EFL Championship Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 1

Note: Unless something newsworthy happens, chances are that we will not be talking about The Championship or any other division beneath the Premier League, though as the season progresses and we approach promotion/relegation that may change. This piece is a brief look at where the Championship teams finished last year, some important players, and who might be fighting for promotion/relegation at the end of the season. Plus, since these teams will be competing in the EFL and FA Cups in England, it might be nice to know if they’ll have any chance when competing against their Premier League brethren.
This is the first of four posts about the 24 teams that will be competing for the Championship this season. Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and will feature a bit about the teams history, as well as simple expectations for this season.

Aston Villa

Nickname: The Lions
Founded: 1874
Location: Birmingham
Team Colors: Claret/Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Luke Sports
Kit Sponsor: 32Red
Ground: Villa Park (1897-Present)
Capacity:  42,682
Manager: Steve Bruce (since 2016)
Website: www.avfc.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 4th in Championship (lost promotion play-off to Fulham)
Seasons in Premier League: 24, last in 2015-2016
The Lions came as close as any team last year of getting promoted to the Premier League, losing to Fulham in the Championship Playoff 1-0. They finished fourth overall in the Championship, five points behind Fulham and seven points away from automatic promotion. They reached as high as second in the table after seven match win streak in the middle of the season, sitting with 17 wins, eight draws, and only six losses after 31 matches. However, they finished the season on a but of a slide, winning only seven more times over their final 15 games – as well as three more draws and five losses – which led to their finish in the playoffs. Though the team beat the teams it was supposed to based on table position, a loss to 21st-place finisher (one spot out of relegation) Bolton Wanderers saved the Wanderers season while probably dooming the Lions to the playoffs.
As the current leader in Premier League seasons among current Championship teams, as well as a team that has only spent 13 seasons at Tier 2, Aston Villa hopes that with all the teams above them last season now in the Premier League that they can climb to the top of the table this season and earn an automatic promotion as champions.

Birmingham City

Nickname: Blues
Founded: 1874
Location: Birmingham
Team Colors: Blue/White
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas
Kit Sponsor: 888sport
Ground: St. Andrew’s (1906-Present)
Capacity:  30,015
Manager: Garry Monk (since 2018)
Website: www.bcfc.com
2017-18 Season: 19th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Seven, last in 2010-2011
Of the 24 teams currently in the Championship, only Hull City has spent more total seasons at Tier 2 than the Blues, who have spent a total of 55 seasons in the tier. Those seven seasons in the Premier League haven’t featured much success either, with a best finish of 9th place (in 2009-2010) and an average finish around 14th. While I don’t think they will complete for the title – especially considering that Birmingham City is currently under a transfer embargo after “having failed to convince the Championship’s governing body that they were working within Financial Fair Play guidelines” – chances are that they avoid relegation, but early season struggles could indicate otherwise. It will be worth keeping an eye on the team to see if the embargo truly has an effect.

Read moreEFL Championship Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 1

Burnley 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Note: This is the latest breakdown of transfer moves leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season. This post will be updated throughout the transfer window as appropriate. \
I think this Burnley side has the quality for a top half finish and I don’t think that repeating continental competition is out of the question. They have shown that they can spend wisely, I anticipate them to reassess their transfer needs in the Winter Transfer window which might cause them to pay a little more, but they’ve also stayed out of the major bidding wars that would cost them astronomical amounts.
I would like to see their goals scored increase, though I’m very pleased with their goals conceded. I do think that they have a sufficient quality in Vokes and Wood. I honestly think they were rather unfortunate to have scored as few goals as they did; I think they’ll have a bumper season. Their defense is stout enough that they don’t need to increase it substantially, they just need to move to a positive goal difference. I think that’s likely to keep them in continental competition.
(Update: This Burnley side has added a few major additions and brought in some additional quality at keeper; I definitely favor them for Europa Leage).

