Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer of 2020 would likely have been a busy one for the Premier League’s giants, with millions being spent in the transfer market. However, one of the effects of the pandemic may well be that the funds for big-money moves may no longer exist. Even the Premier League’s biggest sides have taken a financial hit due to the temporary suspension of the 2019-20 season.
So how can these clubs fill the gaps in their squad this summer? Some of them may struggle to do so, but others have an advantage in the form of the talent produced by their academies.
With that in mind, here are 5 young players who could fill key gaps in their club’s squad in the 2020-21 Premier League season.
#1 Curtis Jones (Liverpool)
As the Premier League’s newly-crowned champions, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Liverpool simply don’t need to strengthen their squad this summer. But that isn’t quite the case.
The clubs chasing the Reds certainly won’t look to stand still in their attempt to overhaul them next season. And that means that Jurgen Klopp’s side can’t afford to stand still either.
However, Klopp has already stated that it’s unlikely his club will make many waves in the transfer market this summer. The German has suggested that he doesn’t feel the need to make too many changes to his squad. But equally, the funds to do so may simply not be there due to COVID-19.
Instead, he’s hinted that the Reds may look to fill the gaps in their squad by promoting from within. The most likely benefactor of such a move? 19-year old attacking midfielder Curtis Jones.
A native of Liverpool, Jones has been with the Reds since he was 9 years old. We’ve seen flashes of his massive potential already in the current Premier League season, as he’s made nine appearances in all competitions and has scored three goals.
One of those strikes was, of course, the winner in an FA Cup tie with Liverpool’s Mersey rivals Everton, and the most recent came in Premier League action against Aston Villa.
A hugely talented youngster, Jones appears to have all the tools to make it at the top level. He’s a great dribbler, has an excellent range of passing and an eye for goal. But most importantly, he displays a natural air of confidence that most young players don’t.
The key for Jones is likely to be the fact that veteran Adam Lallana is all set to depart Anfield this summer. That means there’s a spot in Klopp’s squad for a creative, goalscoring midfielder – even if it’s not necessarily in the first XI.
Essentially, Liverpool don’t need to sign a replacement for Lallana. They already have a ready-made one in Jones. And given an opportunity, the youngster could make a huge impact on next season’s Premier League.
#2 Phil Foden (Manchester City)
All good things come to an end, and for Manchester City, winning a third successive Premier League title has proven to be a step too far. While Pep Guardiola’s men are highly likely to finish as runners-up in the current campaign, they’re also likely to be at least 20 points behind champions Liverpool.
Part of the reason for this could be that City have a somewhat ageing squad, with a number of players coming towards the latter stages of their careers. One of those players – David Silva – will also be departing the Etihad this summer.
So should City do what they’ve tended to do in the past and splash out millions to replace him? The simple answer is no. As Guardiola has suggested previously, City already have a replacement in the form of England U-21 international Phil Foden.
Guardiola’s detractors have always suggested that Foden would need to move away from the Etihad in order to get more first-team football. But suddenly, things are beginning to change. The 2019-20 Premier League campaign has seen the youngster given more game time, and he’s stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way.
Foden has made 28 appearances across all competitions, scoring seven goals and registering four assists. And while he hasn’t made many Premier League starts – just five thus far – he’s arguably been City’s best performer since the restarting of the season in June.
Since then, the midfielder has made four appearances, scoring in three of them. And he was even named Man of the Match in City’s 4-0 Premier League win over Liverpool.
Foden is a creative talent who seems to have it all – an eye for a pass, superb finishing skills and the ability to find space from nowhere. He seems absolutely ready to step into the shoes about to be vacated by Silva.
By the start of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, there’s every chance that the 20-year old will be a definite starter at the Etihad. Guardiola has always claimed to be a believer in his talents, and it’s likely that Foden will repay that faith next season.
#3 Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
At the start of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a fascinating claim. He stated that the best finisher in his squad wasn’t Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial, but was actually then-17-year-old academy product Mason Greenwood.
Nearly a year on, Solskjaer’s claim doesn’t actually seem too far off the mark. Greenwood showed flashes of his potential prior to the season’s suspension, scoring five goals in the Premier League and five in the Europa League too. But since the Premier League’s restart, he’s been a revelation.
