As domestic football returns after the International break, Gab Sutton is here with his weekend EFL preview.
“The 21/20 on Huddersfield – who have won their last three matches - to add to their points tally in the Potteries, I believe, is the bet of the EFL weekend.”Gabriel Sutton
Stoke City v Huddersfield Town
Double Chance: Draw/Huddersfield – 21/20
Huddersfield moved up to 4th in the Championship with a 4-0 victory over Reading last time out.
Sorba Thomas, especially, impressed, with another man-of-the-match display at right wing-back, having been signed initially in January as a left-sided forward.
Thomas’ dribbling ability is exemplary and because the former Boreham Wood man always backs himself to beat an opponent one-on-one, he is an outlet that opposing teams have to be conscious of when dealing with threats in other areas of the pitch.
Town’s hosts will not have the option of doubling up on Thomas and leaving the other flank open, either, because Corberan deploys an attacking left wing-back in Harry Toffolo, who brings similar thrust and drive.
Focus too much on nullifying the wide areas, though and Daniel Sinani will have free reign to link midfield and attack.
In fact, Sinani’s average position against Reading was more advanced than that of Thomas and central forward Danny Ward, so while the Terriers’ formation is notionally a 3-4-3, it is also extremely flexible.
Operating without a conventional centre-forward means the West Yorkshire outfit can create a corridor of uncertainty for opposing defenders, who do not know whether to follow the man or stick with the space.
This, in turn, leaves a window for Lewis O’Brien to use his relentless energy to pop up into goalscoring positions, as he did for the opener last time out, with the 22-year-old having taken two shots from inside the penalty area in three Championship starts.
There is a diversified threat about Huddersfield which makes them a difficult team to handle, even if Michael O’Neill’s Stoke have also enjoyed a positive start to the campaign.
🧤 @LeeNicholls with the triple save 🤪
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) September 8, 2021
“Swansea missed a natural goalscorer last season but they might just have one in Joël Piroe, who has scored three league goals already this season and is an intriguing 6/4 to score anytime.”Gabriel Sutton
Swansea City v Hull City
Joël Piroe to score anytime
Four points from five league games is a disappointing start for Swansea, after achieving back-to-back Play-Off finishes, but it is also understandable.
Russ Martin was only appointed head coach late in the summer and brought, with him, stricter possession principles than his predecessor, Steve Cooper.
Consequently, there have been teething problems for the Swans, who have frequently been caught out when playing out from the back.
In attack, though, there has been some early promise shown by Joël Piroe, a summer recruit from PSV Eindhoven.
Piroe came through the PSV academy with much attention, being linked with many clubs in his mid-teens, but struggled to perform at first team level which is why he’s been available to the Championship.
By taking a chance on somebody unproven in senior terms, Swansea have bagged themselves a competent finisher, who has scored 16 goals in 57 appearances for Jong PSV (essentially the Development Squad) – and three already in the league this term.
As we have seen, Piroe’s movement beyond the last line of the defence can be extremely cunning, as we saw for his opener in the 3-1 loss at Preston North End last time out: the 22-year-old uses his agile mind to manipulate tight spaces in advanced areas.
Swansea’s Wijchen-born forward weapon is also very powerful, which means he can use his technical ability – strong first touch and gifted with short, snappy passes, if as yet lacking in vision and composure – to play back to goal.
If Piroe can refine certain limitations to his game, which includes a lack of concentration over the full 90 minutes, he can become a top Championship forward.
🗣️ “It’s a really important period, it’s been like a mini pre-season for us in terms of the work we have been able to put in.”
Martin believes an important period lies immediately ahead of the #Swans…
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) September 10, 2021
“Burton’s late summer business could be a game-changer. If Harry Chapman and Daniel Jebbison are as good as expected, the Brewers have a great chance of beating Gillingham.”Gabriel Sutton
Burton Albion v Gillingham
Burton to win
Burton continued their steady start to the League One season with a 0-0 draw at Bolton last time out, finishing the game with 10-men after John Brayford’s dismissal.
The Brewers have the minerals to at least consolidate this season because of their defensive resilience, with experienced battler Michael Bostwick forging an excellent centre-back partnership with the talented Conor Shaughnessy.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has added to this base, though, by making four excellent additions on deadline day: tenacious ball-winner Charlie Lakin from Birmingham, talented defender Sam Hughes from Leicester, direct dribbler Harry Chapman from Blackburn, spritely forward Daniel Jebbison from Sheffield United, the latter three being loanees.
Hughes has already impressed at the Pirelli, being one of the few to stand out in the first half of last season under Jake Buxton, while Lakin will relish a chance to establish himself at Championship level, having once been part of a Birmingham side that ground out a 2-1 league victory at Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds under Garry Monk.
Chapman is also a coup, with the 23-year-old – who can play wide right as well as in the hole – having starred on loan at Shrewsbury last season, but the stand-out signing has to be Jebbison.
The Canadian might only be 18, but he also already influenced games in the Premier League with Sheffield United; in fact, the Blades – who finished bottom – won two of the three games he started, largely because of the talent, energy and infectious exuberance he brought.
If Jebbison can have that impact in the top flight, the England Under-19s international could easily have been part of Slavisa Jokanovic’s plans for the Championship and therefore, is likely to be one of the stars of the League One season.
With youthful quality added to a strong, positive working culture, Burton have every chance of beating Gillingham, who still look short in key areas and are unlikely to secure a third consecutive top half finish.
*Feel free to
— Gabriel Sutton (@GabSutton) September 1, 2021
“Argyle may have one or two key players back this weekend which could help Ryan Lowe’s side defeat Sheffield Wednesday, who look overly reliant on Barry Bannan.”Gabriel Sutton
Plymouth Argyle v Sheffield Wednesday
Plymouth to win
After a 1-1 draw with Fleetwood, Ryan Lowe felt his Argyle side should have gone into the international break on 10 points rather than eight.
