Manager submitted by
: Dean Smith until October then replaced by Thomas Frank Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?:
I’ll be honest I had us as favourites to make playoffs and dark horses to go up automatically. Of course, it was difficult to predict as I didn’t know how the three relegated sides would do. Mini season review - how has it gone so far?:
In short: Good – Very Bad – Good – Okay
First 7 games were good with great performances. We were around the top 2 for most of that time and betting favourites to win the league at one point. Slowly started to lose steam and were winless in our last 6 when Dean Smith left us for Aston Villa in October.
Thomas Frank, Dean Smith’s assistant, took over and basically continued with the exact same system that was already in place. He had an unfortunate start, with the death of our very young technical director Robert Rowan clearly affecting the whole club from the staff down to most of the players, who had a good relationship with him. A few key injuries on top of that as well didn’t do him any favours.
He was dangerously close to getting sacked when we picked up only 4 out of 30 possible points in his first 10 matches in charge, which saw us drop down to 19th (3 points above the relegation zone). He then made some big tactical and personal changes and turned it around in late December with a hugely needed home win against Bolton that kickstarted a 10-match unbeaten run with mostly great performances.
With Derby and Bristol City dropping points we started to catch up to the playoff places which seemed impossible in December but still were never really able to gain the full momentum necessary for a playoff charge due to away defeats to teams we would easily have beaten at home (Nott. Forest, Sheff. Wed.) and consecutive losses to Sheffield United (A.) and West Brom (H.) in March. Best/most used starting 11 and tactics:
Started the season with Dean Smith’s 4-1-2-3 (Transfermarkt has it as a 4-1-4-1 but I don’t like the sound of that) with McEachran as holding midfielder behind Sawyers and MacLeod. This worked well initially but with our fullbacks usually pushing up high and McEachran’s defensive weakness (he is not a natural holding midfielder and struggled off the ball) we were starting to get exposed on the counter attack with our centre backs left isolated too often. We were still moving the ball well and dominated possession though.
We continued playing with this system and only minor personal changes. On top of that we really (and this can’t be understated) struggled at clearing the ball out of our box. There would be at least 5-10 minutes in every match with just calamitous defending against set pieces or crosses from open play which cost us at least one goal every game even if we dominated for the rest of the match.
Once we hit rock bottom in December and Thomas Frank was close to getting the sack, he switched to 3 at the back in a decisive match at home against Bolton. We barely won and kept the new formation since then. It’s a 3-4-3 with 3 centre halves and two central midfielders in Sawyers and Mokotjo.
This allows our wingbacks a lot more freedom to go forward with the double pivot creating from deep and dictating play while at the same time maintaining defensive solidity. The line-up shows our best 11. Unfortunately, Henry is out injured and has been replaced by Odubajo, who is alright but sometimes seems to slow our attack down a little bit by losing possession too often. We also have Sergi Canos who really shouldn’t be sitting on the bench in the Championship as he is absolute quality on both wings and started to fill in for Dalsgaard as right wingback and did a fantastic job there. u/s0ngsforthedeaf:
yeah, the switch to 343 was really crucial and basically the tactical story of the season. Despite previously being considered a 'possession' or 'progressive' team (true), the 4123 began to falter under Frank (Smith wouldve encountered problems had he stayed Im sure). The problem was the midfield 3 simply not doing enough, with McCaechran, as nice technique as he has, not really being an expansive enough playmaker, and having zero physical presence. Teams were soaking up pressure and countering effectively. So while 343 is nominally more 'defensive'...as soon as it was on the pitch it made sense. The star front 3 can to attack. The fullbacks can roam upfield freely. Sawyers is just better in a midfield 2, he has space to play with and there is less focus on the possession game. The one weakness is depth and experience at centreback, which isnt helped by squad turnover. But the new players will be up for it next season. Best/worst/memorable moments:
This is a difficult one as we had many absolute top performances this season and some horrendous ones as well.
Personally, I’d say the best moment was either coming back an early 0-2 against Blackburn to win 5-2 or Maupay scoring a deserved late winner against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa in February. Honourable mentions go to our opening match against Rotherham (5-2 win) which was probably the most optimistic I’ve ever seen Griffin Park and beating Middlesbrough away (which we haven’t done since 1938).
Worst moment was definitely the 2-0 defeat away to Hull in December which was Thomas Frank’s 10th game in charge and his 8th defeat. Horrendous defensive performance conceding an early goal which allowed them to sit back and watch us do nothing for 90 minutes. u/s0ngsforthedeaf: Beating Hull 5-1 was very satisfying, because the front 3 showed what they could do with some accuracy! Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?:
Wigan (A), Swansea (A), Derby (H), Ipswich (H), Reading (A), Millwall (A), Leeds (H), Bolton (A), Preston (H)
Not nervous at all because there’s not really anything to lose here. We are 8 points off playoffs with a game in hand. All but one of our remaining away matches are against teams fighting relegation and with our away record I don’t necessarily see us beating all of them (even though we have the quality to do so).
At home we can beat anyone so ideally, we will pick up maybe 20 points out of our last 9 matches. It will probably be closer to 15 or fewer in reality but if we play at 100% of what we’re capable of then who knows. Thing is we have a lot of teams ahead of us which makes it difficult for us to overtake them all.
