After the opening day of the 2019-20 EFL season, Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) provides his Team Of The Week.
EFL Team Of The Week: Gameweek One
Best EFL Players from the weekend
Goalkeeper – Sami Radlinger
The goalkeeper was at Hannover 96 for eight years, but only started two games – compared with 72 for the II team.
Natives felt that in those games he looked shaky, suffering perhaps from a lack of senior experience despite various loan spells at Rapid Wien and Brann.
Although he is 6’6”, he is perceived to be better on the line than commanding his penalty area and it was the 26-year-old’s shot-stopping that came to the fore against Fulham.
Radlinger did superbly to deny Anthony Knockaert in a strong individual performance, meaning Reds fans can now be more relaxed about the departure of long-serving goalkeeper Adam Davies.
Right-back – Nathan Ferguson
West Brom were unable to get Mason Holgate back on loan from Everton, but fans will soon forget about that if Nathan Ferguson puts in more performances like the one we saw on Saturday teatime.
The 18-year-old put in several strong challenges, he showed the fearlessness to drive the team forward at times and used the ball very well.
Centre-backs – Luke Woolfenden and Murray Wallace
Ipswich began 2019-20 with a patched-up defence.
The experienced Luke Chambers and the athletic Toto Nsiala missed out through injury problems, so Luke Woolfenden had to start at centre-back next to James Wilson, who had only signed a deal with the club that week after a trial period.
There was therefore a big responsibility on Woolfenden to step up, build on that productive loan spell at Swindon. and be that commanding figure.
In fairness to the tall defender, he did so superbly – making an important goal-line clearance late on to preserve a 1-0 win.
Millwall beat Preston by the same scoreline and, up against Sean Maguire, Murray Wallace was dominant in the air for the Lions, who restricted their visitors to very few chances.
Left-back – Kristian Pedersen
Technically, Pedersen was a left-sided centre-back in Birmingham’s 3-4-2-1 at Brentford on Saturday with Steve Seddon at wing-back, but it would be churlish not to select the Dane after scoring the remarkable only goal of the game.
Not only did Pederson score from outside the box, he scored it with his head, joining an exclusive club involving the likes of Diego Maradona, Marco Van Basten and Carlton Palmer who have achieved the feat.
Brentford hit the crossbar three times in a bizarre match that feels like an anomaly; Blues will not win 1-0 in those circumstances every week, so Pep Clotet will see room for improvement in terms of technical and tactical aspects of the performance.
Central midfielders – Paul Coutts and Elliott Whitehouse
Two tales of midfielders recovering gallantly from long-term injuries.
Elliott Whitehouse signed for Grimsby last summer, only to pick up an injury the following day and be ruled out for the whole campaign.
The former Lincoln man, though, has made excellent progress on his fitness over the last 12 months and it speaks volumes that manager Michael Jolley was happy to start him in the first game of the season.
Whitehouse scored the opener in a 2-0 victory at Morecambe, putting in a solid shift next to Harry Clifton and Jake Hessenthaler whilst looking to latch onto target man James Hanson’s knock-downs.
Coutts, meanwhile, was one of the best midfielders in the Championship at Sheffield United until November 2017, when a long-term injury stalled his progress.
The ex-Derby man though appears to be rediscovering his ability in League One, producing a controlled display in Fleetwood’s 3-1 win at Peterborough.
Right-wing – Luke Thomas
When Barnsley were last in the Championship, poor handling of contract negotiations proved their undoing, so it must have been very encouraging for their fans to see the club not just sign Luke Thomas – who showed his talents at Coventry last season – but hand him a four-year deal.
It seems surprising that Derby County, having lost Harry Wilson, were content to let Thomas leave permanently, but their loss is Barnsley’s gain.
The young wide forward was a real livewire in their opening day 1-0 win over promotion favourites Fulham, but he also showed composure at times, too: there was a moment when he shaped to square for striker Cauley Woodrow, but then slotted inside the near-post.
Attacking midfield – Jack Payne
Lincoln’s capture of the playmaker was a real statement.
It shows that in four years, they have gone from being a club languishing in National League mediocrity to one that can afford and attract a guaranteed League One performer.
Payne has not quite yet had his moment in the Championship, but he has played well at this level before with Southend, Oxford, Blackburn and Bradford – very soon, we can add Lincoln to that list.
Payne is a very creative player who loves to pick up pockets between the lines, then has the vision to play quick through balls to unlock defences.
As we saw in his debut, a 2-0 win over Accrington, he is not afraid to have a shot either and, with last season’s loanees Shay McCartan and Danny Rowe back at parent clubs Bradford and Ipswich respectively, Payne brings much-needed quality.
Left-wing – Danny Mayor
Danny Mayor’s relationship with left wing-back Callum MacFadzean was a key part of Bury’s promotion-winning success last season.
It is therefore no surprise that, since Ryan Lowe departed Gigg Lane for Plymouth Argyle, he has brought with him Mayor and MacFadzean, who have clearly rediscovered that left-sided partnership.
Mayor loves to cut inside, show his quick feet and curl shots with his right foot, while MacFadzean gives him the space to do so with his strong runs down the flank to detract markers.
Mayor continued his habit of always performing brilliantly whenever he’s an opposing player at Gresty Road, while MacFadzean grabbed a brace.
Striker – Ian Henderson
New season, same Ian Henderson.
Rochdale’s record-wrecker has hit double-figures in each of his six full seasons with the club and is the third-tier’s highest-scoring player this decade.
Of course, ‘Hendo’ is short of a yard or two of pace and for a couple of years now, Dale have needed to add the players to resolve that issue.
The captain is, though, somebody who leads by example and he is a fantastic finisher, as he showed in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Tranmere, grabbing a double at Prenton Park before being involved in a passing move that saw Sheffield United loanee Rhys Norrington-Davies grab the third.
If Henderson continues this season at the current rate of two goals per game, he’ll be in double-figures for a seventh season running by the end of August! No pressure, Hendo…
Manager – Lee Bullen
It has been a tumultuous summer for Sheffield Wednesday, with Steve Bruce’s acrimonious exit combined with lengthy deliberation from Dejphon Chansiri seeing them enter the campaign, unusually, without a permanent manager.
In Lee Bullen, though, the Owls have a manager who has the respect of the senior players and who is loved by supporters for his honesty and integrity.
Bullen has done superbly to keep things on an even keel and while it could be questioned whether he is the right man to evolve this squad and take the club forward over a longer period, he has a strong record as caretaker and has given Chansiri a dilemma.