THE EFL Championship campaign is all set to kick off this Friday and the competition within the league looks closer than ever before.
The likes of Middlesbrough, Wolves and Fulham have all been tipped as favourites to win the league, whilst Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull, Reading and Derby County are also fancied to push for promotion.
But who’s made the best buys during this summer transfer window?
AFEFootballNews takes a quick look a the summer signings that could really make a difference to their sides during the 2017/18 campaign.
John Terry (Chelsea to Aston Villa, Free)
Okay, so he may be 36 years old, but there’s no doubting that JT is a legend and will add some much needed leadership qualities to a Villa side that became lost in the smog of the league last season as others took charge on the promotion places.
Following on from their dreadful Premier League campaign that saw them relegated in 2015/16, the Villans failed to bounce back last season and finished in 13th place in England’s Second Division.
A big reason for that was that they have no leaders in that squad. John Terry will be looking to change that.
The defender was Chelsea captain for many a year and made just under 500 league appearances for the club, winning the title on five occasions and also won five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields and of course the Champions League.
His legs may be tiring, but his experience and captaincy qualities should most certainly come in handy for Villa this season.
Ruben Neves (Porto to Wolves)
Quite simply an incredible signing for Wolves.
Neves was a highly sought after individual before making the move to the Molyneux and is regarded by many as one of the best young midfielders around. The likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich had been rumoured with making approaches for him.
The 20-year-old can play in both attacking and defensive roles within the middle of the park and his passing and vision are some of the best around. He’s been capped twice for Portugal and is often compared to Monaco’s Joao Moutinho, mainly due to the fact that they can both turn defence into attack effortlessly.
I expect him to tear this league apart this season and really stand out from the crowd. Wolves have spent a lot of money this summer and so I think if Neves and the rest of the squad are on form, they surely have to be one of the favourites to go up?
Britt Assombalonga (Nottingham Forest to Middlesbrough, £15m)
Despite many people kicking up a storm about the value of this transfer, I think £15m in this day and age for a very good striker, particularly one who is experienced in this league, is a decent deal.
Congolese hitman Assombalonga is no stranger to the Championship having played for Forest for the past three seasons. His record there spoke for itself, 30 goals in 65 matches for the clubs was a very positive return, especially when you consider that he was out with a serious knee injury for over half a year at one stage.
Boro are getting a big target man, who is also quick with the ball at his feet and he’s one of the best finishers outside of the Premier League in my opinion.
Having watched him play (and score twice) on the final day of the season against Ipswich last season, I’ve seen for myself what he can do and on his day he can be different class.
Vito Mannone (Sunderland to Reading, £2m)
This may have gone over many people’s heads, but being an Arsenal fan I’ve always had a soft spot for Mannone and realised that this deal could turn out to be a good one for the Royals.
With Ali Al-Absi having departed the club to play in the Saudi League with Al Hilal, they needed a goalkeeper who will provide them with a similar amount of talent and the big Italian is just that.
Having played for Arsenal 15 times in the Premier League, Mannone moved on to Hull and then to Sunderland, where he became a regular feature in their side, establishing himself as their number one goalkeeper (before the rise of Jordan Pickford!).
He made 67 appearances in the Premier League for the Black Cats and proved what he could do at times, making a name for himself as a good shot-stopper, particularly with reflex saves.
Reading have bagged themselves a bargain in my opinion as the 29-year-old should cement a first team place down in their side and that will allow kick start his career again after losing his place at the Stadium of Light.
Pontus Jansson (Torino to Leeds, £3.5m)
The big commanding Swedish centre back had a fine season on loan at Elland Road last season so the fact that they have managed to sign him permanently is a great bit of business.
With Kyle Bartley returning to Swansea following the end of his loan spell, the club needed another leader at the back and Jansson is just that. At 6ft 5′ tall, he’s built for the competitive and physical nature of playing in the Championship and that’s why he slotted right in last season.
