Choosing the top Championship XI - without Canaries players
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ahead of the 2021 EFL Awards, our chief Norwich City writer David Freezer picks his top Championship XI but without being able to pick from the Canaries' squad.
Ahead of tonight’s ceremony, when Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia are on the shortlist for Player of the Season, here’s my top Championship XI - with a twist.
As well as considering performances that we’ve seen against City and overall league statistics, I’ve chosen with an eye on players that could suit Daniel Farke’s set-up should replacements for the leaders’ star players be required this summer.
It's just a bit of fun, without worrying about whether they would be affordable. With the new work permit rules brought in by Brexit, the reality is that many top Championship players would be too expensive for Norwich as a self-funded club.
Here's my team, let us know your XI in the comments below.
Goalkeeper – Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth)
We’ve seen some top saves deny Norwich this season, with Thomas Kaminski of Blackburn and Rafael of Reading both impressing.
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Swansea stopper Freddie Woodman leads the way for clean sheets with 20 and David Raya of Brentford is an excellent keeper too but if I couldn’t have Krul, I’d go for the all-round abilities and experience of Asmir Begovic, who made a couple of excellent saves as the Canaries were beaten 1-0 in September.
The Bosnia & Herzegovina international is still only 33 and is reliable with the ball at his feet, keeping 15 clean sheets and conceding 41 in 43 games. He is one of the few keepers in the division who could match the commanding presence of the Norwich number one. Krul is the top dog though.
Right-back – Callum Brittain (Barnsley)
Mostly used as a wing-back and similarly to Callum Styles on the left for the Tykes, looked really bright against Norwich, with Styles eventually turning in a Brittain cross in the Tykes’ FA Cup win.
The 23-year-old made a brilliant goal-line block to deny Teemu Pukki in their 1-0 loss at Carrow Road and with five assists this season, the MK Dons youth product has a great engine for getting up and down the wing.
Centre-back – Dael Fry (Middlesbrough)
One half of an excellent defensive partnership with Paddy McNair but Fry just gets the nods thanks to a brilliant performance against Norwich in Boro’s 1-0 defeat at the Riverside.
Every time City got into the box, the former England Under-21 international seemed to be there to make the block. An imposing presence.
Centre-back – Marc Guehi (Swansea)
Poland international Michal Helik has also had an excellent season at Barnsley and Francisco Sierralta impressed at Carrow Road for Watford recently.
But with the importance of defensive passing ability taken into account, Chelsea loanee and England U21 international Guehi has been part of a Swans defence that was excellent for much of the season, at just 20 years old.
Left-back – Rico Henry (Brentford)
Was close to being ever-present during the Bees’ 21-game unbeaten run before a hamstring injury finished his season early in February.
Southampton are the latest Premier League team linked with interest in the speedy 23-year-old.
Central midfield – Alex Mowatt (Barnsley)
The Tykes’ skipper has had a superb season, with eight goals and seven assists, exemplifying the energy and determination that Valerien Ismael has demanded.
Formerly at Leeds, the 26-year-old is out of contract this summer and with a classy left foot, could well find himself in the Premier League regardless of how Barnsley get on in the play-offs.
Central midfield – Josh Dasilva (Brentford)
Philip Billing (Bournemouth) and even former City midfielder Jonny Howson (Boro), at 32, were in my thoughts but I've gone for the engine and consistent passing ability of England U21 international Dasilva.
Had five goals and four assists to his name from 30 league games prior to a hip injury ending his season early in March.
Right winger – Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
I very nearly went for Liverpool talent Harvey Elliot, who has been impressing at Blackburn and scored a brilliant goal against Norwich.
Sarr is so difficult to stop though. He’s quick and powerful but also has a slightly clumsy style. Has caused City problems every time they’ve faced him, with 13 goals and four assists being difficult to overlook. Senegal international isn’t the finished product yet either, at 23.
Attacking midfield – Michael Olise (Reading)
Nominated for Young Player of the Season after six goals and 10 assists in 42 matches, at just 19 years old - one of which was a rather fortuitous finish during defeat to City.
Really skilful, always looking to create and appears to have an exciting future. Previously on the books at Chelsea and Manchester City, it seems Reading may have unearthed a gem.
Left winger – Arnaut Danjuma (Bournemouth)
Has been excellent in both matches against Norwich, scoring two lovely goals. His recent 25-yard strike during the Cherries’ 3-1 win was one of the Carrow Road goals of the season.
With 15 goals and seven assists from 32 appearances, the Holland international is fulfilling the promise Bournemouth had hoped for when he was signed from Club Brugge for around £14million in 2019.
Striker – Ivan Toney (Brentford)
An easy decision up front, the man who rivals Pukki and Buendia for tonight’s Player of the Season award, after 29 goals and 10 assists in 43 matches – including the opener during the 1-1 draw with Norwich in London.
Strong, fast and determined, the 25-year-old was an absolute bargain for Brentford, at a reported £5million which could rise to £10m.