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6 youngsters who could become key players for the traditional top-six clubs | Premier League 2019-20

  • The Premier League's biggest clubs are all producing great young talent, and these 6 could go onto become key players for their teams.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 14 Mar 2020, 03:47 IST

Mason Greenwood has enjoyed a breakout season at Manchester United
Mason Greenwood has enjoyed a breakout season at Manchester United

The 2019-20 Premier League season has been notable for several reasons – Liverpool’s charge to their first title, the downfall of Tottenham and Arsenal, Sheffield United’s inexplicable Champions League push – but one of its hallmarks has also been the rise of some incredible young talent. In recent seasons, the Premier League’s top sides – the so-called ‘Big Six’ – haven’t exactly been renowned for bringing through young talent aside from a handful of exceptions, but 2019-20 has seen that all change, with several academy products breaking through into each side without exception.

Here are 6 young stars that could become key players for the Premier League’s top sides in the near future.


#1 Phil Foden - Manchester City

Phil Foden could finally establish himself in Manchester City
Phil Foden could finally establish himself in Manchester City's first team next season

Manchester City’s attacking midfielder Phil Foden has perhaps garnered the most hype of any young English player since Wayne Rooney over 15 years ago, and while the current campaign has been another somewhat frustrating one for him – he’s started just 11 matches, although he’s made a further 13 appearances as a substitute – he’s shown enough flashes of his massive potential to suggest that Pep Guardiola should definitely make him a key component of his team next season.

The recent EFL Cup final, for instance, saw the 19-year old named as Man of the Match after creating the opening goal for Sergio Aguero and generally tormenting Aston Villa’s defence from the right side of the pitch throughout the game. He’s also scored 2 goals and registered 2 assists in 4 Champions League appearances this season, while averaging 1.5 key passes per game with a remarkable pass success rate of 90.6%.

Foden has long been seen as the successor to the legendary David Silva as the creative fulcrum of City’s team, and with the Spaniard due to depart the Etihad at the end of the season, 2020-21 will hopefully be the campaign that the England U-21 international is given his chance to show just how talented he is.


#2 Bukayo Saka - Arsenal

Bukayo Saka has impressed as a winger and as a left-back at Arsenal
Bukayo Saka has impressed as a winger and as a left-back at Arsenal

Arsenal have introduced several youngsters into their first team this year – Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Gabriel Martinelli have all broken through into the Gunners’ senior side – but the biggest success story has undoubtedly been Bukayo Saka. The 18-year old has burst onto the scene this season, and now it seems like he’ll be a fixture in Arsenal’s side for years to come.

Saka was initially used as a winger during the early part of the season, particularly while Unai Emery was still in charge at the Emirates, but in later months he’s been primarily deployed as a left-back or left wing-back, and under Mikel Arteta, he’s been massively effective from the position to the point where he’s often been the Gunners’ most impressive player.

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The England youth international has now put together a record of 2 goals and 8 assists in all competitions, and in Arsenal’s wins over Bournemouth, Newcastle and Everton he was absolutely sensational, particularly with his dribbling and passing range. It’s hard to say right now which is his best position; his attacking work is clearly better than his defensive work for now, but that could easily change in the future. Either way, he’s almost certainly going to be a superstar in the years to come.


#3 Japhet Tanganga - Tottenham Hotspur

Defender Japhet Tanganga has become a regular at Spurs under Jose Mourinho
Defender Japhet Tanganga has become a regular at Spurs under Jose Mourinho

Tottenham have become a club renowned for introducing academy products into their first team in recent seasons, with the likes of Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Kyle Walker-Peters and Oliver Skipp all breaking through to varying degrees of success. When Mauricio Pochettino was fired and replaced by Jose Mourinho, though, a lot of people expected that to change.

That’s why it’s been such a breath of fresh air to see 20-year old defender Japhet Tanganga break through and establish himself in Spurs’ first team. The academy product made a surprising debut against league leaders Liverpool back in January, and despite his side suffering a 0-1 loss, he was surprisingly brilliant, keeping Sadio Mane largely quiet throughout the game.

