With his first article of 2016, our Sky Bet Championship editor is back amongst the action of English football’s second tier to select his top 3 players from Round 25 of fixtures.
George Friend – Middlesbrough
For me, the Middlesbrough left-back was this weekend’s best player in the Championship as he pulled out all the stops at both ends of the pitch to help his side to a 2-0 victory over title rivals Derby. As most of you will already know, Friend scored Boro’s second on the day, latching on to a David Nugent cross, putting his side out of sight in the fixture.
The completion rates achieved by Friend vs. Derby paint a picture of his influence on the game, as he landed 100% of his shots on target as well as not missing a tackle in the 90 minutes. Friend also attempted 7 dribbles in the match racking up a 43% completion rate, whilst 74% of his passes found their mark and he was successful in 67% of his aerial battles. The 28-year-old’s overall defensive performance was statistically impressive, as on top of the aforementioned tackle and aerial duel rates he completed 8 interceptions, cleared the danger 3 times and kept a clean slate in terms of fouls. What really put the excellence of Friend’s performance into context for me was the comparison of his statistics vs. Derby to his average stats over 2015/16 thus far. In fact out of the 10 areas highlighted in the image below, Friend performed above his seasonal average in 8 with only pass completion rate and successful aerial duels narrowly below average.
Albert Adomah – Middlesbrough
Albert Adomah was also on the score-sheet vs. Derby this weekend as his delicate 83rd-minute finish fuelled Boro’s 2-0 victory. The winger continued to build on his rich vein of form with dazzling footwork and wide-play to deliver a 33% dribble success rate and impressive 67% cross accuracy, providing a real attacking threat all game. It wasn’t just Adomah’s presence in the final third which impressed me this week, the 28-year-old also proved he has the capability to track back and reclaim possession as well hit teams on the counter. Against Derby Adomah completed 67% of his tackles as well as racking up 4 interceptions and 2 clearances, contributing to Boro’s 16th clean sheet of the season. The excellence of his defensive contributions is highlighted perfectly when comparing his stats vs. Derby to his 2015/16 averages which show Adomah completed three times as many successful tackles and twice as many interceptions and clearances than his season average. At the other end of the pitch, it was the winger’s key pass and accurate cross count which impressed most as they both also surpassed his averages for the season, further indicating the quality of Adomah’s ability to create chances. Overall, it was Adomah’s consistent quality in different areas of the pitch which impressed me the most vs. Derby, showcased perfectly by venturing into a central position to score a well-taken goal.
Oliver Norwood – Reading
Norwood continued to impress in the centre of midfield vs. Bristol City showing why he is one of the Championship’s best in his position. In a scrappy game, Reading were screaming out for someone to step up and complete passes, create chances and win the ball back, Norwood doing exactly that. Starting with his passing, it is safe to say Norwood had an excellent day (even by his standards) as he produced 11 accurate long balls and 5 accurate crosses whilst boasting an overall pass completion rate of 79%. This ultimately allowed Reading to take possession of the ball in key areas of the pitch, and on another day, Norwood would have been walking away from the game with at least an assist to his name. Although an impressive passing display, it was Norwood’s battling which was a highlight in this performance. The Northern-Irish international won 100% of his aerial duels, made 3 interceptions, wasn’t dispossessed once and successfully completed all 5 of his attempted tackles on the day. Overall, in the conditions presented to him, I thought Norwood performed incredibly efficiently not only in possession of the ball but in pursuit of possession as well, to keep his side in a game which they would go on to win in injury time.