Here's a look at the teams in the Championship that will be fast starters
The start of the season is now less than a week away, so it seems an appropriate time to look at the teams that are set to start the season on fire. This article is essentially the opposite of my piece on teams that are set to start the season slowly.
We are looking exclusively at the start of the season, as in the first few weeks of the new campaign. Therefore, the clubs featured may or may not be able to sustain this form throughout the whole season.
In the interest of covering the Championship as a whole, we have tried to make this one a mixed bag with various teams included. However, it stays consistent to some of my other articles covering predictions for the league.
So, now we have that out of way, let’s get stuck into it…
1. Aston Villa
Aston Villa certainly had a challenging time of it in the Championship last season – and didn’t manage to meet expectations. Clearly, the club expected to perform better, after being the biggest spenders in the Championship with an outlay of around £72m. This summer Steve Bruce has continued to add to his options with a focus on bringing more experience to the squad, but investment has been more modest with just £2.38m spent.
Villa have still managed to recruit some big names this summer such as John Terry and Chris Samba. There is a school of thought that suggests that clubs that don’t buy so many players will perform better, but that is certainly debatable in modern-day football. Regular readers of mine will know that I’m predicting Bruce’s team to finish top of the Championship come May.
Starting the season well will, of course, be important in this regard as it can be much more difficult if you have to play catch-up. The major point for me is that Steve Bruce now has the kind of squad that looks suited to the Championship. Of course, there is no doubt the individual quality of the players; it’s just a matter of how well they can be moulded into an efficient team unit.
Fulham impressed and surprised a lot of people last season with their run to the play-offs. The Cottages have struggled to get things right in the Championship, since relegation from the Premier League – but they do finally seem to be at that point.
It’s not rocket science, a good manager who knows the league and a group of quality Championship players gets you a long way. Regular readers of mine will know that I am expecting good things from Fulham in the coming season. One of the reasons behind that is the club dominated several key stats last season – and I’m predicting they will be the best team again for possession.
The Cottages haven’t done a huge amount in the transfer market this summer, but they have improved their options for the new season. The loan deals to bring in Tomas Kalas and Oliver Norwood from Chelsea and Brighton look very smart. It appears the club are also looking for a new striker – and if they can fill that void, then the squad will look very strong. In any case, a strong start to the new season is expected.
I’m pleased to see that a few people have been tipping Brentford to be this season’s Huddersfield. My personal view is that they will be a surprise package in the league this season and have tipped them as a team to sizzle.
As we saw from various clubs last season, I’m expecting the Bees to start the season strongly. It’s also been pleasing to see that the club have been active in the transfer market by bringing in a group of foreign players – as well as the capture of high-rated striker Ollie Watkins from Exeter.
The squad has 25 players in it and they have an average age of 24.7, which is what’s called getting your squad right in every respect. The talent within the squad is clear with Daniel Bentley, Harlee Dean, Sergi Canos, Jota and Lasse Vibe all deserving of special mention. The Bees may not be seen as promotion contenders by pundits – but they certainly have the means to surprise a few people.
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4. Birmingham City
We often talk about football being a game of two halves. The implications being that one team can dominate half the game and then the opposition dominates the other half. Birmingham City proved that you can have a season of two halves. The first half of the season went very well with the team on the verge of the play-off places.
However, a managerial change occurred for the start of the second half of the season and things went downhill quickly. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but Gianfranco Zola’s time in charge of the club was dreadful. In the end, the club just managed to avoid relegation to League One and should now start to improve again.
Veteran manager Harry Redknapp is now in charge and the club have made some eye-catching signings over the summer including David Stockdale, Craig Gardner and Marc Roberts. The quality of these players suggest that the Blues are hopeful of a good season – and you can expect Redknapp to make an instant impact on the Championship.
Middlesbrough are another one of those teams that I expect to have a good season, so no great surprise to see them in this list of fast starters. One of the reasons that I like Boro so much this season is the quality that Garry Monk has. Monk makes my list as one of the best managers in the Championship this season – and he is an extremely accomplished operator at this level.
It’s clear that the club are prepared to push the boat out financially to get back to the promised land. Boro are currently appearing as the Championship’s biggest spenders and you will hear more about that in an upcoming article. It’s interesting that most of their signings are British, showing that Monk understands the sort of players that are needed for this league.
Last season, they gave Premier League football a good go – but in the end fell short. Middlesbrough have always been a good team defensively and previous manager Aitor Karanka was a connoisseur of that side of the game. As mentioned in previous articles, it was a lack of goals at the other end that was their downfall last season. Monk seems to have addressed that with big money going on fresh forward options – so there is every reason to be positive about a good season.
6. Cardiff City
Cardiff are a funny old club, it doesn’t seem long ago that Vincent Tan bought them and was bragging about all the money he invested to provide Premier League football. Now, even the idea of getting back to the Premier League seems a long way off. Neil Warnock is an experienced manager though and did a respectable job at stabilising the club last season.
If I know Warnock, he will be thinking that he wants to get the club to the play-offs in the coming season. The Bluebirds have shown a reasonable amount of ambition in the transfer market this summer by spending £4.34m on some very interesting players. As I mentioned in my recent article on Championship clubs that have signed the most players – Lee Tomlin and Danny Ward could prove to be canny business.
Warnock has now had the opportunity to get his feet under the table and knows the Championship well. The improvement that he made on the club last season was significant – so it will be interesting to see what he can do from the start of the season. Therefore, Cardiff complete our list for fast starters in the league.
This completes the end of the content section for this article as we review the teams that will make a fast start to the Championship season. Of course, these are predictions and it will be interesting to see how exact they prove to be in the first few weeks of the new campaign.
If you like Championship content like this, then keep an eye on my profile page for all of the latest updates. Next, I will be looking at transfers again – but this time the focus will be on the amount of money spent by the top clubs in the league.