And we’re off!
The first gameweek of the EFL Championship was always going to throw up some surprises but we can’t remember the last time so few goals were scored. Only two of the 12 matches featured more than two goals.
Is this a tactical shift? Reaction to the absence of supporters? Or simply early season jitters?
The temptation is to draw conclusions on the basis of a single round of matches, panic and reach for the Overhaul. We’ll try our best to resist that impulse.
The favourites underwhelmed. Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth managed unconvincing single goal victories while Brentford were a shadow of their former selves with the departure of Ollie Watkins and an absent Saïd Benrahma (11.5m) who now looks a certainty to leave the club.
Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham made Brentford look ordinary with a solid performance capped by a Jeremie Bela (5.5m) goal from a set piece before half-time. The Blues offered little after the break but heroics from Maxime Colin (6.0m) at the back helped secure the clean sheet.
Craig Cathcart (6.1m) scored early to provide Watford with an opening day victory over Middlesbrough receiving 15 points in the process. GAFFR managers were disappointed to see hotly tipped defensive asset Pervis Estupiñán (5.5m) left out of the Hornets squad ahead of his surprise move to Villareal.
Teemu Pukki (10.0m) unselfishly teed up a simple tap in for Adam Idah (7.0m) as Norwich scored an 80th minute winner away against Huddersfield Town. New loan signing Xavi Quintillà (5.5m) put in a solid display at left-back for the Canaries, effectively replacing Jamal Lewis following his move to Newcastle.
Highly fancied Nottingham Forest slumped to a two-nil defeat to a QPR side coping admirably with the loss of Eberechi Eze to the top tier. Ilias Chair (6.5m) stepped up to score 11 points and lay down a marker for the season. In defence, Lee Wallace (4.1m) performed well and grabbed 9 points.
Cardiff City have been talked about as top 6 contenders but struggled to a two-nil defeat to Sheffield Wednesday with Josh Windass (6.5m) playing a starring role scoring 16 points.
Wednesday played well and must be feeling optimistic about their points deduction given the two-bald-men-fighting-over-a-comb that was Wycombe v Rotherham. The promoted sides took part in what could be the earliest relegation six-pointer in history and while we wouldn’t usually dwell on such a poor match, the stats are hard to ignore. Rotherham had 49% passing accuracy in their 1-0 win, Wycombe just 36%. 152 longballs, 28% of which were successful and a staggering 31 fouls.
Having said that, Rotherham did manage to win and there may be some defensive options worth considering from a fantasy standpoint.
Jamal Blackman (4.5m) in goal scored 7 points, highly-rated defender Michael Ihiekwe (4.6m) while Clark Robertson (4.1m) and Wes Harding (4.0m) are budget options at the back where they should get regular game time.
Matt Godden (5.1m) scored for Coventry, the remaining promoted side as they lost 2-1 to Bristol City. The Sky Blues looked at home at Championship level and Bristol just about got the better of them in an even contest.
Bournemouth and Blackburn took part in what was probably the game of the round, A late goal from Arnaut Danjuma (6.5m) clinched a 3-2 victory for the Cherries in a match which could have gone either way. Adam Armstrong (7.5m) was a constant threat leading the line for Blackburn and Bradley Johnson (5.6m) chipped in a goal from midfield.
Wolves loanee Morgan Gibbs-White (7.0m) scored the only goal as Swansea ground out a victory at Preston North End. Jake Bidwell (6.5m) justified his price tag with a clean sheet, assist and a 13 point haul.
Finally, a goal and an assist from the impressive Lucas Joao (6.1m) brought Reading an away win over a Derby side who seemed to lack ideas. Ovie Ejaria (6.1m) capped a dominant performance with a goal to score 10 points.
Brentford will look to get back on track at home against Huddersfield. Bryan Mbuemo (9.0m) is the only player remaining of the BMW strikeforce but it should be enough to see off a Huddersfield side fresh from a home defeat to Norwich City. Sergi Canos (6.5m) is getting minutes at the moment and is a cheap route into the Bees lineup but we’re likely to see Brentford strengthen the flanks in the coming weeks and he may soon see his place under threat.
After a reasonable start, Norwich will expect to pick up another three valuable points against visitors Preston North End. Main creative force Emi Buendia (10.0m) seemed set to return following suspension but appears to have made a come-and-get-me plea to Premier League clubs and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him depart in the near future.
Preston may have something to say here after an unlucky result against Swansea in a game they dominated. If they make the breakthrough, Tom Barkhuizen (7.0m) could be the one to do it up front.
Reading have a chance to win two games in a row here and only a fool would doubt them after an impressive display last week.
Barnsley on the other hand looked short of ideas against Luton and we can’t see them making an impression away from home this week. The Royals Lucas Joao (6.1m) is in blistering form with a hat-trick in preseason and a goal last week. One to watch!