I love the Grand National, growing up it was the one horse race I watched with my family. As I got older the realisation set in that it was a war of attrition with a sprinkle of luck, not necessarily the best horse won.
Over a football season it can be argued does the best team win the league?
Or does the the most consistent?
Does luck have a part to play?
Maybe all those factors matter?
Much like the National its a battle and the EFL Championship surely is the toughest of them all in Europe? All 24 teams are ultimately closely matched and results show every year any team can beat another. Norwich have scrambled away from the rest this season, not a surprise their line up is littered with the side which won promotion 2 years ago and competed in the Premier League last season. If they was a horse competing in the National would not even be considered, The Gold Cup would be their comp.
The chasing pack though are tightly packed and its possible this season a side with nearly 80points may miss out on the playoffs altogether, that is madness as the last last 10 year points average for 6th place is 74points! I have installed the remaining fixtures within my super computer and predicted how the 2nd promotion spot and playoffs will be filled out:
2nd Place – Watford 89 points Automatic Promotion
Much like Norwich this squad hosts many players from the Premier League campaign last season, after a slow start they have motored along since Christmas. A couple of their players are savagely too good for this level, Ismalia Sarr ripped into Liverpool last season and was tipped for a transfer before the season started, figures of £40m+ being discussed. Then you have Will Hughes who was trying to break into the England squad 2 years ago. Despite playing Reading (tonight), Norwich, Brentford & Swansea the super computer states they will remain unbeaten, 2 wins and 4 draws.
3rd Place – Bournemouth 82 points
Its telling that the top3 are all the relegated clubs from the Premier League last season. The most inconsistent of the three they’ve now found form since relieving Tisdale of the managers job. When i watch them i still feel they are slightly disjointed and rely more on individuals to out perform the other team. Danjuma always seems to be on the scoresheet. 5 wins and 2 draws from their remaining games will leave them unbeaten, Norwich & Brentford the stand out difficulty games. With the talent they possess in a mini 3 game playoff scenario they will be rightly favourites.
4th Place – Swansea 82 points
Swansea are on a 4 match losing streak, but somehow the super computer has predicted during the run in they will win 4, draw 1 and lose 2. I feel the Swans and Brentford are the most at risk of falling out of the playoff places, which is mad considering even a few weeks ago both fan bases still argued among themselves about who would take 2nd place! Defensively they are solid, the goals only flow through Ayew and Hourihane (who is only on loan from Villa). A constant theme for Swansea is their reliance on the loan market to provide the strongest players in their line up. Last season Brewster was a standout goal getter while Freddie Woodman & Marc Guehi have spent 2 years on loan from Newcastle & Chelsea respectively, becoming the glue of the backline. Its not sustainable borrowing to compete, what is the clubs plan if they got promoted?
5th Place – Brentford 80 points
Similar to Swansea, the Bees are currently on a 4 game run but theirs is a drawing run. As stated above they are most at risk of falling out of the play off spots. I doubt the super computer as its predicting 2 wins, 4 draws and a defeat when the run of games left includes Bournemouth and Reading along with bogey sides Millwall and Cardiff. General consensus among fans is they have no confidence in Head Coach Thomas Frank, due to a lack of plan b and reliance on the same players. Ivan Toney has been the highlight of the season, whether the Bees win promotion or not he will be gracing the Premier League.
6th Place Reading 79 points GD……..7th Place and missing out on the Playoffs Barnsley 79 points
The final spot is decided by goal difference and will be harsh on Barnsley who have impressed so many observers this season. Reading are not short of admirers though their forward line looks like scoring whenever they flow forward. Michael Olise and Lucas Joao are electric and like Ivan Toney its hard to see them still playing at the Madjeski next season if promotion does not occur. Valerien Ismael the Barnsley manager surely will be headhunted within the next few years, he has rotated his young squad even during games, fully using the 5sub rules to maintain the energetic high press.
Unfortunately all of the teams promoted this season will start as favourites to be relegated, that being said at least fans will be back in the stadiums to see their teams in the top flight, ultimately as football supporters this is what we strive the most………….and of course a winner in the Grand National, my tip being Ok Corral. Good luck everyone.
featured image credit sky sports