League One Season Preview 2016-17

wigan celebrateWigan Athletic recovered from relegation to storm to the League One title last season, but who will emulate their success this year? Out of the three relegated clubs, Charlton and Bolton have recruited managers and players the best, so The Football Lab backs both former Premier League campaigners to go up. MK Dons lacked attacking quality last season and they have not done enough to address that. Millwall and Bradford will stay in the play-offs, joined by Scunthorpe and Gillingham. The Iron put together an impressive run at the end of last season while the Gills have added shrewdly this summer. Oldham and Port Vale will pay for a summer exodus with relegation, while the departure of key men could hinder Shrewsbury and Swindon.

Enjoy The Football Lab’s League One preview. You can find individual Q&As based on each team by clicking on the green links. Feel free to send us your thoughts on Twitter @_FootbalLab, using the hashtag #TFLpreviews. We start with an interview with expert Mark O’Haire, who you can follow on Twitter @MarkOHaire, and read his excellent website We Love Betting. Mark has his say on the three relegated sides…

Two of the clubs who came down from the Championship in 14/15 launched an instant promotion challenge in League One. Should we expect Charlton, Bolton and MK Dons to do the same this year?

Purely down to their disastrous off-field failings, I’d be discounting Charlton and Bolton immediately. But yes, MK Dons could and should be rallying themselves for an immediate return. I’m no fan of Karl Robinson but the consistency in management should aid their promotion push. Relegated clubs have won the league in five of the past eight renewals so the stats certainly suggest one of the three will be there or thereabouts.

11 of the last 20 teams to come up from League Two have finished in the top half the following year, just one has gone down. Should we judge Northampton, Oxford, Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon as potential play-off challengers, rather than relegation strugglers?

Yes, I think all four have the potential ability to continue their upward momentum this year and make a strong challenge in what appears to be a well-balanced league. Before last season, the average finishing position of a promoted club in the 10 proceeding years was 13th and that increased to 10th in the most recent three seasons. Those stats add further fuel to such an argument.

Most pundits agree that Port Vale and Oldham could well go down this season. Any other potential strugglers for you?

Fleetwood underachieved last year considering their dominance in matches and were let down by poor finishing and a lack of goals. If they fail to address that situation, another season of struggle could well follow. And going off last year’s performances, Chesterfield and Shrewsbury were fortunate to survive. The Spireites are led by the wise Danny Wilson so I’m confident they can consolidate but I wouldn’t be anywhere near as bullish for Salop with Micky Mellon in charge.

The Football Lab and We Love Betting both predicted good things for Gillingham last season, but they dropped off after the turn of the year. Could this prove a key season in Justin Edinburgh’s managerial career?

There’s not a huge amount between the top and the bottom of League One this season and if the Gills can dust themselves off and last the pace this time around, I see no reason why they can’t piece the top-six. I’ve long been seduced by Edinburgh and although they nosedived last year after an outstanding start, I still feel he made a very positive impact.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

British-based recruitment of players and manager represents a huge step forward for Charlton Athletic. In an exciting forward line, Ajose will fire the Addicks into the Championship. 1st

Bolton Wanderers have gained proven performers at this level, both on the pitch and in the dugout. League One provides the platform for their young talents to shine. 2nd

Millwall are a hardworking side with the necessary firepower up top. Promotion chances hinge on Beevers’ replacement, and their ability to come from behind. 3rd

A lot of players have left Bradford City but few were first team regulars. With a strong defence and a stable squad, they will remain in the promotion race. 4th

Scunthorpe United built solid foundations in the second half of last season. With added pace out wide to support goalscorer Madden, they have the minerals to push for promotion. 5th

Quality midfield additions may re-vitalize Gillingham. After a positive summer which included Oshilaja’s return, Edinburgh will galvanize his troops once again for a play-off finish. 6th

MK Dons did not have enough quality in the final third last season and summer business does little to solve that problem. They are in danger of missing out on the top six. 7th

Breaking down the bus parkers is a stumbling block in Sheffield United’s promotion ambitions. Without more midfield mobility, they will remain unable to live up to the favourites tag. 8th

Manager Clarke and key man Taylor have stayed at Bristol Rovers, who have a strong defence. With money and momentum behind the Gasheads, a play-off push could be on. 9th

Page will settle in quickly at Northampton Town. Replacing Holmes won’t be easy, but Revell’s arrival gives them enough quality for a top half finish. 10th

The lack of energy shown in some games last season means Coventry City aren’t ready to push for promotion. With more squad stability and the continued rise of youngster Jones, they should stay in the top half. 11th

Recruitment at Bury this summer has been exciting, though one might question the team’s organization under Flitcroft. Mid-table, even if their squad is capable of better. 12th

Walsall have signed unproven youngsters for a squad that needed experienced heads. Summer business suggests a regression to the mean. 13th

AFC Wimbledon have retained key men, including an exciting goalscorer in Taylor, which means the strong team spirit of last season remains in place. Underestimate them at your peril. 14th

Rochdale continue to sustain themselves at this level but they could miss Eastham at the back. Their main problem is a lack of muscle, both on the field and financially. 15th

Oxford United have lost key performers and one might question how many of the replacements represent upgrades. Talk of a second promotion seems a touch flattering. 16th

There is talent at Peterborough United, particularly in midfield. However, a sense of instability, defensive woes and the absence of a prolific goalscorer could make for another disappointing campaign. 17th

Demetriou and Cox are two quality additions for Southend United, but to balance that out, they have also lost two of their best players. The Shrimpers may drop a few places. 18th

Fleetwood Town need to be more clinical, but having kept key midfielder Jimmy Ryan, they should have the creativity required to stay up. 19th

Chesterfield have looked more organized under Wilson. However, discontent with the board and the inconsistency of key men means they will not avoid an intense relegation battle. 20th

Swindon Town lack experience and physicality without the ball, but have often shown the necessary quality with it. Now Ajose has left, they may struggle for alternative goalscorers. 21st

Shrewsbury Town have not adequately replaced key players, notably Kaikai and Knight-Percival. A lack of outfield quality throughout the spine of their team suggests a season of struggle is likely. 22nd

Port Vale have lost key leaders in a summer exodus and Ribeiro has no knowledge of the British transfer market. Unless their group of unproven foreign imports can integrate quickly, a relegation battle looms. 23rd

Oldham have lost almost their entire squad and been dreadfully slow to rebuild, not to mention appoint a new manager. Fourth tier football for the first time in 53 years looks likely. 24th