This season has proved to be one of the most gripping ever, with nothing between the top six and very little defining the relegation places. As always, managerial dismissals have been a talking point but some of the football being played deserves it’s plaudits and is sure to make the dogfight at the bottom and the race to the top more intense than ever before.
Race for Automatic Promotion
Top of the Championship and living in dreamland, if you had to name a Manager of the Season at this current moment it would undoubtedly be Eddie Howe. Only promoted last season, Bournemouth have made this league look easy when so many find it almost impossible to make any progress. The defense has come under criticism in the past, however, seeing off Birmingham 8-0 at St Andrews silenced the critics and showed that there is no need to worry about defense when you have their current attacking ability. Promotion would be very much deserved on the season so far, however there are still 18 games left to prove they have what it takes.
Verdict – If Howe can tighten the back four, there would be few who’d bet against promotion for the Cherries.
Chris Martin has been at the forefront of a Derby County team looking for a backlash against the disappointment of losing in the play-off final last season. Over the past two seasons Steve McLaren has built a team capable of promotion and many believe their performance as a whole last season was enough to gain Premier League status, however, they fell at the last hurdle against a QPR team of star individuals. Everything is pointing towards a top two finish for the Rams after a consistent run of results throughout the season, but they must learn from last season that letting it slip and finishing 3rd place can prove costly.
Verdict – Could finish anywhere in the top three.
After so many big names have tried and failed at the Riverside, Aitor Karanka looks to be the man who has finally got it right. As Mourinho’s understudy at Real Madrid, Karanka has brought discipline and the importance of a strong, balanced squad to the North East. Boro boast the best defensive record in the league and have real quality going forward in the likes of Patrick Bamford, Lee Tomlin and Grant Leadbitter, who have each popped up with important goals. There has been plenty of praise for the manger, but the team he has assembled have given their all in the push for automatic promotion.