Gareth Bale‘s transfer to Real Madrid before the beginning of the 2013-14 season of the Premier league was yet another sign of the times. Money is not a problem when it comes to top talent in leagues all over Europe and while Spanish clubs are leading the line, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and PSG aren’t far behind. Club owners want cooked players who will come in and enhance the quality of the first team with impact performances. Nemanja Matic’s transfer to Chelsea this January is a case in point.
As a result of this, there is some kind of romance to it when a young player catches the imagination with his sudden burst on the scene even if the player is eventually appropriated by the market.
The current season of the Premier league has sprung a surprise on football fans considering the tepidity of last season when Manchester United ran away with the league in a one-horse race. Manchester United fans will not disagree with me when I say that the league was won without the team playing its best football. This season has been more congested with many teams revitalized with new talent, new management and every part of the table is being closely contested.
The pressure in such a competitive league is immense and to adapt and succeed under such conditions requires mature mental abilities. We have been fortunate that the season has unearthed a plethora of new talent who have made a mark on the football landscape in the Premier league. Some of these players have been groomed by their respective clubs, some are tasting the Premier league for the first time but in either case the benefit is for the game.
Here is a list of some young players who have made a significant impact this season. It can be said that these players had their breakthrough season and that has been the vague criteria for this selection:
The right-back was handed his debut under the reign of club-legend Kenny Dalglish but slipped into relative obscurity for a while after. Flanagan is a product of the Liverpool academy and knows that opportunities are limited at a top club. The Brendan Rodgers regime was kind to him as the manager clearly rewards hard-work put in training and gave him his chance which has been grabbed with both hands. He was slotted into the left-back position due to the absence of Jose Enrique with a knee injury and while he didn’t cover himself in glory, he made a case for himself putting in a gutsy performance.
He was handed yet another chance in the fierce-and-friendly Merseyside derby and it was evident how much it meant to him. In an exhilarating 3-3 draw, Flanagan was arguably the best player on the pitch who was determined in his defense, uninhibited in his tackling and aggressive in his attack as he provided support up the field with some surging runs. The sheer determination, the refusal to be kicked aside by an opponent reminds one of Jamie Carragher who was yet another academy product.
Flanagan cemented his growing reputation with a stunning goal against Tottenham in Liverpool’s five star performance at White Hart Lane. Kenny Dalglish was seen beaming in the stands as the boy pumped his fists in celebration and the Reds huddled around the lad. Flanagan has continued to impress and looks even more authoritative as he fills in for injured Glen Johnson at his natural right-back position.
He was dominant in defense against Arsenal as Liverpool toppled the league leaders at Anfield. He will be a fan favorite if he continues this kind of growth.
Sterling made his presence felt early during last season when Brendan Rodgers decided to utilize his pace at the head of the pitch in the absence of a strike partner for Luis Suarez. Sterling’s raw pace meant that he could stretch defenses, get behind the last line of defense and cause trouble on the wings. The talent of this boy was never in doubt but there were a few concerns about his temperament and attitude. He was involved in a few off-field controversies and fizzled out to the margins of the squad late last season.
Rodgers was careful and conscious of the demands that a fierce league makes of a young player and hence he was shielded when he wasn’t at his best. The preservation has yielded results this season as the finger has found another gear and has flourished in the company of Suarez and Sturridge.
Sterling’s strengths remain the same but he has added a bit more of composure to his game. The change is mental, in terms of attitude and focus, as well as tactical. The system being employed by Rodgers combined with greater tactical skill has allowed the winger to make his case for a ticket to Brazil in the context of another tragic injury to Theo Walcott.
Sterling is just 19 and will develop even more in the coming years. He needs to add more goals to his game, be more precise with his finishing. He has exhibited the desire to do so grabbing important goals against the Tottenham and Arsenal this season.