Read moreBurnley 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Leicester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Note: This is the latest breakdown of transfer moves leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season. This post will be updated throughout the transfer window as appropriate. 
I think that the Foxes are set to have another midtable position, though I think that if they can get some good performances from their centerbacks (and defense at large) they could vie for a continental position. Their biggest problem from last year was their inability to keep goals out (resulting in a -4 goal differential). The Foxes conceded the 5th most goals in all of the Premier League, and their defense is something the Foxes will need to address in the short-term, rather than the long-term. Their is a good reason that Claudio Puel has stated his desire to keep Maguire, as he’s the only centerback under 30, and the remaining centerbacks are 30, 31, and 34. This is definitely a concern — mostly to injury susceptibility, they have enough ability to hold the line if they are healthy.
I think that the addition of Maddison will allow for the Foxes to begin to address the other side of that equation. They need to score more goals, Jamie Vardy contributed 23 goals and the next highest was the now-departed Riyhad Mahrez, with the other 3 strikers not equalling Vardy’s contribution combined. I think that the addition of Maddison will increase the quality of the balls distributed to those strikers, though I expect Maddison will had a fair number of goals as well.

Read moreLeicester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Manchester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

For an in-depth look at the Manchester United roster in advance of the 2018-2019 season, click here to read Part 1. This post will be updated throughout the season with notable transfers and other additions to the club.

  • Riyad Mahrez ($74.5M from Leicester) – Mahrez has had a definite dip in form after Leicester City’s title winning campaign (2015-2016) where he rained 17 goals and 10 assists in 37 appearances. His 2016-2017 form was exceptionally poor bring in 6 goals and 4 assists across 36 appearances before he crossed back into the double-double club in 2017-2018. Mahrez has shown some consistency issues (as indicated by above) but I think he is a fantastic player, my concern is more about his composure and how he’ll fit into the side. Mahrez favored position is right attacking midfielder, but if he were to play this side for City it would be in place of Bernardo Silva or Raheem Sterling. He could, feasibly, also play on the opposite side, but then he would have to be favored over Leroy Sane. Personally, I think for a side this stacked — this is probably too much to spend on a player that doesn’t have something to add to the team. I’m sure he’ll play some, yes, and I’m he’ll find some some goals — I just feel like a fee this size comes with a lot of expectations.
  • Philippe Sandler  ($2.75M from PEC Zwolle) – Sandler comes from the Dutch club who had their record transfer sale broken with this move. The 20-year old played quite a few games for the first team and while showing potential also showcased a bit of inconsistency. I think a youngster with this sort of potential is well worth the risk especially because the fee is smaller and the expectations just don’t really exist. Plus, the training and coaching he’ll get at one of the premiere clubs in the world can only aid his development.
  • Daniel Arzani ($1M from Melbourne City FC) – There’s not a whole lot of press on Arzani yet outside of that he appeared for the SoccerRoos at the World Cup (with underwhelming performances). The Man City management seems to speak of him pretty highly and seems to be hoping he turns into an Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town) type of player. City leadership has reported Arzani to be “one of Australia’s brightest young stars and has demonstrated the drive and raw talent required for success at the highest level“. So, now that they’ve brought him to one of the World’s foremost clubs, he looks set for a loan move to Rangers (likely because of the early transfer window closure).

    Read moreManchester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

Manchester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
City’s dominance last season was absolutely insane, all of the rest of the teams were trying to catch a glimpse of them. This team just looked head, shoulders, knees, and toes frankly, above everyone else. The next closest competitor was 19 points back… let me repeat that, nineteen points back. They also conceded the fewest goals and blitzed their way to 22 goals ahead of the rest of the pack.
I guess the obvious question for this season is can that form continue? They’ve kept all of their contributors from last year — and now they’ve added Riyah Mahrez. City like United and Liverpool are absolutely stacked in the midfield, so I am very interested to see how Mahrez fits into this side.
Now the answer to the question you’ve been waiting for, do I think City can do it all again? No, I don’t think they will make all the other teams look semi-pro again. At the bare minimum,  in the two Premier League titles City prior to this years, the following season has had almost a 10 point drop and came back as runner’s up the following season. In fact, the only team in the Premier League era to win back to back (to back) titles is their biggest rival, the crosstown United team, but this effect is true even for them.

Read moreManchester City 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1