3 EFL surprise packages that will last at the top and 3 that won't
As the tables begin to take shape, Will Rook discusses why three sides can get excited after an unexpected good start the season and three should be nervous.
Three that will last
Wycombe started their season with a 2-0 home win against a Bolton side made up of youth players.
The modest nature of the victory was no great surprise, after they finished three points above the relegation zone last term and spent almost nothing over the summer.
But having kicked on so impressively since that victory, those expectations should now be adjusted.
Gareth Ainsworth’s side went second in the table after deservedly beating Sunderland 1-0 at Adams Park on Saturday, restricting the visitors to just one shot on target.
They have lost just one of their opening 13 matches and taken points from pre-season promotion candidates Portsmouth and Peterborough, along with that victory over the Black Cats. There is already a five-point gap between themselves and the last play-off spot.
The Chairboys’ attacking output so far proves that their position is no fluke.
They rank third for xG in League One (experimental361) and second for shots, while they have scored three or more on five separate occasions.
Don’t be surprised to see them stick around at the top.
Wycombe to finish in the top six
Crewe haven’t finished higher than 12th in League Two in any of the three seasons since they were relegated, but this is when that changes.
Despite being unfancied by many, their rise to the top of the table has been a continuation of their form from last term.
The Railwaymen earned 40 points during the second half of the 2018/19 season – more than any other side – and took points of five of the eventual top seven at home.
Having made minimal changes over summer – free transfers Olly Lancashire and Daniel Powell and loanee Chuma Anene were the only additions – their relative success is logical.
They have at least avoided defeat against promotion candidates Bradford, Cheltenham, Exeter and Swindon.
Chris Porter has scored another seven goals to go with the 15 he got last season, while winger Charlie Kirk is one of the most exciting talents outside the Premier League.
The Alex are there to stay at the top.
Crewe to win League Two
Having finally found a way to win away from home, fifth-placed Cheltenham look in great shape.
Under manager Michael Duff, the Robins have always been strong at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
They won 10 of their last 15 home games last season and have only dropped four points in six unbeaten games this term.
But before beating Salford 2-0 on the road last month, they had managed just two away wins in 20 in all competitions.
They have now taken 10 points from a possible 12 since the start of September away from home.
Their 2-1 win at Walsall last weekend ensured a return of 25 points from their opening 13 matches – their best start to a league campaign in over 20 years.
Cheltenham to win promotion from League Two
Three that will fall away
For Charlton to occupy seventh place after 12 games in their first year back in the Championship is hugely impressive, particularly under the rocky ownership of Roland Duchatelet.
The chances of their form lasting, though, seem unlikely.
The instability and small budget at The Valley saw Lee Bowyer flirt with the idea of leaving last summer, before he eventually signed a one-year contract extension.
It has also made movement in the transfer market difficult, with Bowyer having to rely on free transfers and loans to replace first-teamers Patrick Bauer, Anfernee Dijksteel and Joe Aribo – all of whom left in summer.
The Addicks’ attacking numbers look unsustainable, too.
They average just 9.2 shots per match – only third-bottom Huddersfield attempt fewer – and rank 16th for total xG this season (experimental361), yet have scored 18 goals – a total only bettered by four sides.
Five of their six victories so far, meanwhile, have come against sides in the bottom half of the table.
While it’s unlikely they will end up in a relegation fight, it would be surprising to see them sustain their position for much longer.
An over-reliance on striker Jonson Clarke-Harris means Bristol Rovers’ decent start is unlikely to last.
The 25-year-old had scored seven times in 10 league appearances, prior to sustaining a calf injury last month that will keep him out until at least mid-November.
That is a worry given that the Gas have only netted 15 goals in League One this season, the equal-fewest of any top-half side.
Worse yet, this isn’t even Clarke-Harris’ first issue of the campaign, having missed all of pre-season with a pelvis injury.
Rovers rank 13th in the division for shots per game and 15th for shots on target, suggesting that they struggle to create chances.
That just nine of their league goals have come from open play – only six sides have scored fewer – further suggests that a flimsy attack is being propped up by one player.
Should he lose form, or suffer any more injuries or suspensions, his team will be in serious trouble.
Admittedly, Forest Green wouldn’t constitute a surprise package to most people, having made it to the play-off semi-final last season.
But the fact that they have managed to maintain a spot in the top seven at this stage of the season, despite dreadful underlying numbers, means they are worthy of a mention.
Mark Cooper’s side have attempted just 3.5 shots on target per game – only bottom-four sides Oldham, Scunthorpe and Morecambe have had fewer – while just six teams have scored fewer than their 16 goals.
They have lost the xG battle in eight of their 14 league games (experimental361) and concede 13.4 shots per match – the eighth-most in League Two.
Despite that, they have somehow only let in nine league goals.
They surely cannot continue as a promotion contender while posting those numbers.
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