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2018-19 BWFC PREVIEW

August 3, 2018

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CHAMPIONSHIP 2018-19

August 1, 2018

 

ASTON VILLA

Manager: Steve Bruce 

Last season: Playoff Runners-Up

Prediction: 11th

Following defeat at Wembley against Fulham, the Villans have had a summer of uncertainty and inactivity. As of writing this article, (28/07/18) the club have failed to bring anyone in but have kept hold of key man Jack Grealish. Although, it is still expected Grealish will move on. Key players from their side last year also included Johnstone, Terry, Snodgrass and Grabban – therefore, that could their entire spine gone without replacement. I cannot see them being threatened by relegation because of the players they have left and the manager they have but they will definitel6 struggle to recreate last season.

 

BIRMINGHAM CITY

Manager: Garry Monk

Last season: 19th

Prediction: 15th

Earlier on in the summer, I was expected an ambitious recruitment drive from the City Blues. As it turns out, they’ve slowed down a lot following their buy of Kristian Pedersen from Union Berlin. Having said that, it’ll still be difficult for Birmingham to be worse than last year with the players they had. Garry Monk finished the season well and still has players like Jota and Che Adams that can make big impacts higher up the division. Unfortunately, I feel their competition for the 2 Centre-back spots is very mid-table and with the odd mercenary, Birmingham will be comfortable but not exciting.

 

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Last season: League 1 promotion (2nd)

Prediction: 21st

Once again, like Birmingham, I was anticipating an ambitious summer for Rovers. However, just Davenport and Rothwell have come into their midfield. They probably still need a striker as well as a centre-back to partner Lenihan. With the flair of Dack and industry of Smallwood and Bennett, though, I expect them to stay up then kick on next season. This year will do them good with a young squad gaining huge experience.

 

BOLTON WANDERERS

Manager: Phil Parkinson

Last season: 21st

Prediction: 18th

As ever, my prediction for this team has changed in the last week. The pending acquisition of Charlton’s Josh Magennis is a bargain regardless of what Addicks fans will say. Accompanied by another purchase up-front and the flair signings of Yanic Wildschut and Erhun Oztumer, the Whites have added a lot more creativity and potency up front. Parkinson trades on his defensive stability and efficiency so that shouldn’t worry anyway, perhaps some more depth with the signings of Hobbs and Robinson will make Bolton far more stable than last year. The target should be 50+ points for this season.

 

BRENTFORD

Manager: Dean Smith

Last season: 9th

Prediction: 5th

The key transfer story for The Bees this summer has been the ability to hold onto Ollie Watkins. With Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton of the Premier League all persistently linked, the west-London club (as of now) have kept hold of him. By no means is he the key man, that would fall on the shoulders of Ryan Woods but the attacking efficiency and flair of Watkins definitely offers Brentford the thrust. A solid defence and a free-flowing style that was only stifled by a horrible start to the 2017-18 season means a minor boost up into the playoffs shouldn’t be out of reach.

 

BRISTOL CITY

Manager: Lee Johnson 

Last season: 11th

Prediction: 14th

Once again, 2017-18 was a season in which Lee Johnson’s men “fell of a cliff”. Automatic promotion hopefuls at Christmas ended up in mid-table obscurity, as did a playoff chance the season before. This summer has led to the sales of key men Aden Flint and Bobby Reid as well as squad men Hordur Magnusson, Gary O’Neil and Lois Diony. Having said that, the bolstering of the squad has involved Hakeeb Adelakun, Mohamed Eisa and Jack Hunt arriving at Ashton Gate. However, apart from Hunt and Weimann, they are unproven purchases. They’ll stave off a relegation battle but they will struggle to create a run that leads to a top 6 finish.

 

DERBY COUNTY

Manager: Frank Lampard

Last season: 6th

Prediction: 2nd

The unpredictability of such a young manager is a risk. However, his articulation in punditry makes him the best around (for me). That is not a reason to think he’ll do well. My reason is that after finishing 6th last year, Derby have had the least amount of upheaval of the top sides. The only stand out side is Gary Rowett’s Stoke City. If Lampard is remotely successful then automatic promotion could well be on the cards.

