The EFL Championship is finally back in action after an interminable international break and the gameweeks come thick and fast as we see the return of midweek fixtures.
Amid the COVID fears, EFL financial struggles and the rejection of Project Big Picture, it’ll be a relief to get back to watching some Championship football and worry about our fantasy picks for a while.
Today we’re going to take a look at three of the teams performing above expectations this season and three who are underperforming to see if we can pick out the players worth having in your GAFFR fantasy team.
The Surprisingly Good
The high-flying Robins have confounded the experts and perch majestically at the top of the table with four wins from four in the league so far.
Nahki Wells (7.1m) and Chris Martin (6.4m) are an excellent partnership up front while Dean Holden’s unusual deployment of Andreas Weiman (6.6m) in midfield is certainly paying dividends.
The defence has performed well as a unit and they are all picking up fantasy points. Bentley (5.1m) has been solid in goal while Zak Vyner (4.6m) is their cheapest defensive asset.
One concern is that Bristol City have been outperforming their expected goals (xG) by a significant margin in the four games and it’s difficult to see that continuing. Bookies clearly expect Bristol City to fall away and have them at 16/1 to win the league despite the excellent start.
They have two extremely winnable fixtures coming up against Barnsley and Middlesbrough
The Royals came through a stern test from a solid, if uninspired Watford side to win 2-1 and maintain their 100% record in the league. The win was made all the more impressive by the absence of their star performer Lucas João (6.2m) through injury. His replacement, George Pușcaș (6.4m) scored and deputised ably but just isn’t in that class.
Michael Morrison (5.7m) at the back is the leading Reading points scorer, while Michael Olise (4.7m) is way out in front as a midfield asset at a remarkable price.
At 25/1 to win the league, the bookies don’t see this team keeping with the pace but we really like their next 4-5 fixtures. Stick with them while the going’s good.
The Swans have gone about their business relatively quietly. No spectacular results, no blow out games, but suddenly find themselves sitting comfortably in 4th place and 2pts off the lead.
Their success is built on a solid defence and the prowess of their attacking full-backs Jake Bidwell (6.8m) and Connor Roberts (6.6m). Bidwell’s goal last week and his two assists so far this season have brought him to 44 pts and he’s not far off being a must-have for fantasy teams. He’s overshadowed his teammate Roberts but a double-up could be well worth it considering the attacking positions they’re getting into.
We knew Morgan Gibbs-White (7.2m) was a promising midfielder, suspected he’d improve this Swansea side but we didn’t expect to see him so effective in such an advanced position. Playing just behind André Ayew (10.1m) Gibbs-White has managed to collect 29pts and is picking up threatening positions on a regular basis. Ayew is starting to look increasingly dangerous after a slow start.
Swansea are 12/1 to finish top of the Championship and are starting to look like real contenders. Their next fixtures are against Huddersfield and Coventry and will be heavy favourites.
The Surprisingly Bad
Ok, we all know about Norwich. It was known they were headed back to the Championship well before the 2019/20 season ended. Much of their Championship winning side remained intact and they got their business done early to set themselves up for immediate promotion.
Yet, here they are in 17th place with one win from four, -1 on goal difference and they look a side scarred by their year in the top flight. Admittedly, there are a couple reasons to remain cheerful, they’ve been underscoring in terms of xG and this is exactly the points total they had at this point of the season in their title-winning year.
If Teemu Pukki (10.1m) doesn’t slip taking that penalty against Derby, it could all be so different. Strangely, considering how poor Norwich have been, Pukki has still picked up 24 points.
Good to see Emi Buendía (9.4m) returning and will provide some much-needed invention to that midfield. Xavier Quintillà (5.6m) has started well at left-back and could prove a quality fantasy asset in the coming weeks.
Norwich fans will hope this is rock bottom, many GAFFR managers have taken Pukki out of their sides but if the Canaries take flight, there’s only one man to score their goals. Looking at their next three fixtures (Rotherham, Birmingham and Wickham) this could be the turn of the tide.
Forest have been one of the biggest disappointments this season losing all 5 competitive matches this season so far (including the League Cup). As is often the case, the owners have used the international break as an opportunity to sack Sabri Lamouchi and immediately bring in Chris Hughton to steady the ship.
Hughton has a brilliant reputation in this league following success with Norwich and Brighton and given the squad at his disposal we may see the Tricky Trees recover sooner rather than later.
Luke Freeman (7.0m) has been the standout fantasy performer and his wonderstrike against Bristol City shows he may be one to consider once Forest get going again. Lewis Grabban (8.9m) was unstoppable last year and may be another who’d benefit from a regime change and start justifying that hefty price tag. Forest have been creating chances in every game but struggling to put them away, they’re better than the league table suggests.
If Hughton sorts out the defence, Tyler Blackett (4.5m) could be a tempting fantasy option. That’s a big ‘if’.
Forest sit in 22nd place but have been unlucky in results and if these xG are anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time before they start climbing that table. They have a tough match against Blackburn rovers this week but next three are winnable against Rotherham, Derby and Luton.
The Rams are languishing in 20th position despite a late and frankly undeserved winner away at Norwich from talisman and arguably weak link Wayne Rooney (6.4m). They finished 10th last year and much was expected of their young side and the likes of Louie Sibley (4.9m) in particular but they look disjointed and lacking in depth.
Rooney, despite his advancing years and extraordinary lack of mobility is the highest-scoring player in the squad on 15pts.
Philippe Cocu will have been pleased with the improved solidity against Norwich and there’s hope for their defence and the fantasy potential of Matthew Clarke (5.0m) at centre-back and veteran goalkeeper David Marshall (4.5m) if that continues.
Derby County are home to Watford this weekend and we’d humbly suggest this is not the time to bring in any of their assets. There may never be a good time.
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