A look at some Championship players that have a point to prove
I must say that it’s such a relief that Championship football is back with us. This means that I can start to offer current content as well as my usual features that look back to last season. This article is going to crossover both of those points as we go back and trawl through the data from last season – but also add some current information into the mix.
You’ll see once we get into it that four of the players featured have transferred to new clubs this summer. However, they also underdelivered in the Championship last season for a variety of distinct reasons. Therefore, there is no guarantee that they will be leading lights in the league this season, despite having glowing reputations in the game at one time or another.
So, now we have that out of the way – let’s get stuck into my choices…
1. Ryan Bennett (Wolves)
Wolves have certainly shown their intent in the Championship this season by spending nearly £20m in new transfers; they have also acquired a number of loan deals and a lot of people think they will do quite well. Regular readers of mine will know that I don’t share that view and see them being one of a number of big clubs that will struggle this season.
Despite what I have just said, it’s one of the players that they signed on a free transfer that makes this list. Ryan Bennett was at Norwich City last season, but performed to a low standard and was part of a poor defence. It was no surprise that he was released at the end of last season, but a significant one that Wolves signed him – when they have promotion ambitions.
Bennett started 24 games last season – but his performances were below-par and he only managed an average rating of 6.74. His defensive stats were generally poor and only his 5.9 clearances per match show any kind of promise. In some ways, the player looks decent for extended periods – but lapses of concentration can cost his team big time. The defender has a lot of work to do to prove he is good enough to play at the top-end of the Championship.
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2. Steven Naismith (Norwich City)
Norwich City are going through a summer of change, and their recent game against Fulham featured seven new signings. This transition is looking very positive so far, as well as a notable change in training methods and playing style. That is why I’m tipping Norwich to be a team to sizzle during the course of this season.
Steven Naismith is a player that divides opinion and he is another member of the Norwich team that flattered to deceive last season. In fact, the Canaries haven’t really seen the best of him since that big-money move from Everton. Therefore, this is a big season for him to prove that he is good enough to be part of this new Norwich City team.
The Scot has been suspended for the first two games of the season, but he is now ready to make his impact on the Championship. In terms of last season, the 30-year-old managed an average rating of just 6.72, along with just five goals and three assists. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell anyone that attacking players need to perform far better than that.
3. Oliver Norwood (Fulham)
Fulham certainly enjoyed a good season in the Championship last year in which they reached the play-off final. It’s likely that there will be more of the same from them this season. In fact, I have them down as a possession team to watch.
The club’s best players will need to turn up and perform to the level they did last season to ensure that another top six finish will be on the cards. Fulham have also managed to add to their midfield ranks with the addition of Brighton player Oliver Norwood on loan. Norwood is a Northern Ireland international and previously impressed during his time as a Reading player.
Things did not go so well for the player at Brighton last season – but it’s fair to say that he was not a regular in the side. Norwood started 16 games and his overall average rating was 6.65 and he contributed two assists. The midfielder will certainly be hoping to play on a regular basis this season – and prove that he still has the quality to be a top Championship player.
4. Vurnon Anita (Leeds United)
Leeds United are a hard team to work out at the moment. The club enjoyed a very good season last year in which they nearly secured a play-off place. However, their failure to agree on a deal to secure Garry Monk was a big mistake. Monk will likely go on to be a success with Middlesbrough and that will be a hard pill to swallow for Leeds fans.
The appointment of Thomas Christiansen is in my view dodgy in the extreme. The 44-year-old coach had previously only managed in Cyprus. However, The Whites have been active in the transfer market by spending just short of £11m on fresh players. Vurnon Anita is someone that they have signed on a free transfer though.
The Dutch player is certainly adaptable with the various positions he can be used in – but usually operates either as a defensive midfielder or full back. The player started 24 games in the Championship for Newcastle last season – but only managed an average rating of 6.64. The fact that his only meaningful contribution was one assist is further cause for concern.
5. Britt Assombalonga (Middlesbrough)
Middlesbrough are a club that seem to have got a lot of things right. The appointment of Garry Monk is a very smart move given the success he has had with Swansea City and Leeds United. Regular readers of mine will know that I’m predicting that Boro will be in the top six at the very least.
The club are certainly splashing the cash as they attempt to make an immediate return to the Premier League. Boro’s spend in now nearly up to £45m – but it’s the £15.39m signing of Britt Assombalonga that remains their biggest signing.
I know a lot of people will be surprised that I’m including Britt in this list, given his reputation for scoring goals in the Championship. On paper, he is a good signing – but he still has a lot to prove in order to be a success. The essential point is the striker needs to show a more consistent performance level and prove that his injury problems are behind him.
No one really knows what to expect from him because his season could prove to be like Ross McCormack’s last season – or Chris Wood’s. In terms of last season, the forward started only 20 games and managed an average rating of just 6.53. Therefore, it’s not hard to see how big of a gamble Middlesbrough are taking – and it will be interesting to see what the outcome is.
6. Matej Vydra (Derby County)
Derby Countyare another club that I’m expecting to have a good season. I was very impressed with the appointment of Gary Rowett towards the end of last season – and I’m expecting good things from him. However, the Rams will have to deal with the loss of some key players such as Tom Ince and Will Hughes.
Any team that wants to compete at the top end of the Championship need to have goals in them and looking through their squad that could be a real problem for them. Tom Ince was the club’s top scorer with 14 last season – but he has now left to join Huddersfield Town. One man that might be able to step up into the void is striker Matej Vydra.
The Czech Republic striker currently has a slight injury, but it’s not believed to be serious and he will want to make his mark on the league. However, last season did not go well for him as he scored just five goals and had an average rating of 6.47. Therefore, he completes our list of Championship players that must prove they are good enough.
This completes the content section for this article as we looked at some Championship players that need to prove themselves this season. So, how did we do? Let us know which other players need to prove they are good enough this season.
As always, if you enjoy Championship content like this, then keep an eye on my profile page for all the latest updates. Next, I’ll be taking a brief break from the Championship as I look at Premier League managers that might be sacked this season. However, I will be back with more Championship content next week.