The EFL Championship returns this weekend after a period of two months. One of the games on matchday one will see Luton Town host Birmingham City at the Kenilworth Stadium. Last season, both these teams finished in the opposite halves of the table. The Hatters reached the playoffs, where they lost to Huddersfield Town in the semi-finals, and Birmingham had a miserable campaign, finishing in 20th position and escaping relegation only due to the points deduction suffered by Derby County and Reading.
Luton Town finished in sixth place last season and qualified for the promotion playoffs. They drew the first leg at home against Huddersfield before losing the second leg away. They scored 64 goals in the 48 games (including the playoffs), which was marginally higher than what xG predicted. While xG predicted them to finish as the 9th-best scoring team, in reality, they had the sixth-best attack in the division. This was primarily due to the striker duo of Elijah Adebayo and Harry Cornick scoring 28 goals between them.
Luton Town may have overachieved on their overall xG, but on a per 90 basis, they slightly underperformed, with 1.15 per 90 as opposed to 1.2 xG per 90. They had a ‘goals per shot’ of 0.13 (or 7.7 shots per goal scored), putting them in the top 13% of this category. The Hatters’ main drawback last season was the lack of creativity compared to other teams. They were placed only in the 53rd percentile for both key passes per 90 and smart passes per 90, with 2.53 and 3.14, respectively. They also committed 11 fouls per 90.
Birmingham City ended the last campaign just two spots above the relegation zone. Their record stood at 11 wins, 14 draws and 21 losses with a goal difference of -25, scoring 50 and conceding 75. Their defensive unit was the fourth-worst in the league. Their attack was also not as potent as they hit only 157 shots on target, which was the joint fourth-lowest in the entire division along with Blackpool, trailing only Hull City, Derby County and Peterborough United.
Birmingham City also ranked rock bottom for total completed passes in the EFL Championship last season, with 13,317. Their pass accuracy was the second-worst in the entire division, as less than three-fourths of their passes found the target. Interestingly, their pass accuracy into the final third was 61.3%, but it placed them in the middle of the pack of this category. They were ranked second in both successful long ball percentage and successful cross percentage.
This season, Luton Town will be aiming to make the promotion playoffs once again, but it might not be an easy task. Meanwhile, Birmingham City will be looking to improve on their miserable 20th place finish last season and give their fans something to cheer for.