Give us about a 10% chance max. of making playoffs. (*Edit - we lost to Swansea midweek...yeah, its over) If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..[and if you don't you will]:
If we somehow make playoffs, we’d be on such a terrific run that I’d actually give us a chance of winning especially if we play Sheffield United who have a similarly bad record at playoffs. About 1% chance of us going up this season. Finishing position prediction:
League prediction is almost impossible with how close it is from 6th to 15th. Reckon in the top half of the table around 10th. Rival watch and league prediction:
Our two games against QPR sum up both of our seasons perfectly. In November they beat us because we were shit and they were good and in February we beat them because they were shit and we were good. Funny to see how they somehow managed to go on an even worse run of form than we did and are now below us in the table.
14. Swansea City by Lerkot Manager: Graham Potter
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: People sort of expected the club to give new manager Graham Potter a bit of money to rebuild the team last summer. However, the summer went by and not much happened, and when the transfer window closed most of us agreed that a mid-table finish would be fine as long as we developed our squad and our young players.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far?: A lot of up and downs. We are mid-table as expected but we have played some very nice football and a lot of our youngsters have proven to be better than we could hope for, while other players have shown that maybe they should have gotten more opportunities in the Premier League. The team seems very harmonic, we have one of the youngest squads in the English league system and seem very humble and hungy and we have one of the best coaches in England.
Outside of the pitch the club is in chaos. We have a very strained relationship to the owners.
While most of us love the current set of players, it is obvious that we are very thin in some positions and the disappointing January transfer window was not worthy of a reasonably big club like Swansea. Kicking the chairman, almost giving away one of our best players to Leeds, letting all of our staff know that they might be fired in the summer, an economical loss of £65m... we have a lot of issues. Any other manager choice, and we could very well have been the new Sunderland. So far it has been a season showing us that the future is both bright and worrying. Players like Connor Roberts, Joe Rodon and Daniel James have gone from being absolutely nothing to playing international football.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: MuldeNordfeldt - Roberts, Rodon, Van der Hoorn, Naughton - Grimes, Fer - James, Celina, Routledge - McBurnie We have played different tactics and used a lot of players but this is probably our strongest lineup not counting Martin Olsson who got injured in December and will miss the rest of the season.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?: No, our season is more or less dead. We are very unlikely to reach the playoffs and wont get relegated. I expect good football and hopefully we could climb a few positions and that our players keep developing.
If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..[and if you don't you will]: The harsh reality is that we will stay in the Championship and since our owners won't invest in the club, we need to sell our best players and invest very litry little. Our very young and very talented team will likely be torn into pieces. It will be a summer of fear rather than hope.
Rival watch and league prediction: We are looking forward to the derby.
Manager: Gary Rowett was sacked in December, after that Nathan Jones
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: Automatic promotion. With our Premier League team in tact (minus Shaqiri and Ndiaye), the biggest wage bill in the league and over £40m spent in the summer on transfers I don’t think it’s arrogant to say that we had high expectations. We were bookies favourites for a reason.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far?: Well we’re not going to get relegated, so it’s not a total disaster, but this season has been incredibly disappointing. We’ve not clicked at any point. Even during a ten game unbeaten run under Gary Rowett we only won four games.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: I’m not sure where to start here. Our starting line up has been changing all season. Only Jack Butland and Joe Allen have played in every league game.
Neither manager has wanted to play with two strikers, but with so little pace (of passing or movement) in midfield we’ve never been able to dominate games even with an extra man in the middle.
We are totally risk averse and will pass sideways or backwards for eternity rather than attempt a dangerous ball forward (with the exception of Charlie Adam). However we looked different in our last game at home to Sheffield Wednesday. So maybe it’s a sign of things to come.
Best/worst/memorable moments: Best - Beating Derby 2-1 after going down to ten men in the first half
Worst - 0-3 down at home to Wigan in August with Nick Powell looking like Maradona. Absolutely embarrassing. Even this early into the season we started to realise that things weren’t going to plan.
Memorable - 0-2 at home to Bristol City on New Year’s Day. Very toxic atmosphere as Rowett lost the majority of the Stoke fans.
Key stat: We have the fourth best defence and third worst attack in terms of goals scored / conceded. This sums up our problem this season, especially under Rowett. We’ve had very attacking intent resulting in few goals.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?: Blackburn (A), Swansea (A), Rotherham (H), Middlesbrough (A), Norwich (H), Millwall (A) and Sheff Utd (H)
Considering that we’ve drawn our last four games 0-0 we might as well draw the last seven 0-0 and set a world record.
If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..and if you dont you will:..Not much to stay here with a boring mid-table finish. I can’t wait for the season to end.
Rival watch and league prediction: West Brom are our only historic rival in the league. Whilst I disagree with them sacking Darren Moore I do kind of understand the logic if they had a great replacement in mind... which they don’t. So no promotion for them.
Finishing position prediction: 12th
I think we may squeeze into the top half. Fingers crossed we can rebuild the squad in the summer.
16. Blackburn Rovers no review submitted
17. Queens Park Rangers by Tiggy10 Team, Manager: Queens Park Rangers, John Eustace (Caretaker manager, took over from Steve McClaren April 1st)
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: Staying up I suppose? Probably our famed mid-table mediocrity.Anything higher than 16th would have been a bonus. Main focus of the season was to stabilize and develop youth.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far? Well. At the time of writing Shteve is the latest manager to pass through the revolving doors at Loftus Road and I think that just about sums up the season. We've broken some "hoo-doos" which have been a highlight of the season so far but on the whole we've lost a LOT of games and badly, whether that was through bad luck, poor officiation or (and mainly) poor play.
