Here's a look at the best long ball teams in the Championship

As the Championship season progresses the data is all beginning to make a bit of sense. This allows us to bring us some actionable intelligence from the season so far. This article will look at some of the most successful teams playing long ball/direct football so far this season.

The data has played a key role in making our selections here, but there has also been an element of making judgement calls. The main one here is deciding what makes a successful team – and we have used the league table and current results as a general guide here.

So, now we have that out of the way, let’s get stuck into it…

1. Cardiff City

Cardiff City have been a surprise success story in the Championship so far this season. Although, some people may feel their position may be short-lived; it’s clear that they have been the most consistent team in the league – and there is evidence that is set to continue.

The Bluebirds currently sit top of the Championship table – and also in the top six for both goals scored and their defensive record. Any team manged by Neil Warnock is going to have a certain style to them – and he certainly knows how to get results at this level.

Therefore, it’s the Welsh team that tops our list of long ball teams. Some of the key stats from this season include 218 short passes per game (second lowest in the league), and 71 long balls played per game. This kind of direct football doesn’t suit everyone, but Warnock certainly knows how to make it work to his team’s advantage.

2. Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town have been another team this season that have surprised a lot of people with the start that they have made. Currently, they sit in the top six of the Championship table and will be hoping to sustain their current position.

Mick McCarthy is another one of those old-fashioned managers that has a certain way of playing. However, whatever playing style a manager chooses; it’s still necessary to have efficient players. It could be argued that is the real reason behind Ipswich’s success this season – and Martyn Waghorn is certainly one of those players.

Some of their key stats include 268 short passes per game and 78 long balls per game. This is certainly far from total football, but it just goes to show that there are different ways of being successful in the Championship. Ipswich’s fate this season is still yet to be determined, but right now they are one of the best long ball teams in the league.

3. Preston

When Simon Grayson left Preston in the summer there would have been concerns about what would happen to the club. However, Alex Neil has been able to carry on the good work that Grayson was doing based on high aggression and strong defence. Although their success may have been a surprise to many, I did predict they could be a surprise package ahead of the season.

Preston have only been beaten once this season and have won three of their last four games, so there is certainly a level of consistency there. Given what was earlier mentioned about their defence; it’s no great surprise that Preston’s best performers this season are defensive players.

In terms of playing style, this is another club that doesn’t play beautiful football. However, their fans aren’t likely to care if they keep picking up results. In terms of those stats, the club manage295 short passes per game and play 72 long balls per game. Alex Neil will certainly be hoping that his style keeps working.

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4. QPR

It’s still early in the season so it’s difficult to know what kind of year QPR will have. Things started more brightly for them than would have been expected – but inconsistency is now starting to creep into their game. However, we are going out on a limb by including the West London club in this based on their good start earlier on in the season.

There are certainly some good things going for the club such as having one of the lowest average ages in the league. Ian Holloway is also an experienced manager that has plenty of knowledge when it comes to getting results at Championship level. However, he is working under difficult circumstances as he has very little opportunity to spend in the transfer market.

This is a squad that is being rebuilt though – and there are certainly some talented young players for the present and the future. In terms of the key stats, QPR manage 308 short passes per game and execute 75 long balls per game. Results and consistency must improve for the club, but there is certainly enough evidence here that they are a long ball team to watch.

5. Sheffield United

Sheffield United are another one of those teams that have surprised a lot of people this season. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Blades can maintain their current position in the top half of the table. One thing we can say though is the club offered one of the best value season tickets in the Championship this season.

The club have certainly been in a good mood this season following from their promotion from League One last season. Another example of why the gap between divisions may not be as great as we sometimes think. However, the club have certainly had prior experience in both the Championship and the Premier League.

Current form is certainly encouraging with five wins out of their last six games. The style may not be pretty to watch and won’t work against everyone, but results have certainly been consistent of late. In terms of those stats, they play 340 short passes per game as well as 77 long balls in each match.

6. Aston Villa

Aston Villa made a slow start to the season, but they have since recovered their form and are one of the teams to watch at the moment. I’m not surprised about this because I tipped them to do quite well this season. There is a financial side to this as well because Villa have one of the most valuable squads in the league.

It’s interesting that the managers featured in this list are all of a similar type – and Steve Bruce certainly fits that. Again, not someone who likes to play the most beautiful football the world has ever seen. However, he is vastly experienced and has had success at this level in the past.

In terms of those stats, Villa play 345 short passes per game as well as managing 67 long balls in each game they play. Sometimes we get carried away with playing styles and Bruce knows that he is tasked with getting his club back to the Premier League. Therefore, he has the best chance of doing that by doing things his way.

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This completes the content section for this article as we looked at the best long ball teams in the Championship. So, did we get it right? Or maybe you think that other long ball teams deserve credit instead.

If you enjoy Championship content like this, then keep an eye on my profile page for all the latest updates. Next, I’ll be looking at which players might be the top assist makers come the end of the season – and the teams that are currently in the best form.

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