This weekend was dominated by QPR goalkeeper Seny Dieng's goalscoring heroics, while Rotherham produced a classy performance and Burnley dominated but failed against Watford. Here's the latest from the past Championship round:
TEAM OF THE WEEK
We're often in it for the long haul as the action unfolds on a Saturday afternoon, although there are certain games and narratives that can be ticked off quicker than others. Rotherham were a prime example this past weekend and in the most decisive fashion possible, dismantled Reading and guaranteed their points inside the first half of their clash.
It's very easy to focus on the negatives of the defeated team in situations like this, especially if they're deemed to be a bigger name for whatever that means. I'm going to try not to do that but it would be remiss of me not to mention the nightmare performance Reading keeper Joe Lumley experienced and the helping hand he gave the Millers along the way.
Back to Rotherham, who I along with many others, have tipped to be relegated this season. The Millers are yet to play an away game after the Coventry pitch saga saw their match last weekend cancelled, but the four points registered in their opening two home games represents a really encouraging start. The sales of Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe weren't ideal preparation for the season, but Rotherham have started vibrantly and used their energy and home advantage to set themselves on the right path. The teams that tend to survive in the Championship are the ones that take advantage of others incompetence and stay ahead of that point per game target. There will be challenges aplenty down the road, but so far so good for Paul Warne and Rotherham.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Seny Dieng (QPR)
Sometimes I spend interminable amounts of time figuring out who is going to be the player of the week, trawling through data from all the games to see which players are worthy of such an honour. Sometimes I don't do that, especially when there's an obvious answer starring me right in the face. This week is one of those occasions as QPR's Seny Dieng had a weekend to remember.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Dieng though, he went in at half time in Rangers game up at Sunderland having been beaten twice and with his team 2-0 down. Illias Chair gave QPR hope with a beautifully placed free kick on 87 minutes to make it 2-1 and then came Dieng's moment in stoppage time. We often see keepers going up for set pieces if there's a single goal deficit late in a game, but Dieng really made a nuisance of him. He challenged on the near post for the initial cross into the Sunderland box, but when Chair return the ball into the near post Dieng rose gracefully to angle his header and equalise in gloriously dramatic fashion. I can try and describe the goal in flowery language but I'd recommend looking at the photographs of QPR substitute Sinclair Armstrong, who's reaction says more than I could in a thousand words. That wasn't all though. Presumably with his heart rate and adrenaline through the roof, Dieng returned back to his normal position in front of his own goal and pulled off a tremendous double save to really double down on his heroic performance.
Nine tenths of the law
'Football speak' evolves on an almost weekly basis, but two interesting words applicable to recent Championship events have been 'control' and 'dominance'. What's been interesting about the two words is they tend to have been applied, rightly or wrongly, to teams that have lost. But how can a team 'control' or 'dominate' a game and not win it?
We have to be careful here not to go into the reductive absolutism that some like to sprinkle over their football debate. I want to bang my head against the wall when I hear 'the only thing that matters is the final score', whilst I agree that this is the most important aspect of a game it's far from the only important metric an open minded football fan would happily discuss. We all know that the result doesn't always reflect the full pattern of the game, teams play badly and win, teams play well and lose, and luck, finishing, injuries and other intangibles come into play.
The two losing teams I heard were in 'control' or 'dominant' this week were Burnley and Norwich. Burnley fans can certainly point to a lot of stats in their 1-0 defeat at Watford that were in their favour, however I'd argue that dominance isn't necessarily confirmed by merely having more than an opponent that hasn't created much themselves. Norwich's defeat at Hull gave us another defeated side with high possession, shots, corners etc. The Canaries fans are however a bit further down the road with their manager and their suggestions that shots and xG can be accumulated without substance may have some truth behind them.
What we all know is that teams who are truly dominant and in control of games for long periods of seasons will invariably start to trend upwards. Let's keep an eye on Norwich and Burnley and see if the points total matches the eye test.
LOANEE OF THE WEEK
Long time readers of this column will know that we've spoken about Jaden Philogene-Bidace before. The young wideman went on loan at Stoke last season and after an eye-catching display or two he sort of disappeared in the same way that Stoke have tended to the past few Championship seasons. Philogene, as he's now wearing on the back of his shirt, got his only Stoke goal early on his loan and ended up making just six starts for the Potters.
I use the word eye-catching as Philogene very much passes the exciting winger test, he's quick and exciting with good feet and acceleration. We all know players who exhibit these skills, those that are able to leverage them on a regular basis go right to the top but that is very much easier said than done. I'm not predicting Philogene to become the next Chris Waddle but I am suggesting that he has a better chance of shining this season at Cardiff than he did last season at Stoke.
The problem for a young exciting player at Stoke is there's a sense of decline at the club after those brilliant Premier League years and a sense of pressure on managers there in the recent Championship run that has made things very tricky to navigate. At Cardiff they've hit the reset button with Steve Morison and it feels like there's a clean slate for the likes of Philogene to utilise and go out and express themselves. I know we've seen it before but the early signs are good as Philogene scored the winner in Cardiff's home game with Birmingham, let's see if the good start can build to something more tangible this time around.
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