After 5 months of an unpredictable and somewhat underwhelming EFL Championship year, I look at who makes my Team of the Season (so far), with a maximum limit of two players from a single club.
EFL Championship Team of the Year
Goalkeeper- Freddie Woodman (Swansea City)
With Swansea’s defensive record, it was inevitable that their shot stopper would make the cut. Having joined for a second consecutive year on loan from Newcastle United, Woodman has played outstandingly in Wales. He has by far and away the most clean sheets in the league (16)- 3 more than second place Rafael + Białkowski- and a measly 0.6 goals conceded per game ranks him second in all of England’s top 4 leagues- even 0.1 less than Manchester City’s Ederson. At only 23 years of age, it’s becoming increasingly likely we’ll see him push Darlow and Dúbravka for the number 1 spot at St James’ Park next season.
Honourable mention: Tim Krul (Norwich City)
Left back- Omar Richards (Reading)
Going with a traditional 4-4-2, we start with the left back and a key component of an exciting Reading side that currently sit 5th in the table. Another 23 year old Englishman, Richards is adept at putting in a tackle, but also electric and dynamic- thanks to playing as a left winger in his youth days. He has the most completed tackles in the league at 3.0 per game and even 4 big chances created; highly impressive for a defender. It’s clear his performances this season have caught the eye, having agreed a deal with Champions League winners Bayern Munich to join at the end of his contract this summer– seemingly as a replacement for the departing David Alaba. The Royals will be kicking themselves that they weren’t able to tie him down for longer, although reports have emerged that this wasn’t an option as a result of their depleted financial resources.
Honourable mention: Callum Styles (Barnsley)
Centre back- Grant Hanley (Norwich City)
If Watford’s Francisco Sierralta had played more than just 12 games this season, it’s likely the Chilean would have made the cut after coming into the starting line-up under Xisco Munoz and proving just how good he is. Nonetheless, Hanley- who is the only club captain to make the list- certainly deserves this position too. Norwich have conceded the third fewest goals in the league, worse only to the watertight Watford and unbreakable Swansea (although apparently not against Huddersfield!). Hanley fits perfectly with the Canaries eagerness to play the ball out from the back, recording the second highest amount of accurate passes per game (60) with an astonishing 88% success rate, one of the highest in the Championship. As well as this, he completes 2.9 accurate long balls and 2 interceptions pg; an extremely complete defender and vital part of a Norwich City side in pole position to win the title.
Honourable mention: Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough)
Centre back- Marc Guehi (Swansea City)
Another young, English central defender on loan from Chelsea doing well in the Championship, but as Fikayo Tomori now plys his trade in Milan, Marc Guehi is a stand-out in South Wales. He’s evidently playing his part in the backline with the second best defensive record in the country, making 1.7 tackles per game (one of the best for central defenders) and looks so dependable for someone at the tender age of 20. Tomori’s move to AC Milan surprised many, but has Guehi done enough to prove to Chelsea that he is worth keeping around? Or will he fall into the abyss of loans that the Blues are so infamous for?
Honourable mention: Harry Souttar (Stoke City)
Right back- Kiko Femenía (Watford)
Lots of fans questioned how Kiko would turn out in a more physical, cut-throat division (having previously played for both the Barcelona and Real Madrid youth teams), but he has certainly taken it by storm. The technical and versatile wing-back looks a cut above in a somewhat disappointing Watford team, having struck up a brilliant partnership with Ismaïla Sarr on the right side; evident in Watford’s 2-1 win over Derby on the weekend. The Spaniard’s form somehow improved after the appointment of new manager Xisco Munoz despite already having won two Player of the Months at Vicarage Road (November and December) and he seems to fit perfectly with the gaffer’s fast-paced style of play. However, the fact he’s the only Watford player that makes the eleven says a lot about their unsatisfying performances this season despite currently sitting in third.