After a dreadful start we hit a purple patch and got carried away with perhaps being a surprise dark horse for a playoff push along with an FA cup run. AN ACTUAL CUP RUN! But being QPR, all hopes were squashed and reality came tumbling down. But here we are with a handful of games to go, looking nervously over our shoulders once again.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: With big losses to our defense in the form of Nedum Onuoha and Jack Robinson we shouldn't have been surprised to see a slight downfall in the quality of our defense. Boy were we wrong. The first few games we were torn apart. Trialling a 4231 for the dismal start and then changing to a standard 442 to achieve our first win of the season. It's difficult to say if the change in form was due to the big signings we had bought in or the new formation, but it worked.
Also a change of keeper from Matt Ingram to Joe Lumley has proved to be instrumental. Gotta feel bad for Ingram, but if you are riddled with mistakes, you aren't going to play much.
It is difficult to pinpoint what the focus of the team is. Wells is a tricky striker who can beat a man, Freeman is the creative outlet and Eze was/is likewise. When big Matt Smith is on, the game plan is simple.
http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=hy9vy2 Our best starting XI? Bright Osayi-Sammuel misses out here only due to lack of game time, otherwise he can seem like one of the only players giving it his all. Rangel and Cameron have been revelations, we have sorely missed them through injury and as such our performances have suffered without them. Grant Hall has had a torrid time with injury over the last two years and quite frankly has fewer mistakes in him than Joel Lynch. Eze started well but has not achieved the level of expectation the fans had hoped for, who knows why he's tailed off towards the end of the season? He's still very young though, and has a lot to learn.
Best/worst/memorable moments: No prizes for anyone who guessed the shambles at the Hawthorns was the worst moment of the season. Losing 7-1 is quite frankly embarrassing, Enough said.
Highlights would include our cup run. Beating Brentford 3-2 at home. And finally. FINALLY winning at the City Ground 1-0.
Key stat: On average we commit the most fouls per game (14.7) and coincidentally, we've conceded the most penalties this season (7). Poor Timing.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?: Norwich (A), Millwall (A), Swansea (H), Blackburn (H), Derby (A), Nottingham Forest (H), Sheff Wednesday (A)
Boy I would love to say we can get another point this season but I am skeptical. We couldn't beat Rotherham or Bolton at home. We need a couple of wins to ease the nerves, but at this point in time we may be sweating and looking at results elsewhere to decide our fate.
Despite this though I would not entirely be surprised to nick a point away at Norwich, because we just do stupid things like that when we are in dismal form. I'd much rather go down this season than next. I can't keep doing this skin of your teeth stuff.
If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..and if you don't you will..if QPR don't get relegated I wouldn't be surprised, we've thankfully got a bit of a cushion. If we do get relegated, quite frankly we deserve it based on 2019 alone with 1 league win, apologies, Leeds.
Predicted League Position: 18th
Rival watch and league prediction: Local rivals Brentford will be here next season, with or without us, I think they've left it a little too late to chase the play-offs, and even if they did make it in I can't see them beating others around them to go to Wembley. It's the teams below us we need to focus on. I think all the teams above us will be fine. The bottom three (Rotherham, Bolton, Ipswich) look set to go down in my opinion.
Going up has got to be Norwich, and fully deserved, stuck with Farke and it has paid off. Good luck in the Prem as champions. Leeds will get second. and Sheff Utd will win play-offs (I cannot believe Washington will be playing for a premiership team).
18. Birmingham City by 2ej Manager: Garry Monk
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: Mid table stability was my hope after two straight season of chaos, both with last day relegation fights. Monk had gotten the players playing at the end of last season and we looked a genuinely good team so just to take that through to this season and not be constantly looking over our shoulders. Then news of a transfer embargo came out which resigned me to another poor season, but why worry about embargo's when you have owners who just sign players anyway?
Mini season review - Calling this season a roller coaster ride is putting it mildly. 0 wins in the first 8 league games was frustrating because we genuinely battered teams in this period. 2-2 opening day of the season against Norwich where Hernandez scored a last second equaliser, goalless draws against Swansea (H) & Sheff Utd (A), 2-0 up away at Forest with 10 minutes to go and only drawing, missing a penalty straight after going 1-0 against WBA. All these made me feel like the season was cursed. Then in our 9th game we beat then league leaders Leeds away 2-1, funny league isn't it? Shortly after this we steamroll teams in October and everything's looking rosy.
Get to November and the wheels fall off ever so slightly. Plagued with injuries and a small squad we lose to Derby, surrender a 2-0 half time lead to Hull ending 3-3 and then lost to the Villa 4-2 where any complaints I had about the officiating were rendered moot after we let Hutton run from what felt like two different postcodes to score the 4th. As has been typical with this season for the most part we bounced back straight away taking 13 of the next 18 points on offer, taking us through Christmas and a real belief that we could sneak in to the top 6.
Then January happened. 2 points from 12, including an absolute lesson in football by Norwich and a last minute equaliser by Swansea in a 3-3 classic which underlined the spirit in the team (1-1 at half time and down to 10 men). Moving in to February we then bounced back again with victories over Forest & QPR, the latter being a 4-3 classic in which Lee Camp saved a last minute penalty. Again we were on the fringes of the top 6 and looking optimistic at an outside shot at the top 6.