Playing as a wide forward, Greenwood has already scored three Premier League goals in two games, registering an assist along the way too. His skills terrorised the defences of both Brighton & Hove Albion and Bournemouth. And his finishing skills – as Solskjaer hinted – are astonishing for such a young player.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, United were constantly linked with big-money moves for a number of players. Two of the links in particular that wouldn’t die down were with Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish.
Both of those players have seen success this season playing as wide attackers, particularly Sancho. And so it’s easy to see why the Red Devils would want them. But either player would likely cost at minimum £60m, perhaps even more.
Greenwood’s rise to prominence should almost definitely make Solskjaer and the United board question whether they actually need to spend such a fee on one of those players. After all, Greenwood is already statistically one of the best goalscoring teenagers in Premier League history. And there are still five games remaining for him to score more.
By using Greenwood alongside Rashford and Daniel James as his wide forwards, Solskjaer could then keep any transfer funds back to strengthen United in other areas – namely at centre-forward. And in the process, by putting his faith in the youngster, he could well be cemented as a man with a true eye for talent.
#4 Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea)
After coping with a transfer ban last summer, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has already shown a willingness to splash the cash in the past couple of months. The Blues have struck deals to bring European superstars Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner to the Premier League. And the suggestion is that the spending may not stop there.
One area that it’s been suggested Chelsea need to strengthen in is defence. The Blues have four central defenders right now – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. All four have shown flashes of greatness in the current Premier League campaign, but have lacked in overall consistency.
It should hardly be surprising then that the Blues have been linked with a number of defenders, including a former Chelsea man in the form of Nathan Ake. But as it turns out, the solution to their problem may be sitting under their nose.
19-year old Wales international Ethan Ampadu made his first-team debut for Chelsea in the 2017-18 season. He is likely to return to London following his loan stint at RB Leipzig.
And while the Welshman hasn’t been a permanent starter in Germany, only playing a handful of games, when he has appeared he’s impressed. Most notably, he starred in Leipzig’s 0-1 Champions League win over Tottenham Hotspur in February, stepping into the heart of the defence and not putting a foot wrong.
It’s true that Ampadu is still short on experience, but it’s also clear that he definitely isn’t short on skills or confidence. He hasn’t played since the restart of the current campaign due to injury. But giving him a chance in Premier League action could save Chelsea millions in a potential transfer fee this summer.
Lampard has already shown a willingness to make use of academy products like Tomori, Mason Mount and Reece James. Could Ampadu be next in line? There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be.
#5 Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur)
Tottenham Hotspur have undoubtedly had a challenging Premier League season. The Champions League regulars have slipped down the table dramatically. Firing boss Mauricio Pochettino and replacing him with Jose Mourinho doesn’t seem to have helped that much either.
One of the biggest issues that Spurs have had in the current Premier League campaign has centred around star striker Harry Kane. Kane practically guarantees goals when he’s fit. But if he picks up an injury – as he did in January – the club simply have no reliable cover for him upfront.
Spurs should’ve addressed this issue in the January transfer window, but failed to do so. And while they might’ve looked to solve the problem in the summer, the COVID-19 pandemic now likely means that the funds to sign a striker may not be available, especially with the side lacking more in other positions.
The most simple solution, therefore, would be to promote from within. Not only would this save money, but it’d also solve the issue of finding a striker readily willing to play second fiddle to Kane. Someone who would likely be spending the majority of their time on the bench.
Thankfully for Spurs fans, it appears that the club do have the perfect solution in the form of 18-year-old Irish striker Troy Parrott.
Parrott has been at Tottenham since 2017 and has garnered a big reputation for himself at the club thanks to his goalscoring exploits at youth level, where he’s scored 31 goals in 37 appearances. And while he has yet to find the net at senior level, he has made a handful of appearances and has already made his debut for the Irish national side.
It’s true that Mourinho doesn’t have the best reputation for giving young talent a chance. And he’s already questioned whether Parrott is ready for the Premier League.
But that comment came prior to COVID-19. And with funds now likely much less than they might’ve been, he may be forced to give the 18-year old a Premier League opportunity. And who’s to say that he won’t take it?Published 06 Jul 2020, 01:44 IST