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» One Touch Football - Archive » Football » The best defence in the Championship is? (Page 2)

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sidjames
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quote:
Is it as odd as League Two though? So far there's been more away wins than home wins this season.
quote:
very true, i heard that on a podcast earlier this evening.
Of course the podcast just nicked their info off OTF.... http://www.onetouchfootball.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=012719;p=0&r=nfx

And Jorge is right - League Two is abysmal.

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Heston Bee
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League Two's standard - Thirded.
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Harry Carpenter
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Further to the discussion above ;

Some call it competitive, but is this season's Championship just a triumph of mediocrity?

This year's promoted teams look highly likely to be next season's cannon fodder, writes Stuart James

The Guardian, Wednesday March 19, 2008


With three Championship clubs reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and just about every team in the division either chasing promotion, seeking to avoid relegation or, in some cases, both, it is tempting to celebrate the revival of football's second tier. That would be the obvious conclusion to draw from a season during which Barnsley and Cardiff City have bruised a few Premier League egos. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and the Championship league table tells a different story.

The mere 21 points that separate a place in the top three from the bottom three - a remarkable statistic without comparison in recent times - has prompted many Championship managers to trumpet the "competitive" nature of the division. That may well be so, with Leicester's 4-1 win at West Bromwich Albion last Saturday providing a case in point, but it would be naive to suggest numerous teams playing at the same level equates to a high standard of football.

While Gary Johnson, Paul Sturrock and Phil Brown all deserve praise for their impressive achievements this season at Bristol City, Plymouth Argyle and Hull City, in many ways the success of those clubs is an indictment of the league. So bizarre are the results that Crystal Palace, a team with no chance of winning automatic promotion, can string together an unbeaten 15-match run while Norwich, still threatened by relegation, also went 13 games without defeat.

"There are going to be seasons when there are clubs in the division who are too good for it and then you will get a season like this where it is all much of a muchness," said John Gregory, who was sacked as Queens Park Rangers manager in October. "This season, in particular, there are a lot of clubs that are all very similar. There isn't a Sunderland or Birmingham with the clout to buy the best players and get straight back up."

Few would deny that the absence of clear frontrunner has made for a more exciting end to the Championship season although Derby County's chastening experience in the top flight suggests that any future promotion parties might well be short-lived.

Despite investing far more money in January last year than the current top six in the Championship spent during the same period this season, Derby have been embarrassingly out of their depth in the Premier League.

With that in mind, Paul Jewell last week offered little hope to the clubs pursing promotion. "The gap between top and bottom in the Premier League is getting wider, without a doubt," said Jewell, who is still looking for his first Derby victory. "I heard someone say that because there are three Championship teams in the FA Cup semi-finals the gap is getting smaller. I don't know what they've been drinking but I could do with some of it just now."

Although Derby had the infrastructure to support a return to the top flight, the same cannot be said for Bristol City, Plymouth, Hull and, to a lesser extent Stoke, none of whom have played in the Premier League. That those clubs are being talked of as promotion candidates is testament to their managers and players, who have proved what can be achieved through organisation, motivation and commitment, but those qualities alone will not be enough to keep them up.

That much was clear last season when Sheffield United's one-dimensional approach came up short. There had been hopes of an immediate return at Bramall Lane this term but those prospects are fast disappearing. Charlton Athletic and Watford, who were also relegated last season, are more likely to be in the promotion shake-up but for several former Premier League clubs, in particular Norwich, Coventry, Leicester, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday, avoiding relegation is the primary aim.

It would also be the only objective come the start of next season for the promoted three clubs. Only once since the Premier League's inception have the three promoted clubs all been relegated, although the odds on it happening for a second time in 2009 - assuming Sunderland or Birmingham City survive this term - promise to be short despite the impressive FA Cup victories that have done much to raise the Championship's profile.

"The FA Cup is a great advert for the Championship," added Gregory. "But you can win five matches in one season and be in the Cup final. But when you go into the Premiership you have 38 matches to play. You can't reproduce the quality needed in the Premiership week after week with Championship players. You can only do it for a short period of time."

Aidy Boothroyd discovered as much last season when Watford, although far more resilient than Derby, finished bottom of the Premier League. The Watford manager hoped to bounce back this season but he could never have imagined he would require so few victories. "The way this league is going," said Boothroyd last week, "it could be that you'll need the highest amount of points ever to avoid relegation and the least amount to win promotion." The latter tells a story.

