Championship 2022/23 Outright Preview & Predictions

Andy

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The squad building this summer has been somewhat frustrating for Middlesbrough. Though there appears to be funds available from chairman Steve Gibson the targets have not yet been landed in a few positions, most notably in the forward areas.

Of those that have arrived Darragh Lenihan will bring great leadership and Championship experience, Ryan Giles brings forward impetus & chance creation whilst US international Zack Steffen is a relative unknown quantity over a full season but likely to be an upgrade on departing Joe Lumley.

Central midfield looks well set after Jonny Howson agreed a new deal. The experienced holding midfielder was outstanding last term and will allow Matt Crooks and Marcus Tavernier a little bit of licence to be goal threats. This could be a big season for Tavernier. Riley McGree also provides something different as a fourth option.

The big area of concern to be addressed is the front line. Wilder is well known to rotate his forwards but at the moment he has only two to choose from – Duncan Watmore and Josh Coburn. Boro have been linked with almost every striker deemed available, but, at the time of writing, none have gotten over the line yet. It would not be a surprise if 3 were done before the window closes though.

If that is the case then Boro are surely well set for a big shot at promotion this season.

Chris Wilder moved into the Riverside Stadium mid-season and delivered improvements at home, but the side continued to struggle away. Despite looking like play-off contenders for much of the back end of the season some poor results and a couple of failed loan signings did create question marks.

Wilder is synonymous with 3-5-2 having used that system to power Sheffield United through the divisions into the Premier League. At the moment Boro don’t possess a naturally left-sided central defender so the famous overlapping central defenders of the 2018/19 promotion season for The Blades might be tough to fully recreate. 

Verdict

It is inevitable that Boro will bring in at least two forwards of high quality for this division and when they do the rest of the team is perfectly set up to feed those forwards with high quality chances. Middlesbrough were also 5th last season for xPts and Wilder only joined in November.


18+. Play Safe. When you sign-up via Mobile using promo code N40 and place a bet of £10/€10 or more we will give you 4x £10/€10 free bets credited after settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply. #ad

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Whether it is my ignorance or prejudice showing through I don’t know but I always find it tough to get a real handle on a Watford squad. The player trading model employed by the club and its ownership means that I don’t tend to grow attached to a Watford player or team, however, despite all of that, this looks to be a very strong squad on paper.

At the time of writing Watford have 4 GKs, including new man Ben Hamer, 6 central defenders, 6 central midfielders and 6 centre forwards. That doesn’t include 2 full backs for each side and 6 wide forwards as well. I’m sure that many of these players will be sold, loaned out or simply abandoned to make a functioning squad for new coach Rob Edwards, but it is an illustration of the difference between Watford, and the other former Premier League sides, and some of the squads we will discuss further down the division.

Stars such as Emmanuel Dennis, Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr are still on the books, and it is has happened before that players that were expected to be sold end up hanging around and making a big contribution to the season. However, additions have already been brought in in the form of Vakoun Bayo and Rey Manaj. 

Stalwarts such as Tom Cleverley, Kiko Femenia and Craig Cathcart remain in the squad to lend that bit of Championship nous and steer their teammates in the right direction. It seems likely that Edwards continues to use the 3-4-1-2 formation he used with so much success at Forest Green and the squad can certainly be fitted to that formation. 

The only question mark has to be whether this unwieldy beast can just flatten the opposition again in the second tier.

Watford have built their recent success on player trading with very little regard for the man in the dugout. Rob Edwards is the latest inhabitant of the Watford hot seat and the Hornets’ hierarchy are trying the “It’ll all be different this time” line.

Edwards certainly feels like a different appointment from the Pozzo family. He is very much unproven at this level but an impressive season at Forest Green Rovers, winning League 2 with some quality football, has earned him this chance. I think he will need a good start to create some buy-in with the players and fans alike.

Verdict

Despite the obvious question marks over squad size and an inexperienced manager, there is still a ridiculously strong playing staff for the level here. It is difficult to see any team overpowering them for any length of time, and, despite the player churn, there are still plenty of players in the squad that achieved promotion here last time around.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The Baggies are another club that almost define that yo-yo characteristic between the Championship and the Premier League. Last season Albion looked all set to be one of the automatic promotion contenders before a huge mid-season collapse. The squad still retains the vast majority of these players, but crucially there is a different manager in charge.

The additions to the playing squad this summer have been impressive and definitely add quality to the first XI. Jed Wallace ended his relationship with Millwall to go to West Brom and his record of goals and assists regularly ranks him as one of the most productive players in the league. With the bullets being supplied by fellow newbie John Swift and the rejuvenation of fit-again January import Daryl Dike to put the chances away West Brom do have a quality squad at their disposal. 

The defence looks fairly set with Conor Townsend and Darnell Furlong flanking Kyle Bartley and Dara O’Shea. It doesn’t look the strongest defence I’ve ever seen in the division, but there is depth with Semi Ajayi and Kean Bryan. Last year’s defensive numbers were quite excellent as The Baggies often avoided the question in terms of conceding chances, they just conceded strange and silly goals too often. The re-signing of Okay Yokuslu who was super impressive in West Brom’s relegation season from the Premier League looks a real upgrade in defensive midfield as well.

There appears to be no little love lost these days with Steve Bruce. West Brom fans appear ready to give Bruce the benefit of the doubt but a sluggish start will see the pressure really crank up on the Geordie. 

Bruce looks set to play a 4-2-3-1 formation but has added the options moving forward to be flexible when the situation calls for change. Bruce’s record in the Championship is actually very impressive overall, with an over 1.5pts per game rate and 4 promotions on his CV. However, recent jobs have been disappointing and there’s no doubt that the jury is out on his managerial ability at the moment.

