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Championship Focus: Week 4

Leeds march on, Grosicki sparkles and Cardiff extend their perfect start.

Nottingham Forest v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Have Leeds United found their messiah?

Let’s face it, Thomas Christiansen is doing a mighty fine job at Leeds United. After five games they remain unbeaten, they’ve scored 16 goals in all competitions with 8 different scorers, and despite losing Charlie Taylor and Kyle Bartley at the back, they’ve kept four clean sheets in a row. The Dane has picked up the pieces from a dejected side ruing a missed opportunity to make the playoffs under Garry Monk, he’s added exciting new talent, and he’s enthused the club’s army of fans. Impressively, he’s also maintained a 100% away record so far, making Christiansen the first Leeds manager since 1920 to win his opening three away league games in charge.

Although Christiansen was almost anonymous to EFL fans prior to his appointment, his managerial record in Cyprus was impressive. In his first managerial role, he led AEK Larnaca to consecutive best-ever runner-up league finishes. Then in 2016, he moved to Cypriot champions APOEL. In one year at the club, he reached the last-16 of the Europa League and the final of the Domestic Cup, and won the league title, only losing two games in the process. Notably, his team kept 27 clean sheets over the course of the season, and it seems that Christiansen is building strong defensive foundations at his new club too. Leeds are yet to concede a goal from open-play this season, and they have averaged over 21.2 tackles per game according to WhoScored, which is a league high.

Christiansen’s new team even appears to be coping, for now at least, without the firepower of Chris Wood. On Saturday, Kemar Roofe headed home the first past Forest keeper Jordan Smith, adding to his Carabao Cup hat-trick earlier in the week. The second goal was special, and scored by man-of-the-match Ezgjan Alioski. The Macedonian winger found space on the edge of the box before rifling a shot hard and low into the bottom corner for 2-0. That result means they finish the weekend in 3rd.

Leeds have recently added target-man Jay-Roy Grot to their strike-force, but with the £15 million fee for Wood still left largely untouched, I expect Christiansen will want the board to add another striker before the end of the window. If they choose wisely, and the 44-year old manager continues to work his magic, Leeds may just have found the man to take them back to the promised land.

Parky’s Bolton hit-for-four by Hull

Hull City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Poland international Kamil Grosicki and 20-year old forward Jarrod Bowen starred as Hull thrashed Phil Parkinson’s Bolton at the KC Stadium. Hull City’s most recent spell in the top-flight was short-lived, and life back in the Championship has not proven at all straight-forward, but this performance reminded us all of the quality that they still possess.

Norwegian forward Adama Diomande opened the scoring for the Tigers thirteen minutes in, picked out after a driving run from talisman Grosicki. Six minutes later, Grosicki provided again, this time finding the head of young striker Bowen with a classy cross using the outside of his right boot. Mark Howard stood helpless in the Bolton goal as the ball whistled past him. The rampant Grosicki was not finished. In the 29th minute, the winger finished a magnificent, mazy run with a confident finish into the bottom corner, and his team was out of sight.

Hull continued to dominate in the second-half, and didn’t appear to look hampered by the recent loss of Abel Hernandez to long-term injury. The Uruguayan’s replacement, Adama Diomande, added an assist to his earlier goal as the game drew to a close. He slotted a through ball to Bowen, who calmly swept past Howard. It was the impressive Bowen’s third goal in five games, and consigned Bolton to a 4-0 defeat.

Reading legend Phil Parkinson has much work to do to revive his struggling Bolton side. They now prop up the table in 24th place, with only two points from their opening five games. Meanwhile, Hull’s new manager, Leonid Slutsky, has reason to be positive. He has a strong CV, with a 55.7% win-ratio at CSKA Moscow prior to his spell as Russian national manager, and in Grosicki he has a player who is capable of playing at a much higher level.

Elsewhere in the Championship…

Sheffield United v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Cardiff City’s unbelievable start to the season continued, as they fought back to win 2-1 against QPR. They are now the only side in the league with a 100% record, after Ipswich lost 2-0 to last season’s play-off contenders Fulham.

Millwall bounced back from their Carabao Cup defeat at the hands of the Royals, winning 4-0 at The Den against Norwich. The away side slip into the relegation zone with that defeat, piling the early-season pressure on manager Daniel Farke. Sheffield United were also notable home-winners, Billy Sharp’s brace helping them to a 3-1 win over Derby.

Barnsley secured a 3-0 home win over Simon Grayson’s hit-and-miss Sunderland, and in Friday night’s televised game, a deflected-strike from Josh Onomah earned Aston Villa a fortunate away point at Bristol City. Perhaps, the most exciting news for Villa came moments before the game, as they secured ex-West Ham midfielder Robert Snodgrass on a season-long loan.

There were three draws to round off the weekend’s results. Joe Mason scored on his Burton Albion debut to clinch a point against Sheffield Wednesday, promotion favourites Middlesbrough were held to a stalemate by Preston North End, and there were no goals at Griffin Park where Brentford hosted Wolves.

Coming up next week:

After a frantic start to the new campaign, players and managers will have a chance to reflect during the international break. With the transfer window closing on Thursday, will Reading sign the prolific striker that they crave? Which Championship clubs will strengthen, and who will rue missed opportunities to recruit?