The first point to note is that this looks like a trappier renewal than each of the last two seasons where first Newcastle and then Wolves dominated their division on their way back to the Premier League. Until recently the ante post market for Championship winner was 8/1 the field and even now, after support for Stoke City, it is 8/1 bar one and I would expect that the very top of the division should be tighter than it has been for several seasons.
Parachute payments remain a key form of differentiation here for prospects over a season. For the three seasons following relegation from the Premier League sides receive £40m, £35m then £15m. An academic study released this summer suggested that a side with such payments had a five point advantage over teams without.
However that is not an indicator of success in isolation. Off the field stability (ownership, notably) has to exist too, so sides like Hull, Sunderland and most probably from this season Aston Villa haven’t been able to benefit from the in built financial advantage that parachute payments provide.
Of course the relegated sides are the obvious place to start and there are arguments to suggest any of Stoke (5/1) West Brom (8/1) and Swansea (12/1) can bounce straight back. All three are relatively stable, with new young managers.
Stoke look to be retaining the bulk of their players Butland included. They have spent on Afobe and are publically in the market for £10-15m type players. However this was a very functional team last season even with the now departed Shaqiri. Quite where the playing style is to dominate the division as a 5/1 price implies I am not sure.
West Brom under Darren Moore did not perform like a relegation side in the last two months of last season but have since lost Evans and Foster with the prospect of Rondon, McClean, Rodriguez and Dawson leaving to follow but are still likely to end up net spenders in this transfer window.
Swansea have lost Fabianski, Ki and Bartley and are not likely to be net spenders, so that in itself accounts for their longer ante-post price
In the same sphere as these sides are the first side I want to be supporting for the upcoming season. Middlesbrough (9/1) were relegated the season before last and in their first season back in the Championship finished in the play-offs. Pulis took over from Monk mid-season and they lose nothing in parachute payment firepower compared to the relegated sides, plus we know that the side can perform in the Championship. The team is intact from last season, with Flint and McNair added at centre back. Adama Trarore is one of the flair players in the division and Assombolonga a goal-scorer wherever he goes, including 15 last year.
I took a look into last season for Middlesbrough to try to discern if there was a “Pulis effect” from which we could draw some inferences for this season. Garry Monk left at the end of December and results under him were
9 wins, 5 losses 9 draws, 32 points
Under Pulis, results were 13 wins, 5 draws and 5 losses, 44 points
Of those five losses, three were to Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham. Obviously we can (simplistically) extrapolate that 44 points and say that with a full season of Pulis Middlesbrough would have finished third in last seasons’ championship but its not as easy as that of course. So I then looked at the xG date for the side across 2017-2018
xGScored was 1.3 exactly in average with the division (13th of 24)
It is in xGAllowed per match that the story comes. Overall Middlesbrough recorded xGA of 1.2 less than the divisional average of 1.31. Under Monk though it was 1.4 and under Pulis (surprise surprise) the figure fell to 1.0 which over a season was good for 3rd (behind Wolves and Sheffield United)
So Middlesbrough under Pulis are not necessarily going to set your pulse racing but in a division I would contend might not have a stand out team they are as solid as any prospect
Recommendation 10 points each way Middlesbrough to win the Championship 9-1 1/4 1,2,3 Bet365 Betfred
Outside the sides already mentioned there are what I would regard as more “boom-bust” betting options. In no particular order:
Derby (16-1) under Frank Lampard and with young loans such as Mount and Wilson in place for the season
Leeds (10-1) under Marco Bielsa, which might be brilliant, or might be over by the end of September. In a recent pre-season friendly he set them up 3-3-1-3, and I suggest for a championship squad this might take a bit of getting used to. Likely to be entertaining though.
Nottingham Forest (10-1) under Aitor Karanka, a club going nowhere 18 months ago but this off-season have acquired Carvalho from Benfica for £13.5m, which raised an eyebrow here at least, and spent £6.5m on Lewis Grabban
You can make the case for any of the three easily but I would prefer to do so at higher than 10-1 especially
Other sides off my short list were Sheffield United 25-1 (a pending ownership dispute means decisions on when they can strengthen lies with the courts), Norwich 25-1 (James Maddison a big loss) and Aston villa 16-1 (finances and ownership, though new investors emerged last week)
I took a look at the “To be promoted” market
Last season we backed Brentford alongside Cardiff. Brentford had a terrible start then recovered to finish 9th. Not too surprisingly for a squad built by analysts, Brentford were the darling of the stats boys all season. On revisiting this in this off-season I found that in 2017-18 they recorded the highest xGScored per game in the division at 1.66 above even Wolve sand Cardiff. Their xGA was below average too at 1.2. Of course with 1.66/1.2 to then only finish 9th can mean bad luck, but more particularly for Brentford appeared to be bad finishing. I spoke to an acquaintance who watches them who told me and I paraphrase “very solid at the back, best winger in the division (Watkins) but none of our midfielders want to shoot, and we lacked end product”
Brentford have finished in the Championship’s top 10 in each of their last four seasons since winning promotion in 2014 Will that be corrected this year? I don’t know but they are priced at 5-1 in this market, 9th in the list in line with their 9th place finish last season. One thing they have to overcome every year is the players that they have unearthed and developed going to bigger teams often in their division, and there are several more leaving this summer. However the recruitment process is consistent and there has to be a chance they make a decent run at the play-offs if they take the steps to address the finishing via this recruitment which even a cursory look at the figures shows is the major problem and we can get a run at 5-1.
Recommendation 8 points Brentford to be promoted 5-1 Bet365 Betfred, William Hill
Sunderland, after a torrid two years with successive relegations, find themselves in League One with a £35m parachute payment. Of course this might have been academic under previous owner Ellis Short with the club £100m in debt but he sold out in the summer to a consortium and as part of the deal wrote off the debt.
So, for the first time in several years there is stability off the field and the chance to benefit from this budget. New manager Jack Ross (from Scottish Championship winning St Mirren) is in the early stages of reshaping the squad (the likes of Jack Rodwell finally leaving) and new signings are on the horizon. League One is a physical division and some experience and size is needed.
The last side in League one with Premier League Parachute payments were Wigan in 2015-16 who romped away with the division. It might be a rockier ride than that initially for Sunderland but they stand every chance.
Recommendation: Sunderland to win League one at 100/30 SkyBet 3/1 generally