As the 2015/16 Sky Bet Championship enters the home straight, our Championship editor returns to select his top 3 players that impressed statistically during round 32 of fixtures.
Tom Cairney – Fulham
The Fulham midfielder continued to build on his rich vein of form with another 2 goals vs Charlton on Saturday, scoring his 3rd goal in as many games. As a result, Cairney’s 32nd & 78th-minute goals contributed towards Fulham’s 3-0 win over the relegation candidates, but the 25-year-old’s influence on the game didn’t just involve his finishing.
Focusing on his passing first of all, it is evident that Cairney has been highly efficient in terms of pass completion rate this season with 87.7% of attempted passes finding their mark. Against Charlton, Cairney more than lived up to this standard with 96% of his passes finding a teammate and a total of 53 accurate passes overall – misplacing only 3 passes during his 83-minute appearance.
His passing brilliance laid down a perfect foundation for his attacking game to build upon, as Charlton struggled to contain the right-sided midfielder all afternoon. It was in front of goal that Cairney posed the biggest threat – an impressive shot conversion rate of 67% resulting in 2 goals from only 3 attempted shots.
His indirect contribution to the 3-0 score-line also deserves recognition as Cairney’s ability to create chances was highlighted in the statistics. Travelling with the ball was another area of Cairney’s game that Charlton struggled to deal with – the Englishman completing 100% of his dribbles and winning 2 fouls during the 83 minutes. Finally, it was 3 key passes that rounded off a dominant attacking performance from Fulham’s man in form, who probably deserved an assist to accompany his brace of goals.
In comparison to his seasonal stats for 2015/16, it is clear to see that Cairney played well above average vs Charlton, as he outperformed in every area selected below. Even his highest averages including pass completion, key passes and dribble success were impressively surpassed. The 2 goals take Cairney’s tally to 6 for the season with the midfielder having now directly contributed to 11 Fulham goals in 2015/16 – with only Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele managing more. In terms of passing accuracy, Cairney is Fulham’s most accurate passer and trails only to Mark Davies and Diego Fabbrini in the Sky Bet Championship rankings (players with 15+ starts).
Paul Gallagher – Preston North End
The experienced midfielder proved to be a pivotal cog within the Preston team during their remarkable 1-0 win over promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday. As well as providing a constant threat to the Wednesday back four, Gallagher also showed discipline throughout as he tracked back with great effect. Although Gallagher didn’t walk away from the game with any direct influence on the score-line, his overall performance helped seal the victory for North End.
Gallagher’s biggest impact vs Sheffield Wednesday was his passing performance in attacking areas, and his positive mentality is visible in the stats. Firstly, Gallagher attempted 10 crosses during his 88-minute appearance, and although his overall cross completion rate was only 20% it is far more impressive once you scratch beneath the surface. With Joe Garner as his main target, Gallagher was aiming to utilise a player who boasts the division’s 2nd highest aerial success rate for 2015/16 (strikers only) – putting Wednesday under immense pressure in the process.
Perhaps more impressively, Gallagher completed 58% of his long ball attempts, which in a team who are aerially dominant in the attacking third, is always going to reap the rewards. The overall quality of Gallagher’s passing was highlighted by his total of 4 key passes – meaning that the 31-year-old carved out a chance with every 12 passes on Saturday.
Despite a superb performance in attack, it was never going to be enough to see off the Championship’s second highest scorers, but Gallagher showed off his defensive capabilities superbly. It was ultimately his ability to read the Wednesday attackers that made him so effective in defence as he completed 2 interceptions and blocked 1 shot as well as successfully completing all 3 of his attempted tackles.
As you would have suspected, Gallagher’s performance vs Sheffield Wednesday was above average in comparison to his seasonal stats, but the most impressive areas of Saturday’s performance were also easily identified. Perhaps his most effective area of the game was his crossing, as he racked up just over 4 times as many crosses as average. With his key passes and long ball accuracy also breaching averages comfortably, it is fair to say Gallagher’s attacking threat was a big factor to his excellent performance.
Alan Judge – Brentford
Although on the losing side last Saturday, Alan Judge continued to show why he is one of the Championship’s highest rated players. Despite giving Brentford the lead in the 51st minute with his 13th goal of the season, he and his team would end up on the wrong side of a 3-1 score-line by the final whistle. Regardless of the final score, Judge delivered another quality performance in front of the Brentford fans – as he looks to stake a claim for Championship player of the season.
The area of his performance vs Derby that grabbed my attention straight away was his delivery of the ball from wide positions. In terms of open play, Judge was lively right from the start, and over the course of 90 minutes, he attempted 9 crosses – finding a teammate on 3 occasions. Whilst from the corner spot, Judge delivered 3 accurate corners from 4 attempts – further highlighting his quality from wide positions.
Judge’s managed to complete a respectable 78% of his passes and 42% of attempted long balls, making him a reliable outlet for Brentford on the day. When taking into consideration that Judge also delivered 3 key passes during the game, he was perhaps slightly unfortunate to have walked away without an assist.
As well as providing a decent supply of chances to his teammates, Judge was also on the end his fair share of them. Attempting 4 shots in the 90 minutes, Judge managed a shot accuracy of 50% as well as a 25% shot conversion rate, thanks to his 51st-minute opener.
Surprisingly, Judge’s performance on Saturday was below par in comparison to his 2015/16 average stats, but this is just another indication of how emphatic the 27-year-old’s form has been this season. That being said, a look at his interception count vs Derby shows that he achieved three times more than his usual average. Either the higher quality opponent prompted a higher work rate from the midfielder, or he was making the most of an opportunity to showcase his ability to the Premier League.
Regardless of this, Brentford’s attacking midfielder has been sensational this season and currently sits 2nd in the Championship’s goal and assist rankings, whilst also boasting the 3rd highest goal contribution count (20). Taking these figures, as well as his potential participation in EURO 2016 into account, you’ve got to imagine the London club will have a hard time keeping hold of their star man this summer.
*all statistics sourced from whoscored.com