Championship football has often been referred to as the breeding ground for young English talent, with Premier League sides sending their best prodigies away from the big time in return for some first-team minutes at lesser clubs.
But now, sides are signing hungry players from lower divisions and freshening up the league instead of the same faces playing week in week out for different clubs.
The games themselves are quite a contrast in the top two tiers as, typically, when a team near the bottom of the Premier League visits a side near the top, they go there looking for a point with their main goal being to frustrate their opponents by parking the bus. These games are so predictable and, most of the time, the lesser opponents end up coming just short and lose by a margin of one, two or three goals to zero.
However, this is not the case in the Championship as teams go out looking to win every game and this subsequently leads to some of the games of the season. Look no further than Aston Villa if you want a Championship classic because they have been part of multiple results ending 3-3 and they were part of the game of the season so far against Nottingham Forest, which finished 5-5. Even last Friday night, Villa looked down and out against Sheffield United when 3-0 down with eight minutes of regular time to go. But they showed their fighting spirit with Andre Green scoring the equaliser after 94 minutes.
The unpredictability of the Championship has shown how good this league has been so far. Nobody would have predicted last season’s 13th-placed and 14th-placed clubs, Leeds United and Norwich City, to be occupying the summit of the table just less than a year later.
The rise of Birmingham City has coincided with the appointment of Garry Monk in early April last year. When Monk was given the
job, Birmingham were placed 20th in the table and now they are in a solid eighth position. In total, that’s a climb of 12 places, the equivalent of Cardiff City getting Champions League football.
The Premier League title race between Manchester City and Liverpool was established before the season even started, with punters simply guessing between the two for the title, and it was then a matter of which order the top six will finish.
That top six has now been split up, with five points separating Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham, and fourth-placed Manchester United a huge nine points behind them. Arsenal and Chelsea are tied on 50 points, one behind United. To recap, 15 points separate top dogs Manchester City and sixth-placed Chelsea, and their clash on Sunday finished a whopping 6-0 to the Citizens. The 15-point gap that separates first and sixth is more than the distance between seventh-placed Wolves and Southampton, who sit 18th!
This is not the case in the second tier, however, with the top of the table being extremely tight. Norwich sit first with 60 points from 31 games and an average of 1.9 points per game. That’s compared to the Premier league leaders’ average of 2.4 points per game, showing how much more competitive the Championship is, compared to the top-flight.
It’s not just the title that’s up for grabs in the Championship either because the team that finishes second gets automatic promotion to the Premier League, with positions third to sixth competing in a play-off for promotion. Whereas the teams who finish second to sixth in the Premier League battle it out to see who will face the champions of Switzerland in the Champions League and who will face
the Belarusian champions on a Thursday night in October in the Europa League.
The way I see it, the more goals, the more exciting the game and as of February 10, the Premier League has seen 736 goals with Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah and Man City’s Sergio Aguero scoring the most with 17 each. However, the Championship has seen a mammoth 985 goals this so far this season, with Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp racking up 22 goals and Norwich’s Teemu Pukki scoring 20!.
Yes, we need to take into consideration the fact that the Premier League has four fewer teams than the Championship, but that’s four more teams that can produce shock results and score more goals, and it’s eight more games where you can pull your team’s shirt out of the wardrobe and wear it with pride as there’s nothing like watching your side pull off an upset against a top team in the division.