 

HULL CITY

Manager: Nigel Adkins

Last season: 18th

Prediction: 23rd

A truly dire squad. They’ve released their quality barring Kamil Grosicki. Their only other threat is now at Derby on loan. Their main defensive player was a rotation man at Wanderers last season. They’ve shelled out nominal fees on David Milinkovic and Jordy De Wijs. It is seemingly going to be the end of Hull’s recently perennial top two tier status. An inconsistent manager with a lacklustre squad that screams relegation.

 

IPSWICH TOWN

Manager: Paul Hurst

Last season: 12th

Prediction: 20th

A top-half finish was derided by Town fans last season. They’re the ones that pay the money, they get to complain. However, the level of anger seemed to be so out of touch with their league positions. Perhaps it is simply an outside looking in hindsight. McCarthy didn’t get along with the supporters and the supporters weren’t too keen on his style it’s fair to say. Hurst has done an excellent job in his 18 months or so in Shropshire but it should be a good fit. Similarly to Blackburn, I believe a promotion push next season is more realistic whilst a struggle that finishes poorly will be the tale of 2018-19.

 

LEEDS UNITED

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Last season: 13th

Prediction: 10th

One of my favourite managers in world football. Bielsa is iconic. As pretentious as this will sound, the man rejuvenated tactical approaches in football and has inspired the likes of Pep Guardiola among others. A variation on the Cruyffian ideology is arguably not well suited to the Championship. As well as that, Bielsa’s recent spells have all been very Leedsy without involving Leeds. It’s a perfect suit for the wrong reasons. However, here is hoping he gets it right and we finally see the man grace the Premier League. The signings of Douglas and Baker with an impending deal for Bamford are really good but a mid-table squad needs more. 

 

MIDDLESBROUGH

Manager: Tony Pulis

Last season: 5th

Prediction: 3rd

Boro will be as lacklustre as last season but finish higher. The relegated sides (Stoke, Swansea and WBA) are solid but only Stoke should put together a title challenge. The other perennial top 6 sides such as Derby, Villa and Norwich all have uncertainty. For example, recently always in mid-table but Forest could mount a legitimate challenge. Therefore, the stability and knowledge of “what you’re going to get” with a solid side coached by THE solid manager should do well but finish high. Flint will score 12+ for Pulis by the way.

 

MILLWALL

Manager: Neil Harris

Last season: 8th

Prediction: 14th

An extremely surprising position last season of 8th should be difficult to replicate. As much as this is a season of uncertainty, there should be more teams looking at Top 6 and I would argue that Millwall benefitted from the poor starts and general disjointment of sides like Brentford, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday. Even Hull and Sunderland to a certain extent. They will not be in danger of falling into League One but their limited creativity might make the playoffs slightly out of reach.

 

NORWICH CITY

Manager: Daniel Farke

Last season: 14th

Prediction: 7th

The failed “new Huddersfield” has taken a further shift towards the European market. The already limited English talent in the Canaries’ side (Maddison & Murphy) have left whilst City have targeted abroad once more. Unlike sides like Wolves who have made a huge success of this strategy, Farke’s side lacked any precision in the attacking third but were a brilliant passing side led by Harrison Reed for stages last year. However, the new contract and squad number for Ben Godfrey means he could lead that first phase and the acquisition of Rhodes should help that potency. A further year to develop under Farke will see improvement but the playoffs should just be out of reach.

 

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Last season: 17th

Prediction: 4th

Unfortunately, that 4th placed prediction is based on paper rather than anything that has been analysed. The business done by Forest is impressive and as many have said “Wolves-like” however, I won’t say that because of possible legal implications, if you catch my drift. No complaints, I’d love a squad like Forest. If they gel, they can push for automatics and they’ve got the right manager to ensure there is no capitulation however he might be slightly too cautious for the squad he has. 

 

PRESTON NORTH END

Manager: Alex Neil

Last season: 7th

Prediction: 6th

They finished 2 points outside the playoffs last season, expect them to go higher this year. They remain criminally underrated, especially by fans of the “top” Championship clubs. A solid manager that has a Championship promotion on his CV is matched by a wonderful transfer/squad strategy that generates money whilst still maintaining a big squad. 

 

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

Manager: Steve McClaren

Last season: 16th

Prediction: 21st

They could easily go this year. As much as it’s great when youth players get given a chance, the reliance on them by QPR next year could be dangerous. Off-the-Field chaos again and an unknown signing from 2. Bundesliga. A squad more suited to a proper coach, which McClaren is, doesn’t necessarily result in success. An under-23 project that might just about scrape themselves up. Just.

