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Top 10 youngsters to watch out for - EPL

Modified 13 Aug 2012, 00:14 IST
Top 5 / Top 10

Every season, high hopes are placed on various youngsters to either break into their first teams or improve on their previous season’s performances and rise to another level. Some players like Chris Smalling are able to live up to these expectations and become regular members, while others like Darren Gibson are unable to cope up with these high expectations and fail to deliver for their side.

Here we take a look at ten youngsters who are good enough to make it count for their respective teams this season.

10. Steven Caulker (Age 20)

Steven Caulker had an impressive loan spell at Swansea making 26 appearances for the Welsh side despite struggling with injuries. Caulker also showed his maturity at the Olympics while playing in all four of  Team GB’s games.

Caulker is good in the air and has also shown his composed range of passing whilst on-loan at Swansea last season.

With Spurs having signed Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson returning from his injury spell, Caulker may not find the path to the first team easy, but with some decent performances he could find himself ahead of Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong in the pecking order.

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     26                       0                           1

9. James McClean (Age 23)


The £350,000 signing by Steve Bruce, didn’t make his EPL debut until Martin O’Neill took charge of The Rokerites, but has his since gone on to make 23 league appearances scoring five goals in the process.

His meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed with the winger included in Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad and being linked with a move to many top clubs. His style has been at times compared to that of Welsh winger Gareth Bale, with Sunderland legend Gary Bennett saying-

“Like James, Gareth likes to go down the outside and doesn’t always beat a man, but whips in quality balls. Teams are aware of James’ threat now and hopefully he can develop, get stronger and understand the game better now.”

The Sunderland fans surely be hoping more from the Irish midfilder as the Black Cats target the European spots.

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     29                       6                           4

8. Rafael da Silva (Age 22)

Rafael da Silva has been around for a while now and has been regularly tipped as Manchester United’s right-back for the long haul.

Despite injuries and challenges posed by Phil Jones and Smalling, the Brazilian managed 18 appearances for the Reds in the past campaign. Rafael has signed a new four year contract and will hope that his impressive performances at Olympics will help his case at Old Trafford.

Manchester United legend Gary Neville on Rafael -


‘Rafael’s always had the ability. He gets to the ball quickly, he is aggressive, he defends his position well, he is tough, courageous, good on the ball, he gets forward well and provides energy in attack. He has also got a great attitude. He is more than capable of going on to become United’s right-back for many years.’

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     18                       0                           4

7. Fabio Borini (Age 21)

The new Liverpool front-man is no stranger to English football having already had a stint with Chelsea. But he is remembered for his loan spell with Swansea, where he scored six goals in twelve appearances, as the Welsh side won promotion to the EPL.

Borini had an injury plagued yet impressive campaign for Roma, where he scored ten goals in twenty-six appearances which secured him a place in Italy’s Euro 2012 squad.

Linking up again with Brendon Rodgers, who managed him during his time at Liberty stadium, Borini will hope to take his chances at Anfield with both hands, as Liverpool try to solve their problems in front of goal and ease the goal scoring burden on Luiz Saurez.

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     26                      10                           0

6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Age 18)

Arsene Wenger won the race to sign the highly rated winger last summer, despite strong competition from various top clubs for a fee of around £15 million.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, repaid his manager’s faith with some impressive performances and found himself as a regular Arsenal first-team member just months into his career at the Emirates. His impact didn’t go unnoticed with the fans as they booed Wenger’s decision to replace him with Andrei Arshavin in the 78th minute against arch-rivals Manchester United.


The four goals and three assists in twenty-six appearances, combined with his impressive performances were enough to land him a place in England’s Euro 2012 squad and impressed in his only start (against France).

The English winger will surely be hoping to build on his impressive first year at the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger on Oxlade-Chamberlain-

“Chamberlain has made big steps in the last few months. He has improved very quickly. He is a fighter as well, with personality, and is much more mature now. In a very short period of time he has become an important player who can make a difference.

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     26                       4                           3

5. Joe Allen (Age 22)

Liverpool’s latest acquisition, the Welsh playmaker comes in for what will look like a bargain price if the the midfielder can improve on his already impressive displays.

