Will Hughes – Derby County
Will Hughes has been touted as one of the most influential players in the Championship throughout the past two years and it isn’t difficult to see why. He has been a pivotal part of the Derby County side that has narrowly missed out on promotion for two seasons running.
Perhaps Hughes’ best attribute is his ability to produce passes which pierce through defensive lines and ultimately create a goal scoring opportunity. It is similar to that of Everton’s Ross Barkley who can also drive a defence back just by being in possession of the ball as defences worry that he will open them up.
The 20-year-old’s agility makes it impossible for defenders to take the ball off of him. He is able to rotate his body at incredible pace and never appears to lose sight of the ball; which helps him to keep switching it extremely quickly between his feet,.
Hughes’ talent hasn’t gone unnoticed as his performances this season saw him earn a whopping total of four player of the year awards for Derby County back in May.
The big question at the moment is whether Derby will be able to keep hold of him as reports are suggesting that The Rams’ previous boss Steve McLaren is keen on bringing him to Newcastle United next season.
Demarai Gray – Birmingham City
After breaking into the first team at Birmingham as a 17 year-old in the 2013/2014 season, Demarai Gray has made an immediate impact at Birmingham City after having an impressive campaign this year.
Gray has been earning the praise of fans, pundits and the media for the remarkable flair he shows throughout games. His pace and superb ability to keep the ball under his control aids him to coast past players. This is possibly a defenders worst nightmare when it comes to keeping the opposition at bay.
The 19 year-old is becoming even more versatile through the use of the 4-2-3-1 formation that Birmingham often employ. It sees him often rotating around each of the three attacking midfield positions which is a massive bonus to his club and helps him to grow as a player as he learns to adjust to the role and mentality of each position.
Birmingham’s brightest prospect has already said that he is happy to stay with his hometown club and is looking to improve on an impressive breakthrough season which saw him earn the ‘Acadamy Player of the Year’ award for a second season running.
The 19 year-old Birmingham-born midfielder was subject of a reported six bids from AFC Bournemouth back in January and it is being suggested that The Cherries are ready to come back in with an improved offer from their last £6 million bid which was rejected by The Blues. This seems unlikely as the Birmingham-born attacking midfielder has recently signed a contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2018.
Benik Afobe – Wolverhampton Wanderers
After the 22 year-old scored 19 goals on-loan at MK Dons during the first half of the 2014/2015 season, he made the switch from Arsenal to Wolves where he scored a further 13 goals (making him the top English goalscorer in the country). This remarkable breakthrough season hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the media and bookies now predicting him to finish as the top goalscorer in the Championship next season.
With pace, strength, considerably good aerial ability and a prolific nature, Afobe is everything that any team needs in a striker. This is what makes him so difficult to deal with from a defenders point of view; if he is unable to defeat a defender in the air, he’ll use his pace, if they can match his pace, he’ll use his strength etc.
At only 22 years old, the former Arsenal man still has years ahead of him to improve and establish himself as a Premier League striker, which is no doubt the next step he wishes to take in his career. The question as to whether he can fulfil this with Wolves is another matter.
Although there has been much speculation surrounding 6ft centre forward, it appears that Afobe is prepared to stay at Wolves (having only made the switch in January). This is probably the right thing to do for his career at this time in order for him to gain experience and improve as a player.
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