Weekly Preview: 18 January 2020

Following two weeks of analysis of the Championship relegation race and the League Two automatic promotion battle, this weeks blog will focus on this weekends fixtures. The key games affecting the top and bottom of the top 4 divisions of English Football have been analysed.

Norwich City vs AFC Bournemouth

The first match analysed is a massive relegation 6 pointer at Carrow Road, as Norwich City hosts AFC Bournemouth. Norwich City have struggled following their Championship-winning campaign and currently are at the foot of the table. Most of the damage was done in October and November, when Norwich suffered a significant injury crisis. However, since losing 2-0 to Watford, their home form has picked up considerably, despite not recording a win, as shown in the table below.

In their last 5 home games, Norwich has drawn 3 and lost 2. Norwich was leading in the second half in all 5 of these games, but they have not shown the defensive strength to see games through to the end. However, Norwich are now in such a precarious position that they need to be winning games if they want to have a chance of staying in the Premier League. This fixture may be Norwich’s best opportunity to gain a win for some time, as their opponents are currently in freefall.

Bournemouth has been one of the more compelling and exciting teams to follow since their promotion to the Premier League in 2015. However, their form is now hitting crisis point. Their only points in their last 6 away matches was a shock win away at Chelsea. The main issue they are facing is creating chances. Their goal away at Chelsea is the only goal they have scored in their last 4 away games, with their other 3 opponents all in the bottom half. They have not fared much better at home.

Despite this, the likelihood that this is going to be an open game. Norwich have tried to play on the front foot and attack, and have scored in 10 of their 11 home games. However, their defensive frailties means they have conceded in all 11. A draw is not an ideal result for either team; Norwich need wins to close the gap to the teams outside the relegation places. Bournemouth will have targeted this match to get 3 previous points to lift them out of the relegation zone.

Taking all of these factors into account, Bournemouth’s inability to break teams down will be neutered by the gaps that Norwich will leave in defence. As a result, both sides are going to create chances to score. It would be no surprise to see both teams on the scoresheet in a tense, but highly entertaining game.

Watford vs Tottenham Hotspur

The next match features two teams who have changed their managers during the season, who meet in the early kick-off. Although Watford is on their third manager of the season, Nigel Pearson has proven far more effective than his predecessors. Watford appointed Pearson on 6 December, replacing Enrique Sanchez Flores, who replaced Javier Gracia on 7 September. See the table before Pearson’s appointment on the left, and since his appointment on the right.

Pearson has made an immediate impact, and Watford is one of the form teams in the league. Under Pearson, they have already collected 6 more points in 8 fewer games than his predecessors. Since Pearson took charge, they sit 3rd in the form table, behind only Liverpool and Manchester City. Only Liverpool have conceded fewer goals since Pearson in that time frame.

Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of Tottenham on 20 November. Although he has overseen improved performance, as their points per game has increased from 1.2 to 1.6, the results might not have been as good as expected. Again, consider the table when Mauricio Pochettino was sacked on 20 November on the left, and since Jose Mourinho’s appointment on the right.

This is going to be a tough match for Tottenham. Watford come into this match full of confidence and in excellent form. They have won their last 3 home matches and recorded 13 points from their previous 5 games. Tottenham have only gained 1 point from their last 3 games, at Norwich City, and they lost at Southampton in their previous away match. Watford has every chance of getting at least a draw from this match and should take advantage of a leaky Tottenham defence by scoring at least one goal.

Swansea City vs Wigan Athletic

The next match featured covers Swansea City and Wigan Athletic, in a 3pm kick-off on Saturday. Both teams are in a very close battle at opposite ends of the table. Swansea City made a fantastic start to the season, before cooling off. They have shown good form in their last 6 matches; and a solid defence. The only goals they have conceded in their previous 5 games were away at Brentford, a far tougher assignment than what they will face at the Liberty Stadium. As a result, they sit in the first spot outside the play-off places, in 7th.

Their opponents are Wigan, who currently sit in 23rd. They were featured in our analysis of the Championship relegation battle as a team that will be fighting for their lives at the end of April. Although they have every chance of staying in the division, they do not match up well with Swansea. Wigan have scored less than a goal a game away from home, and have drawn a blank in 3 of their last 5 away matches.

This is expected to be a tight game, but one that Swansea will have the edge, and are expected to win to keep the pressure on the teams above them in the play-off places. It would be no surprise to see the solid Swansea defence keep a clean sheet.

Doncaster Rovers vs Coventry City

The standout match in League One sees two of League One’s form teams clash at the Keepmoat Stadium. Doncaster has made an excellent start to 2020, winning 3 games against teams in play-off contention and without conceding, in 10 days. Due to the incredibly tight nature of League One, these results have boosted them from 16th to 9th, with games in hand against all teams above them.

Coventry had one of the more significant home and away splits in the division until the end of December. Despite consistently being in the play-off positions, they had not won away from home. However, they proved very difficult to beat at home. This is despite playing their home games at St Andrew’s, in Birmingham, and not in Coventry.

However, this record was smashed with a 4-1 win away at the then league leaders Wycombe Wanderers and followed up 3 days later with the same scoreline at Tranmere Rovers. As such, both teams will go into this match full of confidence.

This match should be a tactical battle, but an intriguing one against teams playing differing styles. Doncaster has been happy to concede the ball in recent weeks, having less of the ball in their last 3 home matches. Coventry have shown they like to play out from the back and dominate the ball under Mark Robins, and have consistently had the majority of possession. Doncaster’s success is likely to depend on their ability to win the ball back high up the pitch and create good chances. This won’t be easy against a Coventry side, who are playing full of confidence.

One eye-catching statistic is the number of corners each team takes. In their home matches, Doncaster has received at least 6 corners in 10 of their 14 home matches, a figure Coventry has achieved once in their 11 away games.

Crewe Alexandra vs Cheltenham Town

The final match comes from the remarkably tight battle for the last automatic promotion place in League Two, as 3rd place Crewe host 4th place Cheltenham. Both teams were featured in our analysis of the automatic promotion race. In their last 10 games, both sides sit next to each other in the form table in 8th and 9th. However, this is an eye-catching matchup as it features one of the best attacks in the league against one of the stingiest defences.

Cheltenham features a rock-solid defence. They are unbeaten in their last 10 away games and have only conceded 5 goals in those games. This is 4 less than any other team, as shown in the table below. This defence has formed the backbone of their place in the play-offs. For the entire season, their goals against figure of 21 is best in the league.

Crewe have the best attack in the league, having scored the most goals in the league. In their last 10 games, they have scored 21 goals. This is tied with runaway league leaders Swindon for most in the league, and 4 more than any other team. This is further shown below, as in Crewe’s last 10 home games, their average goals per game jumps to 2.3. This is the highest figure in the league.

This is a fascinating matchup to watch, and could well be a match that gives an indication of how each side will perform towards the end of the season. It is worth pointing out that Crewe have remained firm in defence, only conceding 10 goals over their last 10 home games, which may give them the edge in this top of the table clash.

All the screenshots and statistics have come from Edge Football Stats. The app is available on both Apple and Android devices; please download today! If you have any feedback, suggestions or any other questions, please feel free to email the team on [email protected], and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

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