Honourable mention: Connor Roberts (Swansea City)
Central midfielder- Gustavo Hamer (Coventry City)
Perhaps a shock entry for some, Coventry’s recruitment team deserve a pat on the back for this piece of business. The Brazilian-born Dutchman set back the Sky Blues £1.35 million in the summer just gone from PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands, after he spent 7 years in the Feyenoord academy. With 4.2 accurate long balls and 2 key passes per game (which ranks him 3rd in the division), Hamer is an extremely creative outlet. But, he’s not only a creator- despite playing in midfield- he is Coventry’s top goal scorer (5, along with new striker Tyler Walker). It’s no wonder that he is being touted to make a big move already, only 5 months on from his debut in the West Midlands.
Honourable mention: Michael Olise (Reading)
Central midfielder- Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Luton Town)
5 years ago, there likely wasn’t any Luton Town fan insane enough to imagine they’d have one of their players make a Championship Team of the Season as they languished down in League Two, and yet- lo and behold- Dewsbury-Hall makes the cut. As much as the Watford fan in me wanted to leave him out, his performances have been far too good to go without recognition. His ability to keep hold of possession (1.4 completed dribbles per game which places him up there with wingers), put in a challenge (1.7 successful tackles pg) and eye for a pass (1.5 key passes pg) paints out just how perfect he is as a balanced box-to-box midfielder. Loaned in from Premier League high-fliers Leicester City, with the amount of injuries that have ravaged the Foxes first team squad, I’m sure they’re pining for a player of his quality to return.
Honourable mention: Josh Dasilva (Brentford)
Left winger- Harvey Elliott (Blackburn Rovers)
My third Premier League loanee and youngest inclusion (by quite a stretch), Harvey Elliott is playing outstandingly, made only more impressive by the fact he was born in 2003. The 17 year old- who holds the record for being the youngest English top-flight debutant– has taken the Championship by storm since his arrival on loan from the nation’s champions back in October. Elliott is a superb playmaker; registering the joint most assists in the league (9)- despite playing less games than the other three- and most big chances created (10), one more than superstar Emi Buendía. Similarly to Leicester, Liverpool are likely regretting their decision to loan the teenager out with the amount of first team losses they’ve been hit with.
Honourable mention: Sergi Canós (Brentford)
Right winger- Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City)
The aforementioned Buendía is a cut above, simple as that. It’s obvious why he was wanted by Arsenal in the transfer window just gone and surely he won’t be sticking around in Norfolk for too long. Arguably the best wide midfielder this league has seen in years (17/18 Ryan Sessengon being the other notable contender), the uncapped Argentine also tops the division for assists (9), having scored the same amount- a total of 18 goal contributions in 26 games. He has by far the most key chances created per game at 3.2 (1.1 more than next highest Connor Roberts) while also chipping in by winning two penalties- only Ismaïla Sarr has won more (4). Buendía is a joy to watch, and it’s unlikely Norwich would be doing as well if it weren’t for his magic.
Honourable mention: Ismaïla Sarr (Watford)
Striker- Lucas João (Reading)
Lucas João has been so remarkable this season that he manages to keep out Cardiff’s star-man Kieffer Moore (who himself has an impressive 14 goals this campaign so far); but with 17 goals and 5 assists, there was no way I could have ignored him. He manages to score every 130 minutes, bettered only by star Ivan Toney and super-sub Marcus Forss. Furthermore, he has made the most successful dribbles per game for a striker in the league with 1.7- a superb 64% completion rate. If it weren’t for his injury struggles over the Christmas period, it’s likely his statistics would have been even more astounding- and Reading certainly wouldn’t be where they are without him.
Honourable mention: Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City)
Striker- Ivan Toney (Brentford)
By far the easiest inclusion on this list- – is there much I need to say to justify his appearance on here? He tops both the league for both goals (24) and assists (9), which equates to 33 goal contributions in 30 games; 11 more than anyone else. Scoring every 109 minutes, burying each of his 5 penalties taken and finishing a third of his total shots, there’s not much I can write to put into words how well he has played. It’s clear how Brentford have scored the most goals (56)- ten more than the team behind- despite only taking the third most shots per game in the league (9.7). Toney has potential to go far at only 24 years old and it seems inevitable he’ll be playing top flight football in the near future.
Honourable mention: Adam Armstrong (Blackburn Rovers)
Manager- Steve Cooper (Swansea City)
Honourable mention: Valérien Ismaël (Barnsley)
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