The EFL Championship is back after a period of two months as the 2022-23 season is about to start this weekend. An early evening kick-off sees Middlesbrough host West Brom at the Riverside Stadium. Both of these teams finished in the top half of the table last season but missed out on the playoffs. Boro missed out on the final matchday of the season, while a terrible run of form midway through the season saw the Baggies slip down the standings into mid-table mediocrity. This season, both teams will be hoping to qualify for the playoffs.
Middlesbrough ended the 2021-22 EFL Championship season in 7th place on the points table. They had 70 points in the season and a record of 20 wins, 10 draws and 16 losses. Their goal difference stood at +9 as they scored 59 goals and conceded 50. When taking into consideration the metric of xGA, Boro slightly underperformed on it as they shipped three goals more than expected.
Middlesbrough’s two main threat creators last season were midfielder Marcus Tavernier and defender Paddy McNair. Both of them had an xT score in excess of 10. While Tavernier created the most overall threat, McNair generated the most from open play. Yet, it was Isiah Jones who provided the most assists in the Boro squad (nine). Most of Tavernier’s threat came from corner kicks.
West Brom finished last season in 10th place on the points table. By mid-January, they looked like one of the favourites for a playoff spot, if not even automatic promotion. However, a terrible run of form for six to eight weeks saw them slip down the table, from which they were never able to recover quickly enough to qualify for the playoffs. According to xG, the Baggies underperformed the most of any team. They scored only 52 goals when the metric estimated them to net at least 75. The actual goals scored column put them in joint 17th place, whereas xG ranked them in second place, only behind Fulham.
This underachievement on xG by West Brom can be seen in the above shot map. There were lots of big goal-scoring opportunities which had an xG of 0.4 or above, but they went begging. The top scorer for the team was Karlan Grant with 18 strikes, slightly above xG’s prediction. The Baggies took 646 shots but could score only 48 times (excluding own goals scored by opponents), thus having a conversion rate of 13.46 shots per goal scored.
Middlesbrough would like to put the heartbreak of last season behind them and focus on qualifying for the playoffs. Meanwhile, West Brom will aim for consistency this season as even they would like to put up a better challenge this season.