Here is a look ahead to some of the attacking midfielders that may excel in the Championship next season
Following on from my piece on the teams that are set to do well this season, the attention now turns to some of the players.
For this one, the focus here will be on midfielders with selections being a mixture of personal opinion, facts and performances from last season.
Hopefully, this content will be an enjoyable read as well since the players featured are largely entertainers. Of course, it’s wise to mention at this point that we are looking at attacking midfielders here rather than the defensive ones.
The players here will be both providing and scoring plenty of goals in the Championship next season.
Teams are also a consideration here, remember we are looking at leading players in the league so their club will need to do well for them to do so.
Therefore, this article works in tandem with my previous piece on the Championship teams to watch!
So, now we have all of that out of the way – let’s get stuck into the options…
1. Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa)
It was a tough transitional season for Aston Villa this season in which they failed to challenge for the play-offs.A lot better is expected though for next season, especially after Steve Bruce is putting his mark on the squad.
One of the key signings made was Conor Hourihane from Barnsley and he is likely to be a key player for Villa in the next campaign.
The Irish international has already proved himself to be a very capable operator at this level due to his time with Barnsley.
In fact, information from Who Scored actually regards him as the best player in the Championship this season due to having an average rating of 7.72.
However, the player isn’t just about being consistent as he also has plenty to offer in the attacking areas of the pitch.
The highlights of this include providing six goals and 11 assists and the fact that he is an all-round player as well is demonstrated by his strong passing stats and being in the top five of the league for tackling.
There is no doubt that Hourihane can be a real asset to Aston Villa for the coming season if used correctly.
2. Tom Ince (Derby County)
Tom Ince has always had immense talent and all the attributes to make it at the highest level. The player came through the youth system at Liverpool and really showed what he can do at Championship level with Blackpool.
Ince moved to Hull City in search of Premier League football – but it’s a move that didn’t work out in the end!
Unfortunately, that all seems to have put his career back a bit and he is now rebuilding things in the Championship with Derby County.
It’s worth remembering that the lad is still only 25 with the adaptability to be used in a number of different positions. Last season his stats were more than promising with 14 goals, six assists and an average rating of 7.18.
As the data indicates, Ince’s biggest strength comes from his goalscoring and that contribution was vital last season as he was Derby’s leading scorer.
As ever, his ability to get goals is largely underpinned by getting in the right positions and being willing to take shots on; this is shown by his 2.9 shots per game – which puts him in the top seven for the league.
The player may well prove to be Derby’s most potent weapon in the coming season.
3. Tom Cairney (Fulham)
We often get obsessed in football by thinking that every team must have a striker scoring 25 goals to be successful.
Of course, it’s very useful if you can have that player – but Fulham are a good example of how the team can be stronger even after the loss of a quality striker.
Ross McCormack may not be there any longer – but the Cottages finally seem to be adapting to the Championship – shown by their run to the playoffs this season.
Tom Cairney was one of Fulham’s leading performers in the Championship this season and they will be looking for more of the same when the new season begins.
Some stats on him for this season includes an average rating of 7.37 along with a contribution of 13 goals and 10 assists.
Cairney has previously played for Hull City and Blackburn Rovers and is now really starting to show what he can do.
Fulham may face a challenge holding onto him this summer, but if they can then he is sure to have another strong season.
Cairney is another adaptable player that can be used is various different roles in central midfield or as a right winger.
It’s probably fair to say that his passing ability makes him a standout performer at this level; the player has the highest passing accuracy and produces the most average passes.
In addition, he completes 2.6 key passes per game which puts him in the top four in the league for that metric.
4. Ramallo Jota (Brentford)
Those that read my previous piece will know that I’m tipping Brentford to have a good campaign next season.
There are various reasons for this such as having a young talented squad and a decent British manager. However, as much at the team is important it’s also vital to have that little bit of individual quality and all good sides have that.
One of the players that provides that is Spanish winger Jota – who is another player with a strong eye for goal. The Spaniard really showed what he could do in the second half of the season in the Championship, after returning from a loan spell in Spain.
Jota may have only started 19 games in the Championship this season, but he showed real quality in the games that he played in.
Some of those real highlights included 12 goals, five assists and an average rating of 7.41. As ever, it is his ability and wiliness that underpins that natural goalscoring ability. In fact, his 3.4 shots per game is the best record in the Championship for that metric.
5. Alex Pritchard (Norwich City)
It’s been well documented that Norwich City underperformed in the Championship in their first season since relegation from the Premier League.
However, changes have started to occur with a new structure in place and that head coach process that I wrote about previously on here is now complete.
There are plans in place to refresh the squad, but one current player that should be a big part of things next season is Alex Pritchard.
The former Spurs midfielder didn’t have the best time of things this season as he constantly found himself having to be back-up to Wes Hoolahan.
Next season he should be the main man and that may lead him to being the leading Championship player; his stats from this season includes six goals, seven assists and an average rating of 7.00.
The player’s biggest strength is probably his creative ability – which puts him in an excellent position to take over from Wes Hoolahan.
This is underpinned by his key passing ability that has him at 1.9 per game – putting him within the top 20 in the league for that metric.
Pritchard also manages around 2 shots per game and is a constant attacking menace. If he is used properly by Norwich City next season then his form has the potential to be devastating.
This completes the content for this piece, but don’t worry because there will be plenty more of this type of content to come from me.
To sum up, this is a prediction piece largely based on personal opinion and I’m looking forward to the comments in the future whether I was right or wrong.
Some people actually prefer watching the Championship now than the Premier League because it is just so unpredictable. The games are always competitive and it’s not always the same teams at the top.
Of course, that creates all kinds of challenges to writers as prediction is a tough ask. However, part of the fun is creating discussion and there are some big players to talk about due to all those former Premier League teams in the league.
It will certainly be another fun season to watch as we see which teams will get it right this time around.
You can check the Championship betting odds here. Data source: Who Scored