Verdict

I’m not as down on Steve Bruce as many and I think West Brom’s remodelling of their forward options will work well. However, if WBA make a poor start and jettison Bruce early on then his replacement, depending on a competent appointment, could come back to achieve a placing around here too.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

This Sheffield United squad has been built for a 3-5-2 system and the depth of central defenders is quite impressive. Ciaran Clark has been brought in on loan as an option as an LCB to compete with Jack Robinson but the headline addition has to be the signing of Anel Ahmedhodzic for £3m. The Bosnian had been linked to some top European clubs recently so it will be interesting to observe the impact the former Bordeaux man will have on the league.

The midfield is quite familiar now, but perhaps this brings to the fore one of the issues. John Fleck, Oliver Norwood and Sander Berge are probably still the first choice central midfield axis and as good as they each are, Fleck and Norwood are now the wrong side of 30. Personally I don’t think that it will be a huge problem across the course of the season.

There are also a number of forward options in the squad. Again there may be some reliance upon a stalwart with Billy Sharp still one of the key men. United’s chances though perhaps rely on getting a good return out of Rhian Brewster. The £25m man suffered a tough injury last season but has had a sharper pre-season and will want to finally put a good run of form together. Iliman Ndaiye will find a place in the puzzle as well and is another very talented player that can create something out of nothing.

However, the squad is missing the influential loanee Morgan Gibbs-White. The Wolves midfielder made a massive contribution to the Blades’ goal contributions last season and at this stage he hasn’t really been replaced in the transfer market.

Paul Heckingbottom was derided somewhat when given a caretaker role after the dismissal of Chris Wilder in the Premier League. However, when given another chance in the hot seat after Slavisa Jokanovic’s tenure didn’t work out, Heckingbottom was able to bring about a quick but sustainable improvement. He does seem to fit the club quite nicely as head coach.

Sheffield United were 2nd only to Fulham for their xG difference in the time that Heckingbottom was in charge. This was built on a miserly defence and Heckingbottom looks to be in a good position to build from the back again. 

Verdict

I don’t expect Sheffield United to be giving up too many chances this season. A team that can keep it tight with some quality moving forwards should always be kept onside. United’s form at Brammall Lane is also highly likely to be good so a Top 6 finish feels very likely to follow.


New customers only. Min odds 1/5 (1.2). Max £20 refund on first bet. Cards & Apple pay only. T&Cs apply.

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Too good for the Championship and nowhere near good enough for the Premier League. That has been the story for this club, and many of these players, throughout the last four seasons. 

The strength in depth of the squad is clearly one of the best in the league, there are two players in every position that would make any first XI of the bottom half of the Championship, apart from potentially on the right of the attack. However, the player in that position is one of the main reasons that I think Norwich will do well – Milot Rashica. 

The Kosovan was a highly rated attacker performing well in the Bundesliga and generally lauded as a positive signing by the wise crowd when Norwich tempted him over after Werder Bremen’s relegation. Whilst he showed flashes in the Premier League, Rashica could really enjoy the extra ball he will get and the lesser quality defences of the second tier. 

Defence has been Norwich’s Achilles heel in the Premier League and they haven’t added any reinforcements in that area, but many Norwich fans are looking forward to the possibility of Andrew Omobamidele being a regular starter this season. The younger, more mobile and technically gifted central defender may aid a transition towards a more dynamic style of play from the back.

There has been a dearth of activity this summer in the transfer market but with the majority of the players brought in last summer having a point to prove this squad is actually deeper than the one that stormed the league last time they were here, albeit missing one vital ingredient, the irreplaceable Emiliano Buendia.

Dean Smith came in to replace Daniel Farke in the middle of the 2021/22 Premier League season and affected very little change in results or even an improvement in performances. Smith does have a good Championship record with both Brentford and Aston Villa, but has definitely yet to convince the Norwich faithful, a good start is necessary for Smith to be given the opportunity to add to his Aston Villa promotion.

The formation of choice looks likely to be a 4-2-3-1, though Pukki and Idah have been tried as a front two in pre-season so there could be more variety to Norwich’s play this season.

Verdict

They are the favourites with the bookmakers and it is difficult to look at the Canaries’ squad and pick too many holes in it. Certainly it is tough to see them out of the top six, with Pukki’s goals being as close to a guarantee as you can get in this league. However, I just feel like Norwich are in a difficult position confidence-wise after that tough Premier League campaign. It might take a while for them to reacclimatise to the Championship this time around.


18+. Play Safe. When you sign-up via Mobile using promo code N40 and place a bet of £10/€10 or more we will give you 4x £10/€10 free bets credited after settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply. #ad

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

An underrated and well balanced squad for the needs of the manager. Knowing that they will be using 3-4-1-2 for the majority of their fixtures they have a good number of central defenders, central midfielders and forwards with different profiles to complement each other.

Jonathan Panzo and Callum Doyle have been added to the back line. Panzo is a great left-footed option who is able to play through into midfield but also is athletic enough to defend big spaces on the edge of the three. Doyle just returned from winning the U19 Euros with England where he also played on the left. However, he is right-footed and may not start immediately but will be looking to improve his 1v1 defending in this loan spell. Dom Hyam is a very underrated gem in this Coventry side and will be relied upon again to defend well but also progress the ball into a talented midfield.

Gustavo Hamer and Callum O’Hare are still Coventry City players at the time of writing and if that remains the case all season then surely the Sky Blues are guaranteed another decent finish. With depth provided by captain Liam Kelly, Jamie Allen and Ben Sheaf, Cov are well stocked with players familiar with the style of play required.