Weird numbers from the league that can't tell top from bottom

49 The number of goals conceded by the Championship leaders Stoke. Third-bottom Sheffield Wednesday have let in just 43

141 Number of draws already this season compared to a total of 123 in last year's entire campaign

18 The position of Norwich City despite going on a 13-match unbeaten run from December until February

15 The number of points between the final play-off position, 6th, and the relegation zone, 22nd

46 Goals scored by second-placed Bristol City, this season. Colchester, stuck at the bottom, are more prolific with 50 goals

2 The goal difference shared by the promotion-chasing Bristol club and relegation-threatened Leicester

10 The games won at this stage of last season by Leeds who went on to finish bottom. At the moment Colchester have won just six matches

13 Sheffield United's position despite just one defeat in their last 10 games

42 The points Southend were relegated with when finishing third-bottom last season. Sheffield Wednesday, left, third-bottom now, already have 43

21 Points between third-placed Watford and third-bottom Sheffield Wednesday. At the same time last season the difference was 31 points

6 Number of games since promotion hopefuls Watford last won

15 The number of matches Crystal Palace went unbeaten yet they are still outside the play-off places

[ 20.03.2008, 14:25: Message edited by: Harry Carpenter ]

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cosa arancione calda
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I thibk articles like this overlook the mediocrity that makes up the vast majority of the Premier League. Much the same is said every year, but at least two of the prmoted teams prove themselves to be no more awful than the lower half of the Premier League.

That said, Divison 2 is particularly awful this year, as the continued presence of my own bunch of no-hopers on the fringe of the play-offs testifies.

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Heston Bee
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I don't quite see how the figures relating to Palace and Norwich strengthen the argument? Normally such examples would be used to show how strong the division is, ie a team goes unbeaten for 15 games but still can't penetrate the top 6.
Perhaps because the term "unbeaten" is ambiguous? 12 wins and 3 draws isn't anything like 12 draws and 3 wins, is that what he's getting at?

[ 20.03.2008, 14:27: Message edited by: Heston Bee ]

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glass half empty
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"That much was clear last season when Sheffield United's one-dimensional approach came up short."

Here we go again with the usual simplistic shit. Whatever one may think of the Blades under Warnock last season in the Premiership there is no denying that we were ridiculously unlucky. We were played off the park twice in 38 matches by Villa and Liverpool away. In the 3-0 at Chelsea we were badly affected by the Hulse leg break and the 3-0 at Arsenal they were clearly superior but we weren't humiliated.

There were plenty of teams who could have taken the third relegation spot just as easily as us. Off the top of my head Man City, Fulham, West Ham, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Wigan, were all shit and Villa, Tottenham and Blakburn were cack for large parts of the season as well. There is certainly no guarantee that any of them would have strolled the championship this season had they gone down.

Now admittedly, we hardly helped our cause by a certain appointment but that is not the whole story. When you are relegated there are any number of body blows that the club has to take including; financial uncertainty and cut backs, poor morale and motivation, shaky confidence, reduced crowds and increased crowd agitation, best players jumping ship, the rest of the division raising their game against you etc. etc.

If the fans of any the teams above think rationally about the effects relegation last season would have had on their team I bet a very large, cold, shudder goes through them. They too would have been dragged into the frantic nightmare that is Division 2.

And yet the division is not without virtue, it's less predictable, more competitive and less up its own arse than the Premiership.

Essentially the gap exists because of the fear factor of relegation, there is a grim logic to the path that teams have to take when they go down and the only long term solution to the present woeful situation is to have a 2 division Premiership with a much more even distribution of funds.

Relegation from the top division is at present a disaster for a club and disasters breed desperation. If the financial gap between the two divisions were reduced it would ultimately be to the benefit of the standard of football in both divisions. Turkeys voting for Christmas is more likely.

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Janik
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I don't quite see how the figures relating to Palace and Norwich strengthen the argument? Normally such examples would be used to show how strong the division is, ie a team goes unbeaten for 15 games but still can't penetrate the top 6.


I tihnk it's being used to demonstrate the wild inconsistency of the league. That Norwich and Palace went on those long unbeaten runs, yet are still mid-table or worse, show just how poor they have been in the rest of their seasons.

It has to be that, becuase penetrating the top six ought not be tough, given how few points they have for their respective positions. I went on holiday for two weeks recently. During that time I was getting texted Stoke's (and Leicester's) results, but only those. Stoke picked up 5 points from the five games whilst I was away. I came home and fired up teletexted expecting to see Stoke down to 4th in the table. And was somewhat staggered to see them top!

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Janik
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Essentially the gap exists because of the fear factor of relegation, there is a grim logic to the path that teams have to take when they go down and the only long term solution to the present woeful situation is to have a 2 division Premiership with a much more even distribution of funds.

