The Championship : Examining the Favourites
The English Championship has often been referred to as the toughest and the least predictable league in the world. It certainly seems to merit such labels when one considers the fact that the last time the favourites won this league was Kevin Keegan's Manchester City side in the 2001/2002 season prior to the triumph of Rafa Benitez's Newcastle this past season. Bournemouth won the title as 25-1 outsiders as recently as 2014/2015. This is a 46 game slog of a season in which the clubs adorned as favourites frequently perish on the rocks. Teams priced as high as 80-1 and 100-1 have placed inside the top three with surprising frequency.
Using this historical analysis as a rough guide I'll attempt to search for teams who may fit the bill for this coming season. Aston Villa and Middlesborough have been labelled joint favourites at 6/1 by Paddy Power. Wovles are priced up at 6/1 and Fulham just behind them at 15/2. These 4 sides are the main favourites to win the league outright.
Aston Villa :
Villa under Steve Bruce finally look well poised for a tilt at the title. Considerable money has been invested since their relegation from the Premier League. They should have enough firepower with the likes of Kodija, Scott Hogan, Ross McCormack and a rejuvenated Gabby Agbonlahor. These players are well established at Championship level. Bruce has added mettle to the midfield with the additions of Glenn Whelan and El Mohamady to further compliment the January signing of Conor Hourihane. Young winger Andre Green could be the surprise package in this squad. John Terry is the marquee acquisition and he should play a massive role in the clubs chances. I'll be shocked if Villa are not in the top 3 come the season end.
'Boro look really well placed to fight it out for automatic promotion. They'll be looking to bounce right back up after their demotion from the Premier League. Some smart signing mean that's a highly possible outcome. In Britt Assombalonga they have acquired one of the best goalscorers outside of the top flight. The 24-year-old was hit by frequent injuries last season but still managed a respectable 14 goals. Don't be surprised to see him top the goalscoring charts if the maintains his fitness. The frugal defence remains so all this side was short on is goals but they look to have remidied that. In addition to Assombalonga they have also brought in Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher to further compliment the excellent Patrick Bamford. The team looks very well balanced and expect to see them in the fight for automatic promotion.
The odds on Wolves look strange to my eyes. Yes they bought the most expensive Championship player ever in Ruben Neves when they signed him from Porto. The 20-year-old is the youngest player to ever captain a Champions League team. His motivation in moving to Molineux is difficult to understand. They still lack a recognised goalscorer. Money has been spent but this squad looks far from convincing compared to their promotion rivals. I expect they will flatter to deceive and finish closer to mid table than the top 3.
The Cottagers were a real surprise last season and did fantastically well with a quite limited squad. Little has been done in the way of additional signings so expecting a repeat performance might be asking a bit much. They are a decent squad and have plenty of ability but I expect to see them finish a bit shy of the play-off places.
Along with Villa and Middlesbrough fighting for the title and automatic promotion, I expect the play-offs to be as competitive as ever. I expect the remainder of the top 6 to come from the following pack: Leeds Utd, Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Norwich City and Preston North End.