Although they have been relegated, Rochdale have numerous players who will be targets for Championship clubs over the summer.
The Dale have been flirting with the bottom of League One for the past four seasons, failing to finish above 16th since 2016/17. Despite a late effort to save themselves from the drop — only losing one in their last six fixtures, they were resigned to relegation following a 2–1 defeat to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
Although their collective performances haven’t been good enough, they’ve still been able to unearth talent from their academy, and also sign, then develop players for fairly nominal fees. It is these players who should be attracting interest from clubs in the Championship. These players are Stephen Humphrys, Aaron Morley and Kwadwo Baah.
Stephen Humphrys — The All Action Striker
Humphrys moved to Rochdale from Southend United — who have now suffered back to back relegations, and will ply their trade in the National League from next season. He signed for an undisclosed fee, on a two year contract.
Although he’s had a frustrating season with injuries, making twenty four starts and four substitute appearances. He has totalled up 13 goal involvements, with 10.47 non-penalty expected goal involvements (NPxGI). When we dive deeper and adjust NPxG to per 90 minutes of play, Humphrys output is 0.37, this ranks his 14th among the strikers who have played >1000 minutes in League One this season. This also means he’s expected to score more than a goal every three games, and actually performing slightly better at 0.39 goals per 90 — a fairly good return when playing in a side that sits 21st in the league.
Humphrys ranks among the best in the league for successful attacking actions per 90 (4.79) and offensive duel success rate (40.74%), this again highlights the success he has in a relatively weak team.
Although Rochdale have mainly deployed systems with two strikers this season, Humphrys has also operated as a lone striker and is comfortable in numerous different systems. At 6ft 1” he’s not small, and is well above the league average for aerial duel success (35.92%), Hupmhrys is able to be both physical and also get in behind opposition defences.
He has a high shot volume, with his xG per shot being 0.11 — this being his biggest area for improvement. Although this is impacted by the quality of chances he is receiving, he also needs to choose better moments when to shoot. One other worry for Humphrys is his injury record, he’s only made 49 appearances over the past two seasons. Although a large reason for this was due to a serious face fracture.
With Rochdale suffering relegation and him only having one more year on his contract he could well be available for a fee less than £1m. This represents good value to me, and will be on the radar for many Championship clubs — I hope my club, Nottingham Forest will be in for him this summer.
Aaron Morley — The Progressive Midfielder
Morley, the local lad. Born in Bury seven miles down the road from Rochdale, he came through the academy and should be attracting interest from the best in League One and Championship teams. He made his Rochdale debut back in 2016, aged just sixteen, and now he’s just shy of fifty league appearances.
The stand out midfielder in League One. Morley averages 11.27 progressive passes per 90, 12.05 passes to the final per 90 and 3.41 passes to opposition penalty per 90. As seen above, these all rank him as one of the best midfielders in League One for progressing the ball forwards.
Morley is also creative, he has 0.2 xA per 90 again ranking him among the best in the league. Although a lot of this is created from his dead ball ability, his corners and free kicks cause teams a lot of problems with the quality he can deliver.
As with all younger players, Morley does have some weaknesses. He can lack consistency and that is across his passing and his performances. This is something which is developed with age, but with the volume of progressive passes that he plays, he is naturally going to misplace passes as he’s attempting more difficult ones.
Morley’s contract also only has one year left, his ability on the ball is too good for League Two, yet at this stage a Championship move is probably too early. There will be plenty of interest from League One sides who are in need of a midfielder who can get on the ball, and get it forwards.
Kwadwo Baah — The Pacey Winger
Kwadwo was born in Germany to Ghanian parents, but was raised in South-East London. An academy player at Cystal Palace, he then moved North to Rochdale aged just sixteen.
He’s mainly played from the left wing for Rochdale this season, but has also featured as a striker and on the right wing. Baah has played thirty times, totalling 1,500 minutes in what is his breakthrough season in professional football — and he’s been getting attention from the best clubs in Europe.
In February Baah had actually signed a pre-contract agreement with Manchester City, this shows the potential he has. This has since fallen through and there are a lot of clubs that will be trying to swoop in for him.
Baah is a high volume dribbler, averaging 10.46 dribbles per 90 mins, ranking him 2nd among League One wingers. He also ranks top for offensive duels per 90 mins, with 20.2 — almost two more duels than the winger ranked 2nd in the league.
At just eighteen years old, Baah does have a lot of developing to do. His NPxG per 90 (0.13) and xA per 90 (0.03) are low for a winger, as discussed above playing in a weak team in the league could be impacting these numbers. However they are significantly lower than the league average, and he’s not particularly creative — this is his biggest area for improvement. He’s young and has a lot of time on his side, there will be plenty of teams trying to sign him for their development sides.
His contract does expire at the end of this season, and with his age, any pursuing clubs would only need to pay a compensation fee for his services. With his natural pace and ability to carry the ball he could well be worth the gamble. But going off recent rumours, it seems like he could be on his way back south to Watford.
All three of these players could well leave Rochdale this summer with League One and Championship clubs interested, and I think they could all kick on to become very good players.
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