Jonathan Kodjia, Chris Wood and Britt Assombalonga: Championship Golden Boot contenders
By Karl Sturgeon
Last Updated: 03/08/17 6:22pm
Sky Bet Championship clubs have already spent £130m this summer, and nearly £70m has gone on strikers.
Spending big on forwards is hardly new, or unique to the Championship, but a regular goalscorer can help lead the way to the Premier League.
Given the rewards on offer in the coming season, we decided to take a look at some of the players who'll be tasked with firing their sides up …
Championship top scorer
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Britt Assombalonga joined Middlesbrough for a club-record £15m in July. Last season he scored 14 goals for Nottingham Forest, at a rate of one every 130 minutes - the third-best record after Dwight Gayle (93 minutes) and Nelson Oliveira (127 minutes).
Overall, Assombalonga scored 30 goals in 65 Championship appearances for Forest - a good return made even better by the injury problems he suffered during his spell there. If he is an ever-present in the league this season, maintaining last season's strike rate would give him 32 goals this term.
Minutes per goal in 2016/17 Championship (min 5 goals)
|Player||Goals||Mins per goal|
|Dwight Gayle (Newcastle)||23||93.26|
|Nelson Oliveira (Norwich)||11||127.45|
|Britt Assombalonga (N Forest)||14||129.86|
|Chris Wood (Leeds)||27||134.26|
A striker who benefited from Garry Monk's coaching last season was Chris Wood of Leeds. Wood was the Championship's top scorer with 27 goals. The Kiwi had the division's best shot conversion rate of players taking at least 20 shots, scoring with 32.9 per cent of his attempts - beating Gayle (31.9 per cent) and Assombalonga (29.8 per cent).
Wood's influence was stark - he scored 44 per cent of Leeds' goals last season, the largest proportion of team goals by any player in the division. In 23 games when he scored Leeds won 16 times and lost only twice, for a win percentage of 70 per cent. But in 21 games when he didn't score, Leeds won just five games and lost on 13 occasions, for a win percentage of 24 per cent.
Highest proportion of team's goals in 2016/17 Championship
|Player||Team||Goals||Team goals||% of goals|
|Jonathan Kodjia||Aston Villa||19||47||40.4|
|Tammy Abraham||Bristol City||23||60||38.3|
If Aston Villa want to challenge for promotion, Jonathan Kodjia will need to put in another strong season. Kodjia scored 19 goals last season, but he received some criticism for a perceived selfish streak and an inability to link with his team-mates.
The numbers bear that out to some extent - Kodjia took the most shots of any Championship player last season, and despite him playing in such an advanced position, eight Villa players created more chances for others. But in Kodjia's defence, instability at Villa meant his position and strike partner changed constantly.
Most shots in 2016/17 Championship
|Jonathan Kodjia (Aston Villa)||130|
|Tom Ince (Derby)||129|
|Sone Aluko (Fulham)||128|
|Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham)||125|
|Fernando Forestieri (Sheff Wed)||115|
Kodjia's haul was 14 more than any other Villa player - some 40 per of their league goals - and although the forward is set to miss the opening weeks as he recovers from an ankle injury, Villa may need him to take a similar amount of responsibility this term.
Another player who'll be responsible for scoring will be Jordan Rhodes, after he joined Sheffield Wednesday in a permanent £10m deal over the summer.
Since winning promotion from League One with Huddersfield in 2012, Rhodes has scored 94 goals at this level - 19 more than any other player in that period - but he only managed three in 20 games on loan at Wednesday last season.
Rhodes has scored 12 in his last 53 Championship games for Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Wednesday combined, a rate of 0.23 goals per game - previously, from August 2012 to October 2015, he managed 0.57 per game. From better than a goal every other game, to less than one in four: a steep decline for a striker who, at 27, should be hitting his peak.
Top Championship scorers 2012/13 - 2016-17
Another reliable Championship goalscorer who has suffered recent upheaval is Chris Martin, who is back at Derby after last season's unhappy loan at Fulham. Martin only started seven of Fulham's final 19 games last term, amid reports he had requested his loan deal be terminated early.
Martin's 10 goals in 31 league games for the Cottagers wasn't an awful return, but significantly he only scored once beyond January, when his hopes of a quick return to Derby ended. In each of his previous three full seasons with the Rams he has ended up as their top scorer.
Fulham were joint-top scorers with 85 goals, level with Newcastle and Norwich - but their top scorer, midfielder Tom Cairney, only scored 12. They'll need a strong season from Sone Aluko. He isn't an out-and-out striker but did take 128 shots last season - only Kodjia and Tom Ince took more. But Aluko's shot conversion rate (including blocks) was a mere 6.3 per cent and he scored eight goals, only enough to make him Fulham's fifth-highest scorer.
Slavisa Jokanovic's side scored in 40 of their 46 league games last season, the most of any team, but if they're to challenge for the automatic spots they might need a clinical finisher to make a difference when things are tight.
But then, £70m says that there are plenty of Championship managers who feel the same way about their sides…
The Sky Bet EFL returns this weekend with three live matches on Sky Sports Football. Sunderland host Derby on Friday night from 7pm, Aston Villa face Hull from 5.15pm on Saturday evening and Bolton travel to Leeds on Sunday from 4pm