With the international break bringing club football to a halt over the next couple of weeks, we get a chance to look back on what has been an intensely competitive season of English football. Like everything else around us, the Premier League was affected by the pandemic, which saw a complete overhaul in the scheduling of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
For the first time, there was only a week's break between the end of 2019/20 and the ongoing 20/21 PL season. Fans got an opportunity to enjoy more than one match-day of their favorite team in a single week, and it was the first full season to allow for 5 substitutes in a game.
However, this led to a heavily packed schedule for clubs, causing them to dig deep into their reserves as we witnessed over 30 U21 players making their PL debuts this season alone. The start of the 2019/20 Premier League season saw the average age of Premier League teams drop to 26 years and 275 days - the lowest it has been in 11 years.
By the end of the extended season, Manchester United had fielded the youngest team last season with an average of 25 years and 3 months, followed by Chelsea and Bournemouth - both with an average of less than 26. In a world where big-money transfers and humongous contracts are the norm, fans enjoy seeing young players grind their way to the top and earn their badges, now more than ever.
With that being said, today we will look at the 5 best U21 players in English football this season.
#5 Tariq Lamptey (20 years old) | Brighton & Hove Albion FC
Kicking off our list at #5 is Brighton defender Tariq Lamptey, who has made an immediate impact since his PL debut this season. A product of the Chelsea academy, Tariq decided to transition from London to Brighton in search of regular team football. He has made 11 appearances in the PL this season before a hamstring injury saw him out of action since last year.
Before the injury setback, Lamptey was in exceptional form for the Seagulls, showing ample pace and penetration from his position at right-back and sometimes even on the right side of Brighton's midfield. The 20-year old is what we football fans describe as being a "busy player" - constantly buzzing in the middle of the park, moving the ball upfield effectively from his defensive role. His prowess in the attacking third has also been apparent in his limited time in the PL, creating 10 chances and a goal he'll never forget - an equalizer against Tottenham Hotspur, which unfortunately ended in a 2-1 loss for the Seagulls.
#4 Bukayo Saka (19 years old) | Arsenal FC
Next up is Gunners winger Bukayo Saka, who has been a breakthrough star in what has turned out to be a pretty abysmal season for Arsenal. He's arguably been the best player for the Gunners, with 5 goals and 2 assists in 25 PL appearances this season. The young Englishman is currently third among Arsenal's goal-scorers this season and occupies the same position in the assists rankings. Along with this, Saka sits in second place in terms of chances created (over 25, with 4 "Big Chances" created).
The teenager has become an integral part of Arsenal's gameplay in the attacking third, occupying the left winger/midfielder position. The 19-year old has immense talent at his disposal and is regarded as one of the most promising prospects for the future of English football. In a season where Arsenal have struggled to find the right mix in their attacking setup, Saka is quickly becoming an indispensable part of it.