EFL Championship 2019/2020 – how are all teams doing?

We have come through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, in the UK at least, and the country is beginning to come out of hibernation now. The Government have given the green light to sports associations to begin their activities again, and whether you agree or disagree with that decision, football is coming back into our lives very soon.

League One and League Two have already been ended prematurely, but the Championship is now confirmed to come back to us on 20th June, which some clubs are opposed to for obvious reasons.

With the Championship coming back, I wanted to warm us all back up for it by reminding everyone how each club had been doing over the season. The clubs are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Barnsley

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 24th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It’s been a disappointing season for the Tykes so far, and sadly it looks like it may be a fight in vain. Daniel Stendel’s mistake was that he brought in youthfulness into his team, with the likes of Aapo Halme being signed despite having played just four times for Leeds in his one season as a player there. To his credit, he has improved a lot, but at the start of the season it looked like a strange move when Barnsley just couldn’t get anything going.

Since Wolfsberger boss Gerhard Struber came in, Barnsley have looked much more of a threat, and have been much better to watch, particularly with Conor Chaplin scoring plenty of goals for them. However, they haven’t been able to get away from the bottom three, so it does look like an immediate return to League One for them sadly.

 

Birmingham City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 16th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a mixed season for the Blues, with them playing some good football, but not necessarily getting the rewards for it too much. It was a strange summer, with Garry Monk leaving the club in June, and his assistant and former Oxford United manager Pep Clotet being appointed as his successor. Then we had some good performances from them, but the highlight of the season has been Monk and Clotet’s spectacular falling-out partway through the season.

Overall, Birmingham will be absolutely fine this season, mostly thanks to their strike duo of Lukas Jutkiewicz and on-loan Aston Villa striker Scott Hogan keeping them afloat. Their lack of quality at times has perhaps shown very clearly by the fact that their last five games have brought them four draws and a loss. It did seem last season that, when they lost Che Adams to Southampton, they might struggle to replace him, and initially that was the case, but Hogan has replaced him well since his January loan arrival.

Given what we have said about their performances this season, and the results they have got from those performances, it is not surprising that Pep Clotet will be leaving the club at the end of the season. The early contenders for the Blues hotseat are Slavisa Jokanovic, who led Fulham and Watford into the Premier League; former Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton boss Chris Hughton, who had a successful spell at St. Andrews between 2011 and 2012, leading Birmingham to the play-offs that season, and also led Brighton to the Premier League; and former Derby County and Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough, who has already announced his departure from Burton Albion.

 

Blackburn Rovers

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 10th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It’s been a good season for Blackburn, with lots of improvement shown under Tony Mowbray. They currently sit just three points outside the play-offs, and given they have been one of the league’s strugglers over the last few seasons, and spent the 2017/2018 season down in League One, they have done incredibly well to come back as they have.

Two players who Mowbray brought in during his tenure in particular deserve a lot of credit for their part in the club’s rise; attacking midfielder Bradley Dack and striker Adam Armstrong. Dack is the beating heartbeat of the team, whereas Armstrong has scored 16 goals since making his loan move to the team permanent back in 2018, and he has been arguably Rovers’ best player this season.

 

Brentford

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 4th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

I could be here forever talking about how impressive Brentford have been this season. Manager Thomas Frank spent his summer taking a very good, well-balanced squad, and adding even more quality to it with the likes of midfielders Matthias Jensen and Christian Norgaard and striker Bryan Mbeumo, who has since become part of the so-called “BMW” partnership upfront (with Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma). They have gone from excellent to astonishingly good, and as a team it literally is a case of “the sky’s the limit”.

 

Bristol City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 7th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It’s been a slightly disappointing season for Bristol, by their high standards. They have a really good squad and should be in the play-off places, and yes they are just outside it, but they are an ambitious club with an ambitious manager in former Robins midfielder Lee Johnson. They have had a few moments this season that have let them down, and that has been their biggest enemy. Sometimes, you just want them to get a win, but they lacked a bit of quality at times.

In January, they did add Nakhi Wells from Burnley on a permanent deal, who had been on loan at QPR for the previous 18 months. It’s not been a disaster for them, but I think overall they would have hoped to have had a slightly better season.

 

Cardiff City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 9th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

The Bluebirds are another club who have had a mixed season, with them struggling slightly initially, and then when veteran Neil Warnock announced his departure, former Millwall manager Neil Harris came in and steadied the ship, and now they are sitting just two points outside the play-off places. They have climbed the table in stealth mode though, which makes it even more impressive, because whilst we were focusing on the battle at the top, and the likes of Brentford and Preston in the play-offs, they have come up to be part of the chasing pack. They are definitely in the mix for a potential play-off position if things go their way.

