Another international break, another chance to catch up on our favourites for the promotion and playoff places.
You might remember they were, in no particular order, Fulham, Leeds, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland. How have they done?
The more observant of you might be wondering what our readers were thinking, given the current top six, but I have to say that when I reported in at the start of September a lot of our chosen clubs were in an even lower league position than they are now. Furthermore, there have been changes in the clubs occupying the top six spots since then and I am sure there will be more to come. I don’t think you should jump to the conclusion that our readers know nowt about football just yet. Wait a few months to be sure.
One – maybe the only – of the six chosen clubs that wasn’t in a worse position earlier was Sunderland. We had just begun a run of dreadful form that would see our league position destroyed; as our points total remained constant teams climbed above us, and even two decent away draws at Hull and Preston (our only points in seven games) haven’t been enough to halt our descent:
When we translate that to our tracking chart (click this link to see an explanation) we can see see how our competitors, for want of a better word, have fared much better than us. While we have been flatlining they have climbed, with the result that the gap between our points and the number required for a top six place has widened, while the other clubs have more or less kept pace with what’s needed, or maybe even narrowed the gap.
That doesn’t mean they are nailed-on candidates to go up, however. Far from it.
Leeds, perhaps, look the part (though even they have stuttered) but not the rest, thanks to Cardiff, Wolves, Sheffield United, Bristol City and Preston who currently occupy five of the top six spots:
Given that Cardiff, Wolves and Sheffield United have been in the top six since September it’s reasonable to assume that they will take some shifting, which begs the question
Which, if any, of our contenders look capable of finishing in the straight promotion or playoff places?
Not Sunderland, I think. We did manage to rise from top to bottom when in a similar league position 10 years ago but that was after taking on a new manager. It won’t happen again, but is it impossible for us to finish in the top six? We have to say no, it could happen. We also have to say it will be a miracle if it does, but we have had miracles before.
Aston Villa seem to have recovered from an early stutter and, after 4 wins on the bounce, are knocking on the door. In fact, our chart shows them as having gained enough points to be in my play-off zone, despite the League table saying they haven’t. As my calculations from previous seasons haven’t been too bad, just not good enough for you to run down to the bookies (I must caution that we don’t use the phrase “dodgy numbers” for nothing), I’m going to stick my neck out and say they will make it in the end.
Fulham started slowly but have had a decent spell recently, with the result that they sit just above Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday (10th, 11th, 12th, respectively, with one point then goal difference between them). Like Villa, Fulham are doing enough to meet my start of season requirements for a play-off space, but only just. They can’t afford to falter and I have a feeling that they will. So I’ll count them out for now.
‘Boro appear to be having trouble converting draws to wins but Wednesday seem to be even more inconsistent. Wins are gaining them points but losses are costing them dearly. Both are within touching distance of the playoff boundary and a good spell might see either of them crossing it but I’d be surprised if both are there come the end of the season. If I have to choose one of them I think it will be ‘Boro.
My points is that it’s early days yet and all of these clubs except Sunderland have improved to some extent as Ipswich and Nottingham Forest have fallen back. Any of them could get into the reckoning if Preston, Bristol or any of the current front runners have a similar poor run. With three quarters of the season yet to run there will be slips. The question is “who will they affect?”
Let me know what you think and I’ll see you in six weeks with an update.
McCormick's dodgy numbers. The arithmetic's correct, it's just the rest that's a bit suspect