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Friday, June 14, 2024

Which THREE Chelsea stars make it into our Young XI of the Season?

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Despite Manchester City ending the 2023-24 campaign with a fourth successive title in the trophy cabinet, the future is looking bright for many of their Premier League rivals.Although Chelsea’s Cole Palmer rightly picked up the Young Player of the Season award for his stunning 22-goal campaign at Stamford Bridge, there were a glut of young stars who also caught the eye for all the right reasons.So, to honour a wider breadth of youngsters after what proved an enthralling and entertaining campaign, Mail Sport has comprised a Young XI of the Season in a fairly conventional 4-3-3 formation.  And, unlike the Premier League, we have chosen only to consider players who were aged 22 or under at the start of the season, which rules out the likes of 24-year-old Alexander Isak, and youngsters who had not already established themselves as senior players for their respective teams, such as Bukayo Saka.Special mention must go to Anthony Gordon, who Mail Sport believed had already enjoyed his breakout year at Everton and thus wasn’t selected. And Lewis Miley was unlucky not to make the cut, too.But who else did we miss?  Cole Palmer won the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season after shining with Chelsea Palmer, who is joined above by Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo and Tottenham’s Destiny Udogie, is one of three Chelsea players to make our Young XI of the Year – but who else gets in? Bart Verbruggen Appearances: 21Clean sheets: 4 Arriving at the Amex from Anderlecht last summer, Bart Verbruggen was brought in by Brighton to rival Jason Steele’s role as first choice goalkeeper. The Belgian shot-stopper ended up sharing the gloves with Steele for much of the campaign, finishing off the season with 11 starts from a possible 14 games.Despite Brighton’s struggles defensively, the 21-year-old Belgian established himself as the No 1 by the end of the season, boasting the sixth-best save percentage in the division with 72.5 per cent. Bart Verbruggen has established himself as Brighton’s long-term No 1 goalkeeper at the AmexMalo Gusto Appearances: 27Goal contributions: 6 Taking his chance superbly while Reece James continued to suffer from a litany of injury setbacks, Malo Gusto emerged one of Chelsea’s best players under Mauricio Pochettino last season, assisting six goals from his 27 appearances at right back.His positivity with the ball and stability in defence gave Chelsea an important balance on the right-hand side, and his absence was sorely felt when central defender Axel Disasi deputised at full-back — the Blues lost three of four games without the Frenchman towards the end of 2023.After Gusto’s breakthrough season, it will be interesting to see how Chelsea’s new manager approaches the right-back spot upon James’ return. Surely, he’ll have to find a way of fitting them both into the first team… Chelsea’s Malo Gusto (above) deputised superbly at right back in the absence of Reece James Jarell Quansah  Appearances: 17Goal contributions: 2 The first of five on this list to have broken into Gareth Southgate’s England squad, Liverpool youngster Jarell Quansah enjoyed a fruitful run of games during Jurgen Klopp’s swansong season.Chalking up 17 Premier League appearances in total — and double that across all competitions — Quansah played the last six games of the season alongside Virgil van Dijk and consistently kept French international Ibrahima Konate out of the team.Now part of England’s 33-man training camp ahead of Euro 2024, Quansah has established himself a defensive star for the future and could well start next season as a mainstay in the Liverpool XI under Arne Slot. Jarell Quansah had lots to celebrate after breaking into the Liverpool team and England squadJarrad Branthwaite Appearances: 35Goal contributions: 3 Everton have reportedly whacked an £80million price tag on Jarrad Branthwaite ahead of this summer, and there’s no wonder why the likes of Man United are keen on the 21-year-old defender following his breakthrough year at Goodison Park. Branthwaite has started every league game for Everton since the third match of the season — barring a yellow card suspension in December — and, like Quansah, has won the favour of Southgate ahead of England’s Euro 2024 campaign.His introduction to the Toffees first team was a huge success for Sean Dyche and a key reason why they were not once again scrapping for survival towards the latter stages of the season. Everton likely won’t keep hold of him for long, but they are sure to fetch a sizeable fee should he leave Goodison Park in the near future. After his excellent season, Everton now reportedly want a fee of £80m for Jarrad Branthwaite Appearances: 28Goal contributions: 5 Quite comfortably the best young left-back in the league this season, Destiny Udogie flourished under Ange Postecoglou and was unlucky to pick up an injury to rule him out of the final six matches of the campaign.Tottenham evidently missed the Italian full-back during this period, losing four times and winning just twice against relegated outfits Sheffield United and Burnley, with Udogie offering both defensive solidity and natural pace in attack on the left flank.Impressed with what they saw from Udogie during his loan spell at Udinese in 2022-23, Spurs opted not to sign a left-back and instead gave the 21-year-old a season to prove himself. Daniel Levy will no doubt