Matt Godden is an outside shout for a Top Goalscorer bet in the league. When Godden stays fit he scores goals, also he would be on penalties too. Viktor Gyokeres took a lot of the early season headlines and is an excellent player himself but Godden is often overlooked. Tyler Walker & Martyn Waghorn remain as backups but the quality level does drop off a little with those players.

Some Coventry fans would rate Mark Robins as one of the best managers outside of the Premier League. On some evidence it is easy to see why, the rise through the leagues from League 2 and into consolidation at the top of the Championship is a record that speaks for itself.

Robins isn’t a manager who puts himself into the public eye with media commitments and it may be the case that this contributes to his under appreciation. Tactically it is highly likely that Coventry will continue with 3 at the back but the shape at the top of the pitch will be adaptable for the situation.

Verdict

Building upon solid foundations, Mark Robins has his team ready to compete for the playoffs all the way. They were unfortunate to drift away last season as they finished the season with the 6th best xPts.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

When the club were relegated from the Premier League all the talk was of the financial trouble that Burnley might be in as a result of the American leveraged buy-out of the club in 2021. Whether this talk was always overblown or whether some blushes have been spared by the £20m+ sale of Nathan Collins and £10m for Nick Pope and the loss of wages from the likes of James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Wout Weghorst, we will never know, but the incomings have been impressive.

At the time of writing the Burnley squad looks like one of the most impressive in the division. Losing the three most senior central defenders may well be a blessing in disguise as it has allowed Burnley to bring in players that will be able to build from the back in a style that Vincent Kompany will want to. Taylor Harwood-Bellis is no novice now having had loan spells with Blackburn and Stoke and seems ready to lead a defence for a season now. Luke McNally was one of the best ball progressors in League One for Oxford United and CJ Egan-Riley is going to be no stranger to playing out of the back having come through the Man City Academy. Can youth and ball progression trump the loss of experience?

The full back areas are hotly contested with two good players on each side, and midfield has had an upgrade with an ace ball-progressor in Josh Cullen and a sharp-shooter in Scott Twine. With Dwight McNeil, still only 22, there to provide bullets for Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Barnes and Matej Vydra, all of whom have flirted with or topped Championship goalscorer charts in the past, there are tried and tested methods for Kompany to fall back on.

Heck, even Maxwell Cornet is still on the books at the moment! The squad looks strong already, but recruitment still looks to be ongoing with Coventry’s Callum O’Hare a major target.

We all know plenty about Vincent Kompany, except what he will be like as a manager in the Championship. His Anderlecht side were way off the pace in Belgium, but that is not a criticism of him as a manager per se. Anderlecht played a good brand of football and the deeper metrics do show that he improved the performance over the time he was in charge.

Certainly the fans are excited and enthused by his appointment and his standing in the game as a player means that he will get a lot more rope than many. He is being given an excellent squad for the level, can he use it properly?

Verdict

There are enough doubts around the recruitment and in conjunction with the new manager I felt that there were too many question marks in Burnley to be confident about their Top 6 chances.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

A smartly constructed squad. With the consistency of approach and management team it is quite clear when you look through the make up of the squad that there has been a strategy behind it.

There are a number of peak age players and ones that are just pre-peak and the number of players per position feels spot on.

The central defenders consist of different types, most of whom rank near the top of their particular roles in the league, as per my personal data rankings i.e. Sam Hutchinson actually ranks really highly as a ball-playing defender, Jake Cooper the same as a stopper.

George Saville rediscovered some excellent form on his return to The New Den and the loan of Jamie Shackleton from Leeds adds extra energy in there that can be rotated with Ryan Leonard and Billy Mitchell. Also, Rowett has given himself the option of deploying a more attacking midfielder in there with the astute signing of George Honeyman.

Where things get difficult for Millwall, as it does for most mid-to-low budget sides, is getting goals. Millwall may well be in a better position than many with the signing of Benik Afobe alongside Tom Bradshaw. However, it is the effective swap of Jed Wallace for Zian Flemming. Wallace has been a prolific member of the double-double club in his time in the Championship and it might be asking a bit much of the young Dutchman in his first season in English football to be able to replicate that output. 

A consistent manager at Championship level, Gary Rowett has been at Millwall for almost three years and has managed to keep Millwall in the hunt for the playoffs in that time.

The gradual move away from majority direct, long passing tactics seemed to really pay off last year as Rowett evolved the team. Fans are still very much with him but there is also a sense that the ‘nearly’ tag is wearing a bit thin and actually breaking into the top six is a real possibility this season. It could be a big year for Rowett and his future.

Verdict

There is no reason to believe that Millwall will take a backwards step this season. Rowett knows his job inside out, the players are progressing and the squad looks really well balanced and they tend to find a way to get results in low-margin games.


New customers only. Place your FIRST bet on any sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £30. Only deposits made using Cards or Apple Pay will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply.

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The steady build that Luton have undergone for the best part of a decade continues on through this summer. Luton often move early to secure excellent free transfers and low-fee moves due to their excellent organisation behind-the-scenes. 

This summer has seen the arrival of Carlton Morris as a headline transfer. A powerful runner with a decent eye for goal, Morris would be well able to fill in for Elijah Adebayo, which was one issue that really bit Luton hard at the end of last season when their main man was unavailable. Cauley Woodrow also joins from Barnsley to play a different role, more technical and could be key to linking the attack together. Both players add something to the squad that could be useful at some stage of the season.

Indeed, more technicality is something that has clearly been an intention of the Luton recruitment this season. Louie Watson, Luke Freeman and Alfie Doughty can all provide a bit of that, alongside the prerequisite running that Luton players are asked to do. 

The squad has been increased in size but one slight weak spot may be the right-hand side of the team with James Bree still the only right-back/natural wing-back present.

