Our weekly data-driven assault on the Championship is back

Numerical Advantage takes a look at the weekend's Championship fixtures and picks out his best four picks for Saturday's 3pm kick offs

We’ve also got some brilliant scatter plot graphics, comparing each club’s attacking and defensive performances so far this season, so you can really see where the match-ups and mismatches in the weekend’s league games are most likely to occur. There’s a full explanation of these available further down the page, or simply click one of the graphics below to get stuck in.

Numerical Advantage: Championship, 9 April 2016

  • Derby to beat Bolton to nil @
  • Wednesday to take all three points at Bristol City @
  • Over 2.5 goals when Fulham meet Cardiff @
  • Boro to shut out sorry Preston @

Bolton to be rammed into League 1

Derby’s 4-0 thumping of promotion rivals Hull in midweek may have owed something to their visitors being reduced to 10 men, but the Rams were already two up and cruising by this point. They look capable of recording a similar scoreline here, having only conceded two goals in eight home matches against the sides immediately above Bolton, who are still without an away win this season.

The Trotters’ relegation is now all but confirmed, meaning that they aren’t likely to be in the mood to offer much resistance. They’re 17 points adrift of safety with only 18 left to play for, which should be enough to demotivate even the most optimistic and mathematically-challenged members of their squad.

The odds of a home victory are pretty short, so backing Derby to win to nil looks more enticing @

Wednesday and City to serve up more of the same

Last weekend we used our graphics to correctly predict that Sheffield Wednesday’s razor-sharp attack would fire them to another win and that Bristol City’s leaky defence would let them down. The Owls triumphed again in midweek to make it four wins in a row and look capable of extending that to five here.

The Robins have kept just three clean sheets in their last 11 league matches and all of those came against the current occupants of the relegation zone, so shutting out their play-off chasing visitors looks unrealistic. The away defence isn’t looking too shabby either: they’ve let in just two goals during their last seven games and are on a division-best stretch of 14 matches without conceding more than once.

There’s an Owls and Robins analogy that isn’t worth us reaching for, so just take it from us that we like the look of an away win @

Fulham and Cardiff to keep us entertained

These two sides have looked far more convincing up front than at the back this season, which hopefully means that we’ll see plenty of goals here. Fulham are the division’s second highest scorers but have kept just three clean sheets (the average is 12 and even Bolton have managed six) leaving them with a negative goal difference overall.

Meanwhile Cardiff have been equally adept at shooting themselves in the foot. Along with their hosts they are one of the six best sides at getting shots on target (with 4.3 per match to the Cottagers’ 4.4), but have allowed a higher percentage of their opponents’ shots inside their own box than anyone except Rotherham and have conceded more equalisers (11) than all but three other clubs.

Over 2.5 goals therefore looks a good way to go here

Middlesbrough to contain Preston

Middlesbrough have sat proudly in the top left of our defence graphic all season and if we made a version just for home matches then their record would look even more ridiculous. They’ve soaked up a whopping 33.5 shots for each goal conceded at the Riverside, and if you were choosing a team to knock them down a peg or two it wouldn’t be Preston.

Simon Grayson has done a great job of steering them into mid-table but has undoubtedly prioritised defence over attack in their first season back at this level. They’ve been involved in more 0-0 draws than anyone else (eight), only two sides have fired in fewer shots on target per match than their average of 3.4 and they also rank third-lowest for the number of times that they’ve netted more than once in a match (nine).

Middlesbrough to keep a clean sheet therefore looks a relatively safe bet @


Graphics

These are a quick visual way to compare all of the clubs in the division against each other. On the horizontal axis we have quantity (how many shots each club has taken or faced) and on the vertical we have quality (how many shots on average it takes them to score or concede). The thick lines sit on the averages for each axis, which divides each graphic into four quadrants. Just in case that doesn’t make sense, we’ve included some observations beneath each graphic that will give you the general idea.

Attacking Effectiveness

PP Championship Attack

In the top right we can see that both Reading and Nottingham Forest have fired in plenty of shots this season but the quality hasn’t always matched the quantity. Below the Royals are Hull, who have also kept defences busy and have been much better at making their dominance count. In the bottom left we have the strange cases of Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday, who don’t shoot very often but are still managing to sustain a promotion chase thanks to some excellent finishing. In the undesirable top left are the almost equally poor attacks of MK Dons and Charlton, who rarely shoot and tend not to make a good job of it when they do.

Graphics – Defensive Effectiveness

PP Championship Defence

In the top left we find the formidable defence of Middlesbrough, who have soaked up far more shots for each goal conceded than anyone else and don’t allow many efforts in the first place. In the top right quadrant we can see that Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham have allowed opponents plenty of shots but absorbed a lot of that punishment. Below them in the bottom right are the division’s worst defences with Charlton in particular allowing an obscene number of attempts at their goal, so it’s no wonder that they’re in relegation trouble. In the bottom left we can see that Reading and Huddersfield have struggled to deal with their opponents’ shots, so it’s just as well that they don’t permit many.


Data correct on Thursday 7 April.

Graphics courtesy of Ben Mayhew (@experimental361)