Canaries have to pick up the pace as Championship quality starts to show
PUBLISHED: 09:10 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:10 10 September 2018
With the first chapter of this season’s Championship story complete, David Freezer takes a look at what we’ve learned about Norwich City’s rivals so far.
The Championship season is in full swing and is shaping up to be as difficult for Norwich City as many pundits and supporters had expected before kick-off.
Leeds and Middlesbrough lead the way as the division’s 24 clubs take a deep breath during the first international break of the season, with six games completed.
The top two have taken 14 points from a possible 18 and are the only remaining unbeaten teams, with the Canaries having already felt the might of Leeds during a chastening 3-0 defeat.
Former Argentina and Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa has, so far, proved an inspired choice by the Yorkshire side. Many wondered if ‘El Loco’ would be able to work his magic in the unfamiliar surrounds of the English second tier. Yet despite the challenges of not speaking the language, the 63-year-old has made a huge impact, with the sharp passing and determined pressing which make him the coaching idol of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino already obvious.
That is largely with a squad which finished level on points in mid-table with Norwich last season, clearing some of the dead wood and spending around £7million on Boro striker Patrick Bamford and £3m on Wolves left-back Barry Douglas, and bringing in Chelsea midfielder Lewis Baker and Manchester City winger Jack Harrison on loan.
So far only West Brom, fresh from eight years in the top flight, have scored more than Leeds’ total of 14 goals – with the Baggies return of 15 helped by their 4-3 win in Norwich and a 7-1 smashing of QPR.
Boro still have a squad packed with big-money talent and an experienced Premier League manager in Tony Pulis, who managed to guide them to fifth last season before play-off semi-final defeat to Aston Villa.
City will find out what the likes of Britt Assombalonga, Jonny Howson and Dani Ayala have in store when Pulis’s team rock up at Carrow Road on Saturday but there’s little shock that the former Stoke boss’s side have the best defensive record so far, conceding just twice.
That fine defensive effort is just better than Leeds, who have conceded four, and Swansea (five) – who have performed the best of the relegated trio so far.
The Swans sit seventh with Graham Potter, coming in from a successful spell in Sweden, having to use plenty of young players after a disappointing transfer window due to the club’s US owners tightening their belts after being shocked by relegation two years after buying a 60pc controlling stake for a reported £110m.
Darren Moore’s West Brom are ninth and showing signs of life but Stoke are way down in 18th with just one win under Gary Rowett, as adjustment to life outside the Premier League for the first time in 10 years proves difficult.
At the other end it’s Reading sitting bottom as Paul Clement continues to struggle as a manager, with Ipswich and QPR completing the bottom three.
Steve McClaren’s QPR have scored the fewest goals (three) and conceded the most 13 – just one more than Norwich – but rallied with four points before the break after some late loan signings, bringing in strikers Nakhi Wells and Tomer Hemed.
Reading’s squad looks in a mess after a scatter gun approach to the transfer window and Ipswich are struggling for upward momentum after making so many changes to their squad as Paul Hurst tries to create a new look built around lower league gems.
The saving grace for all three could well be Birmingham though, who sit just above the bottom three but reportedly face a hefty points deduction from the EFL for their financial indiscretions.
The quality on the field may not always be brilliant in the Championship, but there’s always plenty of drama to keep us all entertained. The only surprise – no one has sacked their manager, yet.
Goals scored – 9 (ranked 11th in the division)
Goals conceded – 12 (23rd)
Average possession – 52.9pc (6th)
Av pass success percentage – 76pc (7th)
Av shots per game – 13.5 (5th)
Av shots on target p/g – 4.5 (9th)
Av aerial duels won p/g – 26 (16th)
Av tackles made p/g – 15.8 (11th)
Av interceptions p/g – 6.8 (22nd)
Av offsides p/g – 0.8 (22nd)
Av dribbles p/g – 8.8 (6th)
Discipline – 7 yellow & 0 red (13th)
*stats provided by WhoScored.com
CHAMPIONSHIP TOP SCORERS
5 – Neal Maupay (Brentford)
Andreas Weimann (Bristol City)
4 – Kemar Roofe (Leeds)
Ollie Watkins (Brentford)
Oli McBurnie (Swansea)
Jay Rodriguez (West Brom)
3 – Neal Maupay (Brentford)
Nick Powell (Wigan)
Kieran Gibbs (West Brom)
Onel Hernandez (Norwich)
2 – 17 players tied