As the season concludes, and we eagerly await playoff football, it’s nice to reflect of the stars of the season we’ve just watched.
To choose just five is tough, so I’ve come up with three key factors to judge the candidates on. These are individual success, team success, and how valuable that player is to the team’s aforementioned prosperity. Therefore, you may see a couple surprises in this list.
So with my three key rules in mind, take a look at my ‘Top 5 Championship Players of the Season’.
5. Mads Andersen (Barnsley)
As I await the barrage of abuse for this selection, hear me out. I’ll justify this pick due to how pivotal he is to Barnsley’s identity.
It was a toss up between either Tykes centre half for this spot, as it baffled me that the EFL’s official team of the season left both of them off. Andersen pipped it for me, as the stats, which I know Barnsley adore, confirmed how key he was to their style of play. A modern twist on direct football, the Tykes high press sees Andersen lead the league in interceptions per game, with 5 assists showing how crucial he is the counter attack. All of this has played into Barnsley’s surprise playoff push, so with Mads’ contributions to the team’s success with his own individual brilliance, he’s a shoe in for this list.
4. Andre Ayew (Swansea)
Another selection based off his contributions to team success, Ayew has often galvanised an often dorment Swans attack.
With direct involvement in a staggering 36% of Swansea goals, Ayew has surprisingly bought into Cooper’s project in Wales. Though Swansea’s attack can be aesthetically pleasing with their attempts at possession football, like the Tykes, their league position is much more a product of defensive prowess. Therefore, with Lowe being the only other real attacking threat, Ayew’s value to Swans attack pushes him onto this list.
3. Arnaut Danjuma (Bournemouth)
Now onto my more mainstream choices, good things come to those who wait, and Danjuma has been more than worth that wait for the Cherries.
Hapless in their relegation campaign, Danjuma has spearheaded their attempt for a swift return to the top flight. With a mightily impressive goal contribution every 109 minutes, he’s been to stand out in the star studded second tier side. Danjuma’s only real knock to his player of the season candidacy is the historic performances of the two I’ve chose ahead of him. Regardless, the Cherries are coming into form at the perfect time, and if Danjuma can continue to thrive, we may see all three relegated sides return to the Premier League.
2. Ivan Toney (Brentford)
The season Toney has had leaves you running out of superlatives, a historic season we’ve been fortunate to witness.
He makes a compelling case for the best second tier striker of all time, and he’s only beaten out by arguably the best second tier player of all time. Like Barnsley, the Bees ‘moneyball’ approach helps them boast one of the best recruitment strategies in the EFL. Proof of this is Toney, a bold addition at up to £10 million for a League One player, but he’s more than justified it. 41 goal contributions for the season is beyond incredible with a record number of goals, and the Bees will be buzzing at the potential to treble their investment this summer.
1 Emi Buendia (Norwich)
Who else? The Second Tier podcast put it best, suggesting Buendia wouldn’t look out of place at a top six side.
He’s been above and beyond the best player on the best team in the league, and the Canaries only dip in form this season came during his absence. He notches an extra 0.9 key passes per game than any other player in the league, and has 4 more assists than the next best player in the division.
It’s been a delight to see such a class player grace the Championship, and his commitment to the Canaries’ project is testament to his attitude off the pitch. Next season, I expect him to take to the Premier League again in a similar, impressive vein to Grealish at Villa. Even against Toney, Buendia has been in a league of his own.
There you have it, my top 5 Championship players of the season. Does Kieffer deserve more credit? Am I taking the ‘Mic’-hael Olise leaving him off the list? Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet us @FanHub_Football !