There will be plenty of intriguing sub-plots ahead of the 2022/23 Championship season, with new rules, new managers but the same level of unpredictability. Yet this could be the Championship season of even greater unknowns in 2022/23.

 

THE MANAGERS

Gone are the days of Championship clubs turning to experienced heads with promotion on their CV, clubs are now looking outside of the merry-go-round pool of bosses.

Seven clubs will start the season with a different manager from their final game last season, including two of the teams in receipt of parachute payments in Watford and Burnley.

Of those, Danny Schofield (Huddersfield Town) and Michael Beale (QPR) are getting their first shot at first-team management, while John Eustace (Birmingham City) is stepping up from a previous role as No.2, though does have previous managerial experience.

Rovers head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson and Burnley counterpart Vincent Kompany are getting their first taste of management in England, while Michael Appleton (Blackpool) has limited experience in this division.

Rob Edwards (Watford) won League Two with Forest Green Rovers, but is stepping up to take what has been a poisoned chalice at Vicarage Road.

When the season gets under way, only seven clubs will have had their manager in place for longer than a year.

It is therefore harder to draw conclusions about these teams given the new eras that many of these clubs are embarking on, not least Watford and Burnley who were relegated from the Premier League last term, and Huddersfield Town who were beaten in the play-offs and since lost their head coach and key players.

 

THE SCHEDULE

The three-game weeks are infamous in the Championship, and the league is known as a hard slog.

The Covid-affected season of 2020/21 saw teams play at least 13 midweek matches, with nine this time around.

But there are glaring changes to the schedule, not least the season beginning before the end of July.

There is then the small matter of a month-long break from the round of games on November 12 to the return to action on December 10. That is to accommodate this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.

The schedule is weighted towards the front end, with six games in August, compared with five last season, and seven in October, up two from 2021/22.

While there is an international break in September, there isn’t in October, meaning extra games are fitted in before the break.

Factored into that is the transfer window. Seven league games are set to be played before the window to sign players closes on September 1, so teams are likely to look very different as the season goes on.

 

RETURN OF FIVE SUBS

First introduced for the ‘project restart’ games of 2020, the ability to use five substitutes in Championship was born. It carried over for the 2020/21 season, but then reverted back last season.

But back for 2022/23, managers will be able to make five substitutes, although a slight change comes in the fact they will still have seven substitutes to pick from, rather than the nine it was previously.

Tony Mowbray was an advocate of the rule and used it extensively.

Given the way that Rovers structured their pre-season we have gleaned little from Tomasson’s use of substitutes, although the rule was in place during his time in Sweden.

The view is the ruling favours the stronger squads and in a league of fine margins, this could prove a pivotal part of in-game management.

 

GOALS, GOALS, GOALS

Rovers have rarely needed to ask ‘where are the goals coming from?’

Whether it be Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede, Danny Graham and Bradley Dack, Adam Armstrong, Ben Brereton, there have been few concerns when it comes to finding the back of the net.

Indeed, in their nine Championship seasons since relegation from the Premier League, Rovers have averaged 59 goals in 46 games, just shy of 1.3 per game.

They have had outliers, Rhodes scoring 27 when no-one else managed more than five in 2012/13. Rhodes and Gestede were the only players to get into double figures until Sam Gallagher and Graham in 2016/17.

The arrival of Dack and his partnership with Graham took on the goalscoring mantle until Adam Armstrong hit 17 and then 29 in successive seasons.

Once he departed, Ben Brereton hit 22 last term, though Rovers need to find a better share of the goals having not managed to get two players into double figures for league goals since 2018/19.

Gallagher has been close to double figures in each of his last three seasons, and has been tipped for a big season by many, not least given the uncertainty over the future of Brereton.

Rovers didn’t sign a replacement for Armstrong last summer, but with goals having dried up during Brereton’s injury absence and not being free scoring in the friendlies, it is an area that Tomasson will have to think closely about.

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