Then March happened! (seeing a trend here?) 0 points from 12, more opposition players assaulted than goals scored and the cherry on the delightful sundae is a 9 point deduction for breaching P&S rules, ensuring what was looking like a boring mid table finish is now our annual relegation fight.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: Monk has predominantly used a flat 4-4-2 system in which we're happy for other teams to have the ball in their half, but as soon as they start to venture forward they're swarmed by us. Very effective against teams who like to pass it round. When we have the ball the main tactic is to chuck it up to Juke up front and have him hold it up to allow Adams & the wingers to be brought in to play. Monk has experimented with a diamond formation where Jota plays the number 10 in behind the two strikers which was used for the first time against QPR away and caused us to be 4-1 up at half time. This has since been shelved however as we were leaking goals using it. Adams has been getting all the plaudits, and they're fully deserved but Jutkiewicz is my player of the season. The man runs his bollocks off every game for the team and has 10 goals and 10 assists so far, great return from the big man.
Most used team - http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=hy9d3
Best/worst/memorable moments: Best I've seen us play is easily the first 45 away to QPR, which is also the most memorable moment when Camp saved the penalty in the last minute - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYd51nIeADA
The worst has to be the 0-1 home loss to the Villa, not for the loss itself as you get used to losing to them lot but for what happened on the day.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?: WBA (A), Leeds (H), Sheff Utd (H), Ipswich (A), Derby (H), Rotherham (A), Wigan (H), Reading (A)
Horrible next 3 fixtures against 3 of the top 6, and two of the top 3. After that we only have to play 1 team in the top half and even then Derby are in a horrible run of form and it's at home. Not nervous right now as we're good enough to get the bare minimum of 5 points that would pretty much guarantee safety.
If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..and if you dont you will.. Promotion is 100% off the table, surviving relegation should be a formality. We will sell Adams in the summer for a fee which should be over 20 million, allowing us to get the P&S monkey off our back and hopefully have a little bet left over for Monk to play with.
Rival watch and league prediction: Villa are storming up the league now Grealish is back, looking at their fixtures I'd expect them to finish top 6 now. Although it may come back to the last 2 games against Leeds & Norwich which won't be easy, they best hope they go up as the P&S boogeyman will be coming. West Brom are stuck in that no mans land where they're guaranteed playoffs but they don't have enough to reach the top 2. I think Norwich & Sheff Utd will get the automatic spots, with Leeds going up through the playoffs.
Manager: Reading FC - Jose Gomes, who took over from Paul Clement just before Christmas.
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: I was thinking mid table, probably lower mid table. Our signings made me cautiously optimistic, and we started with a good performance against Derby County, despite conceding a last minute winner. Looking back, I realise this was a poor prediction, in that we didn't win a single pre-season game and our signings were actually all pretty poor, with the exception of Andy Yiadom.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far? One word - horrifically, at least until the appointment of Gomes. The rot from last season had truly set in as the club became more and more of a toxic place to be, with a rift developing between not just the club and the fans, but separate groups within the supporter base too. On the pitch, we were playing dire football, and off the pitch our CEO Ron Gourlay proceeded to alienate everyone, tried to grab power, and buddied up with his Chelsea mate Paul Clement before they were both rightfully binned off in December, with the club needing a complete overhaul in the January window.
Since then, it's been the complete opposite with Gomes in charge and Nigel Howe returning as CEO. The support is back, the deadwood is gone, people are happy, and there's even the semblance of an atmosphere at the Madejski. The players want to play, the manager wants to manage, and the supporters want to support, which is something we didn't have with Clement. Combined with much better football and an uptick in form, and everything's all starting to look quite good.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: Under Jose Gomes, we've not really been able to play the players he wants to pick due to being pretty nailed by injuries. As such, I've put this team which seems to be the eleven that Gomes wants to put out. Due to what I shall call an 'unfortunate incident' with Tyrone Mings against Aston Villa followed by a hamstring injury, Oliveira has only featured in six games since joining on loan, and despite results we've definitely missed this focal point in the team, with Meite now usually playing up top and Ovie Ejaria coming in as the wide replacement. We're now characterised as generally good passers of the ball, who like possession but without passing the ball for passing's sake, as we were under previous managers. Instead we try to draw opponents onto us in order to break using the pace of our wide players, supported by a switch to more of a three at the back system with our full backs pushing forwards as we attack, and one of our central midfielders dropping between the two centre backs to provide cover. All in all, we've become a lot harder to beat.
Best/worst/memorable moments: I've picked four moments here, all of which are from the last six weeks or so, with three key victories being followed by a (mostly) dominant performance this weekend against Preston. First of all out of the three was Nelson Oliveira arriving back from surgery like a masked saviour to score a late winner against Blackburn Rovers. We then built on this at the beginning of the month with two crucial games against relegation rivals, with vital late goals from Mo Barrow scoring a 90th minute winner away at Ipswich in a 2-1 victory as well as an 89th minute equaliser the following week, before Yakou Meite netted in the 97th minute to beat Wigan 3-2.
Key stat: We're the best form team in the Championship that isn't part of the top 6, which is rather impressive considering we're in 19th.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?: Hull City (A), Norwich City (A), Brentford (H), Bristol City (A), West Bromwich Albion (H), Middlesbrough (A), Birmingham City (H).
I think that this is one of the hardest run ins that any team in the Championship has to face this season. I'm surprisingly confident about it though - although that's worked out poorly before. We're riding a high and could probably beat anyone on our day.
If you survive relegation you will... Need to carry on with the squad overhaul. Sign some of the loanees on permanent deals, and get rid of the older, unusable players.
If you go down you will... Need to do everything we can to get back up, although I'm not sure how soon that would be. We'd either languish for a while due to not being as good physically as the other teams, or we'd come straight back due to the fact we have some very technically competent players.
