Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
The opening weekend of the 2018/19 Championship lived up to all our expectations and more. There were shocks, routs and a ton of goals to make sure that if we weren’t quite yet excited about the new season, we sure were now. This article will look at what we learned from the games that were played over the weekend period and tentatively ask what it could mean for the rest of the season.
1. Always expect the unexpected.
Predictions and tips for the Championship are notoriously difficult. The league is very evenly-balanced and every season it appears there could be numerous promotion contenders will little to separate them. Last weekend proved this campaign will be exactly the same.
Just-relegated West Brom, with a wealth of Premier League talent in their team lost 2-1 at home to a Bolton side that has seen the board fail to pay its wages and has been widely tipped to be relegated. However, Phil Parkinson’s side dug deep and scored from two set-pieces to complete a stunning victory. Although, it is only the first game of the season and Bolton will probably face more troubles on and off the pitch later on in the season to reignite relegation fears.
Shocks were to be had elsewhere. Swansea have had a relatively unconvincing summer in terms of transfers and results and coming into an away match with promotion-contenders Sheffield United, few would have backed them to come from behind to win but they managed it with a late goal from new-signing Yan Dhanda. In addition, whilst Leeds had had a good summer, it was still a shock to see them blitz past a Stoke side favourites for the title and filled with quality, done so in a manner symbolic of a Marco Bielsa side. It could be a good year for Leeds fans.
2. Although, the usual suspects struggled.
Apart from Bolton and that stunning win, those who we thought could be at the bottom of the table had a weekend to forget.
Whilst Reading put up a spirited fight against Derby and looked set for a point, the 96th minute winner they conceded will have gutted them and they will have to forget about it quickly in time for their next game, away at a resurgent Nottingham Forest. In addition, QPR were the only side not to score in the Championship, going 1-0 down to Preston in a game they will not have expected to win, however, the fact they struggled for shots on target and possession will be a worry to Steve McClaren. Although, now a settlement has been made with the Football League over their Financial Fair Play fine, the club could make some loan signings and try and get bolster the squad. Furthermore, on Monday night Hull were beaten comprehensively at home against Aston Villa, having played relatively well but let down by some lacklustre defending. They will have to hope their new-look backline can gel quickly otherwise they are in real trouble.
Although, the teams already mentioned did not have as bad a day as newly-promoted Rotherham United, who lost 5-1 away to Brentford, kicking their season back in the Championship off in the worst possible way. Whilst too early in the season to make a definitive conclusion, they could struggle to compete against the better sides in the league after this display.
3. Brentford the MVPs of the Championship weekend.
Whilst on the subject of the Rotherham defeat, it is duly time to award Brentford with the Team of the Week. They fully deserved to win 5-1, keeping 70% of the ball, having 14 shots on goal and playing a fast, attacking brand of football. Brentford fans should be particularly excited by what the front four could do this season, with Sergi Canos, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins all scoring.
It should certainly raise the hopes towards a possible promotion push and silence some of the doubters. Despite this, the team may lose a few of its key players, with Swansea targeting midfielder Ryan Woods and Leicester linked with defender Chris Mepham. The club has to do their best to hang on to its squad in order to make a sustained promotion challenge.
4. Home advantage nowhere to be seen.
Out of the 12 games that were played over the opening weekend, only 4 teams managed to win at home. Brentford, Preston, Wigan and Leeds were the class above, whilst teams like Birmingham, Millwall and Bristol City were all held to draws, whilst strugglers Hull and Reading lost.
This could just be a coincidence, or it could represent the incredibly close nature of the teams in this league, that whether home or away, it will be a battle to get all three points. Indeed, four home victories on the opening weekend is the lowest figure in the past five seasons, so it could mean that this year will be the tightest league with have seen in a while.
5. Goals, goals, goals.
Not only were home teams mostly held to draws or losses, there were lots and lots of goals in those games. We saw three 2-2 draws, two 3-1 wins, a 3-2 win for Wigan against Sheffield Wednesday and a 5-1 thrashing by Brentford against Rotherham mentioned above. All in all, only one team, QPR, failed to score throughout the week which just showcases how exciting this league can be.
The fact that 23 teams scored is the highest seen in the Championship opening weekend since the 2012/13 season, when 20 teams scored. Ultimately, these great matches contributed to a whopping 43 goals scored over the weekend, far and away the highest seen in the last five seasons, with the closest being the 34 scored in the 2016/17 season.
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