He also has 13 caps for Sweden, so having a player who has the experience of playing on the international scene is always a plus to any side.
Following his performances last season, many a Premier League club were after his signature, so Leeds have done well to bag him early.
Tom Huddlestone (Hull City to Derby County, £2m)
The experience that Huddlestone will bring along with him to Pride Park could be very beneficial to a Derby side that will be looking to push for promotion once again this year.
Having played 144 matches in the Premier League with Tottenham between 2005 and 2013 and also for Hull in the few times that they have been up and down from the top flight in recent years, there’s no doubt that the 30-year-old should find that playing in the Championship suits him.
Naturally a central midfielder, Huddlestone is strong on the ball and is often used defensively because of his physical presence and height. (6ft 3′). He has earned a reputation for not being afraid to put his foot in to win the ball back for his side and on his day is capable of scoring a screamer as well.
He’s a hard working individual and I think he’ll do well for Derby.
Martin Braithwaite (Toulouse to Middlesbrough, £10m)
As if signing Assombalonga wasn’t enough, Garry Monk decided that even more fire power was needed up front at the Riverside Stadium and added the exciting Braithwaite to their ranks.
The 26-year-old, who has 16 caps for his country (Denmark), was known at his former club Toulouse for being a pacey forward who can play both down the middle of the attack or out wide. I’m sure that fans of FIFA will recognise him for this reason!
He’s often been rumoured with moves to the Premier League but nothing has ever materialised, so it will be interesting to see what he can do whilst playing for Middlesbrough this season.
I think at Boro he’s most likely to be deployed as a winger alongside Assombalonga who will play down the middle and I can see them forming a formidable partnership if things go to plan.
Vurnon Anita (Newcastle to Leeds, Free)
Leeds have bagged themselves another top player here.
Former Dutch international Anita is often unnoticed by many of us in games, but the truth is, he’s quietly effective in the centre of the park and plays really well in that defensive midfield role.
The 28-year-old made over 130 appearances for Newcastle before his departure last month and many of those minutes came whilst the club was playing in the Premier League.
In the past, he has also been known to play as a full-back, so his versatility could see him become a regular feature at Leeds during 2017/18.
At Newcastle he fell out of favour when the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden came in, but at Elland Road he can start afresh this season and should fit right into Leeds’ starting line-up as they push for a long-awaited return to the big time.
Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull City to Aston Villa, £1m)
Again, many would probably have ignored this one, but I’m a big fan of Elmohamady as he is another player who is often quietly brilliant.
The Egyptian full back first played in England on loan in the Premier League with Sunderland way back in 2010, before making the move permanent the following season. He then had two loan spells at Hull and moved there permanently in 2013 before going on to make 149 appearances in four years for the Tigers.
The 29-year-old has had plenty of Premier League experience to his name and plenty of international experience with his country too, being capped 74 times for Egypt.
Elmohamady had many defensive and attacking qualities and will offer Villa something different out wide.
I personally expect to see him starting ahead of the likes of Alan Hutton and Ritchie De Laet this season and at just £1m he could turn out to be a bargain.
Diogo Jota (Atletico Madrid to Wolves, Loan)
Finally, we have another solid transfer from Wolves in the form of highly-rated Portuguese winger/forward Jota.
The 20-year-old is yet another youngster from Portugal who looks like he could go on to have a promising career, having scored nine goals in 35 appearances on loan at Porto last season.
Quick with the ball at his feet, he’s most often deployed out wide and I believe that playing alongside his fellow Portuguese team-mates, Roderick, Neves, Cavaleiro at the Molyneux will benefit him greatly. Playing under their Portuguese manager Nuno Esperito Santo will also come in handy!
Jota, who started his career in his homeland with Pacos Ferreira before joining Atletico last summer, will be hoping to gain valuable first-team football at the Championship outfit.
Make sure you keep reading AFEFootballNews for more Championship news during the 2017/18 campaign!