EFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 4

Note: This is the final of four posts about the 24 teams competing in the Championship, which is Tier 2 of English Association football. Teams are presented in alphabetical order with a bit of their history and some expectations for this season. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Sheffield United

Nickname: The Blades
Founded: 1889
Location: Sheffield
Team Colors: Red / White
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas
Kit Sponsor: Ramsdale Currency
Ground: Bramall Lane (1889-Present)
Capacity:  32,702
Manager: Chris Wilder (since 2016)
Website: www.sufc.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 10th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Three, last in 2006-2007

Of the two Sheffield rivals, the Blades have been more recently up to the Premier League – albeit for a one season stop. They also finished ahead of The Owls last season, and won the season series with a win in Owlerton and a draw at home. They even spent the bulk of the season in playoff position, peaking at first after Week 14. But three wins in their final ten games – against four draws and three losses – led to a slide down the table, where they finished tied in points with Brentford but trailed in point differential, leaving them six points out of the playoffs.

Last seasons success was a stark contrast to the prior six seasons, which were spent toiling in League One and fighting for a place back in the Championship, which they achieved through a League One title in 2016-2017. Success is measured by promotion – as well as staying power once you get there – and while I’m sure the Sheffield fans would love to see their team back in the Premier League, they could also benefit from another season or two in the Championship to establish some consistency.

Sheffield Wednesday

Nickname: The Owls
Founded: 1867 (as The Wednesday)
Location: Sheffield
Team Colors: Blue / White
Kit Manufacturer: Elev8
Kit Sponsor: Chansiri
Ground: Hillsborough Stadium (1899-Present)
Capacity:  39,752
Manager: Jos Luhukay (sacked 21 December 2018); Steve Bruce (starting 1 February 2019)
Website: www.swfc.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 15th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Eight, last in 1999-2000

The Owls have more championships than their in-town rivals – five at Tier 2 and four pre-Premier League titles at Tier 1 – and though they too have some recent trips down to Tier 3, this season will be their seventh consecutive season in the Championship. And I anticipate that they will probably make it to at least their eighth consecutive next season, as I don’t see them competing for promotion this season.

Last season, they started slowly, but found themselves in playoff position, though it was extremely early in the season after Week 7. They were never higher throughout the rest of the season, but they also stayed far removed from the relegation zone for the remainder of the season before settling into 15th place, alone with 57 points and three points behind three teams with 60. An accomplishment to strive for this season would be to see if they can play more even with the Blades – if only for Sheffield bragging rights – and work on some week-to-week consistency to move to the top half of the league.

Stoke City

Nickname: The Potters
Founded: 1863 (as Stoke Ramblers F.C.)
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
Team Colors: Red / White
Kit Manufacturer: Macron
Kit Sponsor: bet365
Ground: bet365 Stadium (1997-Present)
Capacity:  30,089
Manager: Gary Rowett (since 2018)
Website: www.stokecityfc.com
2017-18 Season: 19th of 20 in Premier League (relegated)
Seasons in Premier League: 10, last in 2017-2018

To say that Stoke struggled a bit last season would be an understatement. They won only seven games all season – only last place finisher West Bromwich won fewer – and only four teams scored less than their 35 goals. Averaging less than a goal a game is less than ideal, especially when a leaky defense gave up almost two goals a game. Two teams scored less goals last season, but managed to stay up in the Premier League because of comparatively stingier defenses.

Maybe the Potters will find success again back down a level, even if it’s been a decade since they’ve been down, but I’m sure the relegation will make them hungry for a return. They are among the early favorites for the title, and with it a return back to the Premier League, but they also lost the man that scored nearly a quarter of their goals in Xherdan Shaqiri, who used an out clause to stay in the Premier League in a transfer to Liverpool. Early success could plot the path, and they start the season with an away match against top-five aspirant Leeds United, but at a minimum, expect them to compete for a playoff spot this season.

Swansea City

Nickname: The Swans
Founded: 1912 (as Swansea Town)
Location: Swansea, Wales
Team Colors: White
Kit Manufacturer: Joma
Kit Sponsor: Bet UK
Ground: Liberty Stadium (2005-Present)
Capacity:  21,088
Manager: Graham Potter (since 2018)
Website: www.swanseacity.com
2017-18 Season: 18th of 20 in Premier League (relegated)
Seasons in Premier League: Seven, last in 2017-2018

The second of three consecutive teams down the Premier League, the Swans just didn’t seem like they wanted to stick around. They spent most of the season in the relegation zone, with their highest place coming in Week 1 after an opening draw. They ended up losing the most games in the Premier League, including a season-ending winless streak of six losses and three draws. The last four of those games were all one goal losses as well, and forcing some draws there and elsewhere may have prevented relegation, as they were only three points behind Southampton when all was said and done.

Swansea doesn’t have a long history of top tier success – they’ve spent only nine seasons at Tier 1 – and they don’t have much of a legacy at Tier 2 either. That said, their last visit to the Championship was a short three-season stint from 2008-2011, and I can see something like that happening this time around. They don’t have the same lofty expectations as the two teams that finished beneath them last years – oddsmakers have them finishing in 9th place on average – though they may be able to take some of that Premier League competition experience and compete for a playoff spot anyway.

West Bromwich Albion

Nickname: The Baggies, West Brom
Founded: 1878 (as West Bromwich Strollers)
Location: West Bromwich
Team Colors: Navy Blue / White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma
Kit Sponsor: Ideal Boilers
Ground: The Hawthorns (1900-Present)
Capacity:  26,850
Manager: Darren Moore (since 2018)
Website: www.wba.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 20th of 20 in Premier League (relegated)
Seasons in Premier League: 12, last in 2017-2018

West Brom started last season off well enough, winning their first two games. I’m sure that they didn’t think at the time that those two wins would represent a third of the total games they won, however. They entered the relegation for good after Week 18, and saw a stretch where they lost eight games in a row. By the time they won three of their last five games, it was too late for them to avoid relegation.

Are the Baggies only going to spend one season back in the Championship? The last three times they went down to the Championship, they spent a total of four seasons there, winning a title in 2008 to go along with two second place finishes. Last season may have just been an aberration, and if the odds are to be believed, they should at least be in the playoff, if not re-promoted outright.

Wigan Athletic

Nickname: The Latics
Founded: 1932
Location: Wigan
Team Colors: Blue / White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma
Kit Sponsor: Intersport
Ground: DW Stadium (1999-Present)
Capacity:  25,133
Manager: Paul Cook (since 2017)
Website: www.wiganathletic.com
2017-18 Season: 1st of 24 in League One (promoted)
Seasons in Premier League: Eight, last in 2012-2013

Wigan had a strong season at League One, winning the title in a duel with Blackburn Rovers. They moved into first place after Week 40, and held off the Rovers by winning four of their last seven without a loss. They averaged nearly two goals a game, and only allowed 29 goals all season. Will that lower-tier success transfer to to the Latics’ latest season in the Championship? That remains to be seen.

They were only in League One after a 23rd place finish the prior season, and two of their last three seasons in the Championship have ended at that spot in the table. They may have the staying power to avoid another “one and done” season, but they don’t appear ready to compete for the title, or even a playoff spot. With two of their first four matches against teams expected to compete for the title – Aston Villa and Stoke City – we might have an early indication of what this season holds for them before the first month is out.

That’s all 24 teams from the Championship! With games kicking off this weekend, stay tuned for my preseason power rankings with where I expect all the clubs to finish.

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