 

READING

Manager: Paul Clement

Last season: 20th

Prediction: 22nd

Delusions of grandeur from Royals’ supporters. Once Liam Moore leaves, their defence will be McShane and O’Shea – I almost don’t need to elaborate. A dull side that play in a lacklustre system coached by a poser in a bowl. Soulless. Nothing personal, having said that. Reading have some nice, technical midfielders and have managed to buy two strikers in McNulty and Baldock. Two out and out strikers,  no links. A squad that doesn’t remotely suit Clement.

 

ROTHERHAM UNITED

Manager: Paul Warne

Last season: League One promotion (playoffs)

Prediction: 24th

A valiant effort for The Millers to react so positively to relegation. A brilliant push saw them over the line against the extremely unfortunate Shrewsbury in the playoffs last season. Warne did brilliantLy to adjust to squad limitations and bounce back from a woeful 2016-2017. He made Kieffer Moore prolific and then got the best out of Michael Smith. However, they just lack any real depth of quality throughout the squad, they will fight and it won’t be like the other season but they just don’t have enough and have the worst side in division.

 

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Manager: Chris Wilder

Last season: 10th

Prediction: 12th

A minor spot of uncertainty behind the scenes at Bramall Lane as Wilder’s position was unclear at one stage. However, last November’s second coming of Jesús remains in place at United. I don’t think they’ve necessarily built upon last season *that* much despite their record buy for John Egan of £4 million. Having said that, they haven’t been massively weakened by David Brooks’ departure. Therefore; no danger, no excitement – mid table obscurity for the Blades.

 

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Manager: Jos Luhukay

Last season: 15th

Prediction: 15th

A lack of signings last season led to a sloppy start and the sacking of Carlos Carvalhal. A year on, there is no sign of a signing and there is some minor off-field turmoil. Coupled with that, their manager maintains his reputation of an “unknown quantity”. However, I would suspect that their squad should just about have enough quality to stay up. Even though that squad might not be getting on that well.

 

STOKE CITY

Manager: Gary Rowett

Last season: Premier League relegation (19th)

Prediction: 1st

Although there are some limitations to Stoke. One being the manager. Although Rowett has succeeded everywhere he has gone, he is yet to actually get one over the line. It might be difficult to not get it over the line this season. A spine of Butland, Shawcross/Martins Indi, Allen/Etebo behind Ince and Afobe should absolutely be enough. No stand out sides like Fulham or Wolves to challenge, The Potters should be able to strongly challenge and win the title this year. A lack of defensive depth should be an issue that is sorted soon.

 

SWANSEA CITY

Manager: Graham Potter

Last season: Premier League relegation (18th)

Prediction: 18th

An interesting appointment unsupported by the club. Following a tweet from a Welsh-based journalist I checked out the Swansea squad. It is woeful. For a team that is relegated from a top division, it is not good at all. Having said that; McKay, Celina, Nmecha, McKenna are all useful improvements – Ryan Woods is the best deep lying playmaker in the division, that is some signing. However, he can’t create for a squad so lacking any effectiveness or efficiency.

 

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Manager: Darren Moore

Last season: Premier League relegation (20th)

Prediction: 8th

Although West Brom haven’t lost anyone unexpectedly. However, Foster and Evans are key departures with the expected sales of Rondon and Chadli as well as heavy interest in Dawson, Rodriguez and Hegazi. The midfield of Brunt, Livermore and Morrison is fairly heavy-legged and tired for a 46-game season. The new signings for WBA are risky if they are planning for promotion. There is absolutely no danger of a capitulation although the manager appointment is another risk because he has been given the job on the back of a positive end to a season – I support the decision but it could backfire. 

 

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Manager: Paul Cook

Last season: League One promotion (1st)

Prediction: 17th

Once again, this is a similar tale to Blackburn and Ipswich. These were sides with ambition at the start of the summer that has slightly faded and now it would be more sensible to properly consolidate this season before challenging in 2019-20. Especially with Wigan because their ownership takeover is yet to go through so they have struggled to get many in, in this window. However they had a good enough squad to stay up, they just haven’t really improved too much upon it so a mid-table finish should be a reasonable expectation.

 

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