The Big Championship Preview: Infogol’s in-depth stat-based predictions

The numbers say Leeds will win it, apparently


The Championship is back in action next week and Infogol’s analyst has provided a detailed team-by-team guide heading into the new campaign, using expected goals (xG) to assess each of the 24 sides.

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Barnsley (100/1) – Forecast Position 24th

Barnsley gained automatic promotion to the Championship after finishing second in League One last season, with Daniel Stendel proving to be a fantastic appointment as manager.

Stendel looks to be staying on as manager despite repeated interest from others clubs throughout the summer, which is a massive boost to the chances of survival for Barnsley in the upcoming season.

However, The Tykes have lost key players in the transfer window, with goalkeeper, Adam Davies, and centre-back pairing Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock all moving to fellow Championship rivals.

A tough season ahead is expected for Barnsley, with the Infogol model giving them a 31% chance of relegation, and making them joint-favourites with Charlton to finish bottom of the league (13%).

Birmingham (66/1) – Forecast Position 20th

Birmingham had a solid season in 2018/2019, and rightly finished in mid-table despite a nine-point deduction, though the Blues were fortunate to score as many goals as they did last season (64 goals, 55.8 xGF).

Pep Clotet has taken over from Garry Monk following his sacking in the Summer, but the new man has a huge task on his hands, especially given the outgoings at Birmingham this summer.

Along with Jota heading to local rivals Aston Villa, top-scorer Che Adams has moved to Southampton, and both will be sorely missed, as the below graphic shows.

Birmingham will be hopeful new signing Dan Crowley, who impressed for Willem II in the Dutch Eredivisie last year, can help fill the void of Adam’s production, but the Infogol model sees them languishing in the bottom half, and they could be dragged into a relegation scrap (25%).

Blackburn (35/1) – Forecast Position 17th

Blackburn had a solid first season back in the Championship, finishing 16th, which was a fair reflection according to Infogol’s expected goals table.

Bradley Dack enjoyed an excellent 18/19 campaign for Rovers, as he led the team in both expected goals (17.5 xG) and expected assists (5.4 xA), and he will hope to replicate that form this season.

The signing of Stewart Downing brings added experience to Tony Mowbray’s side, while new-boy Sam Gallagher looks a good signing at this level from Southampton.

Infogol’s model thinks Blackburn fans should prepare for another season in mid-table, and they should be safe without posing a threat to the Play-Off chasers.

Brentford (11/1) – Forecast Position 5th

After a strange season, Brentford deserved to finish higher than 11th in the league, ranking as the seventh best side according to expected goals.

Dean Smith left halfway through the season, and Thomas Frank took over and saw his side go on a torrid run of form, before turning things around and finishing the season strongly.

Neal Maupay (29.1 xGI) and Said Benrahma (15.9 xGI) were among the league leaders for expected goal involvement (xGI) last season, and if the Bees have any aspirations of reaching the Play-Offs in this campaign, they need to retain both.

Although they have sold defenders Chris Mepham and Ezri Konsa to Premier League clubs, Frank’s side have added quality players to the squad, bringing in Pontus Jansson from Leeds, Ethan Pinnock from Barnsley and highly rated midfielder, Mathias Jensen, from Celta Vigo.

This appears to be the summer that Brentford are preparing a real promotion push, and with improvement likely, they have a 35% chance of reaching the play-offs according to the Infogol model.

Bristol City (16/1) – Forecast Position 7th

Bristol City were close to securing a Play-Off position in 18/19, but ultimately finished the season where they deserved to, in eighth spot, after yet another solid campaign.

Lee Johnson’s squad will be relatively unchanged heading into the new season after making the loan deals of Tomas Kalas and Jay DaSilva from Chelsea permanent, meaning that their underlying process is highly likely to be similar in this campaign.

Famara Diedhiou, who scored 13 goals for the Robins last season, could be key to their success again, as he averaged an impressive 0.47 xGI/90.

