Aug. 04, 2017
Championship Predictions 2017/18 (Part 3/4)
Friday night’s curtain raisers between Nottingham Forest and Millwall and Sunderland and Derby will see the second division of English football finally return after a three-month absence, which means it is time to make some bold predictions as to where the division’s 24 sides will be placed come May 2018.
After previewing the sides predicted to finish in the bottom half of the 2017/18 Championship, it is now time for the top half, with part three of my predictions focusing on sides 12-seven.
Sunderland A.F.C's Stadium of Light
12th - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Following Wolves’ poor season last time out, which saw the Midlands club positioned in a lowly 15th, just seven points from the drop, the club’s supporters will be hoping, probably expecting better this time round.
Similar to several of the sides around them, Wolves struggled to find the net with any real consistency last season, relying on midfielder David Edwards and star man Helder Costa to win them matches throughout the campaign.
To exemplify that issue further, full back Matt Doherty netted more times than did any of the club’s strikers last season, and questions will be asked of new boss Nuno Espirito Santo as to why he has spent so much on defensive players such as Roderick Miranda, Phil Ofosu-Ayeh, John Ruddy and Wily Boly, paying little attention to signings at the other end of the field.
The club have however smashed both their own and the league’s transfer record once again, prizing Portuguese international Ruben Neves away from FC Porto for a hefty £17m.
11th - Hull City
Another club who start the season on the back of a rather disappointing campaign, Hull prepare for life back in the Championship having spent just 12 months in England’s top flight, and they are forced to do it having lost another manager and numerous key players.
Having almost completed the great escape after joining with the club in dire straits, Marco Silva’s decision to leave for Watford will have hurt Tigers’ supporters, who will likely be both exciting and nervous about the appointment of former Russian head coach Leonid Slutsky.
The greatest source of anxiety however may arise from the club’s activity in the summer transfer window, with stalwarts Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies and Ahmed Elmohamady all leaving the club, alongside stars of the future such as Harry Maguire, Josh Tyman and Andrew Robertson.
The addition of Chelsea youngster Ola Aina on loan, along with former Liverpool man Kevin Stewart and experienced forward Fraizer Campbell are worth keeping an eye on, but they are unlikely to feel the void left by those named before them.
Fraizer Campbell has rejoined Hull City
10th - Leeds United
Not unlike the Wolves side listed two places below them, Leeds supporters will have been spending a fair amount of time researching the careers of several of their summer signings, before weighing up their prospects of success in English football over the coming years.
And while they have every right to feel optimistic on the back of an excellent season which saw their side narrowly miss out on the play-off places, Garry Monk’s managerial exit is likely to leave many supporters frustrated as a volatile off-the-pitch scene looks set to continue at the club.
Replacing Monk is another who supporters and interested neutrals would have been quick to research, with former APOEL boss Thomas Christiansen named as the new Middlesbrough boss’ successor.
Of the many that have come and gone, the addition of Vurnon Anita and permanent signing of fan favourite Pontus Jansson are sure to excite Whites fans, whereas Charlie Taylor’s sale to Burnley would have disappointed.
2017/18 is a big year for Leeds United, it is also one that is difficult to predict.
9th - Reading
On the back of an exceptional season which saw the Berkshire club become a fixture in the Championship Play-offs from start to finish, it goes without saying that it is going to prove difficult for Reading to repeat their achievements from 2016/17.
And although they have experienced such success over the previous 12 months, manager Jaap Staam has catalysed a mass clear out at the Madjeski Stadium, with 14 first team players shown the exit door over the summer.
Those departing include two-time Player of the Season Ali Al-Habsi and American midfielder Daniel Williams, who has been a constant in the side’s starting XI in recent years.
Turning attentions to players moving in the opposite direction, and it appears that Staam has recognised his side’s over-reliance on veteran striker Yann Kermorgant last season, who was influential in the club’s push for the Premier League. Competing with Kermorgant to lead the Royals’ attack next season will be 21-year-old Ajax youth product Pelle Clement and Iceland’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, though the latter’s record of just five goals in 57 league appearances leaves a lot to be desired.
Former Sunderland stopper Vito Mannone is in to replace Al-Habsi.
Reading have signed former Sunderland 'keeper Vito Mannone
8th - Sunderland
After a season and management tenure under David Moyes that Sunderland fans will hope never ever comes to light, the ‘Black Cats’ have had a summer – until recent news stories at least – that could provide some much-needed optimism at The Stadium of Light.
Shipping goals was a major issue for the club last season, and although that problem seems to have only partially been addressed – with the addition of Everton duo Brendon Galloway and Tyias Browning on loan – there is certainly hope at the other end of the field.
James Vaughan joins the club having netted 24 times last season for a Bury side that finished only 19th in League One last time out, and will be part of a dangerous-lookng attacking line that also includes Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban, who join from Everton and Bournemouth respectively.
Along with losing star man Jermain Defoe to Premier League side Bournemouth, Sunderland fans will surely be feeling anxious about the squad’s morale following recent comments made from midfielder Darren Gibson about several of his teammates.
Further optimism can derive from the intriguing stat that new boss Simon Grayson has one promotion with every club that he has managed.
7th - Norwich City
One of the most difficult clubs to position in the entire league, the 2017/18 Championship season could go either one way or the other for Norwich. With the likes of Cameron Jerome and Nelson Oliveira joined by several creative, goal scoring midfielders, finding the net has rarely been an issue for the side from Norfolk.
However, the Carrow Road faithful rarely see their side perform quite as well at the other end, and it was Norwich’s record as the third worst defensive outfit last season that denied them any possibility of finishing in the division’s top six.
And it is that record which was surely one of the board’s main motives for appointing former Borussia Dortmund II head coach, Daniel Farke as the club’s new boss, after the German guided the club to a second-place finish in which they conceded just 25 goals in 34 Regionalliga West games.
Unlike in previous years, few headline signings have been made. However, Marley Watkins looks a promising acquisition from Barnsley, while Jacob Murphy’s sale to Newcastle shows the position the club are in right now.
New Norwich City manager, Daniel Farke will be expecting to push for promotion with his new club