 

Charlton Athletic

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 22nd

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It’s been a strange season for the Addicks, because they have brought in good quality across the team, with the likes of Aiden McGeady, Macauley Bonne and Erhun Oztumer, and yet they have been struggling for points all season. It’s not been a disaster, but again, they have had a lack of consistency all season.

One thing that won’t have helped their cause is that they lost Conor Gallagher, who had been on loan to them for the first half of the season, as he moved to Swansea for the second half of the season, again on loan. Gallagher was one of their best players and someone the team could always rely on to create or score a goal when they really needed one, so that is perhaps one reason they have not quite had things their own way.

 

Derby County

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 12th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a disappointing season for Derby, by the standards they set last year. Granted, that was under now-Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, but they showed that they could play well and get results that matched their performances. This season, they have been more inconsistent under Philip Cocu, but they have still done OK on the whole.

The thing that I think they will be most concerned about is that they have scored as many goals as they have conceded, so that shows where their problems have mostly been this season. However, they are in a safe position in 12th, and given they have been under new leadership, it’s not been too bad overall, just poor compared to last season. They have had moments when they have looked really good, and moments when they have looked the complete opposite.

 

Fulham

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 3rd

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

Scott Parker has worked wonders with the team since he was appointed permanent manager over the summer. He has added quality to the team, with Ivan Cavaleiro signing from Wolves on loan (later made permanent), Anthony Knockaert signing from Brighton on loan, and Harry Arter on loan from Bournemouth, who also happens to be Parker’s brother-in-law. His team are playing well, sitting comfortably in the play-off places, but will feel that the top two is not out of reach just yet either. They are currently six points behind, but we have seen that the top 2 of Leeds and West Brom do slip up from time to time, so there is every chance that that deficit could be made up still. Fulham are prone to their own slips too, but if they keep going as they are, they will be absolutely fine.

 

Huddersfield Town

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 18th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a rocky season for the Terriers in all honesty, and not what they would have expected at all given how they had fought their way to the Premier League and survived their first season in the top flight. The quality in their side would have made them feel quietly confident about this season, but it didn’t start well at all. Jan Siewert became the first managerial casualty of the season when he left the John Smiths Stadium in August, after just one win in his seven months in charge. That was against Wolves in the Premier League.

However, the Cowley brothers then came in from Lincoln City, and immediately the place was brightened up again, and now they are still a little nervous about their position near the relegation zone, and aren’t clear yet, but they should be OK and next season, they can hopefully make a charge for the top six again, because they have the quality to do that, and the managerial duo to help them do it too.

 

Hull City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 21st

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a very poor season for Hull City. They started off looking OK, but Grant McCann’s short tenure may be coming to a sudden end unless he can get them moving back up the table. There is only one way to describe what has happened to them, and that is that they have sunk.

McCann has brought in a lot of players that he knew from his times at Peterborough and then Doncaster, such as Ryan Tafazolli, Marcus Maddison, Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, Herbie Kane, Martin Samuelson and Mallik Wilks, but they haven’t had the effect on the whole that I think he was hoping they would.

In January, they lost Kamil Grosicki to West Bromwich Albion, and Jarrod Bowen to West Ham United, and those two were the Tigers’ best players and most lethal attacking options, and sadly that has shown as they have struggled without them. The summer may see some interesting changes being made at the KCOM Stadium.

 

Leeds United

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 1st

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

This season was really a case of seeing whether Leeds could get over the hurdle that tripped them up last season, when they failed to get through the play-offs, losing to Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the semi-finals. There was some speculation whether head coach Marcelo Bielsa would stay after that immense disappointment for the Whites, but he did, and this season they were top of the tree when the league was suspended.

Their signings have included centre-back Ben White, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, and his performances have been so impressive that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City have reportedly been keeping tabs on him. Other signings made have been Helder Costa on loan from Wolves, and the re-signing of Manchester City’s Jack Harrison on loan. The latter in particular has been hugely influential in Leeds’s rise to the top of the Championship.

There have been signs of the same choke that they seemed to have last year, but the hope is that this year, if the league gets underway again, they can get themselves over the line at last. West Brom have been challenging them the whole way, but those two are the equivalent of Norwich and Sheffield United last year, in that they are distantly ahead of all the other teams in the league, so realistically they should both be sealing promotion this year.