Finishing position: 18th or 19th, but comfortably safe from relegation.
Rival watch and league prediction: Ipswich are dead and buried at this point, with Bolton not too far behind, as these court situations will not be helping. Birmingham are in free fall and now in a bit of a relegation scrap with 5 or 6 losses on the spin, but a much better goal difference than the rest of us. I think the final relegation spot will be occupied by Rotherham, though.
Team, Manager: Wigan Athletic, Paul Cook
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: Our last two season in the Championship (16/17 & 14/15) Wigan were relegated from the Championship. Both times after going down we came back up as League One Champs. The majority of the fans just want us to maintain our Championship status. Due to our takeover in the middle of the season and lack of transfers last summer because of this, staying up this season is so crucial for our clubs future.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far?
Oof. Well, 10 games into the season the Latics were in 8th place, with 5 wins, including a 3-0 win over Stoke. Flash forward to now, Latics are in 19th, just 3 points out of relegation and no away wins since Stoke! The winter period saw the Latics lose crucial attacking players in Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs and more importantly Nick Powell. Who were all instrumental in our 17/18 League One Championship season. The selling of Will Grigg on deadline day is something that most of us don't want to talk about, given our lack of goals all season. Many fans called for Cook's head before the impressive 3-0 win over Villa. Then again after defeats against Reading and Blackburn, things were looking bad before a 5-2 win over Bolton last matchday.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics:
4-2-3-1, although we have had a few players rotate. Reece James, most notably, has been playing CDM the last few games, with Nathan Byrne on the right. Also, Danny Fox will most likely start taking either Kipre or Chey out, or could slide in LB. We have gone 3 CB's with two wingbacks a few times this season as well.
Worst moments, the matches against Preston, Blackburn and Brentford, last minute pk winner at Norwich, last minute PK against Forrest. Best moments, 3-0 win at Stoke, 3-0 win over Villa and 5-2 win over Bolton.
Remaining fixtures and expectations - nervous?:
Nervous is an understatement. I believe two wins of the last 8 would keep us safe, around 8 points.
Brentford (H), Bristol City (A), Hull City (A), Norwich (H), Leeds (A), Preston (H), Birmingham (A), Millwall (H)
If you get promoted/survive relegation you will..[and if you don't you will]
If the Latics get relegated I will have to unsubscribe from this subreddit for the 3rd time in 5 years and won't be very happy.
Rival watch and league prediction:
Bolton... not much needs to be said. I think I speak for most football fans when I say I don't want them to go bust. It's a shame to see the state of that club right now our derbys are something we all look forward to.
At this point I think Leeds is going to blow the auto push. I think Norwich and Shef U go up and WBA win playoffs. Rotherham, Bolton and Ipswich to go down.
Manager: Neil Harris
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?: After massively overachieving in our first season back in the league, with a late playoff push towards the end of the season, a season of building to consolidate our status as a championship side was the goal. Any expectation of another playoff push was pure fantasy, but a mid table finish seemed like a reasonable aim.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far?: Despite an exciting cup run this season has turned out to be a struggle for us, and we've found ourselves deservedly in a relegation battle. An inability to see out games and lack of tactical flexibility for the majority of the season has left us deservedly in a relegation battle, perhaps expectedly when looking at the cost of our team compared to others in the division. Spending most of the season languishing just above the relegation places, a recent downturn in form leaves us just a point above relegation placed Rotherham.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=hy9my5 We started the season with the 442 that brought us great success last season. However, after selling midfielder George Saville and striker Steve Morison getting on a bit, other teams started to figure us out, and a 442 based on soaking up pressure and quick long ball counters quickly descended into painful and drab hoofball, with a clear lack of a plan b. The return of loaned out midfielder Ben Thompson, from a successful spell at Portsmouth, alongside the return of winger Ben Marshall, on loan from Norwich, allowed us to switch to the 433 which we use now. While we've enjoyed a little more success with it at times, usually playing a pressing game built on quick counters and transitions against the bigger sides. Against smaller sides a lack of identity is evident and games usually quickly turn into a bit of a slog.
Best/worst/memorable moments: In the league, it's difficult to pick a best moment, because there are next to none, we've come short in all of our big games in the league this season, even if it's well hidden by memorable moments such as our cup win against Everton. We've been on the wrong side of a thrilling 4-3 loss to Norwich. The low of this season for sure has to be our 2-1 loss away to Bolton, the moment when relegation started to become a genuine prospect.
Key Stat: Over 25% of our goals conceded this season have come after the 75th minute. This sums our season up perfectly sadly. If games were 75 mins long, we'd be comfortably mid table if not more. Unfortunately an inability to hold onto leads, caused in part by tactical decisions to sit back and absorb pressure late in the game, combined with ineffectual (or lack of) substitutions have cost us dearly this season.
Remaining fixtures and expectations: WBA (H), QPR (H), Sheff Utd (A), Brentford (H), Villa (A), Stoke (H), Bristol City(H), Wigan (A). Not the easiest run in by any means, but we tend to perform better against top half teams, so that may work in our favour. Having won only three games away from home all season, having most of our remaining games is definitely an advantage. The two London derbies against QPR and Brentford, as well as Stoke are games where we need to pick up points if we are to stay in this division. Away games against Sheff Utd and Villa will be a tough ask, so home form will be crucial.
