Erol Bulut has Cardiff City humming, Morgan Whittaker stunned Norwich City with a Plymouth hat-trick and we must say... sacking season is now looming. We discuss all this and more after the latest round of the Championship...
TEAM OF THE ROUND
Only three teams hit a perfect nine points across this past three game week. The top two Leicester City and Ipswich Town did it, but perhaps most impressively, so did Cardiff City. The Bluebirds were sat in 19th position when the Championship returned from the international break but their brilliant week has propelled them up 12 places to seventh, level on points with fifth placed Sunderland.
It was Sunderland who followed Swansea City and Coventry City as the latest on the list of Cardiff's victim's this past week. I dare say after a perfect six points across two home games, an away trip to Sunderland was a bit of a free hit, but things went from very good to even better when Mark McGuiness headed home in the 87th minute to snatch all three points for the buoyant Bluebirds.
I must confess to being one of the many people concerned by the appointment of Erol Bulut at Cardiff in the summer. He was new to English football and was required to work through a transfer embargo in his first window and under ownership who went through three managers in the previous season.
Bulut has started really well and were it not for a couple of leads being given up, would perhaps be even higher in the Championship table. They've scored in every game and I'm very pleasantly surprised by their perfect execution of the Championship's first three game week of 2023/24.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND
It's a bit of an unwritten rule that if you score a hat-trick you're probably going to be chosen as 'player of the round' in this illustrious column. Ozan Tufan of Hull City has already done it and Plymouth's Morgan Whittaker became the second Championship player this season to bang in three goals during a single game. It was quite the afternoon for Plymouth who rolled Norwich over 6-2 at Home Park, we know they're very good on their own patch but it shouldn't be forgotten that just four years ago Norwich were a Premier League club while Argyle were down in League 2.
Whittaker was one of the loan stars of the League 1 title win for Plymouth last season and joined permanently in the summer. He seems to fit in perfectly in the South West and the deal looks even more of a no brainer given he's now registered four goals and three assists in his first eight Championship games.
All three goals against Norwich were scored with his left foot, the first a low guided shot into the corner bottom right hand corner, the second absolutely fizzed into the opposite corner. The third goal was a close range finish from a Finn Azaz cross that put Argyle 5-0 up on their way to what is surely their best win since returning to the second tier.
TALKING POINT OF THE ROUND
Winter Is Coming!
We're yet to have a manager lose their job yet in the Championship, although we have had a change at Huddersfield with Darren Moore replacing Neil Warnock in a mutual consent departure. Last season was a bit of an outlier in terms of Championship scheduling with many games crammed in early to accommodate the winter World Cup throughout November and December. This season we're back to normal, winter is coming and that means we also know that managerial changes are on the way in the traditional graveyards that are the international breaks.
Pick your poison if you're an owner as the temptation is massive to make a change during those scheduled free weekends in the Championship calendar. For the really eager amongst EFL owners is October 8th at the conclusion of round 11, but there is also the even more precariously positioned November 12th after round 16. To anyone with a remotely long term plan, proximity to a transfer window shouldn't matter but I think we all understand that Championship plans get torn up and thrown away like junk mail if a club appears to be heading in the wrong direction.
Obviously I don't want anyone to lose their job but let's just say the booing of the Southampton and Stoke City fans over the past week didn't escape my notice and Sheffield Wednesday's 3-0 reverse at fellow strugglers Swansea won't help the security of Xisco Munoz under an unpredictable owner in Mr Chansiri. Winter is coming, only the strongest will make it through to Spring.
LOANEE OF THE ROUND
There's a lot to be said for making a fast start in the Championship, it gives a team plenty of margin for error further down the road in the 46 game slog towards May. That was the big secret to Bournemouth's promotion in 2021/22, the Cherries absolutely streaked to 40 points by round 17 and by the time they got themselves over the line there had been three pretty abject runs that they absorbed. Key to that fast start was the emergence of a couple of youngsters down Bournemouth's left hand side, full back Jordan Zeruma and winger Jaidon Anthony.
Anthony recorded an excellent 15 goal contributions during his breakthrough and Bournemouth's promotion season, and after one season up in the Premier League he's back on loan in the Championship at Leeds and hoping to repeat the trick. It's only been three substitute cameos so far for Jaidon Anthony but this latest one against Watford was the most eye-catching. The wide man only joined the action on the 80 minute mark but still managed to coolly stroke home Leeds third goal to seal a victory that moved them smoothly up into the top six.
They are particularly blessed at Elland Road with attacking talent for what is expected to be a promotion challenge, Anthony and Joel Piroe have arrived to bolster a roster including Rutter, Summerville, Gnonto, James, Gelhardt and Bamford. He might have to pick his moments but Anthony will definitely have a role to play as he seeks a second Championship promotion.
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