be pleased looking back at that decision… Destiny Udogie has locked down the left-back spot in Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham sideKobbie Mainoo Club: Manchester UnitedAge: 19 Appearances: 24Goal contributions: 4 The first teenager on the list, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him play. Kobbie Mainoo’s breakthrough year at Manchester United became one of the stories of the season after the midfielder scored the winner in last week’s FA Cup final against Manchester City.And the England youngster had a superb campaign in the Premier League too, playing all of United’s final 22 matches in the competition and scoring crucial goals against Wolves, Liverpool and Newcastle from defensive midfield.Mainoo’s talent and maturity in the engine room has been so impressive that several England fans are calling for him to start Euro 2024 alongside Declan Rice, with the midfielder all but a shoe-in to make Southgate’s 26-man squad. Kobbie Mainoo’s talent and maturity shone through for Manchester United this campaignAdam Wharton  Club: Crystal PalaceAge: 20 Appearances: 16Goal contributions: 3 From starting the season at Championship outfit Blackburn to ending it with a first England call-up, it’s fair to say no player has endured a more meteoric rise this year than Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton.The Eagles’ recruitment team have seen instant results since the 20-year-old’s arrival from Ewood Park in January, with Wharton starting every single match under Oliver Glasner since February.During that run, Palace only lost three matches and stormed to a top half finish in the Premier League, thanks largely to Wharton’s dictating of play at the base of midfield. In an astonishingly short space of time, the youngster has shown he can be a Premier League and England star of the future.Adam Wharton joined Crystal Palace in January and has been nothing short of a revelationJoao Gomes  Appearances: 34Goal contributions: 3 After losing Matheus Nunes to Manchester City in the summer, Wolves needed somebody to step up and fill his shoes — and Joao Gomes did that in spades.Perhaps anticipating that Nunes would leave at the end of last season, the Molineux chiefs brought Gomes in from Flamengo in January 2023, and the midfielder has since broken into Brazil’s national team, winning two caps after an excellent first full campaign in England.Gomes’ impressive performances in the centre of the park helped steer Wolves well clear of safety with a 14th-place finish, and Gary O’Neil will see the Brazilian as the player to build around in the transfer market heading into the summer window. Joao Gomes became a central part of Wolves’ side this season, featuring in 34 league matchesCole Palmer  Appearances: 34Goal contributions: 33 The first name of this team sheet, Cole Palmer’s season has been nothing short of exemplary. With 22 goals and 11 assists across 34 Premier League appearances this season, the numbers speak for themselves.But perhaps what’s most impressive about Chelsea’s new 22-year-old phenomenon is the manner in which he has taken to the spotlight. From his ‘ice cold’ trademark celebration to taking the responsibility of huge penalties such as converting the winner in the 4-3 victory over Manchester United, Palmer has shown he is more than comfortable with the pressure that comes with being a superstar.He has an admirer in Southgate too, who did not take long to recruit the ex-Man City star to his England ranks. Guiding the Three Lions to a European Championship trophy this summer would be the icing on the cake of simply sensational season. Palmer chalked up 33 goal contributions in 34 league games for Mauricio Pochettino’s sideAlejandro Garnacho Club: Manchester UnitedAge: 19 Appearances: 36Goal contributions: 11 After breaking into the Manchester United first team last season, Garnacho’s next task was to establish himself as a mainstay in Erik ten Hag’s starting XI. And he did just that, even kicking Marcus Rashford off the left wing spot by the end of the campaign.Featuring in 36 of United’s 38 Premier League matches, the Argentine teenager recorded seven goals and four assists across the season, while also winning Goal of the Season for his otherworldly overhead kick against Everton at Goodison Park.With Jadon Sancho exiled on loan to Dortmund, £80m flop Antony failing to impress and Rashford’s future up in the air ahead of the summer, Garnacho has fast become the most reliable winger at Old Trafford.Alejandro Garnacho became a mainstay in the Man United team and won Goal of the SeasonNicolas Jackson  Appearances: 35Goal contributions: 19 Explosive, dynamic and at times wasteful, Nicolas Jackson has had a intriguing first season at Stamford Bridge. Yet, for all his missed chances, the Senegalese forward ended his debut campaign with 14 goals and five assists to his name, which is an impressive feat at just 22 years of age.Capitalising on Christopher Nkunku’s injury problems, the Chelsea striker wore the responsibility of the No 9 shirt throughout the season and caused havoc with his pace in behind, creating opportunities for the likes of Palmer behind him. Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson netted 14 Premier League goals during his debut season in EnglandWhat will excite Chelsea fans the most is that Jackson does not seem the finished article yet, with a few creases still to iron out in front of goal. Put away these chances, and Stamford Bridge could have a serious talent on their books.

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