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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Top 10 young players in Premier League 2023/2024: Best Under 21 talents in EPL this season

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While many of the best players in the Premier League are in the prime of their careers, there are hugely talented younger players who have burst onto the scene and assumed starring roles. Teams like Arsenal and Manchester City are loaded with players 21 years old and younger who are contributing meaningful minutes already. Gunners winger Bukayo Saka won last year’s PFA Young Player of the Year award, given to the best Under-21 player of the Premier League season, and he looks primed to be a leading candidate for the award again, though others have emerged to challenge for the award. The Premier League has not seen one of its players win the prestigious Golden Boy award (overseen by Italian sports publication Tuttosport) since Anthony Martial in 2015, the year he joined Manchester United. Could the Premier League produce a candidate this year? The Sporting News brings you a list of the 10 best young players in the Premier League for the 2023/24 season, as well as those who just missed out. MORE: Premier League transfer spending rankings in 2023/24 Top 10 young players in the Premier League 2023/24 10. Rico Lewis (Manchester City) Age: 18 (Nov. 21, 2004) Position: Full-back Premier League debut: August 13, 2022 (vs. Bournemouth) Just 18 years old and with plenty of developing still to do, Rico Lewis may be the heir apparent to Kyle Walker’s full-back spot at Manchester City. A former captain of the club’s Under-18 team, Lewis has the maturity to play at a first-team level, Lewis is similar to Trent Alexander-Arnold in that he can play at full-back, but often drifts into midfield in possession. He can beat opponents on the dribble out wide, and capably finds a pass or cross to create attacking chances. He’ll get more minutes in the next two years, and if he doesn’t, other clubs will surely come calling. 9. Cole Palmer (Manchester City) Age: 21 (May 6, 2002) Position: Central midfielder Premier League debut: August 21, 2021 (vs. Norwich City) Another Manchester City youth product, 21-year-old Cole Palmer has seen sporadic minutes in Pep Guardiola’s midfield when required, and while he may not have a way into the treble-winning squad, he would have no issue finding a team to covet his skills. He’s a possessional savant, able to play in the middle or on the wing. He comes in the Kevin de Bruyne mold, and while he has miles to go to reach that bar, he has displayed many of the same visionary qualities. He may need to leave City to find minutes, but another Premier League side will surely appreciate what he brings. 8. Anthony Elanga (Nottingham Forest) Age: 21 (April 27, 2002) Position: Winger Premier League debut: May 11, 2021 (vs. Leicester City) It’s understandable why Manchester United, with loads of wingers in the squad, allowed 21-year-old Anthony Elanga to depart this summer, but they’ll still miss his talent. In his Nottingham Forest debut, he came off the bench and contributed to a goal within minutes, and should eventually grab a starting role. He makes things happen with the ball at his feet, with exceptional dribbling skills, and he’s got solid defensive qualities as well, especially in the air. Also, wildly, he’s never drawn a single yellow card in his first-team career across over 2,300 minutes. He’s got a chance this season to make his mark with consistent minutes. 7. Julio Enciso (Brighton) Age: 19 (January 23, 2004) Position: Forward Premier League debut: October 29, 2022 (vs. Chelsea) Winner of last year’s Goal of the Season, Brighton youngster Julio Enciso is still just 19 years old, but you wouldn’t know it watching him play. He’s got otherworldly dribbling abilities, and loves a shot on goal, averaging an insane 4.24 shots per 90 minutes in 2022/23. While the Paraguayan needs to improve his passing, often choosing high-risk options, he often makes good on those decisions that it’s almost worth the tradeoff. 6. Amadou Onana (Everton) Age: 21 (Aug. 16, 2001) Position: Central midfielder Premier League debut: August 13, 2022(vs. Aston Villa) Amadou Onana, 21, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise very difficult Everton campaign in 2022/23. Arriving from French club Lille, Onana was exceptional in his defensive responsibilities, stopping numerous counterattacks and playing a big role in Everton’s eventual (narrow) survival. Onana’s combination of size and speed are useful, but he is also accurate both in the air and tackling ball carriers. The Belgian was in the 99th percentile of European midfielders last season in his defending of take-ons, beating an incredible 71.4 percent of those who ran at him on the ball and losing just 0.43 dribble challenges per 90 minutes (98th percentile). Onana needs to improve his abilities on the ball and beginning attacking moves, but he also needs help from other players on the squad. 