If we get relegated I will...: be fuming. While I can have no complaints if we go down, we won't have deserved to stay up whatsoever, the way in which we go down will be unacceptable. Having thrown away too many late leads, and failed to pick up points in games where we have been the better team, it'll be tough to take and serious questions will need to be asked of the management, even if Harris is a club legend, things could turn bitter should we go down.
Finishing position prediction: 21st
Rival watch and league prediction: Sadly our main division rivals Leeds look like they're on their way to promotion alongside Norwich, the less said about that the better. London rivals QPR and Brentford are both heading towards mid table finishes, QPR in much worse shape than the latter. Norwich and Leeds will most likely finish in the top two, I fancy either Sheff Utd or Bristol City (if they make it) to win the playoffs. We'll probably just have enough to get over the line and survive, which means Rotherham bounce straight back down to League One with Bolton and Ipswich
22. Rotherham no review submitted
23. Bolton Wanderers by rexkwando52 Manager: Phil Parkinson
Hopes/predictions at the beginning of the season?:
After miraculously staying up with 2 goals in the last 2 minutes of the final game of the season, fans were hoping to build on the 21st place finish. There were no hopes of anything higher than mid table, a comfortable season would have been a success if we could avoid looking over our shoulders at the relegation zone. And those hopes were granted.... For the first couple of weeks. This was despite players refusing to play a pre season game at St. Mirren due to unpaid wages and bonuses from the previous year. Something that was to cast a dark shadow over the club in the months to come.
Mini season review - how has it gone so far?
Terrible. A bright start to the campaign fell away fast and the team plummeted through the standings. Some of the absolute worst football we've ever watched came. Averaging around 35% possession most games, negative long ball tactics and goal shy strikers. It really hasn't been good viewing. 3 wins and a draw from the first 4 games saw us high up the table. Then a 3-0 dismantling by Sheffield United saw the wheels fall off. 1 win and 4 draws from the next 18 games with only 9 goals scored before a 2-1 victory over Rotherham on boxing day saw us sink to the bottom. After that, not much else changed and at the time of writing, we sit 8 points adrift with 8 to play.
Best/most used starting 11 and tactics:
I can't really give a best or most used 11 because there hasn't been one. I think Parkinson uses a bingo machine to pick his team as it changes so much every game. Our 'best' player Ameobi has been sub par. Bright players have been polish right back Olkowski and youth midfielder Luca Connell but besides this the team has lacked quality throughout.
Best moments have been the bright start, beating relegated West Brom 2-1 on opening day, and a 5 goal fa cup win over Walsall where the team looked like they could actually play football. By far the worst moment came in our last outing though, getting thumped 5-2 away at rivals Wigan. It was really the last chance to mount a challenge to stay up and the performance was pathetic.
.... rest of the Bolton and Ipswich (p)reviews in the comments below!
On wednesday, July 25th, Dutch club AFC Ajax will start their competitive season with a home game in the 2nd Champions League qualification round against Austrian team SK Sturm Graz. This makes it the perfect time to look back at the preseason campaign, transfers and more. So let’s do it! Preseason
Because Ajax finished in 2nd place last season in the Eredivisie they have to start their competitive season on July 25th. This meant that our preseason began while everyone else was still going crazy about the World Cup. Our first real training session was June 20th, while in the days prior some players took some individual tests.
All of this was without players like Nico Tagliafico, Lasse Schöne, Kasper Dolberg and Hakim Ziyech, who were all present in Russia. We also missed Donny van de Beek, Noussair Mazraoui, and Matthijs De Ligt, who had played internationally in recent weeks before the World Cup. These guys were expected to be back at the club the next monday, when the squad left Amsterdam for a training camp in Klosterpforte, Germany.
Before that however, Ajax played their first preseason game against VVSB Noordwijkerhout. This amateur team is active in the Tweede Divisie,
the 3rd highest level of Dutch football.
Ajax won this game rather easily, which ofcourse was to be expected against an amateur team. Goals were scored by Teun Bijleveld (0-1 & 0-2), Kaj Sierhuis (0-3 & 0-5), Dani De Wit (0-4), Klaas- Jan Huntelaar, (0-6) and Hassane Bande (0-7). Highlights
Ofcourse it’s nice to start the season with a win but more than that can’t be said about this game. On to the training camp in Germany!
During this training camp we played 2 games against German amateur teams. The first one against SC Preussen Münster 06, playing at the 3rd level of German football.
- Ajax - Preussen Munster: 1-3
Goals by: Kevin Rodriguez (0-1), Rasmuss Kristensen (1-1), Martin Kobylański (1-2), Lucas Cueto (1-3). Highlights
Not a good game from Ajax obviously, but it has to be said that Ajax played with 2 completely different teams in either half. Only the second game of the season, let’s move on quickly.
Ajax - SV Lippstadt 08: 9-0
And so we did, with a game on the last day of this training camp. The opponent was SV Lippstadt 08, active at the 4th level of German football. In this game first team goalkeeper André Onana played his first game of the new season. Slowly but surely the squad is getting back together.
Goals by: Noussair Mazraoui (1-0 & 5-0) Zakaria Labyad (2-0 & 6-0), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (3-0 & 4-0), Dani De Wit (7-0, 8-0 & 9-0). Highlights
Good to see another big win, and nice to see every goalscorer scored multiple goals, topped by Dani De Wit’s hattrick.
This concluded Ajax’ first training camp of the preseason.
As has been costumary in recent years, from now on Ajax plays 2 games per day for the remainder of the preseason. The first double header was played back in the Netherlands on July 7th. First against Danish team FC Nordsjaelland and the opponent for game 2 was FC FCSB (formerly known as FC Steaua Bucuresti).