Bristol City can benefit from consistency with the players and staff this term, and therefore their process, meaning that they can expect another promising campaign, with a 29% chance of finishing the season inside the top six.

Cardiff (10/1) – Forecast Position 2nd

Cardiff were unfortunate to be relegated from the Premier League according to xG, having ranked as the fifth worst team, finishing 16th in Infogol’s expected goals table.

Neil Warnock’s side were unlucky in both attack and defence, scoring only 34 goals from chances equating to 47.1 xGF, and conceding 69 goals from chances equating to 65.7 xGA, so their underlying process wasn’t bad.

Victor Camarasa has returned to parent club, Real Betis, after a very impressive loan spell in Wales and striker Kenneth Zohore has left the club – but otherwise, the bulk of the squad is the same as last year, and the same as their promotion season in 2017/18.

The fact Warnock has stayed, is a big plus and Infogol’s model expects Cardiff to have a successful season, giving them a 42% chance of securing automatic promotion, and an excellent chance of finishing in the top six (81%).

Charlton (100/1) – Forecast Position 23rd

Charlton return to the Championship after winning a dramatic League One Play-Off final against Sunderland, thanks to a last-minute Patrick Bauer goal.

The Addicks have had a good summer, with the big positive being that manager Lee Bowyer did eventually sign a new contract with the club after talks had initially broken down between himself and owner Roland Duchâtelet.

Last season’s top scorer, Lyle Taylor (21 goals), has signed a new contract with the club, but they have lost Play-Off hero Patrick Bauer to Preston, and highly-rated youngster Joe Aribo has also left the club, joining Rangers.

They will undoubtedly give things a good go, but the Infogol model sees Charlton struggling to have the same success as they did last term after moving up a league, and we expect them to be in the bottom three come the end of the season (28% chance of relegation).

Derby (16/1) – Forecast Position 10th

Although they made the Play-Off final last season under Frank Lampard, according to expected goals, Derby were only the 13th best team in the league over the course of the season.

Lampard has now left for Chelsea, taking Mason Mount back with him, who was Derby’s leader in both non-penalty expected goals (8.4 non-pen xG) and expected assists (5.8 xA), so he will be severely missed.

Philip Cocu has been appointed as Lampard’s replacement, and he has a great record as manager, winning three Eredivise titles with PSV, but with the current crop of players, it may be difficult to match last season’s appearance in the play-offs, unless their process improves.

After overperforming last season, Infogol’s model has Derby finishing outside of the play-off places, though they have a chance if things click under Cocu.

Phillip Cocu

Fulham (13/2)- Forecast Position 3rd

Fulham deservedly returned to the Championship after being relegated from the Premier League in what was a dreadful 2018/2019 season for the club.

They were rated as by far the worst defensive team in the top flight according to expected goals, conceding a whopping 1.92 xGA per game.

Scott Parker appeared to steady the ship in the latter part of the season, after taking over from Claudio Ranieri, although that was after their relegation was already confirmed, and he is still a very inexperienced manager.

Jean Michaël Seri and Ryan Babel have both left for Galatasaray, but Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert – players who have been promoted from the Championship previously – add to a quality squad at this level.

Crucially, star striker Aleksandar Mitrović is staying with the Cottagers. Mitrović racked up 16.3 xG last season, more than double the expected goals of anyone else in the squad, and it was his goals that fired Fulham to promotion in 17/18.

Fulham look like one of the better teams at this level, and the Infogol model gives them a great chance of bouncing straight back to the Premier League (35% chance of top 2), though may have to do so the hard way again, via the Play-Offs.

Huddersfield (14/1) – Forecast Position 8th

Huddersfield were deservedly relegated from the Premier League last season, having been the worst team in the league by a long way.

They were the worst attacking team in the league, racking up just 34.1 xGF, and there was no real noticeable change from when David Wagner left and Jan Siewert was appointed as his successor.

