The Championship table is interesting to compare and contrast with the one last season.
Newcastle United went up as champions last May, a point ahead of Brighton, with Huddersfield joining them via the play-offs.
At the other end, Rotherham were cut well adrift from early on, with Wigan then eventually similarly isolated in second bottom, with then Blackburn just missing out on safety.
With only three or four matches remaining for each team, I think there are some striking differences between the Championship table of 2016/17 and the current 2017/18 one.
The final 2016/17 Championship table:
The current 2017/18 Championship table:
As you can see, starting at the top, you have to say fair play to Wolves.
Some people are asking questions about how their club is run, especially with regard to transfers and agents, but on the pitch they are already on 95 points. That is one more than Newcastle got in total last season, plus Wolves still have three games to play.They will need to win all three to exceed the 102 points Newcastle got in their previous promotion of 2009/10.
As for competition, Brighton were big contenders all season and very little to choose between them and Newcastle, this time though it is Cardiff in that role and they need 10 points from the final 12 to match Chris Hughton’s total, which I think is unlikely. I think Wolves must be seen as at least equals of last season’s top two but I think Cardiff are at least a level down in terms of quality.
Fulham are having a very similar season to last time, finishing very strongly and with a better start they might have proved more serious contenders for the actual title this season. However they now look very likely to have to settle for the play-offs and I think like Huddersfield last season, they are by far the best team outside the top pair.
Last season the lowest points total of the play-off contenders was 80 points (Fulham in sixth) but this time it is certain a lower points total will be seen. Derby would have to win all four games to reach that total and finish fifth – but the current fifth and sixth place clubs (Middlesbrough and Millwall) can only end up on 78 points and to do that they would have to win all three matches.
So in conclusion, I think last season’s top six were arguably stronger as a group.
However, the really startling contrast is down the bottom of the Championship table.
Blackburn finished last season on 51 points in third bottom and were still relegated.
This season, five clubs already can’t finish on that points total, whilst another one (Reading) are set to end up with less than 51 points, plus another couple of clubs could do so as well.
Bottom line is that with Sunderland only on 34 points with three games to go, they would have been relegated weeks ago if Championship clubs were matching last season’s totals.
‘Lucky’ isn’t a word you would be associating with the Mackems much these days but they are certainly lucky in the fact that mathematically, they could still somehow stay up.
Overall, I think last season’s Championship was probably stronger. The points totals suggesting more competition all the way down the league.
Plus with all three promoted clubs (Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield) set to survive and Wigan & Blackburn hot favourites to get the League One automatic promotion spots (and Rotherham currently fourth), that probably seals the argument for me.
Interesting to see how this season’s promoted clubs get on in the Premier League next season, though Wolves look sure to spend big, plus I’d imagine Fulham with rich owners will do the same if they get there. Not so sure about the rest, including Cardiff.