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FourFourTwo rank the top 50 best EFL players of the 2021/22 season

FourFourTwo rank the top 50 best EFL players of the 2021/22 season, with many expecting them to be moving to a higher level club this summer.

To decide the ranking from outside the top flight, FFT asked supporters to choose the best performers in their team’s division – but not at their own club – and handed out points according to the rank they gave them. 

Fans of every club in the Championship, League One and League Two were polled in order for the list to be put together, with supporters asked to choose the top performer in their division outside their own club.

Writers, presenters, hosts Chris Flanagan, Huw Davies, Sean Cole, Chris Evans, Gabriel Sutton, Mark White, Ed McCambridge and Conor Pope were all involved to make the piece for the magazine.

50. Joe Allen (Stoke)
49. Peter Clarke (Tranmere)
48. Matt Jay (Exeter)
47: Cameron Brannagan (Oxford)
46. Emil Riis Jakobsen (PNE)
45: James McClean (Wigan)
44. Jonny Williams (Swindon)
43. Matty Stevens (FGR)
42. Elijah Adebayo (Luton)
41: Barry Bannan (Sheff Wed)
40: Will Keane (Wigan)
39: Joe Jacobson (Wycombe)
38. Kane Wilson (FGR)
37. Billy Sharp (Sheff Utd)
36: Dan Barlaser (Rotherham)
35: Dapo Afolyan (Bolton)
34. Andreas Weimann (Bristol City)
33. Jamille Matt (FGR)
32. Joel Piroe (Swansea)
31. Joe Rothwell (Blackburn)
30. Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City)
29. Sam Johnstone (WBA)
28. Dom Telford (Newport)
27: Cole Stockton (Morecambe)
26. Jed Wallace (Millwall)
25: Ross Stewart (Sunderland)
24. Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough)
23. Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn)
22. Sorba Thomas (Huddersfield)
21: Michael Smith (Rotherham)
20. Neeskens Kabano (Fulham)
19. Lloyd Kelly (Bournemouth)
18. Lewis O’Brien (Huddersfield)
17. Viktor Gyokeres (Coventry)
16. Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull)
15. Josh Bowler (Blackpool)
14: Scott Twine (MK Dons)
13. Morgan Gibbs-White (Sheff Utd)
12. Djed Spence (Forest)
11. Ilias Chair (QPR)

10: Rob Dickie (QPR)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: Even Dickie’s greatest admirers didn’t expect the centre-back to net in four of QPR’s first six games…

…but lately, his battling qualities have come to the fore (hence six bookings in eight league games earlier this year).

In 2020-21 he won both of QPR’s player of the year gongs as well as goal of the season; now for a double treble.

League Cup4451211.384.33.827.66
Total / Average433871511300.782.13.857.14

9: Philip Billing (Bournemouth)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: The Dane has added tenacious pressing to the more attacking game he’s adopted since the club’s relegation, which helped him to treble his career goals tally within a season and a half. 

Reflecting on the game following the full-time whistle, the Cherries’ Danish middleman praised the fans when speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.

He explained: “Today, but throughout the whole season as well, big shout-out to our fans as they’ve helped us so much; I don’t think they understand how much they can help the team.

“Personally, for me, I looked around other players when we were 1-0 up and the fourth official put up eight minutes on the board, you can hear the fans being a bit disappointed as well as us but then they started cheering for the team and giving us support.

“Honestly, it helps so much.”

Billing also saved a word of praise for the younger players in Scott Parker’s squad that have played key roles over the campaign.

“There are so many young players that have come into the team this season that I want to praise that haven’t played a lot of Championship games because it’s a tough league,” he said.

“But there are so many games where they’ve come in and showed spirit, determination and relentlessness.

“To be a part of this team and getting promoted is just an unbelievable feeling.”

With a spot in next season’s Premier League confirmed, the former Huddersfield Town man looked ahead to next season and lauded the togetherness in the camp.

Billing said: “If we just show the same that we’ve done this season, I’m not worried about us because this team and its togetherness, everything, is something you can’t see from the outside.

“Every day in the changing room if the result hasn’t gone with us or we’ve drawn a game or lost a game, we’ve still been positive.

“I think if you asked anyone at the start of the season and they looked at our team, they would probably have said, ‘Nah, they’ve got no chance,’ but we’ve proved them wrong.

“We’ve seen so many people doubting us and being critical of us this season, so to show them is just an unbelievable feeling.”