5. Michael Olise (Crystal Palace) Age: 21 (Dec. 12, 2001) Position: Winger Premier League debut: September 11, 2021 (vs. Tottenham) With Wilfried Zaha off to Galatasaray, the Crystal Palace attack now belongs to Michael Olise. He has a high defensive work rate and wins the ball well in the attacking third, springing the classic Roy Hodgson counterattack. Olise can play on both flanks, and has wonderful skill with the ball at his feet, able to take defenders on or deliver accurate long balls. His best skill, however, is his set-piece danger, from both corners and free-kicks. There’s little doubt he’ll be involved with the a senior national team in the future (He’s eligible to play for England, France, Nigeria, and Algeria). 4. Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United) Age: 19 (July 1, 2004) Position: Winger Premier League debut: April 28, 2022 (vs. Chelsea) The 19-year-old Manchester United winger has the world at his feet. If not for an ankle injury, Alejandro Garnacho could have had a solid run of minutes in 2022/23, but he’s primed to earn that chance this season. With Jadon Sancho not yet justifying his huge transfer fee, and Antony struggling, Garnacho seems to have a path to significant first-team minutes. The Argentine needs to prove he can stay healthy, but when on the field, he’s been electric. He is a dribbling wizard, and gets into dangerous areas on a consistent basis. During his 783 Premier League minutes across the last calendar year, he averaged 8.51 touches per 90 minutes in the opponent’s penalty area, which puts him in the 99th percentile of European wingers, even higher than attacking superstar Vinicius Jr, whose 8.38 puts him tops among qualifying players. Dream big 😴 pic.twitter.com/sQfDgEB3NC — Alejandro Garnacho (@agarnacho7) August 11, 2023 3. Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City) Age: 21 (Jan. 23, 2002) Position: Centre-back Premier League debut: TBD While Josko Gvardiol has a big task in front of him just breaking into a loaded Manchester City squad, he has the talent to become a consistent starter at the defending treble winners. Man City manager Pep Guardiola has a keen eye for identifying talent, and he has clearly seen something in Gvardiol. To be fair, he’s far from the only one to see it. Gvardiol is excellent on the ball, perfect for a possessional style of play, and he has a sparkling disciplinary record. He has to improve his defensive capabilities, especially his proficiency in the air, but he has the skill and size to make it happen. 2. Moises Caicedo (Brighton) Age: 21 (Nov. 2, 2001) Position: Central midfielder Premier League debut: April 9, 2022 (vs. Arsenal) Moises Caicedo, still just 21, has developed into one of the top defensive midfielders in the Premier League. His two best skills, passing and tackling, are the most valuable parts of a top defensive central midfielder’s game, and he can do so much more than that. Whether he ends up at Liverpool or Chelsea, Caicedo will be a valuable part of a European-caliber squad, with both teams keen on retooling their midfield. 1. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) Age: 21 (Sept. 5, 2001) Position: Right winger Premier League debut: Jan. 1, 2019 (vs. Fulham) It’s incredible to think that the Arsenal winger is still just 21 years old, having already established himself as a true Premier League and European star. The winner of the 2022/23 PFA Young Player of the Year award, he will be a shoo-in this year as well, unless he misses extended time. He got off the mark in the opening fixture of the 2023/24 season and looks to be a leader for Arsenal for years to come. We’re back 🔴 pic.twitter.com/t5Cztah15x — Bukayo Saka (@BukayoSaka87) August 12, 2023 Young players who just miss out on Top 10 list While these are the 10 most prominent young players on Premier League clubs to begin the 2023/24 campaign, there are others who could make an impact as well. Chelsea have a few, led by Armando Broja who showed flashes of brilliance before he was felled by an ACL injury that ended his previous campaign early. The 21-year-old Albanian international will need to show he can put that injury behind him to be considered for minutes moving forward. Also contracted to the London side are Malo Gusto and Noni Madueke, who are both rising talents that could see the field if they impress in training. Manchester United wide man Amad Diallo is another exciting player who scored 13 goals on loan with Sunderland last season in the Championship, and could see the field for the Red Devils this year. Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott is highly thought of at Anfield, and is still just 20 years old, but hasn’t yet displayed the required consistency to gain influence in the Reds squad. Tino Livramento, a 20-year-old defender, was a critical part of Southampton’s squad two years ago, and despite missing all of last season with an ACL tear, he’s earned a move to Newcastle. He could easily be worthy of a spot on this list by the end of the campaign.

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