Goals per game. Since 2004/05, only three teams have conceded more goals and not been relegated (in fact, only 8 teams have conceded more). Of those three, two were relegated the following season. So, can Fulham channel Barnsley 07/08? (See, it seems that much more achievable already) The bookies seem to think so; the aggregated odds give them just over 90% chance to avoid the drop. This is backed up by some decent moves in the transfer market. Fulham have already picked up Cairney, Pringle and O'Hara, who managed a 3.67 Key Passes per 90 at Blackpool (2.33 excluding set pieces) to add to their midfield; this should add some creativity and help with the attack, which has also been less than stellar. In particular, Fulham have been reliant on few players for a high proportion of their shots.
That said, the big worry remains the defence and although Jazz Richards and Luke Garbutt have arrived, it is still unknown whether Kit Symons can remedy this in his first full season as head coach.
Last season finish: 1st in League One (99 Points)
Bookies' rank: 11th
The differences between sustainable and unsustainable conversion rates become rapidly murkier as you descend the league system as talent skew and player churn hammer the correlations of fanalysts' favourite metrics. That said, Bristol City converted their shots on target into goals at just under twice the rate of their opponents last season. Though score effects will have had some impact, this is something they are unlikely to repeat in the Championship.
Having brought in few signings, they are primarily sticking with the core that brought them promotion. The aggregated odds imply a roughly 11% chance of relegation, a touch below the historical precedent of roughly 14% as demonstrated by Ben Mayhew. There may be 3 teams worse than them in the league although with a small squad and sketchy conversion last season, things could easily turn sour.
Last season finish: 14th (59 Points)
Bookies' rank: 12th
Earlier on in part one, we wondered whether Bolton were the most numerically boring team in the league; however, that title could quite easily be shared with Nottingham Forest. In 14/15, Forest’s full-season TSR, SoTR and GR all just under 0.510 and PDO a nice, average 0.996. Though to look at these figures alone ignores their high initial PDO which caused some to accuse Stuart Pearce of competency.
This season, with Dougie Freedman (formerly at Bolton) at the helm they look set to trundle into another season of probably mediocrity. Although they have a decent squad, it is by no means one of the strongest in the league and their managerial appointment hardly smacks of inspiration. It can’t be fun for fans to see Derby predicted so highly in the off-season and Assombalonga’s return can’t come soon enough.
Part one (featuring all the other teams):
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