However, if the season were to start tomorrow then Nathan Jones would be pretty satisfied with the group of players in front of him and there is very little reason to believe that they can’t repeat a very strong showing in the Championship this season.

The ultimate example of a manager perfectly fitting the club that he is working within. Nathan Jones has had a very successful career at Kenilworth Road and his brand of energy alongside solid tactical nous and good coaching has meant that Luton have risen to be a legitimate top-half team in the Championship.

There has been a bit of variety in the tactics used by Jones whilst at Luton but their playoff season was built upon a 3-5-2. With the additions brought into the squad Jones has the options to play a variety of formations, albeit I would expect the starting formation to remain the same.

Verdict

9th feels like a step down for Luton, but it would be another excellent finish and one to establish themselves as a consistent feature of the top half of the Championship. The xG stats would suggest that last season’s playoff finish was slightly overestimating their performances but I think those could even improve this year and still get a lower finishing position.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Like many squads that we have assessed in this piece QPR are well stocked in the central areas. Jake Clarke-Salter comes into the club to bolster an already solid back line. Kenneth Paal is a much needed addition at left back but requires a degree of luck to work out, the average percentage of minutes played by a signing from the Eredivisie over the 2017-2021 period was less than 30%. Paal has looked an interesting player in pre-season though and will start as first choice left back.

QPR also will not be short of creation and vibes. The double threat of Chris Willock and Ilias Chair was important to the successful beginning of the season in 2021/22 and if there is room for both in Beale’s plan then we ca expect a lot of entertainment from them. If that wasn’t enough already then they went and added Taylor Richards and Tyler Roberts into that attacking midfield/support striker area. This is great for at least two reasons, extra ball carrying and attacking ability but also we are surely bound to get some commentators slipping up and getting it wrong!

However, there are some gaps in this squad. Osman Kakay is currently the only natural right back in the squad. Also, the options at centre forward are not exactly a guaranteed source of goals. Lyndon Dykes is likely to reman first choice and he is an excellent target man and foil for the rest of the attack but Macauley Bonne has impressed in pre-season and may well get some opportunities to impress. 

Rookie first team manager Mick Beale is about to embark upon a Championship season and becomes one of the top examples of the new trend of employing talented backroom staff from top clubs to give them a chance as the main man.

His schooling goes back many years but it’s his recent work under Steven Gerrard, for which Beale gets a lot of credit, that seems to have turbo-charged his reputation enough for a great club such as QPR to give him this chance.

The fans seem excited by what they have seen so far and will no doubt give him a chance. If it looks as though his ideas are getting through and some results are going their way then this could be the start of something good for The Super Hoops.

Verdict

Beale to hit the ground running and deliver QPR a top half finish again. The attacking options have been extended but perhaps the goalscoring nous is still somewhat lacking to power them higher up the table.

Team: Queens Park Rangers


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

At the time of writing Rovers’ squad is the one that has been subjected to the fewest incomings. Only Callum Brittain has been added to last year’s 8th placed squad, whilst the club saw the departures of senior players such as captain Darragh Lenihan, Joe Rothwell, Ryan Nyambe and Bradley Johnson leave on free transfers.

On the face of it that would appear a really negative outlook. However, with change comes possibility. Out went Tony Mowbray after four good seasons at this level but in his place comes a full change of structure behind the scenes. Director of Football Gregg Broughton was appointed to take charge of the football operations and then Jon Dahl Tomasson came in as head coach but this has very much left squad building a bit late.

Having said that, the existing squad does have a first XI of some quality. Thomas Kaminski is one of the best goalkeepers in the league and Scott Wharton has shown constant improvement to become a rock as well as a key facilitator in building out from the back. Lewis Travis, John Buckley and Bradley Dack is a cultured but snappy midfield and, at the time of writing, Ben Brereton Diaz remains at the club.

The Chilean international’s goalscoring form was something of a surprise and certainly a repeat of that will see Blackburn do well, but it somehow feels unlikely. Sam Gallagher has never truly convinced as a goalscorer whilst Tyrhys Dolan & Dilan Markanday are still young and unproven.

There are also some concerns that Tomasson’s preferred playing style of quick and direct passing through the thirds isn’t matched up by the technicality of the players at his disposal. More recruitment is required and with most of it coming so late it is difficult to accurately get a hold of Blackburn’s chances.

Jon Dahl Tomasson comes to England off the back of a successful spell at Malmo, his first real success in management. The Dane has a defined role as head coach and has already stated how much he is enjoying working with the players, he could be a fine choice to work with a talented but young (only Daniel Ayala over 30) squad.

Tomasson is likely to employ a 4-2-3-1 system initially, with the wide forward players tucking inside to give a lot of options centrally. It creates a narrow attack but width needs to be provided from the full backs. We should also expect a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 system to play a part during the season.

Verdict

A season of building for Blackburn but there is enough talent in the first XI to pick up some good results as long as the head coach is able to get to grips with the competition and that Brereton Diaz remains a Blackburn player for most of the season at least.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

City certainly seemed to know what business they wanted to do early in this window. Kane Wilson was a free transfer that every big League One and mid-size  Championship club wanted to do this summer, but Bristol City were the ones to capture his signature. He fills an important gap for the club, quality wing backs are always tough to find, and should be a big provider of chances for the forwards.

In a similar vein both Mark Sykes and Kal Naismith were convinced to come to Ashton Gate ahead of either remaining at their clubs or joining a rival. Sykes gives more final third options and Naismith lends versatility, leadership, experience and a sweet left foot, so he could be invaluable to the manager.

The rest of the squad is a real dichotomy. There is a heck of a lot of experience for Pearson to call upon alongside a few young stars that need investment time on the pitch. Alex Scott will likely be a starter in midfield after a breakthrough season last term and an outstanding contribution to England U19’s successful Euros campaign. Ayman Benarous, Zak Vyner and Han-Noah Massengo are all high potential players that require more time as well.

