Can the Championship’s three promoted sides stay up?

We are getting to the stage of the season when every point matters at the bottom of the EFL Championship, and this season, there are several teams involved in the scrap for survival. Two of those currently in the relegation zone are Rotherham United, whose trips to Brentford on Saturday and Luton this week and home match against Coventry City on Saturday have been postponed due to COVID cases at the club, and Wycombe Wanderers, who have put up a good fight this season, but have struggled to pick up the points to show for it. Coventry were the other team promoted from League One, and currently lie in 20th place, only six points above the drop zone. Therefore, the question we will look to answer in this article is whether any of these three can survive, and which ones?

Coventry City

The team best-equipped to stay up are definitely Coventry. The Sky Blues have had some good moments this season, winning a few games, but have lacked consistency, which has been their biggest problem. They won against Derby County on Saturday, but that was their first win in four games, and two of their last five games have been losses, with one draw. This highlights how their results have been all over the place, which has meant they aren’t as high up the table as some of their performances would suggest they could and maybe should be.

However, there is no doubting that they have the quality in their team to survive. They made some very good additions last summer, in preparation for their return to the second division, such as Dutch defensive midfielder Gustavo Hamer from PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands, who has provided a goal threat from midfield, scoring goals in key moments and unlocking tricky defences. Another midfielder, Callum O’Hare, rejoined the club on a free transfer after impressing on loan last season and leaving Aston Villa in the summer, and he has been the attacking midfield player linking up the central and final thirds, providing goals and assists and generally asking plenty of questions of opposing defences all season.

However, they lack Championship experience across the team, with only Kyle McFadzean and Matty James having played significantly in the league before this season. When teams come up, this is a vital ingredient to add; too often, when you look at teams that have gone down, they have not added that experience, and those that survive have done so.

The Sky Blues should be fine, but will need to use the excellent recruitment that got them gems like Hamer for the coming summer too, strengthening key positions and helping them to be more consistent.

Rotherham United

Rotherham have become the ultimate EFL yo-yo team in recent seasons, being promoted to the Championship in 2014, relegated in 2017, promoted again in 2018, relegated in 2019, and then promoted back up last summer. However, the question that constantly surrounds them is whether they have enough to survive in the Championship. It feels like we are always asking this with the Millers, and it seems unlikely that they will have enough this time around as well.

When we look at their squad, they have plenty of experience, but lack a regular goalscorer. Their two main strikers are Michael Smith and Freddie Ladapo, and, whilst both are proven regular goalscorers in League One, neither is consistent enough at this level to cause defenders too many problems. Outside of them, they have former Doncaster Rovers forward Kieran Sadlier as a goalscoring option from wide, as he proved for Donny in the last few seasons, but he has yet to really settle at the New York Stadium following his arrival last summer. Rotherham did add Middlesbrough midfielder Lewis Wing on loan in January, which could be a good move, as he has the ability to play in an attacking midfield position, supplying the strikers with chances. However, we still just feel they never bring in enough to really thrive in this league, and that is the problem.

Unfortunately, unless something really clicks for them this season, they will likely go back down to League One, but what they need to look at in the future is bringing in a proven Championship striker to compliment their forward options. Unfortunately, they do not have the best finances in the second division, which will always make it harder for them to compete for top players, but if they can look to add just a little more quality, that may help them in a future Championship season. The thing that might swing the fight in their favour is their games in hand, with them having only played 32 games so far, whilst Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe, both below them, have played 34, and Birmingham and Coventry, both directly above them, have played 35. However, they do still have to play Watford, in-form QPR, Barnsley, Brentford and Cardiff (the last three as away games), so there are some really tough games in their remaining fixtures. Their upcoming games against Birmingham and Wycombe in particular have to be wins if they want to have any chance of staying up.

Wycombe Wanderers

The one thing we can always say about Wycombe is that they never give up. However, there comes a point when we have to admit that having good performances and simply trying doesn’t keep teams up; it is a results business, after all, as we are continually reminded, and this is where Wycombe have struggled this season. They need to turn performances into wins if they want to stay up, but, looking at their squad, do they have the players to help them do that? Unfortunately, aside from Uche Ikpeazu, who has been their biggest goal threat this season, they don’t seem to have the tools they need to survive. Left-back Joe Jacobson has been his usual self, getting forward from defence to score and create goals, whilst winger David Wheeler has looked to cut inside as much as possible, as we know he likes to. Fred Onyedinma is a player many think is destined for bigger things, and this season has given him an opportunity to show what he can do against bigger clubs; he hasn’t done too badly, but, like everyone else in the team, hasn’t converted as many chances as he has needed to.

In January, they brought in Admiral Muskwe on loan from Leicester City and also extended Josh Knight’s loan from the Foxes, with both giving the Chairboys something they were lacking before; striker Muskwe has tended to play on the right of the front three, whilst midfielder Knight has added the energy and attacking presence that they had been looking for all season, as demonstrated by his winning goal in Wycombe’s 3-2 victory against Huddersfield in the middle of February.

However, like Rotherham, you just feel that, if you take out a couple of their key players, they don’t have the quality to survive, and that is the problem. To stay up, teams need to have depth, as well as desire, and depth is what they have been missing all season. Like Rotherham, it is difficult to see them plying their trade in the Championship in 2021/2022.

In conclusion, we have looked at the chances of all three promoted teams in staying in the Championship for next season. Whilst all three are clearly struggling, Coventry have the best chance of staying up, because they do have the ability to get points in crucial games. However, what they lack is consistency in results, so, if they can address that, then they should be OK. Rotherham have games in hand, which gives them a chance, but they don’t have the same quality and still have some tough games to come. Wycombe, meanwhile, give their everything in every game, which has got them and manager Gareth Ainsworth a lot of new fans this season, but just can’t turn them into points, which is what they need.

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