@EN_Championship returns to analyse all of the individual player performances from round 36 & 37 and select the top 3 players of the week in the process.
Sam Vokes – Burnley
The Clarets target man was in fine form over the course of last week as he contributed 3 goals in 2 matches to put Burnley 6 points clear at the top of the Championship. Despite 2 away trips, Burnley managed to finish the week with 6 points from a possible 6, and Vokes’ presence in the final third was an important factor in both wins.
Vokes is more commonly known as a target man and has essentially acted as the middleman to Andre Gray who has 20 goals to his name so far this season. But following two lethal performances in front of goal, it was Vokes who grabbed the headlines last week. The midweek win against Fulham ended up being Vokes’ stronger performance as he netted 2 goals from just 3 shots to earn a shot conversion rate of 67%. Nevertheless, his goal and subsequent 50% shot conversion rate achieved vs. Huddersfield is not to be underestimated, as this contributed to arguably the better overall performance.
The Welsh striker is often recognised for his aerial ability which he showcased perfectly during the games against Fulham and Huddersfield. Despite winning 9 aerial duels in both matches, it was against Huddersfield that Vokes was more successful – winning 75% of aerial duels as opposed to 56% won vs Fulham. Regardless of the difference between the two games, Vokes still finished both with a higher aerial success rate than his 48.3% average in 2015/16. The level of his aerial efficiency is really put into context when considering that Vokes has completed the 2nd most successful aerial duels in the Championship this season (255) – trailing only to Shane Duffy (271) whilst 47 ahead of Preston’s Joe Garner in 3rd.
As well as outperforming his high rate of aerial success during both games, Vokes’ shot conversion rate was also highly impressive in comparison to his 2015/16 averages. The 67% conversion rate recorded vs. Fulham was more than four times as efficient as his 14.8% average, whilst the 50% registered vs. Huddersfield was also comfortably above par. This level of efficiency in front of goal is no coincidence, however, and the Burnley man is certainly no slouch when it comes to goals – Vokes finishing the week 6th in league’s top scorer ranks with 12.
Taking this into account, you’ve got to think that if Burnley can continue to utilise Vokes’ aerial presence as well as his (and Andre Gray’s) goal scoring efficiency, they are destined for the Premier League.
Bruno Ecuele Manga – Cardiff
Cardiff’s Gabonese centre-back was the pick of the defenders during last week’s Championship fixtures, as the Welsh side moved to within 1 point of the playoffs. Despite losing to Leeds in midweek, Cardiff bounced back with a vital win at home to play-off contenders Ipswich, in which Ecuele Manga bagged the winner and his first goal of the season in the process. But it was his dominance in defence that ultimately made him one of the stand-out performers over the course of last week.
Regardless of the result vs. Leeds, Ecuele Manga had an impressive performance statistically and his efforts on the night certainly can’t be criticised. In particular, the defensive areas of his game impressed most as the 27-year-old completed 100% of attempted tackles on Tuesday night as well as registering 6 interceptions – an efficient performance by any defenders standards to say the least. In terms of other completion rates, Ecuele Manga successfully won 11 of his 14 aerial duels to earn an aerial success rate of 79% whilst a total of 33 accurate passes gave him a tidy pass completion rate of just over 78%.
It was at the weekend, however, that Ecuele Manga put himself in the headlines – his 18th-minute header the decisive goal in an important win for Cardiff’s play-off ambitions. In spite of the goal and subsequent 100% shot conversion rate, however, it was again the centre-backs impressive defensive efforts that defined his man-of-the-match performance. Similar to the Leeds game, Ecuele Manga completed 100% of his tackles and won 6 interceptions vs. Ipswich, and managed an aerial success rate of 78%. The only defensive area Ecuele Manga excelled in vs. Ipswich as opposed to Leeds was clearances – a total of 12 being just shy of double his average per game in 2015/16.
Due to injury, Ecuele Manga has only made 18 appearances this season (15 starts), but his stats per game are impressive nonetheless. As expected, his defensive averages are of a high standard and having not missed a tackle last week it is no surprise Ecuele Manga boasts an 82% tackle success for 2015/16. An area I have not mentioned during this article that probably deserves some recognition is pass completion – 537 accurate passes giving the defender an overall pass success rate of 75.6% this season. Lastly, Ecuele Manga gave away 0 fouls last week and a look at the average stats tells you that when starting, he is the league’s most disciplined player with 0.1 fouls per game.
All in all, Ecuele Manga proved that he is a vital cog in the Cardiff defence last week and will no doubt play a big role in their push for playoffs during the remaining 9 fixtures.
Clint Hill – QPR
An injury-hit season meant that Clint Hill made only his 7th and 8th appearances of the season last week, and despite not being 100% fit he still showed how much of a pivotal player he his for QPR. Two highly efficient defensive performances, as well as his 3rd assist of the season, contributed to a great week for the London club who picked up 6/6 points – closing the gap on the play-offs in the process.
As aforementioned, it was Hill’s efficiency in defensive areas which made him so statistically impressive last week. In particular, his flawless tackle and aerial duel success rates vs Derby and Brentford made Hill virtually unbeatable over the course of both fixtures – completing 3/3 tackles and winning 7/7 aerial duels overall. Nevertheless, the 37-year-old’s experience was arguably as important as the success rates, with 2 interceptions completed vs Derby and 5 vs Brentford. In addition to this, Hill managed 24 clearances last week with 14 and 10 achieved vs Derby and Brentford, respectively – essentially relieving pressure on the QPR back four as well as keeping the ball away from Alex Smithies’ goal.
Against Brentford, however, Hill also had a say on events at the other end of the pitch – assisting Junior Hoilett’s 38th-minute goal to open the scoring. You’d be wrong to assume that this was a one-off contribution, though, as the QPR centre-back now has 3 assists to his name in just 8 appearances in 2015/16. To put that into context, Hill is now the highest assisting central defender in the Championship this season, whilst also ranking as the division’s 3rd highest assisting defender overall.
In comparison to his average stats for 2015/16, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Hill completes well over half of his attempted tackles and aerial duels considering that a quarter of his 2015/16 games were played during the last two rounds of fixtures. Based on the performances vs Derby and Brentford, as well as his 0.4 assists per game, you’d imagine QPR will be fairly keen to keep the veteran defender fit for the remainder of the season. This being said QPR are 9 points adrift of 6th place with just 9 games left to play – a sizeable task at hand regardless of the best players being available.
*all statistics sourced from whoscored.com