Monday, 6 August 2018

Championship Discussion 4: Norwich, Nottingham Forest, Preston, QPR

It was an underwhelming season at Norwich with the club languishing in mid-table for large parts of the season. Daniel Farke’s first season in charge will be seen as largely disappointing from a Norwich fans’ perspective. Norwich struggled for large parts of the season despite having players like Grant Hanley, Timm Klose, Alex Tettey and Nelson Oliveira who are excellent players at this level and they must improve in the new season to give Norwich any chance of competing. Despite playing some very nice possession-based football, Norwich struggled to score goals and win football matches which is consequently why they didn’t threaten the play-off places. However, when on song, Norwich were a joy to watch with players like James Maddison and Josh Murphy sparkling for the club. But with both Maddison and Murphy now playing in the Premier League, Norwich will quickly have to adapt and find a way to still play their style of football. James Maddison was sensational for Norwich providing goals and assists and the challenge for the rest of the Norwich team is to pick up the baton and take charge of scoring goals and creating chances. Norwich have become a selling club and have made £35 million on two players who have never played in the highest league and this tidy sum has allowed Daniel Farke to flex his muscle in the transfer window signing Moritz Leitner on a permanent deal as well as bringing in Ben Marshall, Kenny McLean, Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes. The latter has a lot to prove in the Championship and when on form, Rhodes can be a dangerous player and potent goal scorer. Rhodes has struggled to reach double figures in the last few seasons and Norwich will be desperate to unlock the best out of him. Farke has taken a risk in signing players who either haven’t played in England before or are unproven players in the English game who haven’t reach their potential and I’m sure there is some fear in the Norwich ranks as to where their season ends up going. Daniel Farke had a mixed season and if this season proves the same, there will be unrest at the club because the fans will expect the team to be challenging the play-offs and pushing hard to promotion. However, the reality of the situation is that Norwich’s team isn’t good enough and Farke must find a winning formula if Norwich are going to have a successful season this time around.
I think Norwich are set for mid-table once again this season as I feel they still lack creative players behind their strikers and once again they are going to struggle to score goals consistently. However, I do think Norwich will just above secure a place in the top half.

My Predicted Finish: 12th

Nottingham Forest
It has been years of disappointment for Nottingham Forest with the club struggling to sustain a regular charge to the play-offs and their overall league form isn’t good enough. However, the Forest fans go into the new season with renewed optimism after the club smashed their transfer record for highly rated attacking midfielder Joao Carvalho. Not only that, the club has spent over £24 million on players so far this transfer window bringing in proven goal scorers Lewis Grabban and Hillal Soudani as well as goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and now Aitor Karanka must get results on the pitch otherwise the pressure will severely increase on him. One thing is for sure, Karanka will make Forest extremely difficult to built as his Middlesbrough promotion was built on a solid defence and signing Michael Dawson and Jack Robinson further solidifies a very average Forest back line from the previous season. Dawson has been there and done it and he will certainly want another promotion on his excellent CV. Nottingham Forest have become known for utilising the young players in their academy despite spending the money so far in the Championship. This could be a big season for the likes of Matty Cash and Ben Brereton with the club hoping to make a sustained promotion charge this time around. The forest fans will no doubt be excited for the new season, but they must maintain their form to have any chance at competing for the play-offs this season. However, if they start poorly the fans will turn and Karanka will be under severe pressure and the fans are expecting something this season with play-offs surely being the minimal expectation for the fans to justify the money spent. The big spend approach has its benefits because it has worked in the past for the likes of Newcastle and Wolves however, others have struggled including Aston Villa and Forest will hope they will follow in the steps of the formers. Forest fans are excited and there is a real buzz about the club this season.
I think Nottingham Forest will surprise a few this season and they have a manager in Karanka that has been there and done it. There is plenty of quality in that squad and the pressure will be on for them to challenge for promotion with the play-offs being a minimal expectation. I think Forest will secure a place in the top 6 this season.

My Predicted Finish: 3rd

It was an excellent first season in charge for Alex Neil at Preston. Carrying on the good work of Simon Grayson, Alex Neil kept Preston’s vibrancy by trusting young players and playing some stylish football along the way. The Preston fans will be dreaming that this could be their season this time around as they have been on the cusp of the play-offs in the few seasons. There is plenty of talent in this young Preston side with the likes of Daniel Johnson, Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire and Ben Pearson. The football philosophy of Preston is admirable with an attacking, possession, pacey based game. Preston have to their credit added to their squad each season with Alex Neil adding to areas he fills needs improving and once again he has flexed his muscle in the window by signing the likes of Ryan Ledson, Jordan Storey, Michael Crowe and Graham Burke. Preston look for players who are young and have a burning desire to achieve something and certainly Ryan Ledson has a point to prove after an excellent couple of seasons in League 1 but now he will want to prove he is ready for the step up in the Championship. His passing range is why he is highly regarded, and he could form a wonderful partnership with the likes of Pearson and Johnson at the heart of Preston’s midfield and this combination could be crucial to any success the Lilywhites have this season. The Preston fans will dream of the big league but once again the club will be determined to battle for a place in the play-offs but certainly a top half finish would be the bare minimum for the football club as a whole. Alex Neil is a hungry young manager and wants a taste of success once again and there is no doubt he will install this mentality to the whole playing squad at the club and if everything clicks together, this could be an exciting season for the Lilywhites of Preston.
I think Preston will be a force to be reckoned with and will no doubt be challenging for a place in the top 6. However, I think they will just miss out this time around but no doubt they will fight the entire season for a chance at promotion.

My Predicted Finish: 9th

It is a nervous, strange time being a supporter of QPR after years of overspending and underachieving the club finds itself in a real battle against FFP and potential relegation from the Championship. QPR had a relatively comfortable season under Ian Holloway last season but his surprise sacking and placing Steve McClaren in charge has QPR fans concerned as to where their season is heading. McClaren has had success as a manager but this will be one of his toughest jobs yet with the club not able to spend following a hard slap of a £42 million pound fine for breaching FFP rules. QPR’s squad is very young and experienced heads like Nedum Onuoha and James Perch are no longer at the club and this will be a major concern for QPR fans. Despite being comfortable last season, Holloway made QPR a difficult side to play against at times and McClaren must get a tune out of players like Massimo Luongo, Matt Smith, Luke Freeman and Connor Washington if QPR are going to have any shout of a good season. QPR should have enough talent to survive against relegation but fans will be majorly concerned if QPR don’t do any further transfer business during August. QPR fans at any start of a season would be hopeful of challenging for the play-offs but now they will be hoping for a mid-table finish. QPR will hope they can make something of this season despite their difficult financial issues. McClaren must try and install belief in the whole football club with trepidation and nerves being top of the QPR fans’ emotions.
I think QPR will be battling for survival at the moment especially if McClaren doesn’t add new players in the time remaining in the window. The QPR fans rightly so should be concerned as to where their club is heading but I there is 3 worse teams than them, so I think they will just about survive the drop.

My Predicted Finish: 20th

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