No way is that a good idea. It's only a solution for a handful of clubs who hang around near the bottom of the Premier League or the top of the Championship. It would simply move the enormous wealth disparity now a bit, so that clubs coming up out of League One would have no chance of competing like Bristol City have done this season, or did Colchester last. The fundamental issue would remaining utterly unresolved.

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Harry Carpenter
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GHE,

I think you have extrapolated a lot from one comment on Sheff U. Without contradicting anything you have writted the statement that the Blades were "one-dimensional" and "came up short" is eminently supportable.

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Harry Carpenter
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Echoing Janik's comments, the stats in that article are more to illustraste the quirks of the division rather than it's quality or lack of it. The title they are given and the fact they were in a sidebar to the original printed article makes this clear.

I think the over-riding impression still comes through that it's a poor division this season. Hopefully I am seeing us against Bristol City tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how they're playing (the match at their place was skewed by a very early sending-off for one of our players).

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Phoebe Disco
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It IS a weak division though, not because Bristol City are on top of it but because there is real lack of quality across all sides.

Hear, hear.

I don't think Bristol City are the pointer to that though. I think Ipswich are.

Last season, we finished 14th. A fair position, because we had a change in management, and a turnover on the pitch. At the end of the season, the only first choice players who had been there the season before were Jason De Vos, Owen Garvan and Alan Lee. Over the summer, we went from bidding £750k for Franny Jeffers, to saying that we only had the cash for three free transfers (Neil Alexander, Tommy Miller and Pablo Couñago). Despite never looking like a team, and rarely playing well for more than 20 minutes a game, we entered the transfer window in the playoffs.

(This is where it turns into a rant, by the way).

Sixth, and the two areas, the world and his wife (including our manager) knew we needed to strengthen, both in terms of quality, and also in terms of numbers were centre half and centre forward. We came out of the transfer window with three extra midfielders, and two goalkeepers. And we still didn't look like a team.

We now have no first choice goalkeeper. Stephen Bywater is playing in goal at the moment, and he belongs to Derby. Only a moron would turn that loan deal permanent, based on his performances so far (oh fuck). Nick Colgan was specifically signed as backup, and our only other keeper (Shane Supple) is warming the bench on loan at Falkirk.

At the back, we're a mess. Jason De Vos is getting slower by the day, and has already hinted that he will retire in the summer, Richard Naylor is his first choice partner, but a) he's not good enough, and b) he's out for the season. Other than that we have the unconvincing Alex Bruce (who wants to be a right back), the ageing Fabian Wilnis and the untested Chris Casement. Magilton spent the entire transfer window trying to unsettle Gareth McAuley at Leicester in the hope of signing him (an irritating trademark of Magilton's, he also done this with David Norris, Dave Nugent and only yesterday talked about Fulham's Dejan Stefanovic), but was told where to go by Ian Holloway.

Left back is even worse. Dan Harding is struggling with second season season syndrome. Our only other left backs are Matt Richards (on loan at Brighton) and Kurt Robinson (signed pro terms on Monday).

However, at right back, we have an embarrassment of riches. David Wright has played well this season, so has Sito, Wilnis and Bruce both prefer playing there, and it's the only position Casement's played in the first team. So, it makes sense only in Magiltonworld that our latest signing, the defender he's been trying to sign for months, ends up being a right back - Manchester United's Danny Simpson. So unless anything changes, left back for the rest of the season is a square peg in a round hole of Wright or Sito. Neither are as effective there.

Midfield is an embarressment. We have Garvan, Miller, Sumulikoski, Norris and Legwinski whose best position is in the centre, meaning Norris is (usually) the second square peg. Only in Magiltonworld would you spend £2m (the biggest signing in over six years) on a player (the aforementioned Norris) who then played 8 out of his first 9 games out of position, on the right. A position he's not very good at. We had a nice run of games where our midfield of Alan Quinn-Sumulikosi-Miller-Norris were all box-to-box players. Nothing 2D about that. At all. Sumulikoski can play the holding role, but Magilton doesn't appear to want him to do it. Which leaves only Owen Garvan and Sylvain Legwinski (who hasn't featured for two months) as offering anything different. Quinn was signed to play left wing, but arrived carrying an injury. Which means that forwards Jon Walters and Danny Haynes still play out wide fairly regularly. More square pegs. Don't get me wrong, Walters has been fantastic on the right - player of the season, easily - but with the strikers out of form, we now need him up front.