 

Luton Town

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 23rd

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a disappointing first season in the Championship for Luton Town. They came up as one of the most exciting teams to watch, but with a new manager in Graeme Jones. He was a surprising appointment, not because of his lack of coaching experience (he was Roberto Martinez’ assistant at Swansea, Wigan, Everton and the Belgium national team, and was Darren Moore’s assistant at West Brom last season), but because it was his first managerial appointment. Granted, sometimes that works perfectly, like Frank Lampard at Derby or Steven Gerrard at Rangers. However, in this case, it didn’t work, and he has recently made his exit from Kenilworth Road by mutual consent.

Their signings have included former Wigan and West Brom winger Callum McManaman, former Manchester United, Fulham and Millwall midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe and former Everton defender Brendan Galloway, and those signings bring some Championship experience. However, the majority of their squad have never played in the Championship, and that is what I think has been a big reason for their struggles this season.

Their results have been very poor as well, losing 22 of their 37 games this season. It does seem to have been a case overall of a club coming into a league that might have been one step too far for them. They have recently re-appointed Nathan Jones as manager, which seems to be a good move at the moment although he will need to repair the bridges he burnt when he left for Stoke. It does look likely to be an immediate return to League One for the Hatters though.

 

Middlesbrough

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 19th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

Another team who have not had things go their way this season. Middlesbrough appointed former defender and member of their coaching staff Jonathan Woodgate as their new manager ahead of this season, but it hasn’t yet worked out as they would have hoped. They have spent the majority of this season lingering near the bottom of the table, and that has not been where a team like Middlesbrough should be. If we look at their team, we see quality in the likes of Ashley Fletcher and Paddy McNair, who have both been good at most points of the season. Younger club-grown players like Marcus Tavernier and Lewis Wing have also shown at times this season that they have what it takes to fit into this team.

However, there have been some really disappointing performances this season, and their 9 wins is the second-lowest in the league (ahead of only bottom-side Barnsley). They have gained 14 draws, which is what is keeping them out of the relegation zone at the moment, but for a team that have been used to higher places in the last few seasons, including a successful promotion campaign back in 2015-2016. However, since they have come back down to the Championship, they haven’t been the same side. There are hopes that Woodgate’s first season will lead to an improvement in the side’s performances, because whilst I am confident that they will survive this season, they are only two points above the relegation zone, and that will be a worry for them I’m sure.

 

Millwall

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 8th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

Millwall have been one of the surprise packages this season, in that they have done much better than many might have thought they would. One of the reasons for that has been the form of midfielder Jed Wallace, who I tweeted back in January would be a good signing for a team like Southampton who needed an injection of pace and quality following their slight slump nearer the end of last calendar year. Wallace’s ability with the ball has been really good to watch this season, and his 10 goals from midfield have been a testament to that.

Other players who have played their part in Millwall’s rise this season have been veteran former Oldham, Leeds, Fulham and QPR striker Matt Smith, former Southend and Sheffield United midfielder Ryan Leonard, and former Blackburn and Bournemouth winger Connor Mahoney, to name just a few, but as a squad they have been really good to watch.

The main reason for that rise has been the appointment of Gary Rowett, who came in to the club in October, with the club in 18th place in the table, and former boss and now Cardiff manager Neil Harris saying that, after four years in charge, he felt he had taken the club as far as it could go. Since then, the Lions have gone from strength to strength, and Rowett has seemingly rebuilt his career slightly after comparatively disappointing spells at Derby and Stoke following his success at Birmingham.

They are without a doubt a good shout to get into the playoff positions at the end of the season, with 2 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss in their last five games. However, the change in results since Rowett comes in speaks for itself with this.

 

Nottingham Forest

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 5th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

Nottingham Forest have been one of the best and most exciting teams this season, and only nine losses this season shows you how good they have been this season. There was some scepticism when Martin O’Neill left at the end of last season, along with all of his coaching staff, and was replaced by a relatively unknown manager in Sabri Lamouchi, but he has more than shown why they went for him, and credit has to go to the owner and board for that move. O’Neill did a good job, but some of the results under his leadership showed that this perhaps wasn’t going to be a long term appointment.

