Best free agents Championship clubs should sign this summer
Updated: Jun 23
Ollie Jones - 28/5/23
As the 2022/23 season raps up, eyes turn to the summer transfer window, with fans eager to see who their club's trying to poach. With the eye-watering fees being spent in previous windows, there's nothing more pleasing than snapping up a free agent. Here is a review of the best free transfers all Championship clubs should be looking at this window.
The Championship's top clubs that are lacking an attacking spark, should be looking no further than Chiedozie Ogbene this summer. Rotherham's star man looks certain to move away, despite being offered a new contract to continue playing under Matt Taylor next season. He was crucial to the Miller's survival, finishing as their top goalscorer with 8 goals and 13 goal involvements across all competitions, while only having an xG (expected goals) of 6.7. His biggest ability is his dribbling, taking on a defender 155 times this season, which was 'successful' (by dribbling past them) 1.61 times per 90, putting him in the top 93 percentile of forwards. Before often getting a shot away, on average, from 15.9 yards. He was consistently clinical this season, as chances came few and far between, only 1.56 shots per 90, just the 5th best at the club, but of every shot on target, 0.38 resulted in a goal. He was the driving force behind Rotherham attacks, with 107 progressive carries as well as 30 key passes that led to a shot, only 2nd to Daniel Barlaser's 48, who also had a great season. In a season where Rotherham finished 19th, his defensive output was important too, with 0.86 tackles per 90, of which 0.5 successful, and 0.47 in the defensive third, highlighting his hard-working nature to get back and help the team. This was somewhat unsurprising because of his previous role as a wing-back, in the 3-5-2 formation that previous manager Paul Warne deployed. He received his first call-up for the Republic of Ireland and made his debut on the 8th of June 2021, now having played 14 times and scoring 4 times, most notably a goal and assist against the football giant that is Belgium, showcased his capability to compete with some of the best. So it's no surprise that he is receiving lots of interest from Championship clubs, with WalesOnline reporting Swansea and Millwall are interested. So, should he stay or should he go? Let us know in the comments.
One player who should be making the step up from League One this summer is Regan Poole, as he looks set for a new challenge after not renewing his contract at Lincoln City. He has been pivotal in the Lincoln defence since his move from MK Dons, playing 131 times. Regan's been the first name on the team sheet this season, featuring 45 times in the league, starting all 45, not once being substituted and keeping 18 clean sheets. His versatility is crucial, playing predominantly as a centre-back this season, 27 times, but also twice as a right-back and 16 times on the right of midfield, supplying 2 goals and 3 assists. The desire to help offensively is shown on this season's heat map, (source: Sofascore)
Poole's comfortable playing out from the back, with 78% of his attempted passes in his own half successful, but for a more direct team, his long-range ability still needs developing, as only 38% of his long balls were accurate. While relatively small for a defender, at 180cm in height, he has won 51% of his aerial duels this season. Football League World is reporting that Blackburn and Bristol City are in the race to sign him. Where do you think he'll end up, let us know in the comments.
As he approaches his prime years, few would've predicted that the now 25-year old defender Tuanzebe would be on the free market. He made a name for himself on loan at Aston Villa in the 18/19 season, where he played 25 times, helping them to 5th and success in the playoffs to send Villa back up to the Premier League. Since then he has played intermittently for Manchester United, including a return to Aston Villa where he featured only 11 times and Napoli, playing twice. He did however produced a headline-grabbing performance against PSG in the Champions League, where he was crucial to Manchester United's 2-1 win, winning 100% of his Ariel duels and making 7 clearances, 1 block and a 92% pass accuracy, to keep Mbappe at bay, but this sadly didn't lead to consistent starts. In January of 2023, he joined Stoke City on loan, where he's played 4 times in the league, remaining unbeaten before suffering an injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. In this short spell, he impressed, winning 4 tackles, making 1 interception and 16 clearances. He looked very comfortable on the ball, attempting 154 passes, of which 138 were completed, a success rate of 89.6%. Manchester United have made the call to cut ties with Axel after 10 years at the club. He still has undeniable ability so there's little surprise that it's being reported Alex Neil wants to make his move permanent. Do you think he should return or start fresh elsewhere?
One of the most exciting players to be free this summer is Ryan Kent, who is leaving rangers after 5 season, having played 218 games with 90 goal involvements and 2 trophies, the Scottish Premiership Title and the Scottish Cup, as well as being the 21/22 Europa League runner-up. He joined Rangers in 2018 on loan, before being made permanent in 2019 for £7 million. He's right footed and predominantly plays on the left-wing. Across the league and European competitions: in 4 out of his 5 seasons, he's hit double figures for goal involvements, with his most prolific season in 2020/21, scoring 10 and assisting 9 in the Premiership, as well as another 4 involvements in Europe. He averaged 0.43 goals or assists every 90 minutes. Data solely from European tournaments show that he's not afraid to shoot from distance, shooting from 20.6 yards on average, this explains the relatively low shot conversion, as only 0.09 of every shot was converted. Down the flank he works well with full backs to create space and opportunities. Furthermore, for Rangers in European games, he attempted 983 passes, of which, 532 were between 5 and 15 yards long (with an 88.2% completion rate), but only 71 were longer than 30 yards (with a lower 66.2% completion rate). He is your typical inverted winger, who loves to drive inside and take on his man before getting a shot away. Any championship side would be strengthened with him on their roster, however with his wage demands, it's likely that only top championship clubs will be able to entice him. With one of, or possibly both, of the relegated Leeds and Everton being linked. Would you take Ryan Kent at your club?
We hope you enjoyed reading, let us know in the comments if you'd like a part 2! All our articles are free, so if you did enjoy, a share or recommendation would be greatly appreciated, thanks for reading.
All data was sourced from FBref, Transfermarkt and Sofascore.