In my opinion, if Joe Williams stays fit and is playing at the level he is capable of then Bristol City could have a more productive season than in recent times. The former Wigan man is vastly underrated at the moment and he provides everything you might need in midfield. A combination involving Williams, Scott and Massengo would certainly break a lot of lines in possession.

At the top end Andreas Weimann had his best ever scoring season last time out. The Austrian should actually get more chances this season with the additions discussed earlier so he could be an interesting outsider shout for the Top Goalscorer markets in The Championship.

Nigel Pearson tends to get a bad rap in modern football. His way of dealing with the media can sometimes get people against him. However, he seems to understand how to build a team and his record in The Championship is actually very good.

With Kane Wilson in I would expect Pearson to stick with a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 system with flexibility in the final third. Supporters will definitely be looking to see an improvement this season and it feels as though they could turn on Pearson if they are given a poor start.

Verdict

I’m quite impressed with the way that Bristol City are building and there is enough in their squad to suggest that they will score plenty of goals. The question is whether they will continue to concede them at the same rate, I suspect they might tighten up slightly.


18+ | New UK players only | Min deposit req. £10 | Certain deposit methods excluded | Place 1 sport bet (3+ selections) | Excl Horse Racing | Min stake £10 | Max stake £20 | Min Odds 1/2 (1.5) for each selection | Max FreeBet £20 for football only | FreeBet valid for 7 days | FreeBet stake not returned | T&Cs apply

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

After a rather nondescript season in the Potteries Stoke City fans will be looking for something much more successful and exciting in 22/23. Key to this will be Nick Powell’s fitness, the attacking midfielder is the main man for Stoke but unfortunately both he and Harry Souttar, the influential central defender, have not played much of a part in pre-season.

The recent signing of Dwight Gayle will have lifted spirits at the Bet365 Stadium though. The former-Newcastle man is well known as one of the phalanx of players that scores goals in the Championship whilst perhaps struggling to do so in the Premier League. However, the marksman will turn 33 during the season so question marks will begin to rise about how sharp he will continue to be. This is also a key season for Tyrese Campbell as the young man looks to regain that form that enabled him to burst onto the scene in 2020/21 before a terrible injury kept him out for so long.

There isn’t much to complain about in central defence for The Potters. Even without Souttar at the moment they have solid citizens in Ben Wilmot, Aden Flint and Phil Jagielka there, though a lack of pace in a couple of those players could hurt their tactical flexibility. 

Lewis Baker very much came to the fore in midfield at the back end of last season but there has been a lot of effort put into re-modelling that department over the summer. Gavin Kilkenny, Will Smallbone and Josh Laurent have been brought in and all three are of different profiles. Where Stoke may lack tactical flexibility in defence, they have bucket loads of it in midfield. If O’Neill can work it correctly then the engine in the Stoke outfit could help them become a more dynamic side with different ways of progressing the ball.

Michael O’Neill is embarking upon his fourth full season as Stoke City manager and the initial good will that greeted his hiring and the upturn in form that it brought has petered out into sweeping apathy and potential disruption, especially if there is a poor start to the season.

Flashes of good form and the gradual squad makeover from the Premier League days has allowed O’Neill some patience but with that churn of players now completed the fans will be expecting to see clear progress. The start will be important.

Verdict

I don’t think that Stoke have done enough in improving their squad to make a big step forward. I also doubt that O’Neill’s style will change enough to move them out of the low-margin matches that could go any way.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

At the time of writing Sunderland have a very small squad. The only recognised out-and-out senior forward is Ross Stewart, the only left-back is Dennis Cirkin and there are only four central defenders for a probably three starting places, which is fine but can be cutting it fine in the depths of winter.

This may change before the end of the transfer window of course but it may also work for Sunderland. Having a tight-knit group concentrating on quality over quantity and making sure that everyone knows their jobs and is constantly involved.

There is quality in the squad, the way that Sunderland finished the season, with only one defeat under Alex Neil, and that play-off final win, means that they are likely to be in very good spirits heading into the season. If the creativity of Dan Neil, Alex Pritchard and Elliott Embleton can free the likes of Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts to feed Stewart then Sunderland definitely have a game plan that will keep them in the division.

Securing those loanees on a permanent deal was clearly the main plan of the summer, but potentially the most surprising and impressive signing was to bring in Dan Ballard on a permanent deal. The young Northern Irish international left Arsenal to join Sunderland but would’ve been wanted by many after already establishing his Championship credentials in a loan spell with Millwall last season. He could make a real difference whereas the other defensive signing of Aji Alese is much more of a risk but could turn out to be a masterstroke.

Sunderland fans’ prayers were answered when Alex Neil delivered a long awaited promotion out of League One. The Scotsman obviously has the full support of the passionate fanbase, though most will expect to be entertained as well as be successful so it could still be a tough season.

Expectations of success are wide-ranging as well. With some fans accepting that simply survival would be fine to some fans thinking that a playoff push could be possible, Neil will manage pragmatically in a likely 4-2-3-1 formation to begin the season. The Scot will remain level-headed no doubt so perhaps he is the right man to manage the inevitable rollercoaster of a season that Sunderland will have.

Verdict

I really respect Alex Neil’s ability as a manager so even with a skeleton squad I think that Sunderland will be highly competitive this season. 


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

It appears to have been fairly hard going for Preston to build up a head of steam in player recruitment this summer. Of the players that have been brought aboard the Lowecomotion Robbie Brady and Ben Woodburn are decent Championship players that can work well in a Ryan Lowe system, but neither are game changing for the Lilywhites.

