Looking at the form of each team’s opposition, Wolves have led a charmed life to date with the 3rd most favourable fixtures both home and away. The division’s top teams have had to do it the hard way, whereas Bolton and Charlton have wasted good advantages.
Following on from the previous posts looking at the form of League 1 and 2 opponents to discover who has had the ‘easiest’ first half to the season, this post continues the theme by looking at the Championship. The full explanation of why and how this has been done can be found here, but in short I have looked at the form from the last (up to) six games of the opponents of Championship clubs, home and away, and assigned a points-per-game (PpG) average based on the form. Using this, we can rank clubs from favourable (e.g. their opponents have a low PpG, or poor form) to difficult (their opponents have a high PpG, or good form).
This data includes games up to and including 2nd January.
Home Games: Charlton not taking advantage of good home fixtures
Charlton fans have endured a torrid campaign thus far, with widespread discontent at the club’s owners and concerns over the prospects for the club. The mood amongst the fans will not be enhanced with the knowledge that they have only won 23% of their league fixtures at the Valley, despite them having the most favourable home fixtures in the Championship. Sides visiting the Valley have average just 0.72 PpG in the away fixtures leading up to their games against Charlton, suggesting that fortune has done much to assist the Addicks, but the team on the pitch have not been able to respond in kind.
Less severely, QPR’s home fixtures have been kind on their return to the Championship following relegation but they have also failed to capitalize. The club currently lies 16th in the table with a home win ratio of 31%. However, the club do deserve some criticism for this, considering the strength of their squad having retained the likes of Charlie Austin (admittedly injured for some of the season), Rob Green and Matt Phillips. One would expect them to be higher.
At the other end of the spectrum, Huddersfield have endured the toughest home fixtures to date (1.29 PpG). This has not at all helped by some tough away fixtures to (ranked 12th of 24 Championship clubs), which perhaps goes some way to justifying their current league position of 18th.
Away Games: Bolton’s miseries compounded by failure in favourable away fixtures
Bolton’s financial problems, winding up petitions and forthcoming transfer embargo have resulted in few people being surprised by the club currently occupying the bottom position in the Championship. Whilst the Macron Stadium has hardly been a fortress for besieged fans, the club have failed to win a game away from home. This is particularly harrowing when we consider that the club have had the easiest away fixtures in the league; Bolton have visited teams with an average recent home form of just 0.99 PpG.
At the other end of the rankings, Brighton have endured the toughest away fixtures, with the teams they have visited averaging home form of 1.73 PpG. This is remarkable when we consider, at the time of writing, Brighton are unbeaten away from home (three wins and nine draws from 12 matches).
Rankings: Wolves benefit, top teams have done it the hard way
The below graphic shows the rankings for both home (horizontal) and away (vertical) games, ranked from 1-24 against the other teams in the division; a ranking of 1 in both, towards the bottom left of the chart, represents poor form of opponents in both home and away games, whereas the further to the right and top of the chart the harder the opponents become based on form.
The most apparent beneficiary of the fixture list to date has been Wolves, who have had the 3rd most favourable games both home and away in the Championship. With this in mind, the club’s 11th place position might be considered a disappointment considering how close they came to the play-offs last season.
The division’s leading clubs – occupying the top five positions – all gravitate towards the top right, indicating that they have had tough fixtures so far, having to play teams home and away which are in good form. Brighton’s home games have been okay, ranked 10th ‘easiest’ in the division, but as we’ve already explored they have received the toughest away assignments. The team to have been truly disadvantaged are Hull, with the 19th hardest away fixtures and the 23rd hardest home fixtures. With this in mind, their 3rd place position in the table is all the more impressive, despite retaining the core of last season’s Premier League squad.