Karlan Ahearne-Grant could prove to be an astute addition to the Huddersfield attacking line-up, as the youngster performed well when given a chance to start towards the end of last season, averaging 0.3 non-penalty xGI/90.

Although Infogol’s model only gives them a slim chance of gaining automatic promotion, Huddersfield have enough to put together a strong play-off push, though are expected to fall short.

Hull (50/1) – Forecast Position 19th

Hull had patchy form throughout last season, winning six games in a row at one point, but were lucky to finish the season in 13th place according to xG, ranking only 19th according to xG.

Nigel Adkins left his post in the Summer, with Grant McCann joining after guiding Doncaster to the League One Play-Offs, but he has a job on his hands this season, and many think the Tigers will struggle this season.

Hull were led by 22-year-old striker, Jarrod Bowen, who scored 22 goals last term from chances equating to 17.5 xG, and also provided for his teammates, chalking up 6.1 expected assists last season.

Both Bowen and Kamil Grosicki are key to Hull, and both have been linked with moves away, but even if the Tigers keep hold of them, the Infogol model thinks they will still be fighting to stay in the division next season, giving them a 23% chance of relegations.

Leeds (4/1) – Forecast Position 1st 

Leeds were very unfortunate not to be promoted last season, as they just missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League despite rating as the best team in the Championship according to expected goals, before losing to Derby in the play-offs, even though they created the better chances over the two legs (2 Leg xG: LEE 2.89 – 2.21 DER).

The good news is that Marcelo Bielsa stays on as manager, meaning they should maintain their very strong process in the upcoming season.

According to expected goals, Leeds were the best defensive team in the Championship in 2018/2019, conceding only 41.3 xGA, while ranking second best in attack (76.8 xGF).

Patrick Bamford and Kemar Roofe were among the best strikers in the league last season for non-penalty expected goal involvement per 90. If they can stay fit, Bamford (0.64 non-pen xGI/90) and Roofe (0.59 non-pen xGI/90) could launch their team into the Premier League, with the added pace of Helder Costa from Wolves another strong attacking option.

After last season’s disappointment, another strong campaign looks on the cards for Leeds, with the Infogol model giving them a 55% chance of finishing in the top two, and making them strong favourites to win the league (35%).

Luton (50/1) – Forecast Position 21st

Following back-to-back promotions, Luton return to the Championship for the first time since 2006, and deservedly so after comfortably securing the League One title.

Promising young defenders, James Justin and Jack Stacey, have both been sold to Premier League clubs, and it remains to be seen if Luton can replace them in time for the new campaign.

Graeme Jones’ takes over from interim manager Mick Harford, and they have so far kept hold of prolific Irish striker, James Collins, who ended last season as the League One top scorer with 25 goals, while the acquisitions of Callum McManaman and Brendan Galloway could prove to be shrewd.

Despite the recent success of the club, Infogol’s model believes Luton should prepare for relegation fight in the upcoming season (25% chance relegation).

Middlesbrough (14/1) – Forecast Position 9th

Middlesbrough missed out on the play-offs last season, and rightly so according to expected goals, finishing 9th in Infogol’s expected goals table.

Boro fans will be glad to see the back of Tony Pulis after a very underwhelming season, with local hero Jonathan Woodgate taking over as manager.

Although Pulis’ side had the joint-best defensive record in the league last year (41 goals against), they were fortunate not to concede more, allowing 55.7xGA.

Woodgate has a tough job on his hands, as resources have run low at the club, with first team players leaving – Aden Flint, Stewart Downing and John Obi Mikel – while very few arrivals are expected.

They still have got firepower at the club in the form of Britt Assombalonga, Rudy Gestede and Ashley Fletcher, so they will likely put up a decent fight to get back in the top six, but the Infogol model thinks they will fall just short, though they have a chance (27%).

Millwall (66/1) – Forecast Position 14th

Millwall were one of the Championship’s most unfortunate teams last season, as they finished fourth from bottom, but were the 12th best team according to xG.