Allen is a box-to-box midfielder who plays well as a deep-lying playmaker dictating the tempo from deep and rotating possession. Rather than attempting to play the show-stopping pass at every opportunity, he knows the importance of keeping the ball. He had the second best passing percentage (91) in England last season, and has also shown at the Olympics that he can play well with no matter who he is partnered with in the midfield.

The Welsh midfielder is tipped to be the ideal man to spread Brendon Rodgers’ tiki-taka/total football style. It remains to be seen if Joe Allen can fit in with the big boys at Anfield, and help the club in their push for a  Top Four finish.

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     39                       4                           2

4. Phil Jones  (Age 20)

Dubbed as the new “Duncan Edwards”, the Lancashire born defender had an impressive start to life at Manchester United only to see his level of play drop as the season progressed.


Phil Jones possesses incredible versatility and has played in various positions other than his favoured centre-back spot, with Sir Alex using him as a right-bank and in midfield. He has also been tipped to captain Manchester United and England in future, but for now Jones needs to improve and win a regular place in Manchester United’s starting eleven.

With the disappointment of losing the EPL to City behind, Jones will surely be hoping to build on his impressive start the previous start.

Alan Hansen on Phil Jones-

“Phil Jones is going to be an outstanding defender, England’s best hope of becoming another Rio Ferdinand, but the Euros are going to come too quickly for him.”

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     41                       2                           3

3. Oscar (20 years)

Oscar moved to Chelsea in a £25M deal this summer to add their already impressive pool of attackers, which includes new boys Marko Marin and Eden Hazard, along with Frank Lampard, Ramires, Sturridge and Juan Mata, but the youngster has used the Olympics to show that he has the mental strength as well as the physical capabilities to adapt well and even thrive in the English game.

Oscar has shown that not only does he possess great vision and balance, but also technical ability to execute important through balls and skills to evade tackles.

With Chelsea already handing the young playmaker Drogba’s number 11, big things can be expected from him in the coming seasons.

Roberto Di Matteo on Oscar-

“Oscar is a fantastic player, one of the youngest to push through to the Brazilian national team and he will be a fantastic signing for us. He is a very exciting young talent, a creative midfield player who scores goals. He will add a lot of options and solutions for us in midfield.” 

Last years’ performance card 

           Season           Appearance             Goals               Assists
            2011                 44               13                  10
            2012                 20                 6                  10

2. Mario Balotelli (Age 21)

Mario Balotelli is arguably the most famous and decorated youngster on this list, having already won four league titles and a Champions league, but still the 21-year old youngster has a long way to go if he wants to fulfill his mammoth potential.

Despite scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances in the previous season, he has been a regular in English tabloids for all the wrong reasons, which have ranged from fighting with team-mates to setting his own house on fire, and to being summoned to provide evidence in a Mafia trial.

The next season will be crucial for Balotelli, after being nearly sold by Mancini who had reportedly become frustrated with his compatriot’s disciplinary issues, but if the undoubtedly talented Balotelli can improve his behavior both on and off the field, he has the stage set for him at Etihad to become one of the best footballers in the world and enjoy years of success with the Blues.

Roberto Mancini on Balotelli-

‘‘Mario is a young player, he has fantastic talent, but he is young he can do some mistakes sometimes.’’

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     32                       17                           2

1. Eden Hazard (Age 21)

After flirting with virtually every top club in Europe, Hazard finally joined European champions Chelsea in a £32M deal.


Hazard is known for his creativity, speed, and technical ability and also possesses the ability to change games. Hazard is effective with both of his feet allowing him to switch flanks easily. Hazard’s “flair and tricky” style of play has been described as being similar to Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, while his pace coupled with his finishing and inability to be dispossessed easily have drawn him comparisons with Lionel Messi.

Despite being among the top dogs in France, Hazard will need to raise his game considerably to compete with the best in England. This season will be crucial for the Belgian, as he will need to prove that he is more than just words and deserves to be rated among the best in his generation.

Zinedine Zidane on Eden Hazard-

“Eden is technically gifted and very fast. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed. He can become a great footballer; he is a star of the future.”

Last year’s performance card 

              Appearances                    Goals                      Assists
                     48                       22                           16
Published 13 Aug 2012, 00:00 IST
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