At the time of writing Lowe will attempt to tread the path that Alex Neil did for a few seasons at Deepdale, trying to get the most out of a good, but not outstanding, group of players. At times they really showed a high level under Lowe but taking the last 16 matches of the season as a whole PNE were firmly in mid table for xPts.

A lot will depend on the continued improvement of Emil Riis. The Dane has developed well over the last two seasons, finally being able to bring together some good running in the channels with some spectacular goals. He is still a little too easy to defend against as a lone striker, so we can expect Lowe to continue to use him alongside a partner, at the moment Ched Evans still looks like he’ll get first refusal at that role.

The central midfield engine room is proven with Alan Browne, Ben Whiteman, Ryan Ledson and Daniel Johnson providing the mix of steel and enterprise required. However, wide areas are still a concern. Though Brad Potts did well in a RWB role last season there is a feeling that Preston are still missing a lot of attacking ingredients from both wingback roles.

Ryan Lowe still has the Preston fans onside and he deserves a shot at a full season. His lower league management record is excellent and the Preston board aren’t usually ones for any knee-jerk reactions, so even a shaky start will be given time.

Having played 3-5-2 at Plymouth it was easy enough to deploy that formation at Preston too. However, there has been some flirtation with a 4atb system in pre-season. This would make sense in that it would allow Lowe to use width higher up the pitch, or even concentrate his forces into the centre with a 4-D-2. It will be interesting to see what develops from this in the season itself.

Verdict

A lack of squad improvement and a difficulty in creating chances will hold Preston back this season, but they should have more than enough to stay away from any trouble.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The celebrations of Hull City fans when the Assam family sold the club to the new owners earlier in 2022 now are even more understandable having seen the amount of money poured into the transfer market this summer.

The question is, will it work? The players that are being brought to the East Riding of Yorkshire club are exotic, and unknown to most Championship followers. One player that isn’t an unknown though is Jean Michael Seri, and picking him up on a free transfer was a massive shock early in the window.

The Turkish market has been pilfered, a potentially smart move as that Super Lig is a Band 2 league in the post-Brexit work permit regulations, but is a market that very few clubs feel confident in shopping in at the moment. I would be a liar to say that I know very much about Ozan Tufan, Dogukan Sinik or Benjamin Tetteh but they have certainly given The Tigers a lot of depth in their squad.

Oscar Estupinan was another shocking signing in that he had helped Vitoria Guimaraes to a European finish in the league but has left Portugal for beautiful Hull. Tobias Figueiredo is likely to come in as a starting central defender for Hull as well after impressing for Nottm Forest in their promotion campaign, this is definitely an astute pick up.

Now, as always, this impressive recruitment has to come together quite quickly and meld with the existing talent. Ideally this needs to happen in August as an East Riding winter may not be to too many of these guys’ tastes.

To me it is still a bit of a mystery as to how Shota Arveladze managed to get the job at Hull. He doesn’t seem to pass work permit criteria, but even so, his managerial record on the whole is quite average.

Quite average was all he needed to be last season when he came in. Grant McCann had already gotten Hull fairly close to survival but the Georgian came in and didn’t really manage to change too much. Form fluctuated but it was easily good enough to stay clear of the drop.

Now that Arveladze has had the generous support of the new owners in bringing in players, the pressure increases on him. Owners will want to see improvement and probably a top half finish. Now we will learn more about Arveladze.

Verdict

Well, Hull could be just about anything this season. It is probably the widest spread of any club in the Championship. I have landed them here simply because I have my doubts over the manager and also it can be difficult for lots of new players from different countries to successfully adapt to the Championship.


New customers. Min stake £10. 3x £10 Free Bets. Keep it fun – set your deposit limit. T&Cs apply. 18+ BeGambleAware.org.

Claim Offer


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Joel Piroe was a virtual unknown this time last year. Swansea took the plunge on the young man for a fee of around £1m and now the Welsh club are batting off fees of over 10x that amount. If Piroe was to be sold though, the resources in the forward line really would be looking recklessly thin.

Arguably they are too thin for a realistic promotion push as it is. Piroe and Michael Obafemi are the clear choice as a front pairing. Jamie Paterson and Olivier Ntcham can provide some moments of magic buzzing around them but look outside of that and it is difficult to see where reinforcements may come from.

The team has a solid foundation and recycling the ball in possession shouldn’t prove to be difficult. Matt Grimes continues as captain and chief string-puller in midfield, but is helped out, probably in both roles, by experienced Welsh international Joe Allen, replacing Flynn Downes who was thrust into the Premier League with West Ham.

Nathan Wood and Harry Darling are added to the central defence. Both young and technically sound defenders, it should be easier for Russell Martin to play the way he wants with the ball. From a Swans perspective there is hope that the defensive solidity will come along with that, but there is now a lack of experience there to contend with.

Russell Martin gets his first full pre-season with Swansea and with his meticulous nature it’ll be interesting to see if this has any effect on how The Swans start the season. 

Martin has a reputation, based on two seasons, of a very high possession style with great patience. However, towards the back end of last season it felt as though there had been a slight shift towards a more direct style. Interestingly, taking the last 16 matches of last season into account Swansea were actually 23rd for xPts in this style.

Verdict

There was very little in the data last season to support Swansea doing any better than they did. There has been little to no squad improvement in the off-season so I think they could slip down the table somewhat with others improving around them.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The crown jewels of last year’s playoff push have been taken from Huddersfield’s squad. Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo have gone to Nottingham Forest in the last couple of weeks and, at the time of writing, they have not yet been replaced. Whilst they may well have plans afoot to do this, at the moment it is impossible to say that their squad is in better shape than last year.

