Note: The plan early in the season is to update these standings about every five weeks or so until much later in the season. We’ll try to highlight the important game that most impact the promotion and relegation zones in these pieces, but also take a look at how teams got to that point in the table.
Instead of updating the Power Rankings this week – we’ll do it next week when the clubs return from this international break – we decided that it was time to take another look at the promotion and relegation standings in the Championship this week. This will be the third time we’ve looked at these rankings, and for the most part, a lot of the same teams featured in Version Two are still somewhere on the list, but they might be in a different spot than last time.
As a reminder, the top two teams automatically qualify for promotion to next year’s Premier League, while the next four clubs compete for one spot in a two-round playoff. Last season, Wolverhampton Wanderers won the Championship, Cardiff City finished second, and Fulham earned promotion through the playoff (after finishing third during the season). And while the Wolves are currently fighting for a spot in the top half of the Premier League, Fulham and Cardiff City have both struggled this season (to say the least), and currently find themselves in the relegation zone.
The top of the league table currently looks like this:
Norwich City has perhaps made the biggest leap since our last look at the standings, and have won five straight matches since, leaping to the top of the standings. This is quite a departure from last season, which saw the Canaries finish in 14th place. Through 17 matches last season, they were in 12th place, with a 6-5-6 record (21 points). They are currently four wins better than that right now – they didn’t win their tenth match until Match 27 last year – and don’t really show any sign of slowing down.
Second place Middlesbrough is also undefeated since the last look at these standings, though they only have two wins since then (2-3-0). That’s good enough to find themselves as an automatic qualifier currently, which would be a slight improvement over last season when they finished in 5th and qualified for the promotion playoff. Through 17 matches last season, they were in 6th place, with an 8-5-4 record (29 points), so they didn’t move much from that point going forward, a result I’m sure Boro would be extremely pleased with this season. They are also the only Championship club that remains alive in the EFL Cup competition, giving them an outside shot at qualifying for next season’s Europa League (if they can make it through Burton Albion and three Premier League clubs). Working for them is a defense that has allowed the fewest goals in the Championship – goalkeeper Darren Randolph leads the league with 10 clean sheets – though they probably want to score a bit more to assure promotion (only five clubs have scored fewer goals thus far).
The highest scoring team in the league is West Bromwich Albion, who have scored eight more goals than the next highest team. West Brom was relegated to the Championship after finishing 20th in the Premier League last season, so making this season a one-year detour would probably be a result that they would welcome. They have been going the opposite direction than the top two clubs on the table, going 1-1-3 over their past five matches. Their most recent match was a 4-1 win against Leeds United, a team they join with a league-best +12 goal differential. Whether or not they return to their early season form – they went 6-2-2 in their first ten matches – or will continue their recent pace remains to be seen, but we will definitely be watching.
At the other end of the table, the bottom three clubs face relegation to League One. Last season, Barnsley, Burton Albion, and Sunderland found themselves at the bottom of the table. Sunderland and Barnsley are both doing well on League One this season, while Burton Albion is in 14th place (though they are the only League One team still playing in the EFL Cup).
The bottom of the Championship table currently looks like this:
Four of the clubs that were at the bottom of the table last time remain there, with only Preston North End finding there way out of the relegation zone. Bolton Wanderers haven’t helped themselves, going winless since September (0-1-6) to find themselves only ahead of bottom-dweller Ipswich Town, though they do have the same number of points as the other clubs and are only behind them on point differential. Bolton has only won one game since starting the season 3-1-0, so they have some work to do to even match their 21st place finish from last year.
Hull City managed to climb off the bottom of the table by going 2-2-1 since the last look at the standings. They have struggled a bit with scoring this season, scoring more goals than only three other clubs – Bolton, Ipswich Town, and Rotherham United (14) – though they only have one match this season where they’ve lost by three goals. Through 17 matches last season, they were in 20th place, with a nearly identical 4-5-8 record, before they finished in 18th place. I’m sure they are hoping their recent (relative) strong stretch is more indicative to how their season will end up playing out, otherwise they will find themselves back in League One for the first time since 2005.
Usually, the first clubs we would look at for likeliest to be relegated would be the three clubs that were promoted from League One after last season. As mentioned previously, two of the three clubs promoted to the Premier League are currently in the relegation zone in that league. In the Championship, however, the three recently promoted teams are, for now, well clear. Last year’s League One champion, Wigan Athletic, are in 16th place, four points clear of the relegation zone. Blackburn Rovers, who finished second last year, are only two points out of the playoffs in 9th place. Only Rotherham United, who won the League One playoff, are in a tenuous position, finding themselves in 19th place and only two points clear of the relegation zone. Rotherham United has never played in the Premier League but I’m sure they would like this trip to the Championship to last longer than one season.
We’ll be checking in with these standings again when the season reaches the midway point after six more matches and as the clubs have an opportunity to add players during the January transfer window to make a run at promotion – or avoid relegation. Is there going to be a club not mentioned here that makes a run to find themselves closer to the top of the table in January? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until next time…