The unpredictable Championship is already throwing up surprises after just four matchdays
Vincent Kompany has made an inconsistent start at Burnley while Hull are flying high and Coventry are unable to play at home (Photos: PA)
By Tim Sigsworth
The Championship is throwing up as many surprises as ever after just four games, with pre-season favourites struggling for form and promoted clubs punching above their weight.
The season kicked off in earnest in late July – earlier than usual due to this winter’s World Cup in Qatar – with its three Premier League promotion spots widely coveted.
Burnley, Watford and Norwich City are looking to make an immediate return to the top flight but there is no guarantee in a league well-known for its unpredictability.
The usual threshold for a reliable judgment on where clubs may end up is 10 games, but after just four matchdays there is already plenty to talk about.
Tight at the top
It is rare for the Championship’s leading clubs to be separated by wide margins at the end of a season, let alone after just four games.
But the little space between the clubs currently leading the way is nevertheless noteworthy.
Before a 3-0 defeat to Reading on Wednesday night, Blackburn Rovers had made a 100 per cent start, but that loss now means there is no team breaking away from the chasing pack.
Just three points separate Hull City in second and Swansea City in 14th, with newly promoted Rotherham United and Sunderland within that bracket.
It may be a case of stating the obvious given just four games have been played, but the Championship’s historical tightness shows no signs of changing.
Tough start for Town
A Levi Colwill own goal was the difference between Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest in last season’s play-off final as the Terriers were denied promotion.
Forest poached key men Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo in the summer, while manager Carlos Corberan left for Olympiacos and was replaced by coach Danny Schofield.
That summer of transition has left Town languishing in 19th after one win and three losses from their opening four.
It is of course important to recognise that Schofield has time on his side and it is far too early to make a final verdict on his side, but supporters will nevertheless be hoping improvement comes sooner rather than later.
The highest-profile managerial appointment in the Championship this summer was former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany’s move to Burnley.
The club has been one of the league’s most active recruiters, signing eight players permanently and a further three on loan.
Midfielder Josh Cullen and Man City centre-half Taylor Harwood-Bellis have been the most exciting of the bunch so far, but it is no surprise that Kompany’s new-look side have made an inconsistent start.
Taking one win, two draws and a loss from their first four shows it will take time for both the players to gel and for them to adapt to a new expansive, passing-based play style.
- Blackburn Rovers Played 4 – Points 9
- Hull City Played 4 – Points 8
- Watford Played 4 – Points 8
- Sheffield United Played 4 – Points 7
- Millwall Played 4 – Points 7
- Cardiff City Played 4 – Points 7
- Preston North End Played 4 – Points 6
- Reading Played 4 – Points 6
- Blackpool Played 4 – Points 6
- Rotherham United Played 3 – Points 5
- Sunderland Played 4 – Points 5
- Burnley Played 4 – Points 5
- Birmingham City Played 4 – Points 5
- Swansea City Played 4 – Points 5
- Bristol City Played 4 – Points 4
- Queens Park Rangers Played 4 – Points 4
- Norwich City Played 4 – Points 4
- Stoke City Played 4 – Points 4
- Wigan Athletic Played 3 – Points 3
- Middlesbrough Played 4 – Points 3
- Huddersfield Town Played 4 – Points 3
- West Bromwich Albion Played 4 – Points 3
- Luton Town Played 4 – Points 2
- Coventry City Played 4 – Points 1
Hull’s Turkish takeover
Hull’s 19th-placed finish last season represented a more comfortable avoidance of relegation than had seemed likely earlier in the season.
This summer – the first under new owner Acun Ilicali – brought some new faces to the East Riding: Jean Michael Seri and Tobias Figueiredo arrived from the now-promoted Fulham and Nottingham Forest respectively, while Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, Dogukan Sinik and Ozan Tufan were all brought over from Ilicali’s native Turkey.
The retention of homegrown centre-half Jacob Greaves is also strong business – even if starlet winger Keane Lewis-Potter left for Brentford – and manager Shota Arveladze has his side in second after two wins and two draws.
The Tigers are one to watch this season.
Although there have been four official matchdays so far this season, Coventry City have only played two of them due to the condition of their pitch.
The club share the Coventry Building Society Arena with Premiership rugby club Wasps and the pitch was deemed unsafe for their opening two home games against Rotherham and Wigan, having hosted the rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games.
Coventry have insisted that Wasps relay the pitch, but West Midlands mayor Andy Street announced on Wednesday that there has been an unspecified breakthrough in talks.
Where the Sky Blues will play their home games this season therefore remains unclear.