The EFL Championship returns after a two-month off-season, with the 2022-23 season due to begin this weekend. On the first matchday, one of the games will see Blackpool host Reading at Bloomfield Road. Both teams finished in the lower half of the table last season, but the hosts had a better campaign. The Tangerines finished the highest among the teams promoted from the 2020-21 EFL League One season, ending in 16th position on the points table. Meanwhile, Reading barely escaped relegation, finishing just one spot above the drop zone.
Blackpool accumulated 60 points in the previous EFL Championship season. Their record read 16 wins, 12 draws and 18 losses, and they had a goal difference of -4. While the Tangerines comfortably stayed up, they could have had a better goal difference if their finishing was not below par. The xG metric estimated them to score 65 goals, but they ended up scoring only 54, nearly 17% lower than expected. While they ranked 8th in the xG column, they were placed 14th in the actual goals scored.
This underperformance in xG can be seen in the above shot map. Blackpool missed a lot of big chances, especially in the six to 12-yard range i.e., between the edge of the six-yard box and the penalty spot. Gary Madine was the team’s top goalscorer with nine goals, but he underachieved on his xG of nearly 12. The Tangerines’ shot conversion rate was 9.42 shots per goal scored as they scored 53 goals from 499 attempts.
Reading finished 21st last season and barely avoided relegation. In fact, if it was not for Derby County’s massive 21-point deduction, it would have been Reading who would have gone down. Even they suffered a six-point deduction for breaching financial regulations. The Royals had a very leaky defence last season, letting in 87 goals – the joint-most with Peterborough United. They conceded more goals than what xGA estimated (73), which was 16.1% worse than expected.
John Swift, the attacking midfielder, created the most threats for Reading in the last season. He was the leader in threat creation for both open play as well as set-pieces. In fact, the next best player generated less than half of what Smith did. But Swift has left Reading after six long years to join West Brom on a free transfer. Most of the threats produced by the Royals came down the left-hand side of the pitch.
Blackpool will look to build on their solid mid-table finish last time out, while Reading are set for another season flirting with the relegation spots. The favourites to win this match are the Tangerines, but the Royals will hope for an upset with a win away from home.