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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Five things we learned from the weekend

A look back at the opening Football League exchanges

Gabriel Agbonlahor was on target against Hull on Saturday
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1 Substance over style key in Championship

Newcastle and Brighton built their Sky Bet Championship campaigns on solid defences last season and a similarly pragmatic approach may be taken by this term’s market leaders.

Middlesbrough started out with a 1-0 defeat at Wolves while Aston Villa and Fulham created plenty of chances but were held to 1-1 draws at home to Hull and Norwich.

Steve Bruce’s summer signings for Villa – John Terry, Christopher Samba, Ahmed Elmohamady and Glenn Whelan – suggest he is building from the back, despite the fact that Villa scored only 47 goals in 46 games last term.

Only one of Saturday’s nine Championship matches featured over 2.5 goals and punters should probably avoid backing wide-margin wins for the perceived big guns in the early weeks of the season.

2 Ex-Toffee can thrive at permanent home

Everton youth graduate Conor McAleny had six loan spells before earning a permanent move from Goodison Park and he made the perfect start at new club Fleetwood.

McAleny scored both goals on his debut as the Cod Army beat Rotherham and he looks a player to follow in goal markets.

McAleny enjoyed himself in Sky Bet League One last term, scoring ten goals in 14 starts for Oxford.

That hot streak included hat-tricks against Chesterfield and Bury as well as a brace in the away victory over promoted Millwall and those efforts suggest the 14-1 shot is a serious Golden Boot contender.

3 Addicks overcome early setback

Getting a man sent off after six minutes isn’t the ideal start to the season but Charlton showed their resolve by going on to beat Bristol Rovers 1-0.

The Addicks were reduced to ten men after Lee Novak’s rash early challenge and their fans will have been delighted with the response to that setback.

Charlton finished an acrimonious 2016-17 season with four wins and a draw in their final five matches (a run that included fixtures against four of the bottom five).

A 6-1 friendly victory over Championship side Ipswich got pulses racing at The Valley and Saturday’s gutsy display, in which the ten men restricted Rovers to just three attempts on target, was a pleasing start for Karl Robinson.

4 Unlucky Colchester limp into 2017-18

Colchester narrowly missed out on the playoffs in Sky Bet League Two last season but their hopes of a fast start to 2017-18 have been hit by injuries to key players.

John McGreal’s men lost 3-1 at Accrington in their opener and they were missing captain Luke Prosser, Kurtis Guthrie, Doug Loft and long-term absentee Brennan Dickinson.

Guthrie, Dickinson and striker Chris Porter, who left for Crewe in the summer, scored 40 of Colchester’s 67 league goals last season and defender Tom Eastman suffered an ankle injury in the first half at Accrington.

5 Bielsa’s boys kick off campaign in style
Marcelo Bielsa’s teams rarely disappoint when it comes to entertainment and the Argentinian coach began his Ligue 1 spell at Lille with a 3-0 home win over a Nantes side who finished four places above them last term.

Fast starts are nothing new for Bielsa – his Marseille side were top of the league at Christmas in 2014-15 – and Les Dogues look set to fly out of the traps.

Anwar El Ghazi started his first full season in France with a goal while baby-faced striker Nicolas de Preville – 14 goals in 23 starts last term – should get plenty of chances in a typically dynamic Bielsa attacking unit.

Only one of Saturday’s nine Championship matches featured over 2.5 goals
E.W. Terms
Sky bet