Lamouchi made some very astute signings in the summer, bringing in Portuguese attacking midfielder Tiago Silva and left-back Yuri Ribeiro from Feirense and Benfica respectively, whilst defensive midfielder Samba Sow arrived from Dynamo Moscow and Congolese midfielder Brice Samba arrived from Caen; all of these were on permanent deals, and all have added quality to the team. Silva has complimented Forest’s other star attacking midfielder in Joao Carvalho nicely, adding increased potency to the forward line. Sow has added strength to the midfield areas, whilst Samba has become the club’s first-choice keeper.

Their results have also been really positive too, but the one thing that is perhaps holding them back at this point is the number of goals they score. They only have 48, which is the lowest in the top six, so this is perhaps where they could look to improve on this season if they were to stay in the Championship.

 

Preston North End

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 6th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

Preston have always been a good team to watch, and this season has been no different. Alex Neil was appointed back in the summer of 2017, when Simon Grayson left to join Sunderland. Since then, they have gone from a mid-table team to a promotion-chasing team, and have continually added more and more quality to the side as each transfer window goes by (in my view, they have perhaps added players they haven’t actually needed, but that’s just me).

Last season, everyone was raving over attacking midfielder Alan Browne, who was the heartbeat of everything good about Preston, but this season, it has been much more of an ensemble piece. The likes of Josh Harrop, Daniel Johnson, Jayden Stockley, Sean Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen have all stepped up to deliver much more in terms of performances, whilst 35-year-old Paul Gallagher has looked as good as ever this season.

They are a team sitting just inside the playoff positions, but there is no reason why in their current form they can’t secure a place inside the top 6 when the Championship resumes. Alex Neil deserves a lot of credit for how far he has taken Preston, and it can only get better if he stays there; he has previously been linked with moves away, to clubs like West Brom, which shows how highly he is rated as a manager, despite still being only 38.

 

Queen’s Park Rangers

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 13th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a lukewarm season for QPR this season. They aren’t in danger of being sucked into the relegation zone, but at the same time they aren’t looking likely to trouble the play-off positions. Former Brentford, Rangers and Nottingham Forest manager Mark Warburton has done a solid job in his first season at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, but there are things he will want to improve on for sure.

The loss of Bermuda striker Nakhi Wells, who spent the first half of the season on loan at the club from Burnley before making a permanent move to Bristol City in January, was a blow for them. His partnership with on-loan West Ham striker Jordan Hugill was one of the biggest positives of their season, with Wells netting 13 goals and Hugill 11 in the first half of the season.

Other players in their team who have made an impact have been Eberechi Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel. Both have shown that they are capable of playing at the highest level, and have put on some really impressive performances this season so far. Eze has been the creative playmaker, scoring and creating goals, whilst Osayi-Samuel offers the pace and ability to cut inside from the wing when necessary.

If we look at their last five games, they have been WDWDW, which shows you their biggest problem; consistency.

Reading

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 14th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It started off as a poor season for Reading, despite spending quite a bit of money on players such as Portuguese striker Lucas Joao from Sheffield Wednesday and Romania striker George Puscas from Palermo, as well as Argentinian winger Lucas Boye on loan from Torino.

However, once then-sporting director Mark Bowen, formerly Mark Hughes’ loyal assistant, was appointed as their new manager in 14 October, things looked up, and Reading have played much better football and looked like a better team. They are comfortably away from the relegation battle, but still need to pick up a couple more wins here and there to be absolutely sure that they won’t get sucked into it.

 

Sheffield Wednesday

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 15th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a mixed season for Sheffield Wednesday, with Garry Monk coming in after Steve Bruce left Hillsborough for Newcastle at the end of the summer. Interim coach Lee Bullen had taken the side to 11th in the table after six games, with three wins and three losses, but they now sit 15th in the Championship, and there has been unrest at the team’s performances among the fans at times.

As far as their team goes, they do have quality in it, but some people wonder if they have enough to challenge. One player they did bring in was former Cardiff winger Kadeem Harris, who has added good pace in the wide areas. Loan signings have included Newcastle winger Jacob Murphy, and Wigan midfielder Josh Windass. Windass was one of Wigan’s best players in the first half of the season, and he adds a presence behind the striker for whichever team he is playing for.

I think they will be fine as far as the season goes, but they do need to hit the ground running when the season gets underway again.

 

Stoke City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 17th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It not been an easy return to the Championship for Stoke. Last season, they started badly, eventually finishing in 16th place. This season, they spent the majority of the first half of the season in the relegation zone, before former Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill was appointed to replace Nathan Jones. Since then, things have started to look a little brighter for the Potters, but they are still in the group struggling near the bottom of the table, and must get a good start when the league gets underway again.

