Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer was so impressed by what he saw from teammate Ivan Toney against Wolves that he labelled the 25-year-old’s performance “maybe the best I’ve ever seen from a striker.” While these comments may have erred on the side of hyperbole, they reflected a remarkable display by Toney.
It was certainly true that he contributed in a number of ways to Brentford’s 2-0 win at Molineux, a result that lifted the Bees into the top half of the Premier League table. Not only did Toney score the opening goal from the spot, he assisted the second and generally allowed Thomas Frank’s game plan to work.
Ivan Toney held up the ball as a lone frontman. He showed nice touch and awareness to link up with strike partner Bryan Mbuemo when the Frenchman was pushed forward for spells. Toney even got back to help out on the defensive side of the ball, giving Brentford significant physical presence when defending set pieces.
Many questioned whether Toney would be able to make the step up to the Premier League after a 2020/21 campaign that saw him score 33 goals in 48 Championship games, but the 25-year-old has handled it with ease. In fact, it could be argued the top flight suits him even better than the second tier.
Similar questions were asked of Patrick Bamford last year. Many doubted whether the Leeds United forward could replicate his goalscoring success at Championship level in the Premier League, and yet he managed to surpass his previous numbers, scoring 17 times for the Whites last season.
The gulf between the first and second tiers in the English football pyramid might be growing, with the Premier League’s riches making it tougher for promoted teams to make their place in the top flight stick, but Bamford and Toney’s recent success is proof that more clubs should look to the EFL for attacking talent.
Jarrod Bowen is another who has proved himself in the Premier League after being plucked from the Championship. He is a very different sort of attacking threat to Bamford and Ivan Toney, but the 24-year-old has impressed to such an extent for West Ham that Liverpool are reportedly tracking him. His high energy style would likely appeal to Jurgen Klopp.
Bamford’s form over the last 12 months has been enough for the Leeds United forward to force his way into the England squad and there’s no reason Ivan Toney can’t follow this precedent. It could be argued that the Brentford striker would be even more useful to Gareth Southgate who doesn’t have another forward like him.
With the transfer market inflating back up to pre-Covid 19 levels, Premier League clubs will have to look to alternative markets to find bargains. There is a premium placed on Premier League talent that prohibits most top level transfers – look at the £50m Arsenal paid for Ben White and the price Manchester City were quoted for Harry Kane.
This should lead clubs not only to look abroad, to places like the Eredivisie and Primeira Liga, but to the Championship. Blackburn’s Chilean international Ben Diaz, for instance, is one attacking talent who could prove good enough for the Premier League while QPR’s Scotland international striker Lyndon Dykes continues to impress.
Not every striker that makes the step up from the Championship will be at the level of Bamford or Ivan Toney, or even Bowen, but the pair’s recent success should prevent ignorance from clouding judgement of players who have come from the second tier. Instead, Premier League clubs should be looking for others who could follow the same path.
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