League Cup1901271.918.52
Championship37 (3)33121010131.774.52.137.14
UEFA Nations League A (Denmark)0 (1)45196.36.33
Int. Friendly (Denmark)0 (1)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Total / Average44344711101301.775237.15

8: John Swift (Reading)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: Not content with being statistically the second tier’s top creator, Swift began 2021/22 with seven goals in seven games.

He’s now made 200-odd Championship outings and one in the Premier League – an injustice that needs to end. 

In Europe’s top five leagues this term, no one hit 10 goals, 10 assists before Swift.

Championship36 (2)3286111362.183.20.737.13
Total / Average3832861113602.183.20.737.13

7: Chris Willock (QPR)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: Having played as a winger earlier in his career, Chris Willock has appeared more regularly in a No.10 role this season – and how it’s paid off.

With seven goals and 11 assists so far, he’s helped put QPR in a competitive mix for the play-offs, opening up the prospect of going up against younger brother Joe at Newcastle in the Premier League next season.

“He’s working hard and I’ve been delighted to see the form he’s shown lately,” continued Warburton. “He’s got great feet, he offers assists and goals. He’s working so hard and is starting to reap the rewards. But there is so much more to come from him, with and without the ball.

“He has everything, technically and physically he’s so strong. If he can realise what he can achieve in the game that might elevate him to the next level, but there is no doubt he has more levels to come.”

League Cup3284287.87.55
Championship33 (2)277271111.885.80.237.15
Total / Average383056711101.8860.237.18

6: Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: 555 days passed between Dominic Solanke signing for Bournemouth and scoring his first goal for the club. In the time since he’s developed into one of the most well-rounded players in the Championship.

The 2017 U-20 World Cup winner is slowly showing that precocious promise.

An explosion of 20+ goals in the Championship this season is a personal best for ‘Goal-anke’, whose hold-up play, finishing and passing have all improved in the last year – and as Scott Parker’s focal point in an attacking that regularly rotates, he’s been the most consistent Cherry on the south coast this term.

Solanke said on turning his attention to the new campaign: “For sure, I didn’t do what I wanted to do last time I was there in the Premier League.

“But I’m a different player now, mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m looking forward to playing in the Prem next season.”

League Cup17611362.517.30
Total / Average484172307703.676.51.467.15

5: Fabio Carvalho (Fulham)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: As if opposition defences didn’t have enough to worry about, Fulham have a prolific midfield creator with an eye for goal.

In January’s 6-2 Birmingham battering, the 5ft 7in Carvalho netted with a centre-forward’s header and delicious whipped curler after cutting inside, and set up Tom Cairney in between. 

He’d scored in another 6-2 win just three days earlier: a finessed finish after a mazy run at home to Bristol City. Up until recently, he averaged a goal contribution every 111 minutes. He’s 19.

Liverpool wanted the England U18s star in January, but starting late cost them. Fulham haggled, and despite arranging a hasty medical in the capital, the Reds couldn’t file paperwork in time. Carvalho’s contract expires in the summer though, and paying compensation won’t dissuade other suitors – especially those overseas, who’d avoid tribunals and instead fork out a six-figure sum. A massive summer awaits.

He’s since joined Liverpool,and what a signing they have on their hands as can be seen in this video.

Championship33 (3)283910852.283.10.617.12
Total / Average372839118502.283.10.617.12

4: Brennan Johnson (Forest)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: He’s tormented Leicester, Arsenal and even Liverpool in the FA Cup this season, and has broken into a Wales team that could end the year at a World Cup…

…it’s no surprise both Ian Wright and Roy Keane piled on the praise for the Forest star after a recent performance for the national team.

He’s now hit double figures for goals in two consecutive seasons (after plundering 10 on loan at Lincoln in League One last year) as Forest enter the chase for play-offs.

Of course, since then, he helped Forest go all the way to the final, which they subsequently won and secured a place in the Premier League.

Championship47 (2)4207181031.970.70.257.03
UEFA Nations League A (Wales)2 (1)1842272.70.36.82
World Cup Qualification UEFA (Wales)0 (2)21166.76.36
Int. Friendly (Wales)1N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Total / Average5944122110301.970.60.256.99

3: Harry Wilson (Fulham)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: Flying the nest is always a daunting prospect for those nurtured through a “top six” academy, but Harry Wilson made the brave decision to sever ties with Liverpool last summer.

The Welshman had previously impressed on a series of loans – not least with relegated Bournemouth in 2019/20, where he scored seven Premier League goals – yet still had to drop down a division, with Fulham, to find a permanent home.

