Five Things to Know About the Championship

By: Patrick Lucey | November 23, 2018

The Championship’s top team through the November international break is possession heavy and has had plenty scoring chances, but they’re most dangerous when sending balls into the box. The division’s top scorer is consistently getting chances in opponents’ penalty area. And Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper is saving his club more than a quarter of a goal per match to keep his side in contention.

Let’s dive into these stories and a few more as the Championship gets back into action after the break.

  1. Norwich are creating plenty of scoring opportunity, but their playing styles don’t necessarily reflect where their threat comes from.

The Canaries have won their last five matches and are currently winning the Championship on 33 points, Middlesbrough are on 31 points, and Leeds and Sheffield United are on 30. On average, Norwich have outshot their opponents 15.0 to 10.4 in those five matches and have created nearly twice the chances – 2.20 vs 1.13 per match when measured using expected goals.

 

On their five-match winning streak, Norwich have been dominant compared to the league average playing in build up (+20 percent), maintenance (+20 percent) and fast tempo (+28 percent). However, approximately 1.6 of their 2.2 goals per game come from crossing – compared to the league average of 0.6.

 

  1. The division’s leading scorer is converting exclusively from close to goal.

The Championship’s leading goal scorer is Brentford’s Neal Maupay on 12 goals. Billy Sharp (Sheffield United) and Lewis Grappan (Nottingham Forest) are both on 10, and Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City) and Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) are on nine. Maupay’s 12 (10 in continuous play and two from penalties) have all come from inside the 18-yard box. Seven of those have come from six yards or less.

 

  1. Middlesbrough currently have the biggest difference between their expected goals and actual goals scored, so how are they second in the division?

Boro have been expected to score 30 goals but only currently have 19, so optimistically, there’s plenty of room for them to expand their attacking output. Meanwhile, they’ve over performed in the defensive department, expected to concede 21 goals this season while only conceding eight. Defensively, they’ve restricted the amount of chances the keeper is facing in terms of shots against and expect goals against with both coming in under the league average, which is visualised above by the dotted lines.

But Darren Randolph has also been key in Middlesbrough’s defensive performance. Boro have conceded the fewest goals this season – eight from 17 matches. The next team is Swansea City, who have conceded 13, then Nottingham Forest who have conceded 16. Randolph has started all 17 games with 11 clean sheets. He averages 2.6 saves per game compared to an expected saves of 2.29 – meaning that he’s been better than the average Championship keeper by 0.3 goals per game.

 

  1. How are a predominantly deep-lying possession team the current top scorers in the Championship?

West Bromwich Albion’s counter attack possession is minus-8 percent of the league average, however their ability to generate shots and convert these into goals from these possessions is impressive. Thirteen goals (46 percent of West Brom’s open-play goals) have come from counter possessions, which are the most in the league. So while they may not look like a counter attacking side, the danger they pose with these possessions is clear.

More broadly, the Baggies have scored 37 goals this season, averaging 2.2 goals per game vs. their expected goal average of 2.0, meaning they’ve been efficient with finishing. They lead the Championship with four penalties as well as scoring the most goals from corners – five. Each of those five have come from shots at the back post (three from the left and two from the right).

 

  1. Corners are one aspect, but who’s been dangerous on free kicks?

Aston Villa have scored a whopping seven goals from free kicks this season on 39 shots. The screen below shows where those free kicks were taken from and delivered to for the first touch following the free kick. Preston North End have converted six, with both Derby and Sheffield United scoring five.

Brentford have conceded the most goals from free kicks this year – six. Villa have conceded five, so plenty of their set play efficiency has been canceled out on the other end.