- Ajax - FC Nordsjaelland: 1-3
Our first game against a more serious opponent - FC Nordsjaelland plays in the Danish Superligaen - and it showed. Nordsjaelland was the more dangerous team overall, playing on the counter attack. Although we were mostly playing with our ‘B’ team.
Goals by: Andreas Skov Olsen (0-1), Karlo Bartolec (0-2), Mathias Rasmussen (0-3), Dean Solomons (1-3). Highlights
Goals by: Florin Tanase (0-1), Carel Eiting (1-1). Highlights
All in all a pretty boring game. Not much happened on either side.
This game was not announced beforehand and (as far as I’m aware) not open to the public. The scheduled game against Anderlecht was later in the day, so this game was played between both teams ‘B’ squads.
One notable thing that happened in this game was the horrific injury of Hassane Bandé. A hard sliding tackle caused him to suffer a broken fibula and he tore the inside of his ankle. I apologise for not knowing the proper term of what I mean. But this means he will be sidelined for 6 months. (Tackle around 1:20-1:25 in the highlights a little bit later on, you don’t see any gross stuff but just in case you don’t want to see it.)
On to the game itself, which was a real goalfest, which we were on the losing side off.
Goals by: Edo Kayambe (0-1), Kaj Sierhuis (1-1 & 2-3), Mohammed Dauda (1-2), Ryota Morioka (1-3 & 3-5), Knowledgde Musona (2-4), Sebastian Pasquali (3-4). Highlights
- Ajax - Anderlecht (Announced game): 1-3
Goals by: Ivan Santini (0-1 & 1-3), David Neres (1-1), Landry Dimata (1-2). Highlights
We’re getting closer and closer to the start of our season, because now it’s time for the 2nd preseason training campl. This time we will be in England for a week, playing 2 games on July 19th. League 1 side Walsall FC and newly promoted Premier League team Wolverhampton Wanderers FC will be our opponents.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers - Ajax: 1-1
Goals by: Donny van de Beek (0-1), Ruben Neves (1-1). Highlights
Goals by: Andy Cook (1-0 & 2-0).
This concluded the preseason games that we had to play before the game against Sturm Graz next wednesday. However, om August 3rd Ajax will play another practise game against VFL Wolfsburg, where former Ajax player Riechedly Bazoer currently plays. This will be 8 days before the first match in the Eredivisie, at home against Heracles Almelo. Preseason Conclusion
Obviously the preseason games did not go how we wanted them to go. Our only wins came against amateur teams very early on and the play itself wasn’t anything to be proud of either. Caveats being that we still don’t have all our players back from their holidays and/or injuries and the fact that new signings Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic barely haven’t made any minutes (Blind) or haven’t played at all (Tadic).
However not everything was just bad. One big positive was the inclusion of 16 year old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, who is one of the club’s biggest talents, especially in his age category. The young midfielder dared to pass defenders and had some good passes in his arsenal.
I personally thought (although I seemed to be in the minority on this point) that it was clear how we wanted to approach certain aspects of the game, namely the pressing when trying to capture the ball. This was definitely not flawless but the idea on how to do it was visible.
The offensive link up play was also very nice to see at times. Quick one touch combinations and forward passing will clearly be the intention this upcoming season.
Our preferred formation will as always be a 4-3-3 with a defensive center midfielder. Other than that we could play some games or at least parts of games in a 3-4-3. Ajax - Sturm Graz
Head coach Erik Ten Hag said the following about the starting line up against Sturm Graz: I knew beforehand that I would have a suitcase full of question marks. But the most important thing is that we were able to bring guys towards the full 90 minutes. We won’t be in absolute perfect shape, but no team will at this point. We have trained really hard, which we needed in the build up. Now we will take it a little bit easier. I am sure the players will be much fresher on wednesday. There are still 3, 4, or 5 positions which I have doubt over going into the game against Sturm Graz. Starting 11 prediction GK
De Ligt LCB
F De Jong LB
Eiting (Youth player) RCM
van de Beek LCM
Lang (Youth player)
I think this will be the starting line up based on the game against Wolverhampton. Left winger Noa Lang played in place of Labyad because he has to sit out a suspension from last season with FC Utrecht and as I sad earlier Dusan Tadic has not played for us yet. I do however think that he will come on as a substitute in the second half, and ultimately be our starting left winger with Labyad as his replacement once the season is properly underway. Maybe
Daley Blind could start, but I think that’s just a little bit too soon. I think Frenkie De Jong will start as left centre back because he did against Wolves (and he played there a bit last season) and in particular Maximilian Wöber had a rough pre season and, ever since he got injured last season, he’s had a difficult time. Additionally I think new signing Perr Schuurs will be used as a replacement for Matthijs De Ligt at right centre back.
Bringing this back to wednesday, this will essentially mean that offensively we will play a 3-4-3 with Frenkie moving forward into the midfield.
Defensively I think this will mean that CDM Eiting will have to help Frenkie deal with the attackers.
I think Blind will be our starting left sided centre back which ideally would mean that De Jong will move into that CDM spot to serve as our playmaker, leaving Eiting on the bench.
Lastly it is interesting to point out why I chose for Huntelaar instead of Dolberg.
