EFL Team of the Week: Watkins’ triple-header

After the latest round of EFL fixtures, Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) names his Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: Dillon Phillips, Charlton

Dillon Phillips has had to be patient at Charlton Athletic.

The goalkeeper starred in Cheltenham Town’s 2015-16 National League title-winning season and the following summer, then-Robins manager Gary Johnson was so keen to get the loanee back that he put on hold plans to sign any other goalkeepers.

That is an indication of just how highly Phillips is rated and, over the last three years, he has had to sit behind more experienced stoppers like Declan Rudd, Ben Amos and Jed Steer so has often had to settle for a place on the bench.

Phillips started 27 league games last season, though, 21 after Steer was recalled by Aston Villa and now, he is showing his full capabilities, having made a string of outstanding saves to preserve a 1-0 win over Leeds.

Centre-backs: Harry Souttar, Fleetwood, James Clarke, Walsall and Cole Skuse, Ipswich

Considering how much Stoke are struggling to defend their penalty area, it seems ironic that arguably the best centre-back they own is not currently part of their squad.

Souttar, on a season-long loan at Fleetwood, is one of the most complete defenders one could hope to find below the Championship because, not only is he competent in possession but he does the basics well too.

The same could be said of James Clarke, who has been part of a Walsall rear-guard that has already kept five league clean sheets this season.

More recently, though, Clarke has shown his penchant for the spectacular, bagging the winner with a bicycle kick against Scunthorpe last week, then scoring an even better long-ranger in the 3-2 triumph at Crawley.

Clarke played at right-back last time out for the Saddlers, who have now racked up three wins on the spin, but the skipper has operated as a wide centre-back at times this season too.

Between Clarke and Souttar, we would have Cole Skuse.

The veteran might not have the mobility to play as a midfielder to a particularly high standard, but he has strong leadership qualities, decent ball-retention and a good understanding of the game, so it arguably suited him playing in the middle of a back-three in Ipswich’s 4-1 victory over Tranmere.

Right wing-back: Jack Grimmer, Wycombe

When Grimmer signed for Wycombe, we all knew just how energetic the player is, we all knew about his enthusiasm.

What perhaps hindered his time at Coventry, and why Mark Robins ultimately favoured more exotic full-backs in League One like Dujon Sterling and Fankaty Dabo, was for two reasons.

Firstly, he sometimes has issues with his defensive positioning and secondly, the quality of his crossing was inconsistent.

Grimmer has eradicated those arguable deficiencies this season though and, in the eyes of Wycombe fans, is getting better every week.

Central midfielders: Barry Bannan, Sheffield Wednesday and Ethan Robson, Grimsby

The squad Garry Monk inherits at Sheffield Wednesday is not hugely dissimilar to the one he left at Birmingham City, but with one key difference: Wednesday possess a technical midfielder.

While Blues generally had two ball-winners in Maikel Kieftenbeld and Gary Gardner under Monk, Barry Bannan is somebody who can control games, switch play and produce pin-point deliveries.

The former Aston Villa man has done all those things under the 40-year-old and produced an outstanding display in the 4-1 victory at Middlesbrough.

Another midfielder impressing is Ethan Robson, who ran the show in Grimsby’s 3-1 victory at Exeter – no mean feat, considering that their hosts topped League Two.

Robson bagged a delightful opener from outside the box in Devon and could be an asset to the Mariners.

Left wing-back: Joseph Mills, Forest Green

Mills’ intelligent forward forays were a key part of Forest Green Rovers’ promotion push last season and the 29-year-old looks an important figure once again.

The left wing-back was part of the combination play that led to Matty Stevens’ opener in Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Salford, where midfielder Ebou Adams and forward Aaron Collins also impressed.

Attacking midfielder: Matheus Pereira, West Brom

One of the things Slaven Bilic has got right this season is substitutions and Matheus Pereira has often been a game-changer, as we saw in the draws with Reading and Derby.

The Portuguese playmaker though was able to influence proceedings from the outset in the recent 2-0 victory at QPR.

Pereira was a creative influence throughout with one or two beautifully weighted passes in behind, so he deserved his goal.

Striker: Ollie Watkins, Brentford and Mo Eisa, Peterborough

After Neal Maupay left for Brighton this summer, Brentford have had to re-jig their attack somewhat.

Rather than have two wide forwards in Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins creating for an out-and-out striker in Maupay, they now have a more fluid front-three.

Sergi Canos will stretch play from the right, Benrahma creates in pockets while Watkins drifts from the left into goalscoring areas.

He has found form very early on, with an all-headed hat-trick in the 3-1 victory at Barnsley last time out elevating him to become the Championship’s top scorer.

Meanwhile, the joint-top scorer in League One is Mo Eisa with eight – a brace in the 3-2 win over AFC Wimbledon means the ex-Cheltenham man has drawn level in the divisional standings with strike-partner Ivan Toney.

In what could be an internal race for the top goalscorer award, it will be interesting to see how often Eisa and Toney pass to one another!

Manager: Michael Flynn, Newport

Not long after it was confirmed that Michael Flynn would remain as Newport County manager amid reported interest from Lincoln City, the Exiles enjoyed two positive results.

They drew 1-1 last week at home to Exeter, dominating the second half of that hosting of the leaders with Jamille Matt coming close on numerous occasions.

The following week, Newport enjoyed a 2-0 win away to another fellow promotion competitor in Swindon.

The Amber Army controlled the match with 32% possession, restricting their hosts to just seven shots, such was the strength of their defensive work – and threatened from well-worked set pieces.

Flynn put together an excellent game plan to exploit Swindon’s weaknesses and his players executed it to a tee.


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