We’re back for some more Championship action this weekend and our focus is on Saturday’s lunch time kick-off, Benjamin Bloom has all you need to know heading into Huddersfield v Coventry, with odds from Betfair throughout.
Setting The Scene – Regression To The Mean
The term ‘regression to the mean’ used to be more commonly used by mathematicians, but now you can hear it used in the pub, on the terraces and in articles like this. Football’s move towards data-driven analysis over the past decade means phrases like ‘nine times out of ten he puts that in the back of the net’ are replaced with a neat expected goals statistic, and something like the ‘manager of the month curse’ is now a simple ‘regression to the mean’.
The world wide web defines ‘regression to the mean’ as ‘the simple fact that if one sample of a variable is extreme, the next sampling of the same variable is likely to be closer to its mean’. When applied to football it tells us that a player or a team has a regular level, they may spend periods over or under-performing that level, will sometimes transition to a new different regular level, but will in the main return back to their regular level.
Both Huddersfield and Coventry could be said to be experiencing a ‘regression to the mean’. The two clubs finished in 20th and 16th in the Championship last season, but at the end of October could be found all the way up in 4th and 5th spots in the table. If we use the statistical language, this October peak could be the ‘extreme variable’ and this recent drop down to 7th and 11th would be the ‘regression to the mean’. If either side is going to debunk this run from being a ‘regression to the mean’ and find their new regular level a little higher in the table than last season, a win here is a good place to start.
One To Watch – Lewis O’Brien (Huddersfield)
Since their return to the Championship after two seasons up in the Premier League, Huddersfield have generally been in cost-cutting mode. Much of this is due to the huge drops in revenue relegation brings, with the normally voluptuous cushion of parachute payments swallowed up as capital for previous owner Dean Hoyle when the club changed hands. Given they’ve essentially not functioned like most relegated teams and been able to leverage their parachute payments, Huddersfield have raised money through sales. In their first summer down Phillip Billing’s move to Bournemouth bolstered the income side of the ledger, and last season Karlan Grant’s move to West Brom did much the same.
This season Huddersfield didn’t lose a star player in order to fill a financial hole, many contracts were cut and Juninho Bacuna did move up north to Glasgow Rangers, but that big summer sale did not occur. It could have happened though, as Huddersfield’s Lewis O’Brien was part of a long-running transfer saga surrounding the Leeds United midfield roster. The names in the frame for Leeds were Conor Gallagher of Chelsea, Todd Cantwell of Norwich, and O’Brien, with the expectation that Huddersfield boss Carlos Corberan as a former Leeds employee might have an open door policy for discussions with Elland Road supremo Marcelo Bielsa.
Terriers fans will now happily recollect that the only deal Lewis O’Brien signed this summer was a new contract at Huddersfield, and the central midfielder has now appeared in 19 of Town’s 21 games thus far. O’Brien was on the scoresheet last week at Barnsley, and his decision to stay and Huddersfield’s ability to keep him, might just signal a change in direction of their prized assets moving forward.
One To Watch – Matt Godden (Coventry)
There has been a passing of the torch in Coventry’s goal scoring during the course of this Championship season. The campaign started with an absolute purple patch for Viktor Gyokeres, the Swede had been at Coventry on loan last season and after joining full-time in the summer he registered a fabulous 9 goals in his first 11 games. It was almost like somebody turned off the tap on Gyokeres’ goal scoring at the start of October, he hasn’t hit the back of the next since then and has gone from essential ‘first name on the team sheet’ status to in and out of the first XI.
Fortunately for Coventry, at pretty much exactly the moment Gyokeres stopped scoring, Matt Godden started. Godden isn’t quite on the run Gyokeres managed, but six goals in the last nine games has kept the ‘goals for’ column ticking along for the Sky Blues. After starring in Coventry’s promotion from League 1 where he scored 14 goals in 22 starts, Godden found it harder going in the Championship last season and hit the net just six times. This season he’s already surpassed that number, whilst his pressing and ability to win fouls high up the pitch give him added nuisance value alongside goal threat.
There have been lots of improvements for Coventry this season, the strikers finding the net more regularly sits alongside the general league position, with everything being pushed along by their excellent home form. With a manager happy to function with two up top supported by a number ten, Coventry fans will be wondering if for his next trick Mark Robins can get Gyokeres and Godden scoring at the same time, instead of taking it in turns.
Key Battle – League position vs Away form and set pieces
I hope to go a little deeper than looking at the league table and making a judgement, but start there and you’d have Coventry favourites with the Sky Blues on the edge of the play-off positions. Drill down a little more short term and it actually doesn’t look that clever for either side, with Coventry 19th and Huddersfield 21st in the six game form table. Going back to the first segment of this column, the sense of a ‘regression to the mean’ is very real.
The two positive trends in these two clubs’ seasons have been Coventry’s home form and Huddersfield’s set-piece prowess. Starting with geographical matters, Coventry’s status as the second best home team in the division matters less as they’re on the road for this game, their away record is less impressive but the past three games has seen them undefeated whilst recording two clean sheets. Prior to defeat at home to Middlesbrough last time out, Huddersfield had been on an impressive home run of six wins in eight at the John Smiths, which could bode well for the Terriers here.
If Coventry boast about their home record then Huddersfield can counter that with their attacking set piece output this season. The work of set piece guru Narcis Pelach has transmitted to on pitch results, nobody has scored more from set piece situations than Huddersfield this season, with three goals for centre-half Matty Pearson and assists galore for Sorba Thomas. Coventry’s defensive set piece numbers are also good, only six teams have conceded fewer goals from set piece situations and Huddersfield are not one of them. In a match that seems quite finely poised, perhaps set pieces could be the fine margin that tips the balance one way or the other.
Inside Insight – Huddersfield (@brady0894 from @takesthatchance)
Huddersfield started the season well but despite sitting in 11th place at the time of writing, Town are 21st in the form table for the last eight games, picking up just two wins. Coventry have also failed to win in their last four, so I’m not expecting a classic, but it should be a competitive game between two fairly matched sides. The Terriers are much better defensively but I’m concerned about the form of opposition striker Viktor Gyökeres. Not one for the neutrals, 1-1.
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