Up front, Lee (3 goals in 26 game) and Couñago (1 in 17) are as out of form as those figures suggest. Walters is now out for the season, Kuqi signed on loan (but to replace Walters, rather than be the extra striker we needed), and got carried off with a hamstring strain on his return. Haynes has been appalling for months, and our only other strikers are youngster Jordan Rhodes and Billy Clarke, who was farmed out on loan to Falkirk because we needed a striker.

Tomorrow, we'll have at least two players out of position (Wright, Haynes), at least two more out of form (Lee, Couñago) , and at least two more not good enough (Bruce, Bywater).

We're two points off the playoffs. With a game in hand. By definition, this division has to be shit.

I blame Derby and Sunderland. They've got about 2 Premiership players between them. The reason there's no quality in the Championship is because a number of the better players are at Derby or Sunderland - and a much higher proportion than normal.

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glass half empty
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Janik,

I still think it would be an improvement. The problem at the moment is that very few Division 1 quality players (or their agents) will countenance signing for a Division 2 team even if the club could afford them. For example, when James Beattie signed for the Blades there were plenty muttering in disbelief and this is despite the fact that most Top Division teams would view him now as a cover/squad player at best. If you add to this the far greater difficulty of obtaining work permits for overseas players out of the top flight it results in a situation that a club has to reconstruct its team in the closed season after promotion on whatever money it can scrape together. And of course most come up short and are summarily dismissed.

QPR are an interesting case at the moment, with their sudden bounty their tactic seems to be to put together a Division 2 all stars team in order to get promoted next season when they will have the financial clout to rebuild the squad again for the premiership, rather than paying a kings ransom in fees and wages to get players they would like to build the squad with now, despite the fact that they could probably afford to do it.

A more even spread of money over the top two divisions would allow level 2 clubs to build a squad that would have a better chance of competing and the standard of football would increase.

As for Division 3 teams coming up, well yes it would be a bit more difficult but not as bad as the jump at present from 2 to 1. For a start relegation is 3 from 24 not 3 from 20 and that makes a difference. It certainly shouldn't preclude a City club like Bristol City from making the jump, given their potential they should have been playing at Division 2 level anyway but I accept it might make it difficult for a few of the smaller clubs like Southend, Crewe, Rotherham etc. having their glory days.

HC,

Ultimately, I guess we came up short, yes, OK, but I don't like the expression "one-dimensional". It is dismissive in the most dismissive sense, in that someone can't be bothered to analyse the situation fully and they repeat a phrase and people nod knowingly when in reality it is bollox and means nowt. It is untrue to suggest we only played games with one unchanging tactical approach. Sometimes we smacked ale house balls up the pitch on other occasions we played it short, we played 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, Christ, on some occasions we even put 3 up front. It is true that the team had a strong work ethic and closed the opposition down all over the pitch rather than surrendering space, but that isn't "one dimensional" it's called survival tactics when faced with a £50M strike force and crucially it is forced on promoted teams by the system not adopted by choice. The implication is, of course that we were a plucky bunch of huff and puff merchants, with a maniac manager, gruff, uncivilised, fans and a habit of kicking the opposition in order to get even. The facts just don't back it up, well apart from the bit about a maniac manager and ...er Chris Morgan.

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Harry Carpenter
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On the evidence of today's visit of the (near) table-topping Bristol City my opinion of the overall quality of the division is far from changed.

It may have been an unreprasentative performance from them (though they were similar in the away game against ten men) but it was pretty limited stuff. A team vying for the Premiership who have a main tactic of hit & hope to Dele Adebola is wrongness on a massive scale. Though we were deserved winners we only scored through two set pieces ourselves.

It was definitely an exciting, eventful and enjoyable game though. Well worth watching on the ITV highlights tomorrow.

[ 22.03.2008, 23:40: Message edited by: Harry Carpenter ]

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Phoebe Disco
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By contrast, Scunthorpe didn't look that bad. I've certainly seen worse in this division this season.

As far as Magiltonworld goes, he brought our new right back on at right midfield. We finished the game with another one at left midfield (Sito). That's probably just because he'd scored his first goal since signing three years ago, and it was a classic wingers goal. Twisting, turning and beating players.

Our other Spaniard (Couñago) scored the first, and got sent off - presumably for smacking Jack Cork (on loan from Chelsea), although it's being suggested that he'd already spat at Andy Crosby. Magilton has said that he'll "throw the book at him" if true.

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ale
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the example of Derby is the most harrowing though...accumulated 84 points last year which is a figure that this seasons contenders can reach only if they win every single remaining game...and promotion destroyed the career of their manager who had taken them up five months earlier...

Sunderland got only 4 points more and needed to spend £40 million in order to finish in the bottom 6 rather than the bottom 3 ...

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