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Gab: My Championship Signings of the Summer

Who are the Top 6 signings made in the Championship this summer? We've put Gab Sutton to the test and asked him to pick out the second tier moves that have impressed him the most in this transfer window...

Gab Sutton

On Thursday, the transfer window closed shut to bring about an end to another action-packed window in the Championship. 

Across 83 days, a total of 204 players were acquired by second tier sides, with the three Cities of Bristol, Coventry and Norwich  the quietest clubs with only four new arrivals apiece.

Cardiff City narrowly pipped Hull City and Burnley (16) at the other end of the spectrum, taking the title as the most active with 17 total acquisitions – although these are rookie numbers compared to a certain Nottingham-based Premier League side.

Anyway, enough stats and talk, who are the top six signings in the Championship from the 2022 summer window?

We put EFL pundit Gab Sutton to the test as he picks out the second-tier recruits who have impressed him the most…

Anel Ahmedhodžić

Sheffield United built their rise from mid-table in League One to 9th in the Premier League under Chris Wilder on overlapping centre-backs.

Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell loved the basics of defending, but also provided drive, quality and thrust when roaming beyond their corresponding wing-back, George Baldock and Enda Stevens respectively.

Basham has been an incredible servant to the Blades but is not the force of yesteryear, while O’Connell has struggled with long-term injuries.

United needed some new blood to keep the system going and while academy product Rhys Norrington-Davies has shown promise on the left of the back-three, Ahmedhodžić has been a revelation on the right.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international is dominant in the air, but he also brings assurance in possession and the confidence to maraud forward, chipping in with three goals and one assist for the leaders.

At just 23, the Malmö FF recruit will almost certainly go on to play in the Premier League – hopefully with Sheffield United next season.

Marcelino Núñez

Strange though it might seem for a side currently residing in the top two after a five-game winning streak, Norwich are yet to hit their best.

That may be partly because the Canaries are currently without a fit, senior, natural left-back, and thus been unable to find the same type of relationship on their left-side that Max Aarons has established with Kieran Dowell on the right.

Conversely, they haven’t established the same coherence in terms of patterns of play and movement off the ball – especially in the defensive and middle third – that a couple of their likely promotion rivals have.

What is carrying the Yellows through these issues is partly solid defending led by Andrew Omobamidele, as well as clinical final third play from Josh Sargent and others.

Marcelino Núñez’s long-range passing ability, however, is crucial.

The Chilean’s feather touch, laser vision and immaculate execution means Norwich can carve their opponents open, without needing top notch exchanges or rotations of movement at times.

Núñez’s brilliance will keep the Norfolk club competitive, even while they are still working out their playing identity.

Óscar Estupiñán

Hull have arguably not had an out-and-out poacher at the club since Abel Hernandez in 2015-16.

In more recent years, it’s been wide forwards such as Jarrod Bowen, Kamil Grosicki, Mallik Wilks and Keane Lewis-Potter who have tended to rake up the numbers and grab the headlines.

Thanks to the investment from Acun Ilicali, dubbed ‘the Turkish Simon Cowell’, City have had the capital to change that trend and bring in Estupiñán.

The one-capped Columbia international was the joint-fifth top scorer in the Primeira Liga for Vitória de Guimarães, bagging more headers than Liverpool recruit Darwin Núñez.

Estupiñán’s link-up with 6’4” attacker Benjamin Tetteh and creator Ozan Tufan has been a key feature of the Tigers’ play so far, and a big part of why they currently reside in the top half.

Tetteh’s injury in the first half of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United is a blow, so Shota Arveladze will have to rethink his plans for the next few weeks to assure that Estupiñán keeps getting the service he needs.

A service which has already allowed him to bag a hat-trick in the 3-2 victory over Coventry and notch seven goals and one assist in eight league games for his new side.

Auston Trusty

In contrast with his name, Trusty arrived at Birmingham as something of an unknown quantity.

The Arsenal loanee hadn’t featured for their Development Squad after joining in January this year, but rather spent six months back on loan at the club he came to them from, Colorado Rapids.

Trusty did not have too much in the way of a pre-season, which makes it even more impressive that the American defender has been able to make such an instant impression.

The 24-year-old has tended to operate on the left of a back-three for John Eustace’s side and the remit has been mainly to stop opponents from attacking the penalty area from his side, but forcing them to cross instead.

Trusty has done that superbly thus far, bringing pace and strength which allows him to thrive in wide footraces, especially when supported well by his corresponding wing-back, be that the currently injured Przemysław Płacheta or Jordan Graham.

Keep up this form and a spot in the US national team at the World Cup isn’t out of the question.

Ryan Giles

Last season, Middlesbrough’s play leant heavily towards the right hand side of the field, where Isaiah Jones would look to take opponents on, get to the byline and cut the ball back.

That was how Boro created many of their chances, but it was ultimately unsustainable for Chris Wilder’s side.

Last term, they struggled when opponents congested that side of the pitch and funnelled the ball towards their left wing-back, Neil Taylor, who was not nearly as dangerous in possession.

That’s not an option this year, though, because a more attacking left wing-back in Giles joined on loan from Wolves.

The 22-year-old’s pace, agility and quality – both in terms of deliveries, from open play and set pieces, as well as arrowed shots at goal – make him a serious threat.

Of course, it may seem counter-intuitive to make a favourable comparison from last season, given that the Teessiders finished 7th in 2021-22 and are in the relegation zone seven games into this campaign, before the Monday night hosting of Sunderland.

However, Boro average an open play xGF of 1.19, the second-highest in the Championship, and an open play xGF per shot of 0.13, the third-highest, so Giles has made a huge difference to their chance creation.

August recruit Matt Clarke, a ball-playing, overlapping left-sided defender, should prove an excellent wing-man for Giles as well as helping Boro become better organised defensively and, by extension, climb into promotion contention.

Ethan Laird

QPR began this season with a squad remarkably strong in some areas, and perhaps a touch short in others.

The Rs boast an excellent goalkeeper in Seny Dieng, a top centre-back in Rob Dickie and a reliable partner for him in Jimmy Dunne.

And that’s without mentioning the star quality they possess in the attacking midfield positions with Chris Willock and Ilias Chair – a category Tyler Roberts may well break into.

It’s difficult to sustain a challenge with a squad that has obvious top six quality in some areas and more like bottom half calibre in others, but their late recruitment was all about upgrading key areas and addressing that flaw.

One of them was at right-back, where Mick Beale’s side needed someone to bring a layer of quality on top of the pace, strength and work ethic that Osman Kakay can provide.

Ethan Laird has been compared favourably at times with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, until recently a Premier League regular with Manchester United.

In Beale’s 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 systems, the two or three behind the striker operate closely together so they are always ready not only to press, but also to combine tightly and unlock rear-guards with their quick thinking.

For that reason, the full-backs take on the same attacking freedom as wing-backs, because without the threat they provide on the touchlines, opponents can congest the middle to limit the combination play of Willock, Chair and/or Roberts.

Kenneth Paal’s start at left-back has been mixed, with the PEC Zwolle recruit getting injured early on, but Laird has already established a level of consistency that will be crucial to QPR’s play-off hopes.

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