Their squad has been the main problem for me, because whilst they have plenty of individually talented players, such as Jack Butland, Joe Allen, Tom Ince, Sam Clucas, Nick Powell and Tyrese Campbell, and yet the likes of Garry Monk and Nathan Jones have not been able to gel them together properly, and Michael O’Neill is making a difference but only just. That makes me thing that the problem, and the reason why the team continues to struggle, is not the choice of manager but something rooted inside the squad.

From what I have seen from O’Neill since he came in, he could be the one to make the difference, but we will have to see next season. As far as this season goes, it is simply going to be a case of surviving, as they are only three points above the bottom three.

 

Swansea City

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 11th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It started off really well for Swansea this season, with new manager Steve Cooper leading them into the top six, but then they seemed to struggle a little, and fell off the pace a little. They are currently sitting in 11th place, and are only three points off the playoffs, but I wonder whether, this season at least, and at this stage of the season, three points is just too many too make up. They will need some luck if they want to make the top six.

Their squad has had some interesting additions made to it over the course of the season, with Cooper bringing in several players he knew from his time in the England setup, before he left for the Liberty Stadium. Those players include Rhian Brewster (on loan from Liverpool), Ben Wilmot (on loan from Watford), Freddie Woodman (on loan from Newcastle), and Conor Gallagher (on loan from Chelsea). Wales defender Joe Rodon has made a name for himself this season, whilst the likes of  Andre Ayew have been reinvigorated a little since they returned to the Championship.

There is an outside chance that they can make the playoffs, but I think it’s going to be more of a case of finishing as high as they can and then building on that next season.

 

West Bromwich Albion

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 2nd

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

West Brom made an interesting appointment last summer when they brought in Slaven Bilic, after previous manager Darren Moore was sacked nearer the end of last season with the club in the playoff positions. The Croatian has taken a good squad and made it excellent, with the likes of right-back Darnell Furlong, midfielders Filip Krovinovic and Romaine Sawyers, wingers Matheus Pereira, Kamil Grosicki and Grady Diangana, and striker Callum Robinson all coming in as the season went on.

One signing that I thought was really shrewd when it was made was to bring in centre back Semi Ajayi from relegated Rotherham United. Ajayi was one of Rotherham’s biggest threats last season, particularly from corners, and scored 11 goals in his two seasons at the New York Stadium.

For me, there’s no doubt that West Brom will be in the Premier League next season, but it’s a case of whether they will finish in 1st or 2nd. At the moment, they are one point off Leeds in 1st, and six points ahead of Fulham in 3rd. A couple more wins and some draws might be enough to see them return to the top flight.

 

Wigan Athletic

LEAGUE POSITION (at time of suspension): 20th

HOW ARE THEY DOING:

It has been a struggle for Wigan this season, with them lingering in the relegation-threatened group at times this season. They have been in the bottom three at points too. However, they are currently sitting two points and two places above, and I think that could be enough for them.

They made some astute signings in the summer, bringing in Championship experience in the likes of goalkeeper David Marshall and midfielder Lewis Macleod, as well as completing the permanent signing of Everton’s USA left-back Antonee Robinson, who had spent 2018/2019 on loan at the DW Stadium, and another Everton player in midfielder Joe Williams, also on a permanent signing. Wigan boss Paul Cook also returned to former club to Portsmouth to sign striker Jamal Lowe, and brought in striker Kieffer Moore from Barnsley. Moore is an interesting player for me, because he thrives in League One, but hasn’t made it in the Championship so far. He scored 13 goals for Rotherham and 21 for Barnsley, both in the third tier. This season he has scored six goals so far, but has looked more comfortable with Wigan than in his previous times in the Championship.

Their loan signings included plenty more experience of Championship football, including Scotland defender Charlie Mulgrew, Everton midfielder Kieran Dowell, and Brighton defender Leon Balogun, all on loan. Dowell in particular spent a very successful season on loan at Nottingham Forest back in 2017/2018, scoring nine goals for the team in the second tier.

One player they have let go on loan has been midfielder Josh Windass, who moved to Sheffield Wednesday for the rest of the season in January. That was a strange move for me, because he had been an important player for them thus far, but they did bring in Dowell on loan as a replacement, which was also a good move.

As far as this season goes, I think the amount of quality coupled with the experience that they have or have had will be enough to see them to safety, but they will need to pick up some good points when the season gets underway again.

 

 

 

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