The £14m price tag was jeered, yet the outlay has been vindicated. Wilson has dazzled in West London this season, hitting double figures for both goals and assists by mid-February. The winger’s coolness in possession and eye for goal have been crucial as the Cottagers have bulldozed the competition from matchday one.

Championship40 (1)34871019612.383.30.467.38
World Cup Qualification UEFA (Wales)1 (1)971168.816.57
UEFA Nations League A (Wales)325311.386.616.39
European Championship (Wales)0 (3)5210.3805.88
Total / Average5038891120722.182.70.467.19

2: Ben Brereton Diaz (Blackburn)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: Plain old Ben Brereton returned from last summer’s surprise Copa America call-up for Chile – where his mother was born and raised – performing like
a different player. He even had a new name. 

Some optimistic Blackburn fans placed 1,000/1 bets on the new and improved Ben Brereton Diaz bagging 20 league goals this campaign, despite the Rovers No.22 having just nine Championship strikes to his name in three previous seasons at Ewood Park. He duly hit the milestone in December.

His now-regular trips to South America for national duty have caused headaches for a Rovers team who have unexpectedly been thrown into the play-off mix thanks to the 22-year-old’s prowess in front of goal, and it’s no big mystery why Blackburn’s worst-ever scoring drought partly coincided with an injury to their marksman. One way or another, he’ll be plying his trade a level higher next year. Vamos!

Championship34 (3)306922382.873.50.637.06
League Cup190487.96.38
Copa America Chile0 (1)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Int. Friendly Chile1N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Total / Average403159223802.873.80.637.04

1: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)

FourFourTwo wrote a few months back: When Mitrovic coolly slotted his first-half penalty past Peterborough goalkeeper Steven Benda to break the Championship seasonal goalscoring record, you almost expected Cheryl Baker and Kriss Akabusi to burst out of the Craven Cottage tunnel and join in with the celebrations. Frankly, it would have been no more ridiculous than the Serb having netted his 32nd league goal of the season with a week still left of February.

Ivan Toney’s record-breaking haul of 31 in the Championship era (since 2004/05) is already gone – now Mitrovic has his aim firmly set on Guy Whittingham’s modern-day second-tier record of 42 league goals for Portsmouth, from 1992/93. Mitrovic has been so dominant this year that by March 8, he had notched at least 15 goals more than any other Championship player. 

Rewind to November 12, 2020 and Mitrovic looked like no merciless goal machine. His saved penalty in Serbia’s crucial Euro 2020 play-off defeat to Scotland meant the Eagles didn’t qualify, compounding the misery of a league campaign in which he’d started regularly for Fulham but only scored twice. After that despair, Mitrovic was reduced to a bit-part role off the bench by Scott Parker. Bereft of confidence and a shadow of his former self, the ex-Newcastle striker ended the season with a miserly three league goals.

Last summer, it looked improbable that both men would stick around in west London – and so it proved, when Marco Silva replaced Bournemouth-bound Parker. Almost a year to the day after his Scotland shame, Mitrovic could hardly have been better for Serbia or Fulham. On November 14, the 27-year-old – already with 20 league goals by that point – fired Serbia to the World Cup with a stunning stoppage-time winner that condemned Portugal to the play-offs. 

Those who haven’t seen Mitrovic 2.0 could dismiss him as a flat-track bully, unable to cut it in the Premier League. That would be a disservice to the work that Silva has done to help him – and the Cottagers – improve. The Serb credits his boss with making him the fittest he’s ever been, and providing the tactical freedom to be more of a team player. 

By early March he’d provided seven assists – more than three times as many as in his last Championship campaign – meaning a fit and loved Mitro has also paid off for those around him, most notably Harry Wilson, Fabio Carvalho and Neeskens Kebano. Under Silva, a free-scoring Fulham are seemingly able to do it all: dominate possession, counter-attack, demolish opposition to a pulp or slug it out for narrow victories. 

Mitrovic’s world may have come crashing down around him when he squandered the chance to reach Euro 2020, but he’s since recovered in history-making fashion. At this rate, don’t bet against him excelling at the World Cup – or on his next top-flight mission. 

For now, though, he’s in the Championship, a league in which he is goalscoring royalty and a real Record Breaker.

You can take a look at the EFL Awards 2022 Winners List by clicking HERE.

World Cup Qualification UEFA (Serbia)5 (3)532823.971.6317.51
UEFA Nations League B (Serbia)3261224.372.747.50
Int. Friendly (Serbia)2N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Total / Average5846305371404.474.83167.68

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