Neil Harris’ men were unlucky in both attack and defence, scoring eight fewer than expected (48 goals, 56.2 xGF), while conceding 8 more than expected (64 goals, 55.9 xGA).

Last season’s top scorer, Lee Gregory, and talisman, Steve Morison, have left the club but the Lions have brought in a few interesting replacements in Matt Smith and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, so there is no reason why they can’t have a much more comfortable season.

The Infogol model sees Millwall finishing in the bottom half again, but without the stress of a nail-biting relegation fight.

Nottingham Forest (20/1) – Forecast Position 16th

Nottingham Forest finished the 2018/2019 campaign in ninth place, but that flattered them hugely, as they were only the 17th best team according to expected goals.

Inexperienced Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi has replaced Martin O’Neill as manager, after the Irishman was sacked following a disappointing spell in charge.

Forest fans will be delighted that Lewis Grabban looks to be staying at the City Ground, as he averaged an impressive 0.51 xG/90 in a relatively poor attacking team, and they have again been shopping in the unknown European market for players, with the likes of Tiago Silva (not that one), Yuri Ribeiro and Alfa Semedo all unknown quantities.

Grabban’s goals will be crucial if they are to have any success this season, but given how things currently stand, the Infogol model expects a bottom half finish for Forest this season (70%).

Preston (25/1) – Forecast Position 12th

Despite going on a 12-match unbeaten run in the league last season, Preston were fortunate to finish down in 14th place, as they were only the 20th best team in Infogol’s expected goals table.

This was a huge drop off from 17/18, where they ranked as the fourth best team in the league on xG, so something went wrong last season in terms of process, though they have injuries to key players to deal with.

They were extremely fortunate to score as many goals as they did last season, over-scoring by a massive 15 goals (67 goals, 51.78 xGF), and have since lost top-scorer Callum Robinson to Sheffield United, who averaged 0.43 non-pen xGI/90 in a team that struggled to create a lot of chances.

Apart from the loss of Callum Robinson, Preston do have continuity in their squad this season and will hope they can progress with a young squad.

The Infogol model suggests that the Lilywhites won’t have to worry about relegation this season, but are unlikely to challenge for the Play-Offs unless they can recreate their 17/18 process.

QPR (66/1) – Forecast Position 18th

QPR were unfortunate not to have finished higher in the Championship last season, having been the 10th best team in the league according to xG.

Steve McClaren oversaw a steady campaign, one in which they recovered from a very slow start to stay in the division comfortably, though he was sacked before the end of the season.

Mark Warburton takes over, and many think he has a tough job on his hands at Loftus Road, especially after the sale of talisman Luke Freeman to Sheffield United, who racked up an impressive 12.7 xGI last season.

If they can maintain this level of process, QPR shouldn’t be embroiled in a relegation scrap, and need to make Loftus Road a fortress, with the Infogol model giving them a 17% chance of relegation, so another bottom-half finish is expected.

Loftus Road QPR

Reading (66/1) – Forecast Position 22nd

Once again, Reading had a very underwhelming season in 2018/19, finishing the campaign as the second-worst team in the league according to expected goals.

They were extremely fortunate in both attack and defence last season, scoring four more goals than expected (49 goals, 44.9 xGF), while conceding 14 fewer than expected (66 goals, 80.5 xGA), and on the whole, were fortunate not to have been relegated.

José Gomes continues as manager and although results improved with his appointment, performances didn’t, with Reading being the third worst team in the league since he was hired, according to xG.

Last season was the third in a row in which the Royals’ over-performed their xG, and the level of over-performance is unsustainable over an extended period of time, meaning the Infogol model sees them struggling again, giving them a 27% chance of being relegated.

Sheffield Wednesday (25/1) – Forecast Position 13th

Sheffield Wednesday were rated as the 18th best team in the league last season, but after Steve Bruce took over at the beginning of February, their underlying process improved drastically, and from that point the Owls rated as the seventh best side according to expected goals.