They led through what the Liverpudlian described as a “world-class” finish from Ryan Hardie, before some questionable defending for the equaliser meant the Devoners had to settle for a point.
Lowe’s troops have this return, despite being without numerous key players like defender James Wilson, technical left wing-back George Cooper, advanced dribbler Danny Mayor and energetic forward Niall Ennis.
The two-week interlude will have given the team a chance to get one or two of the injured players back fit, which should make them even stronger.
Argyle face a Sheffield Wednesday side that have had a sturdy defence so far this season, conceding for the first time as recently as the previous game – and that came from their Morecambe’s only shot on target in a 1-0 defeat.
Going forward, though, Darren Moore’s side have been overly reliant on the individual magic of Barry Bannan.
Of course, the Scot is an excellent player at this level, but he had 71 touches in the last match, of which 22 were in his own half and 10 were within 18-yards of the byline, which implies he is asked to do too much.
It feels as though Wednesday are asking Bannan to at times collect the ball off the defence like a deep-lying playmaker might, at times progress it from the middle third like a classic number eight and at other times play the final balls in advanced areas like a number ten.
This is putting too many demands on Bannan: Wednesday would be better off streamlining and simplifying his game.
So glad we got mayor and coops back in the squad for Saturday👌 #pafc
— Bradderz (@pafc_brad) September 8, 2021
“Rochdale’s service to Jake Beesley has been strong so far this season, so I fancy the industrial centre-forward to find the net here against Micky Mellon’s Tranmere.”Gabriel Sutton
Rochdale v Tranmere Rovers
Jake Beesley to score anytime
The early signs for Rochdale under Robbie Stockdale have been hugely encouraging.
Late summer recruits have hit the ground running, the football has flowed at times and the early indications are that Dale can challenge for the Play-Offs this season, rather than look over their shoulders.
The pick of the recruitment is arguably right wing-back Corey O’Keefe, on loan from Birmingham City, who looks among the best in the division in his position.
On the one hand, O’Keefe is capable of himself picking out an incredibly accurate cross from deep – like the one for Jake Beesley’s equalizer in the 3-2 win at Port Vale – that belongs at a much, much higher level.
On the other hand, he can also roam into central areas to attract attention from opponents, opening up a window for Aaron Morley – another excellent technician – to overload the flank and do something similar.
O’Keefe and Morley are aided by the left-footed quality of Alex Newby on the right of Stockdale’s three-man attack and the supporting work of Max Taylor, who backs up play from the right of a three-man defence.
These combinations mean Rochdale will have numerous opportunities to get the ball into the box from the right, which is excellent news for Jake Beesley.
The former Salford target man has won 8.4 aerial duels per 90 minutes this season, the fourth-most out of strikers in the division who have started more than four games.
That, alone, is impressive, but even more so considering Dale play on average 75 long balls per game – the joint-fifth fewest in League Two – so it is not as if the whole game plan revolves around him.
Instead, while Stockdale does not discourage defenders from knocking the ball upfield when under serious pressure, Rochdale’s game in it’s organic sense is about patiently working the ball into good areas, then hitting their front-man.
Rather than Beesley getting a high quantity of service from the defensive third, he benefits from a high-quality of service from the middle and final thirds, which is partly why the 24-year-old – as well as bringing lots of value to the team in general play – has already found the net twice.
Tranmere, meanwhile, are hoping to kick-start their campaign after a flurry of late signings – including high-profile forward veterans Mark Duffy and Nicky Maynard – prior to a 1-0 victory over Hartlepool.
Ronaldo this Ronaldo that I honestly couldn't give a shit give me Jake Beesley on a 3pm kick off every single time 🔵
— All Dale Aren’t We (@AllDaleArentWe) August 27, 2021
“Scunthorpe will set up defensively in this match and while they won’t be easy to break down, I also don’t see them scoring. 13th-placed Exeter are in a false position: they’ll be much higher in a month’s time.”Gabriel Sutton
Scunthorpe United v Exeter City
Exeter to win to nil
The early evidence is that Scunthorpe are a team that will not score many goals this season, but not concede many either.
The Iron remain compact despite not having an archetypal destroyer in the mould of Stephen Dawson, because they have three centre-backs and three central midfielders, who all contribute defensively.
The solid sextet allow wing-backs Jai Rowe and Lewis Thompson to fly forward in transition, with the midfielders only truly coming forward once channel-runner Devarn Green – the number 10 in Neil Cox’s 3-5-1-1 – gets on the ball.
The problem the Lincolnshire outfit have is that they are short on quality: Green has pace but is far from the finished product, Alfie Beestin has a knack of getting into the box at the right time but has only scored six goals from the start of last season.
Injuries to strikers Ryan Loft – who impressed last term – and wildcard Tyrone O’Neill have left Scunny reliant on Aaron Jarvis, who does not have a track record at this level.
Their visitors, on the face of things, are the division’s draw specialists having finished four of their six league games all square, but Exeter’s 13th place in the table does not quite tell the full story.
The Grecians have already faced five of the top nine including each of the current top three, plus were a goal and man behind in the second half at Harrogate, where Josh Key’s equaliser earnt a point.
In the only game against a side outside the top nine, Bristol Rovers, the Devoners won 4-1, having scored all their goals in the first half with Matt Jay running riot in attack.
Jay, Sam Nombe and Padraig Amond are capable of inflicting similar damage this time around, while the return to training of Maidenhead recruit Josh Coley and creative force Archie Collins is a huge boost for Matt Taylor’s side.