However, the squad is still very much the one that made it to the play-off final last season. The reinforcements have come in central defence with Will Boyle and Yuta Nakayama both of whom will battle it out for the LCB position in a back 3 whilst Nakayama could also replace Toffolo at left-back. David Kasumu on a free from MK Dons will also come into the defensive structure just in front of the defence.

Other incomings see Jack Rudoni come in from AFC Wimbledon and Connor Mahoney join the Terriers on a free transfer. Mahoney really hasn’t fulfilled his potential yet but will provide a direct, wide option. Rudoni is a talented player, good in the air and technically gifted. He found a few goals for Wimbledon last year even if his team struggled. However, I personally don’t see that the transfer activity from Huddersfield actually improves their first XI drastically.

One of the key men from last season, Sorba Thomas, remains at the club and it is likely that they will rely on his excellent set-piece delivery again to create chances from those situations. 

Huddersfield look fairly light going forwards though with Danny Ward again likely to lead the line with Jordan Rhodes in reserve. Both performed their roles well last season but no doubt Schofield would like more options both in wide and #10 positions as well as the #9 role.

Danny Schofield is about to take on his rookie season as the main man at the helm. Something of a club legend in his playing days, 248 appearances, Schofield has gathered plenty of experience in youth and age group football.

Early signs are that Schofield will look to continue a similar approach to his predecessor Carlos Corberan but time will tell if he can be as tactically astute. Excellent coaching and in-game management was one of the driving factors behind Huddersfield’s success last term so to get near to a repeat level of success Schofield may have to reproduce some of that.

Verdict

Carlos Corberan leaving the club just gives me the ‘no’ feeling on Huddersfield’s chances of repeating their excellent finish of last season. The changes in squad are ok but nothing to particularly improve the first team and combining this with a rookie manager I think that there could be a substantial fall coming this season.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Cardiff have been busy in the transfer market. The long term rumour of Gareth Bale coming to Cardiff didn’t come off with the Welshman moving to LA, but that did at least free up funds to bring in multiple players.

Clearly Morison is making sweeping changes to the squad in order to better implement his ideas and style of play. To this end the likes of Ebou Adams, Romaine Sawyers and Sheyi Ojo have been brought to the club to bring more technicality to midfield. Clearly Morison intends to use skill and passing to open up defences more than sheer physicality.

The additions of Cedric Kipre and Jamilu Collins make a lot of sense in defence as both are quick over the ground, allowing Cardiff to play a much higher line this year and press the opposition into their own half. Mahlon Romeo, Vontae Daley-Campbell and Callum O’Dowda coming into the club mean that they are not short of wing backs either, always a tricky position to recruit for.

So the numbers are there and the strategy seems to be clear. But there still seems to be a problem in the forward positions. Faith is being put into the youngsters of Isaak Davies, Mark Harris and Max Watters and perhaps that will pay off. It just feels a little light in that vital position.

Steve Morison deserves a degree of praise for the way that he completely changed the style of play at Cardiff from Mick McCarthy’s direct play to a more possession-based strategy.

There is another side to Morison though that some would describe as “he says it like it is”. There has been public condemnation of some of his players. Morison will just need to ensure that his words are implemented in the right way in his group of players, otherwise mutiny could spring up.

Verdict

I think that a lower midtable finish would be a success for Morison’s men. Changing the style of a club is never an easy task but there are some interesting signings in the recruitment.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Blackpool actually have one of the most balanced squads in the league, a testament to the decision makers in the last couple of seasons.

Whatever Appleton wants to do with the squad in terms of formation should be possible. The only position not double covered is RB with Jordan Gabriel the only player there, however, at the time of writing he is under a transfer bid from Burnley. That would be a big blow to Blackpool.

New loan signing Rhys Williams is added to a central defensive unit already containing quality in Marvin Ekpiteta and underrated Jordan Thorniley. James Husband and Luke Garbutt are experienced options on the left and Kenny Dougall & Callum Connolly are solid in front of the defence. 

New signing Lewis Fiorini has already had an impressive pre-season and big things are expected of him, especially if reported interest in Josh Bowler materialises in the superb dribbler leaving. 

There are plenty of other wide options and forward options in the squad, though none really scream “top-half Championship”. Gary Madine, Shayne Lavery, Jake Beesley & Jerry Yates offer an interesting mix of styles and roles but none really stand out.

This will have been quite a surprising turn of events for most observers. Neil Critchley left to replace Mick Beale at Aston Villa so the Blackpool board moved for Michael Appleton, freshly departed from Lincoln City after an underwhelming stint at Sincil Bank.

Appleton has had a good reputation throughout almost all of his coaching career. There have been good spells, especially at Oxford United, and he certainly seems to attract good loans from bigger clubs which could help Blackpool. But this will be a big challenge for Appleton and if he is to fulfil the potential that people have attributed to him over the years then consolidating Blackpool and then moving them forward is a must.

Verdict

The departure of Neil Critchley will have been a shock to supporters, players and club alike so if Appleton can stabilise and continue Blackpool’s stay in the Championship then that will probably be classed as a success.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The headlines for Rotherham’s summer probably come in the outgoings rather than the incomings. New deals for major squad members in Michael Ihiekwe and Michael Smith were turned down in favour of moves of 7 miles up the A6109 to the blue half of Sheffield, back in League One.

Despite that disappointment the recruitment team have gotten on with the top and remodelled the central defence and attack. Jamie McCart, Cameron Humphreys and Grant Hall have come into the centre of defence, all of whom make a lot of sense for The Millers. Similarly, Tom Eaves will replace Michael Smith like for like, and if he proves ineffective then perhaps Conor Washington or Georgie Kelly (bought in January) can provide something different.