Sheffield Wednesday 2018/19 Championship 10 game rolling average (line represents Bruce’s arrival)

Bruce has now left for Newcastle, leaving the Owls in disarray just weeks before the 2019/2020 season starts. They are yet to appoint his replacement, and the longer this goes on, the more disruption it brings to Hillsborough ahead of the season kick-off.

Wednesday have a good squad of players for this level, and arguably don’t need any additions, but the key is to maintain the process that they finished the season with.

Steve Bruce’s departure severely affects Sheffield Wednesday heading into the new season, and a mid-table finish looks likely, with the Infogol model giving them a small chance of reaching the play-offs (13%), but they aren’t expected to be dragged into a relegation scrap.

Stoke (12/1) – Forecast Position 11th

Stoke were extremely disappointing last season considering the talent they possess, finishing in 16th place.

Gary Rowett was sacked in January and replaced by Nathan Jones, with the latter’s arrival sparking defensive improvements, but their attacking issues remained, as they managed a measly 1.08 xGF per game.

They have improved in their squad in the attacking areas by signing the likes of Lee Gregory and Nick Powell, but they need a huge improvement in process in order to be a serious threat in the Play-Off race this season.

Any improvement in process would see Stoke become Play-Off contenders, but currently, the Infogol model sees them bouncing around mid-table in 19/20.

Swansea (25/1) – Forecast Position 4th

Swansea were unfortunate not to finish higher than 10th in the Championship last season after ranking fourth according to expected goals, following an impressive showing from a youthful squad.

Although Graham Potter has since left, the Swans have appointed another young coach with a similar philosophy in Steve Cooper, who had great success as England Under 17 coach – winning the World Cup.

He will be hoping the club can keep hold of Oliver McBurnie, who has been linked with a move away from the Liberty Stadium, and he was the standout player for Swansea in terms of expected goal involvement per 90 minutes (xGI/90) last season, averaging 0.56 xGI/90.

They have already lost Daniel James to Manchester United, but if Swansea can keep the likes of McBurnie, Bersant Celina and Mike van der Hoorn for the 19/20 season it could set them up for a very positive year, and an improvement on last season, with the Infogol giving them a good chance of finishing in the top six.

West Brom (10/1) – Forecast Position 6th

West Brom had an odd season in 2018/2019, sacking Darren Moore while they were in the top six, only to finish in similar fashion under interim manager James Shan.

Their problems all season had been in defence, as they allowed 60.6 xGA, and were deservedly beaten by Aston Villa in the Play-Off Semi Finals (2 Leg xG: WBA 1.48 – 2.83 AST).

Slaven Bilić takes over as manager and will be looking to sure up the defence this season, but selling the sturdy Craig Dawson to Watford won’t help matters.

The other issue for West Brom is that their two top scorers from last season, Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez, have both left the club, as has Salomón Rondón, who has departed to China, meaning their attacking threat has been diminished.

West Brom fans will be hoping for some new arrivals alongside Kenneth Zohore, but the Infogol model still holds West Brom in fairly high regard, and thinks they will be there or thereabouts in 19/20, and are set for another Play-Off campaign.

Wigan (60/1) – Forecast Position 15th

Wigan were unfortunate to have been embroiled in a relegation battle last season, ultimately resulting in an 18th place finish, as they ranked in the top half according to xG (11th).

The main issue for Paul Cook’s team was in front of goal, as they created plenty of good scoring chances, but failed to capitalise (51 goals, 66.7 xGF), a level of under-performance that is unlikely to be repeated this season, so expect them to score more in 19/20 – provided they maintain their process.

They will need other players to step up in terms of creativity though, as Reece James has gone back to Chelsea, and Nick Powell has left to Stoke – James racked up almost double the amount of expected assists than anyone else in the squad (8.1 xA).

Infogol’s model thinks Wigan will be safe again this season, as long as they maintain their process, with the model giving them just a 12% chance of relegation, so should be more comfortable than last season.

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