Ever since Kasper Dolberg suffered an injury last season which made him miss quite a large portion of the season he hasn’t played a game from start to finish. I think it’s a safe bet that he will play later on in the second half but the best decision is to take it easy with him and gradually increase his playing time. He will be our starting striker during the regular season. How I think we will line up once everybody is healthy and there won’t be any more outgoing transfers GK
Mazraoui or Kristensen RCB
De Ligt LCB
De Jong RCM
van de Beek LCM
I haven’t included Veltman mainly because he has a pretty bad ankle injury as of right now, so we’ll have to wait to see how he will return. I also think Mazraoui and Kristensen are 2 talented young guys who could be going for that starting right back spot regardless of Veltman is there or not. Transfers for the 18/19 season
- Perr Schuurs, CB, 18 years old, Netherlands (from Fortuna Sittard)
- Hassane Bandé, LW, 19 years old, Burkina Faso (from KV Mechelen)
- Zakaria Labyad, LW/CM, 25 years old, Morocco (from FC Utrecht)
- Dusan Tadic, LW/RW/CM, 29 years old, Serbia (from Southampton FC)
- Daley Blind, CB/LB/CDM, 28 years old, Netherlands (from Manchester United)
(Sidenote, the positions I listed are positions where I know they can play and where I think they could play in case there will be any other out going transfers.)
I think we’ve done some great business here. A good mix of youth and experience and players who can play on a multitude of positions. The obvious headliners are Dusan Tadic and the returning
Daley Blind. (I only included that because it still cracks me up.)
It’s very sad that we won’t be able to see Bandé play this season, but we’ve talked about that earlier so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Perr Schuurs is known in the Netherlands as one of the biggest domestic talents, especially for the centre back position. He will make appearances this season but he’ll mostly play for Jong Ajax (2nd team), getting prepped to be the replacement of Matthijs De Ligt.
The only criticism I have concerns the transfer of Zakaria Labyad, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with his abilities or whether or not he will be useful for us, because I think he will be.
The criticism lies in the fact that it appears that the only reason we decided to buy him was because coach Ten Hag wanted him. The two have a history at FC Utrecht. The scouting department did not recommend him. But, like I said, I think he will still be useful to us coming off the bench.
Now let’s look at the first team players who have left us.
- Mitchell Dijks, LB, 25 years old, Netherlands (to Bologna)
- Nick Viergever, CB/LB, 28 years old, Netherlands (to PSV)
- Justin Kluivert, LW, 19 years old, Netherlands (to AS Roma)
- Deyovaisio Zeefuik, RB, 20 years old, Netherlands (to FC Groningen)
- Mateo Cassierra, ST, 21 years old, Colombia (loaned to FC Groningen)
- Amin Younes. LW, 24 years old, Germany (to [unknown])
I debated with myself over including Zeefuik, because he played most of his games in Jong Ajax. He has however played some games for the first team so I decided he should be included here.
The biggest eye catcher for international football fans is obviously the departure of Justin Kluivert, both for his last name, and the fact that he is the best player out of this group. Personally I am very sad to see him leave. He is a young, talented player who I think has a bright future ahead of him. It’s a shame he left us at this young age, while he hasn’t played that many first team games for us yet. However he didn’t want to renew his contract which was ending at the end of the season after this upcoming one so we had to sell him now to get some money out of it.
A lot of Ajax fans have been giving him shit for leaving us in the way he did and because they feel like he isn’t ready for it yet. I agree with the latter but ultimately I just hope he succeeds.
For Dutch fans the other remarkable transfer is the one from Viergever, moving to our biggest competitor for the Eredivisie title, being PSV.
During his time with us he had had some good moments, highlighted by his goal against Schalke 04 in the Europa League under Peter Bosz. But all things considered the coaching staff and club management felt like he isn’t good enough anymore and that we have to move forward. This, combined with the fact that his contract was running out, freed the way for him to move to the team from Eindhoven. I hope he personally does well there.
Now to talk about the big mess surrounding Amin Younes. As you’ll see in the comments I completely forgot about him so I added this in later. Where to begin..?
He lost his first 11 spot to the younger and more goal focused Justin Kluivert. Because of this he was set to leave us last winter on a permanent deal to Napoli. This ultimately did not happen. He even denied signing a 5 year deal with the Italians which would’ve gone into effect this summer after his deal with us had ended. Following this the Serie A club showed documents which allegedly had 31 of his signatures on them.
After this whole mess VFL Wolfsburg showed interest. For Younes this was looking pretty good until VFL Wolfsburg called off the transfer because ‘the obstacles before the transfer weren’t taken away’. Whatever that means.
On top of all of this he also suffered a pretty severe injury which means he won’t be able to play for months.
Napoli chairmain De Laurentiis would be willing to talk about a transfer for him if a team was willing to put €20.000.000 on the table.
Last player I want to talk about is Mitchell Dijks. Not because he was especially valuable to us or anything but for the fact that he was set to leave us in the 2016/17 season.
During the January 2017 transfer window we loaned him out to Norwich City, which included an option to buy. He played 15 games in the Championship for them, scoring 1 goal. I think everybody was under the impression that he would join them permanently at the start of the 17/18 season, but that deal fell through because they could not reach an agreement on pay. His contract also ran out and now he signed a 5 year deal in Italy. Thoughts about the transfers
Everything considered we have had a good window. We got rid of the players we didn’t need anymore and brought in players who can contribute immediately and set us up for the future. Tadic and Blind will ofcourse be expected to take the lead this season as 2 of the most experienced and best players in the squad.
This concludes my season 2018/2019 preview for my team AFC Ajax! I hope you enjoy reading it! (If you’re not too put off by the absolute wall of text that is..)
Bring on the season!
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