Since then, Tanganga has gone onto make a further 9 appearances for his boyhood club, and while the quality of his performances have varied somewhat, he’s still shown himself to be massively talented, and versatile too as he’s played in every possible defensive position. A high average of 2.8 successful tackles per game marks him out as a tricky defender to play against – and so it’s likely that Spurs have unearthed themselves a stalwart for years to come.


#4 Mason Greenwood - Manchester United

Mason Greenwood has scored 5 goals for Manchester United in European competition this season
Mason Greenwood has scored 5 goals for Manchester United in European competition this season

Prior to the commencement of the 2019-20 season, Mason Greenwood was described by his boss at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as perhaps the most natural finisher he had available to him at the club. 8 months on, despite not starting quite as many games as some might’ve hoped, the 18-year old has largely proved his boss correct.

Greenwood has scored 10 goals this season – 5 in the Premier League and 5 in the Europa League – despite only starting 9 games in those competitions. In fact, his total playing time comes to 1108 minutes – meaning he averages a goal around every 110 minutes, just over a goal per game. That’s an impressive statistic however you look at it.

There can be no doubt that the England youth international is destined for stardom, and the fact that this week saw him become the first teenager to score at least 5 goals for the Red Devils in European competition – something even Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford failed to manage – should tell its own story. United fans can definitely expect big things from the 18-year old in 2020-21.


#5 Billy Gilmour - Chelsea

Chelsea
Chelsea's Billy Gilmour has earned himself comparisons to the great Andres Iniesta

Chelsea have been criticised over recent seasons for their failure to bring their promising academy products into their first team, but that’s all changed in 2019-20, as new boss Frank Lampard has been happy to build his starting XI around youngsters such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James. The latest player to join that list is Billy Gilmour – and judging by his early showings, the Scottish midfielder could be the best of the bunch.

Just 18 years old, the former Rangers starlet made his Premier League debut as a substitute in Chelsea’s draw with Sheffield United back in August, but it was in their recent wins over Liverpool and Everton that he really moved into the spotlight. Given his shot at a starting berth due to various injuries in Chelsea’s squad, Gilmour has grasped his chance with both hands.

The midfielder was able to control the game against the Toffees from the middle of the park with his work on the ball and tremendous passing range, and even drew comparisons to the Spanish legend Andres Iniesta for his ability to find space and time in tight areas, ending the match with an impressive pass success rate of 90.1%. Reportedly, Gilmour has already drawn the interest of Barcelona and Real Madrid – but Chelsea will hope to keep him and make him into a star at Stamford Bridge for years to come.


#6 Curtis Jones - Liverpool

Curtis Jones could provide Liverpool
Curtis Jones could provide Liverpool's midfield with some creative spark

Liverpool’s massive success this season has meant that none of their younger players – aside from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, who have already established themselves in the Reds’ starting XI in previous seasons – have really been able to make noise in the Premier League, but the domestic cup competitions have seen several prospects come to the forefront.

The most impressive of the bunch? Curtis Jones, a product of Liverpool’s academy who grew up in the centre of the city and signed for the club at the age of just 9. A flashy attacking midfielder, Jones’ greatest strength appears to lie in his dribbling, but he’s also got a tremendous range of passing, as well as shooting ability – as local rivals Everton found out when his jaw-dropping goal sent them crashing out of the FA Cup in January.

It’s worth noting that under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds haven’t really used a creative midfielder since the departure of Philippe Coutinho in 2018 – instead leaving their full-backs to provide a lot of their assists. Jones could change that, and with Adam Lallana set to depart Anfield in the summer, the youngster will hopefully be given his chance to shine in the 2020-21 season – and could well develop into a local hero just like legendary Reds midfielder Steven Gerrard did.

Published 14 Mar 2020, 03:47 IST
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