It is goals that is the concern for Rotherham though. Can the exceptionally high number of set piece goals be replicated in the Championship? Certainly the quality delivery of Dan Barlaser shouldn’t change, but the defenders and strategists in the second tier may be of a higher quality to prevent quite the same rate of pilfering goals from dead ball situations for Rotherham.

They just missed out on survival on the narrowest margin last time they were in the division, if they had kept Smith and Ihiekwe then I would’ve been confident in suggesting they might have made it this time around. If Ben Wiles and Cheo Ogbene stay for the whole season and their tactics are effective then it is still possible. I suspect it will be tight either way.

It feels like we all know Paul Warne much better these days after the release of the “Moment of Truth” podcasts from the BBC. He even proclaims himself that he isn’t a tactical wizard, instead relying on his assistants for that expertise. Warne is a people manager, an expert in emotional intelligence. He seems to be a reluctant manager but he’s been Rotherham’s most successful manager since Ronnie Moore and if he can keep the Millers up this time around then he may even surpass Moore in his achievements.

Warne’s style at Rotherham has been direct football, but that’s not to say long ball. There are tactical and technical innovations that has made their play so effective and it requires good players to play it well. The question to be answered here is whether the tactical nous and quality of the players will be enough for Rotherham to be effective for 21st place or higher.

Verdict

Warne and his deputies will have learned a lot from their previous spells in the division and this time I think that they might just survive.


18+. A free membership in Andy’s Bet Club provides you with the highest rated upcoming football bets using algorithm-generated probabilities. You’ll also be able to compare over 1.5 goals, over 2.5 goals, over 3.5 goals and both teams to score statistics, as well as check head-to-head results and club form.

Join Now


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

To say that Reading entered the summer with a bit of recruitment to do would be similar to saying that Edmund Hillary had a bit of a hill to climb at the base of Everest.

Due to the financial situation at the club Reading had very few players registered going into this transfer window. However, there is quite a bit of optimism around the club at the moment. That comes from the players that they have been able to bring in.

Obviously Thomas Ince returned to the club on a permanent basis, but they have also brought in a whole new midfield and goalkeeper department. All of whom have good experience, and Tyrese Fornah who has shown some excellent athleticism and good potential. 

However, it is the players that have remained that will have a big impact. More responsibility will fall at the feet of Ovie Ejaria now and he is likely to take up a central position to influence play more. Lucas João is a player of genuine quality that guarantees a certain number of goals when fit. Andy Yiadom, Tom McIntyre and Scott Dann also continue and provide some defensive consistency.

The problem is that obviously the quality of the squad is very thin. If suspensions and injuries hit then Reading will hit real difficulty.

It was one of the more shocking and bizarre appointments seen in the Championship for many years, but Paul Ince’s appointment as Reading manager worked out. Reading stayed in the Championship, but were left with a very small squad.

The rebuild highlighted above has been done with Ince involved and it feels as though he will have to live or die by that recruitment. From his past record there won’t be too much in the way of tactical innovation, but whatever he did last season worked enough to keep their heads above water. The ambition will be to do the same again until the financial issues improve.

Verdict

In summary, Reading may not be as doomed as some pundits would have us believe. There is a functional squad there, albeit not a very deep one. I expect them to be competitive, around the 1-1.2 points per game mark, which puts them in and around the relegation line. I think they might just fall short.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

I can’t see a great deal of inspiration in this Birmingham squad. New signings Auston Trusty and Premyslaw Placheta have much to prove at this level and there’s no way of knowing whether they are up to it right now. Is there going to be a place for Harlee Dean back in the Blues lineup?

Ivan Sunjic has been sold to the Bundesliga so that some wages off the bill and to be fair the central midfield options look ok with Ryan Woods, Juninho Bacuna and Gary Gardner being joined by promising youngster Jordan James.

I have my doubts over every other position in the squad though. There is so little creativity anywhere, a lack of pace and a lack of dynamism in the forward areas. It is difficult to see where enough goals are going to come from to make this work for Birmingham.

This is John Eustace’s first permanent first team manager role in the EFL. He does have experience in the hotseat from his time at Kidderminster Harriers and he has good reputation from his assistant work at QPR.

It feels like a very big job for Eustace and a tough one. However, we will have to reserve judgement on his skill and character until we can observe it in the heat of battle.

Verdict

There isn’t a great deal of positivity to spread about the current Birmingham situation. There just doesn’t look to be any deal of great quality in the playing squad and now in the hands of an inexperienced manager who has his hands full with this assignment.


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The Wigan fans must be wondering what is going on this summer. Last summer was something of an onslaught in the transfer market and the fruits of that were borne when Wigan sealed promotion from League One in April.

Thus far in 2022 only Ryan Nyambe has joined the squad, and that on a curiously structured free agent one-year deal with extensions. Unless anything else happens this week then they will enter the Championship season with the same personnel that were used in League One.

The vast majority of the squad is untested at Championship level, and those that have played in the second tier haven’t particularly done so with distinction. However, the squad is quite well balanced. All positions are covered with the right amount of depth, it is more the absolute quality that is in question.

Callum Lang looks the type of player to be able to step up to the level and no doubt the tactical organisation of Leam Richardson will mean that the defensive structure will be set up well. I just have my doubts that they will be able to score enough goals between Will Keane, Josh Magennis and Stephen Humphreys.

Leam Richardson settled into the role of first team manager quite seamlessly at Wigan. His style is quite understated off-the-pitch but adaptable and effective on it.

Richardson certainly benefitted from a well recruited squad last summer so it will be more of a test of his acumen this time around. I think he is capable, the question is whether it will be enough.

Verdict

The mystifying lack of investment could really hurt the side. Asking a squad built for League One to kick on again in the Championship is a tough call, especially with a group and a manager that have very little experience at this level.


Written by an Andy verified content writer

18+ please gamble responsibly.