A look ahead to the new Championship season with some predictions on which teams might do well So, we’ve finally reached the end of the Championship season and thoughts now turn towards the summer and what will occur next season. That is the focus of this new piece of content looking ahead and predicting some of the teams that might perform well. This is largely an opinion piece of content, but will also include various factual pieces of information. It should also be noted that it should be read as things stand right now. So, for example, if there are managerial changes or significant player movement then things could change again. What has occurred this season also plays some bearing on the thoughts contained here. It’s also worth mentioning that the Championship is notoriously hard to predict. This season was a prime example of that with Fulham, Reading and Huddersfield all being surprise packages. Without further ado, let’s get stuck into my predictions… 1. Aston Villa It’s no surprise to me that Aston Villa have been labelled as one of the favourites for the Championship next season. Looking back to after Villa were relegated from the Premier League they didn’t look in good shape at all. In fact, there may well have been concerns from some that the club might have dropped to League One. Nevertheless, the squad has now been transformed through a lot of investment in Championship quality players. Performances in the second half of this season have shown much improvement and confidence will be high that will lead to forward momentum for next season. The other vital factor here is the manager Steve Bruce and it appears that Villa will be smart enough to stick with him. Bruce is an experienced manager with strong knowledge of both the Championship and Premier League; he has also won promotion from this division previously with both Birmingham and Hull City. Therefore, everything seems to point towards a successful season for the Villans. 2. Derby County Derby County were one of the highest spenders in the Championship this season and endured managerial changes along the way. In the end, the season ended in frustration as they could only manage a ninth-place finish. However, spirits will be high that things will improve for next season and they are another team tipped to do well. A big thing they have going for them is their manager Gary Rowett who has already proved to be a very capable operator at this level. In fact, his Birmingham City side looked a good bet for the play-offs until he was suddenly sacked. The manager has made a good start to life with the Rams and currently enjoys a 44%-win ratio. Of course, it’s not just about Rowett and the club have some very decent players for the Championship and will surely be strengthening their squad further over the summer. In terms of the players they currently have, Tom Ince is a standout attacking star who managed 14 goals and six assists this season. Bradley Johnson and Alex Pearce are other players that showed promise for the club this season. However, it was left-back Craig Forsyth that was their standout player and they will want more of the same from him! 3. Fulham As mentioned at the top of the piece, Fulham were a surprise for the play-offs this season. Of course, the club were in the Premier League not so long ago but they have taken their time to adapt to life in the Championship – so this season was a massive step forward. Looking through their squad now it’s clear that it’s more of a team game rather than relying on one or two players like perhaps they did in the past with players like Ross McCormack. Now the strength of the team comes from a very strong midfield and a much more balanced team. Standout players include Sone Aluko, Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney that have all contributed well in goals and assists. What’s interesting is that Fulham’s top scorer has only 13 for the season – but collectively the team were the joint highest scorers with 85. This point shows that it’s often the collective rather than individuals that lead to success in the Championship. Who Scored data on Fulham shows the very clearly defined playing style that underpinned their success this season. The highlights include leading the division on possession (59%), shots per game (15.5) and short passes per game (519). Of course, that all comes from the manager and coaching with Slavisa Jokanovic having a growing reputation in the game. The Serbian previously led Watford to promotion out of this league – and will look to repeat the feat with Fulham. 4. Brentford Most people probably won’t disagree with these first three choices, but now it’s time to switch gears a bit to something a bit different. The choice of Brentford is more a prediction for a surprise package than a team most people would expect to do well. The Bees are a team that should be excited about the new season and the makeup of the squad is certainly interesting. Information from Transfermarkt shows that the squad is a good size with 23 players and the average age of those players is just 25. Of course, this means that there are some exciting young players in the squad such as Sergi Canos, Jota and John Egan. At the helm of the club is a manager in the shape of Dean Smith that is one of the top young British coaches around. Brentford certainly showed that they can have their moments in the second half of this season, but it will come down to consistency with them as well as retaining their best players. For example, Jota was brilliant for them but will he remain? If the Bees can keep their squad together though they have every chance of being a surprise package for next season. 5. Norwich City Expectations were high for Norwich City at the start of this season, but it’s fair to say that things didn’t go according to plan as the club failed to even qualify for the play-offs. However, things have now changed with a new structure in place and a managerial change. Daniel Farke has come in as the new head coach and exciting things are on the horizon. In terms of the squad, it’s certainly a bit older than ideal and there are gaps in the defensive areas. However, the Canaries have significant positive things going forward – shown by being the joint top scorers in the league this season. Attacking players like Alex Pritchard and Jacob Murphy are likely to be key players and the key challenge is to make the team a fair bit tighter at the back. Over the course of this summer, Norwich are likely to be looking for value in the transfer market with a more international approach to scouting. One key challenge though will be trying to offload some of the highest earners and replace them with a crop of younger and hungrier players. There is an awful lot of work to be done, but the team should perform better in the Championship next season if all goes according to plan. You can check the Championship betting odds here. *** This brings us to the end of the content and it seems there is a very exciting summer ahead for many clubs. In this article, the focus has been perhaps on some of the bigger clubs in the league – but as ever there will be some surprise packages. There has also been a lot of change on the managerial front and some of those decisions are to come. What’s clear though is there will be another very exciting season in the Championship to come and it promises to be every bit as competitive as it was this season. It will certainly be interesting to see what success stories are being discussed in 12 months’ time. 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