ANTE post update 16th August
Update: 16th August
Oxford to win League One 12/1 Bet 365 EW (3 places EW) and 10/1 Sky Bet 10/1 (4 places EW)
Oxford to be promoted 4/1 (Bet 365)
Oxford to finish top six (6/4 Bet 365)
Aside from my bets on Bradford to finish in the top six and on Gillingham to be relegated, I've now got Oxford onside outright (10/1 Sky Bet on 4 places EW or 12/1 Bet 365 on 3 places EW), for promotion 4/1 (Bet 365) and as a saver at 6/4 to finish in the top six.
Oxford finished eighth last season and four points out of the playoffs but they have the potential to improve on that placing this term if they continue to show promise using several key performance indicators.
As Ben Mayhew's excellent graphs on his Experimental 3-6-1 blog showed last season, Oxford created more chances than anyone else in the division (including champions Sheff Utd), while, defensively, in terms of limiting the number of decent scoring chances they grant to the opposition, they were seventh best in the division on Mayhew's 'expected goals' plot.
The question mark hanging over them this season was whether they could maintain those performance levels, or build on them, now boss Michael Appleton has departed to take up an assistant role at Premier League side Leicester, with his replacement, Pep Clotet, having little first team management experience in England.
However, the initial signs from Oxford's two opening games look promising - they dominated Oldham in a 2-0 away victory on the opening day of the season and then followed that up with a comprehensive beating of Portsmouth last week - a result which now sees them top of the table.
Relegated Wigan are also unbeaten and the likes of Bradford (also 2-2 and haven't even played particularly well so far) and Blackburn (lost both games but have such a strong squad they may click into gear soon and be dangerous when gathering some momentum) are obvious dangers in all three of these markets, but Appleton seems to have left Clotet, a former assistant at Swansea and Leeds, with a solid core of players.
The U's may be viewed as a bit of an unfashionable side in this division but they may take inspiration from Scunthorpe's start last term and could ruffle a few feathers - they are a good, solid, well organised side.
They've knocked back a 1m bid from Hull for star midfielder Marvin Johnson this week - suggesting they aren't in a desperate position whereby they need to pawn their assets.
The likes of Simon Eastwood, Mike Williamson, James Henry, Jack Payne and Wes Thomas have all played at a higher level, so even if Curacao international Gino van Kessel, a new arrival on loan from Slavia Prague, wasn't to cut the mustard long term (though the early signs are promising and he netted last weekend) they appear to have a solid group of League One players capable of mounting a strong promotion push.