MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) and Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) look back at the weekend action and share their conclusions.
The European Effect
The stats will say that over half the teams competing in the opening round of the Champions League managed victories in their next competitive fixture but in some cases (like here), the stats don’t always tell the whole story.
Whilst many of the sides in lesser leagues ground out routine weekend wins, those in the big four European leagues found things much tougher. In fact, only 5 of the 14 teams from England, Spain, Germany and Italy bagged three points – Arsenal (17/20) ran out easy winners at flu-hit Aston Villa, Real Madrid (3/10) spanked Deportivo away, Barcelona (1/5) crushed Levante, Juventus (13/10) edged out Milan whilst Roma (1/3) proved too good for Cagliari.
That meant, in the Premier League, Manchester City (29/20) and Chelsea (21/10) contested a tame draw while Liverpool (17/20) were well beaten by West Ham. Over in Spain, Athletic Bilbao (9/20) were shock home losers to Granada as champions Atletico (1/2) flopped in front of their own supporters against Celta. But in Germany, Bayern (3/10) couldn’t win at hapless Hamburg, Dortmund (8/13) were outgunned by Mainz, Leverkusen (6/4) were downed at Wolfsburg and Schalke (4/5) failed to beat Frankfurt at home.
Six of those nine sides that failed to win were odds-on to record a victory this weekend and it wasn’t a dissimilar story in the Europa League. The lesson? Be extra careful before investing in a side after midweek continental football. MOH
Never Underestimate The Heartbreak Of Relegation
Six weeks into the season and for me one of the key themes has been the struggle endured by teams who suffered relegation in May. Nowhere has that been more starkly illustrated than in the Championship where two of the three relegated sides (Cardiff & Fulham) have not only struggled to pick up points but have also dispensed with their managers.
Any better in League One? No, siree! All three of the sides that dropped from the Championship (Doncaster, Barnsley and Yeovil) are in the bottom half of the table with nine defeats between them already. The trend continues apace in the League Two where relegated Carlisle are bottom of the table (with a new manager) while Tranmere and Stevenage aren’t too far off the Cumbrians.
Overall, of the 10 sides playing in the Football League this season who dropped a division in the summer, eight are in the bottom half of the table with two rock-bottom. Collectively their record reads: P85 W24 D25 L36. An extraordinary fall from grace!
What do we take from this? It’s fairly obvious really, beware of backing these sides at short prices and remember this lesson in August 2015 when the newly relegated sides go off at cramped odds in their respective divisions. CG
Robins Soar Into Promotion Picture
Swindon held off another Sheffield United fightback to move into fourth in League One following their 5-2 home victory over the Blades. But punters can still grab a slice of the 5/1 with Bet365 on the Robins winning promotion under Mark Cooper.
Louis Thompson is the latest loanee to hit the headlines after a sparkling performance on Saturday whilst Michael Smith and Andy Williams continue to cause defences all sorts of problems. The Robins have scored at least twice in six of their eight league fixtures and look a real menace going forward.
Last season Swindon picked up 45 points at the County Ground – the fourth best in the division – but were let down by poor away form, winning just five of their 23 road games. Should Cooper’s men improve that record, the Robins can break into the top six and even contemplate a stab at the top-two. MOH
Coleman And Stanley Fit Like A Glove
It was sad to see James Beattie’s Accrington reign come to a close. The reasons have yet to be disclosed but Stanley moved quick to bring back John Coleman to the Crown Ground and were rewarded with a well-deserved three points at Northampton.
Accy were rated 9/2 shots to come away from Sixfields with a win and continue to upset the odds. Had last season started in October, under Beattie they would have finished sixth in the table and there’s no reason not to believe Coleman can continue the fine work from the departed ex-England striker.
Skybet go 8/1 that Accrington finish in the top-half and that is a price of interest. Coleman managed three promotions as champions during his previous 12-year stay with Accrington as well as a top-seven finish in League Two.
Just 12 points separated eight and 23rd last season with Stanley only two points off a Top 12 finish. Coleman knows the constraints that go with the Crown Ground job and is more than capable of guiding the unfashionable team back into the top-half of League Two. MOH