One Championship team should be applauded for not sacking their manager, while another had no option, plus more takes from the start of the season.
Stoke should be applauded
When Stoke lost at home to Nottingham Forest at the end of September, it was assumed that Nathan Jones would be sacked as their manager.
It was also widely accepted that he didn’t deserve to be. His team ranked comfortably in the top half for xG, played good, progressive football, but were regularly being let down by bad luck and defensive errors beyond their manager’s control.
But still, he would be sacked, because that’s what happens to managers whose teams lose a few matches in a row.
So that Stoke chairman Peter Coates has stood by a man who can so clearly get them back on track with some time and patience is genuinely uplifting.
Jones’ team fell to another embarrassing defeat after the Forest game – a 1-0 reverse to Huddersfield that they dominated and lost, as usual – but the Potters’ board were finally rewarded for their patience as they won 2-1 at Swansea on Saturday.
Neutrals should hope Stoke’s upturn can continue, because it would set a blueprint for owners to be more analytical and apply context to their managers’ results, which will almost certainly give their team a better chance of success.
Stoke to finish in the top six
Huddersfield were right to act fast
When Huddersfield were relegated from the Premier League, it felt harsh to lay any blame on Jan Siewert.
The German had arrived at a club that were 10 points off safety with two victories from 23 games and were as good as down.
According to former chairman Dean Hoyle, his appointment had been part of a ‘succession plan’ after David Wagner’s departure and was made with the long-term in mind.
Yet, after earning just one point from Huddersfield’s opening four games this season, that plan was abandoned after he was sacked.
But this was no knee-jerk reaction. Unlike Stoke, there were no encouraging signs or redeeming factors.
Siewert’s relationship with certain senior players had reportedly broken down and, having managed just one victory in 19 games in charge, the Terriers were on a fast track back to League One.
In making the decision when they did, the club gave themselves an opportunity to save their season.
Since the impressive capture of manager Danny Cowley last month, they have been vindicated.
Huddersfield beat Hull 3-0 at the weekend to move out of the relegation zone, recording back-to-back victories for the first time since the start of the 2017/18 season.
Their return of seven points from their last three league games puts them just eight points off a place in the top half.
With three quarters of the season remaining, Huddersfield fans can start looking up the table for once.
Huddersfield to finish in the top six
Lambert has revived Ipswich
Bouncing back from a bruising relegation is tough.
Stoke were evidence of that in the Championship last season, and Huddersfield this. Rotherham are currently in the bottom half of League One, having been relegated from the Championship alongside Ipswich last term.
So Paul Lambert deserves huge credit for having revived the Tractor Boys so quickly.
Ipswich finished 16 points off safety last season. They only won five of their 46 matches, and two of their last 20 under Lambert.
Yet, having already won eight this time around, they deservedly sit top of League One, with the fanbase and players united again.
Lambert is often typecast as a dinosaur, but his overwhelming positivity has always stood him apart. It is that which has seen a club on its knees start kicking again.
Ipswich to win League One
League One is the weakest it has been for some time
Recent seasons in League One have boasted some impressive alumni.
Bournemouth, Wolves and Sheffield United have all won promotion from the third tier within the last seven years.
Established Championship clubs like Bristol City, Preston and Wigan, to name a few, have also been promoted from the third tier.
This season, however, there is nothing like that level of potential.
The sides that came down from the Championship have added little quality, with the exception of Ipswich.
Rotherham are stuck in mid-table with 15 points from 10 games, while Bolton look destined for a second relegation after a difficult summer.
Sunderland remain the stand-out name in the division and occupy the final play-off spot but, after neglecting their problems from last season, have regressed.
Wycombe and Fleetwood finished three and nine points above the relegation zone respectively last season, yet they are currently second and third after little summer investment.
Even a Bristol Rovers side that spent 108 days out of 274 in the bottom four last term, and lost first-choice centre back Tom Lockyer to Charlton in the off-season, are just a point off the top six.
Early signs indicate that the teams who go up this season could well be back in League One very soon.
Salford aren’t all that
Unsurprisingly, Salford dominated the pre-season media coverage of League Two.
With their Class-of-’92 board, the deep pockets of Peter Lim and a record four promotions in five years, they were always going to attract attention in an otherwise unfashionable division.
But, having started the campaign as joint-favourites for the title, it looks like everyone got a little too excited.
Graham Alexander’s side are 17th in League Two, having won just three of their opening 12 matches.
That tricky adjustment to life in the EFL is reflected in their price for promotion drifting out to – with only eight sides priced longer.
Big-money signing Richie Towell was a first-team regular with Rotherham in the Championship last season, but has struggled to influence games so far, contributing one goal and one assist.
Striker Adam Rooney, meanwhile, has netted just one league goal after top scoring with 21 last term.
Their sizeable backing means they have been able to bring in established names like Craig Conway, Jake Jervis and Jack Baldwin since August – all of whom should perform well in League Two.
But predictions that the Ammies would go straight up were somewhat premature.
Forest Green won’t last the pace
That Forest Green are currently top of League Two is perplexing.
Mark Cooper’s side are unbeaten in six and have lost just two of their opening 12 matches despite posting the second-worst xG in the division, above only second-bottom Morecambe (experimental361).
Rovers’ 3-1 victory over Crawley on Saturday was only the third time this season they have registered more shots on goal than their opponent, while they average just 10 attempts per game – fewer than any other side.
Their defensive statistics also border on the absurd.
They face 13.9 shots per game on average – the seventh-most in the division – yet only concede one goal in every 28 attempts.
For context, 22 of the remaining 23 sides have a ratio of half that or lower.
Simply put, the way they are playing is unsustainable and that is reflected in their price of to win the title.
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