This year’s English Premier League may have been packed with excitement, goals and skills the like of which no other league regularly hosts across all its teams, but the title race has been done since around November. Liverpool have been as ruthless as they were last season, maybe adding a shade more cold-bloodedness along the way.
This season, however, Manchester City’s absent defence has left them porous, and while Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all shown patches of great form, individual performances of greatness do not win a league season. To do that you need one of two things, and they are 1) consistency or 2) a complete lack of consistency across the entire division.
What are the chances of the latter, we hear you ask? We can only reply ‘You must not have been watching The Championship this season.’
As the EFL Championship neared Christmas, the apparent narrative had West Brom and Leeds United heading up without a challenge, sat as they were 11 and 10 points clear of the playoff places. Since the festive period, however, Leeds have fallen apart, taking a measly nine points from 30 on offer across their last 10 games. West Brom have done better, but not by much and Slaven Bilic’s side are looking over their shoulders too.
Below both Leeds and West Brom, other sides have attained a slightly higher level of consistency. Nottingham Forest have started to show the promise that their early season hinted at, while Bristol City and Preston have made themselves harder to beat. Brentford have been one of the surprise packages of the season and are putting themselves in contention for finally making it to the Premier League, having never played in the top tier since the 1992 change from the Football League to the Premier League and lower leagues.
One of the sides who have been chasing down the top two all season, Fulham, look set for a run-in to remember, too. The West London side have bounced back from their relegation from the Premier and under Scott Parker look a real threat to everyone around them, scoring freely at Craven Cottage and having a Get Out of Jail Free card in Alexander Mitrovic, who can always seem to dig them out of trouble away from home.
With just 14 games left for the teams in The Championship after this round of midweek fixtures, every point will be crucial from now until the end of the season.
Leeds United have a goalkeeping crisis to recover from, Kiko Casilla having committed several high-profile errors in recent weeks. Rumours of the squad being run ragged by Marcelo Bielsa for the second season in a row are haunting the exiled giant, absent from the top table of the Premier League for 15 long years. If they miss out having led the way for the second successive season, they may truly fall apart, with their talented youngsters sought after by many established Premier League clubs. The Whites are only going to hold onto them all if they are a Premier League side in six months’ time.
West Brom look to be under less pressure to rise up again and are led by someone who has been there and done it in the Premier League, albeit not always with spectacular success. The Baggies under Slaven Bilic have been pragmatic if not powerhouses and will need to step it up over the course of the next few games. This weekend’s fixture against Nottingham Forest already looks vital to their chances, but then, in The Championship, for every team it seems, each game does.
Whichever three teams come up from the Championship, it is likely that they will all do so with less points than Norwich City managed to accumulate in 2018/19. As a word of warning to any team who does go up this year from England’s second tier, Norwich are currently sat rock bottom of the English Premier League with just 18 points from 26 games, despite having beaten the reigning champions.
Be careful what you wish for, fans of Nottingham Forest, Leeds, West Brom, Brentford, Bristol and Fulham. Cheers and tears go hand in hand with the life of a side who jump between the two biggest leagues in British football.