Here's a look ahead to next season in the Championship with some teams that may dominate possession
Here is my latest article looking ahead to the new season in the Sky Bet Championship; this time the focus is on possession. This is always interesting subject material because there’s a constant debate on how useful quality possession is to success in the longer term. For example, Leicester City won the Premier League with a counter-attacking system that wasn’t based on dominating possession.
It's also worth considering the nature of the Championship. Traditionally, it’s certainly been felt that it’s a league for a more direct style than one based on short passes. However, there are signs that things are beginning to change. Out of the top five teams for possession last season – all of them were either promoted or involved in the play-offs.
For the purposes of this article, I will be using possession stats from last season and adding in my own personal opinion as well. Personally, I’ve always believed that football should be played in a certain way and it is a form of entertainment. Therefore, we should certainly celebrate those teams and coaches that hold up those principles – and that is another point of this article.
So, now we have all of that out of the way, let’s get stuck into the choices…
1. Fulham (59.1% Possession Last Season)
Fulham are a good example of a team dominating stats last season, but in the end, it didn’t prove to be a successful conclusion to their season. Last season, the side made a decent fist of things and successfully qualified for the play-offs to extend their season. However, they lost out in the semi-finals and will need to rebuild for the new season.
They can, at least, look back on the season though and celebrate what they did with the ball. I know sometimes people are a little bit sceptical of possession stats as they argue about how useful the possession was. Fulham though had the ball and used it very well, shown by their excellent attacking record as well.
In terms of those possession stats, they had 59.1% of the ball, as well as 83.9% passing accuracy. I’m sure everyone can see that these are very impressive numbers and the highest in the Championship based on last season’s data. The Cottages will certainly be looking for more of the same next season and could start the season well if they keep their squad together this summer.
2. Reading (57.4% Possession Last Season)
Reading are another team that can be relatively pleased with their work from last season after qualifying for the play-off final. One issue for me though is the long-term future of Jaap Stam, the Dutch coach had a very impressive season with the Royals. So, some bigger clubs may come calling on the back of that.
It will certainly be interesting to see if the team’s style remains the same if there was a managerial change. However, assuming Stam stays in place – it’s expected that Reading will be one of the possession teams to watch again next season. In terms of last season, they were the second-best team for keeping the ball.
In terms of those stats, Reading enjoyed an average possession of 57.4% and a passing accuracy of 80.9%. Reading’s style though is not as attacking as Fulham’s and their attacking and defensive qualities are more average than dominant. Those passing stats are certainly impressive – but it’s fair that there is room for improvement in other areas.
3. Sheffield Wednesday (51.3% Possession Last Season)
Sheffield Wednesday qualified for last season’s Championship play-offs for the second consecutive season. Overall, the club’s decision to appoint Carlos Carvalhal has proved to have been a successful one as the club appear to be improving their position, after a prolonged period out of the spotlight. There had been speculation that Carvalhal would leave – but he has now agreed to remain at the club.
Wednesday have one of the biggest budgets in the Championship to work with – and they will be expecting to secure another finish in the top six next season at the very least. However much money is spent, the club’s success will also be down to an efficient style of play. The stats from last season would suggest that the club are well on their way to establishing that.
Those stats from last season ranked the Owls as the fifth best possession side with 51.3% of the ball – and a passing accuracy of 76.5%. Stats on their attacking and defensive performances would suggest they are better at the back. So, it will certainly be interesting to see if attacking reinforcements are targeted this summer to strengthen things further.
4. Norwich City (51.3% Possession Last Season)
Norwich City’s possession style ranked them in the top six last season, but it’s something that should improve further next season. Daniel Farke’s been appointed as the club’s new head coach and he is known to prefer a strong possession style. It will certainly be interesting to see how quickly his German philosophy can be implemented at the Championship side.
The squad is now being refreshed to accommodate a definitive style of play and Norwich should be equipped for the new season. In terms of those stats from last season, 51.3% possession and a passing accuracy of 73.6%, were the key numbers. Arguably, the balance in the side wasn’t quite right though with plenty scored – but too many conceded.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Canaries approach the new season. Improving the defensive record is paramount – but Norwich’s best players are their attacking ones and they won’t want to stifle them. What’s likely though is Farke will want to play an attractive brand of football and if his side want to be possession kings – then they must have the midfielders that can deliver that.
5. Brentford (50.9% Possession Last Season)
Some will know that I have tipped Brentford to be a surprise package next season and the possession stats offer some evidence of that. The squad is also young and very talented so has the capacity to surprise various teams next season. In terms of those stats, Brentford enjoyed 50.9% possession and a passing accuracy of 73.1%.
In terms of their season in general, the team finished 10th and had the fourth best attacking record. It seems that is a very good base to build something special from – but a lot will depend on which teams adapt best in the new season. The thing with Brentford as well is they aren’t one of the biggest clubs at Championship level so keeping their squad together will be a challenge.
Spanish winger Jota is arguably their best player and I discussed his ability in a previous article. The adaptable Spaniard was immense in the second half of last season – and it will be key to hold onto him if they want a successful season. There are always surprises in the Championship and these possession stats are promising for Brentford.
This completes the end of the content section of this article as we continue to look ahead to the new season. The focus for this one was on possession and it will be interesting to look back and see if my predictions prove to be correct. The other interesting thing for me is whether the best possession teams will also be the top teams or not. If you like content like this be sure to keep an eye on my profile page, as there will be similar content to follow shortly. Meanwhile, you can check the Championship betting odds here.