Another fascinating week of Championship football saw new leaders and a bottom of the table clash, here's three things we learned from this weeks Championship fixtures...
Nathan Jones needs to go
As the Championship’s only two winless sides faced off on Tuesday night it was clear something had to give for either Stoke City or Huddersfield Town. With squads capable of challenging the play-offs, very few would’ve expected this fixture, ten games into the season, to be 24th vs 23rd.
As the game progressed however, it was a clear encounter between two sides lacking confidence. Whilst the Stoke board have been keen to show patience with Nathan Jones, Huddersfield opted for the opposite tactic, relieving head coach Jan Siewert of his managerial duties after the opening three league games.
Whilst his successor Danny Cowley has failed to have any immediate impact, it was the former Lincoln City boss who walked away from the bet365 Stadium with the bragging rights, piling the pressure on Jones.
Ten games in and zero wins, Stoke sit rock bottom of the league. For a squad that holds numerous full internationals, Championship and Premier League experience, a perfect blend of flair and solidarity, how much longer can the Stoke board give Nathan Jones?
The fight for promotion will be closer than ever
Normally after ten games of the season, one side has staked a claim to be promotion favourites, thrusting all other candidates into inferiority. However, this week it’s Swansea City who sit top of the league, continuing to disprove their doubters.
The Swans oversaw an away victory at Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic, a side who managed a narrow victory over Leeds United at the weekend. Leeds themselves took on fellow promotion candidates West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday evening and despite a below-par performance from the whites, a first-half goal from Ezgjan Alioski was enough to see off the Baggies.
Behind the top three sit Nottingham Forest, Fulham, and Preston North End, making up the rest of the top six. Between Swansea, in first, and Preston, in sixth, just three points separate the clubs, clearly illustrating just how tight this season will be.
Many fans promotion favourites before the season were Leeds United, however, recent performances suggest the team still lacks the necessary ruthlessness to win the title. The Marcelo Bielsa style of play inevitably allows them to dominate games, yet with the side failing to convert opportunities, will Leeds be punished more often this year?
In addition, West Brom and Fulham appear to be strong candidates on paper, with obvious depth and quality throughout their squad, owing to their superior resources to the rest of the league.
On the other hand, Preston, Forest, and Swansea are this year’s surprise packages. Not many envisaged Swansea to be sat top of the league after ten games, especially after the departure of Graham Potter to Brighton over the summer. However, Steve Cooper has taken to the Championship like he’s been around it all his career, leading the Swans to just one loss so far this season.
Matching that feat is Sabri Lamouchi’s Forest side, who despite failing to pick three points on the road at Blackburn Rovers, displayed a hardy performance to leave Ewood Park with a respectable point.
Alex Neil’s Preston are very much outsiders this season, but if their start to the campaign is anything to go by, we could witness one of the league's greatest underdog stories.
One thing is certain, no one is going to walk the league this year. The early pacesetters are sure to be challenged throughout the season and as the Championship goes, it is impossible to predict who will find themselves playing Premier League football next year.
It’s the same at the other end of the table
If the race for promotion is impossible to call, the battle for relegation is just as tough. Whilst Stoke and Nathan Jones have unfortunately positioned themselves as early favourites for the drop, who will join them remains a mystery.
One would suspect that following Huddersfield Town's away victory, they will kick-on under Cowley, and it is unlikely we will see them in the bottom three come May.
So, who are the other relegation candidates? Sitting in the bottom three with Stoke and Huddersfield at the moment is Barnsley. On Wednesday the Yorkshire side salvaged a draw against Derby County in the 95th minute of stoppage time.
Whilst the Tykes probably left Oakwell feeling victorious, the point at home masks a lot of the problems Barnsley face at the moment. They have a young, inexperienced squad, which many feel will hinder their survival chances. Coupled with their inability to keep a clean sheet, it’s going to be a long season for Barnsley fans.
Joining the aforementioned sides near the foot of the table is Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough, Paul Cook’s Wigan, and an unimpressive Reading side.
Woodgate’s side seems to lack a degree of determination, which matched with their struggles in front of goal makes for bad reading in the Championship table. However, it’s a Boro side packed with Championship experience, which paired with Woodgate’s status as a club icon will most likely equate to patience and time to turn around their season.
Paul Cook’s Wigan were expected to be down there, and no one would be shocked if they were playing League One football next year. It’s arguably credit to his side that they sit in 19th and therefore it’s tough to predict where they will be after 46 games. They’re a side which may have to rely on the misfortunes of others if they wish to survive another year.
Reading are managed by Portuguese gaffer José Manuel Gomes, and his limited knowledge of the Championship is starting to show. In a side that contains the likes of Jon Swift, albeit the man whose red card caused a 4-1 loss for the Royals this week, and €8million striker George Puscas, 21st in the table is a significant underachievement. Needless to say, if their poor form continues it wouldn’t be out of the question to see the London side fall into the dreaded relegation spots.