The Premier League’s Top Teen Talent
There are some supremely talented young players in the Premier League, many of them still in their teens, and here we take a quick look at the best of them.
Back in December, Pep Guardiola said, “I think England has a diamond” when talking about Foden. He is not the only one; many have said that Foden is the most exciting young English player since Wayne Rooney.
However, Guardiola then went on to mention the biggest problem facing the young talent, “There are few 18-year-olds who could play regularly, competing with David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne.”
It is always difficult for young players to make the breakthrough, but this is even harder when two of the best midfielders ever to play in the Premier League are also in your team. At this point patience becomes extremely important. Foden is going to have to wait for his chance with Guardiola saying it is ‘impossible’ for him to even get some game time on loan. It is understandable why Guardiola wants to keep him around, Fodan, who was the winner of the 2017 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award and the Under-17 World Cup Golden Ball winner, has all the attributes needed to be part of the City team. However, the result is that Foden is just going to have to be very patient and make the most of his opportunities when they arrive.
Ryan Sessegnon has certainly not made the impact he was hoping to in the Premier League this season, but it is important to remember that he is only 18, despite having played for the Fulham first team for over two years.
Furthermore, his team’s failure to impress this season should in no way detract from what Sessegnon achieved in the Championship. When he was 17 he won five gongs at the EFL Awards, including Apprentice of the Year and Championship Player of the Year, after he scored 15 goals from a number of positions on the left in the regular season. He then went on to play a direct role in three goals during the team’s three play-off matches.
Sessegnon is an England Under-21 international and is just nine matches away from his 100th senior match. He has already attracted a great deal of attention from rival clubs and if he is able to continue his development, then he is likely to become a highly sought after player in the coming year.
Matteo Guendouzi’s arrival at Arsenal over the summer did not attract a huge amount of attention, he come from Lorient in the French second division and not much was expected of him. However, he went on to surprise everyone, including Unai Emery.
Only Lucas Torreira, an international holding midfielder signed for three times the price, has played in more games this season. Furthermore, while Torreira was given a gentle start to the Premier League, Guendouzi was thrown in the deep end after impressing Emery during pre-season. Guendouzi was trusted to start against teams such as Manchester City and Chelsea, and even drew praise from Ian Wright, “The best thing I’ve seen in the two games from this youngster is the kind of heart and spirit and drive and somebody who continuously wants the ball. He’s driving, he’s upset when things go wrong, I haven’t seen that for ages at Arsenal.”
While Jose Mourinho had a terrible season with Manchester United, he was the one responsible for bringing in Diogo Dalot. At the time Mourinho said, “In his age group, he is the best full-back in Europe and we all believe he has a bright future ahead of him at Manchester United.”
Dalot, who is 19 years old, was signed for around £19 million. He has had a mixed start to his time at United due to injuries, but in his appearances so far there have been times when it was obvious why Mourinho was so pleased to sign him.
Now under Solskjaer, it seems that Dalot is set to thrive. He delivers excellent crosses from the flank and has the mobility to recover his defensive position when necessary. Mourinho thought that Dalot could be Gary Neville’s successor, and many think that he will end Antonio Valencia’s career with United.
Bayern Munich were willing to pay £35 million for a winger who had not had a single Premier League start, suggesting that Hudson-Odoi certainly has a lot to offer.
While Bayern may yet succeed in buying the 18 year old, there is still time for him to prove himself at Chelsea. Hudson-Odoi can play on either flank, as he showed in the cup appearances on either side against Nottingham Forest and Spurs last week. Furthermore, with Willian and Pedro not getting any younger, and Eden Hazard likely to leave, Chelsea will be working hard to persuade Hudson-Odoi to stay.
It seems that Maurizio Sarri is now fully aware that he may soon lose Hudson-Odoi as he recently spoke out to try to reassure the teenager that he will have more chances, “Now he is ready. Of course, sometimes he will be on the bench but the same as Willian and Pedro. I can start to consider him on the same level.”
Reiss Nelson, who is just 19, grew up with Jadon Sancho in South London and the two are still spurring each other on in the Bundesliga. At present Nelson is on loan from Arsenal and given how impressive he has been for Hoffenheim, it would not be surprising if Arsenal were keen to bring him home quickly.
Nelson has scored six Bundesliga goals from five starts and eight substitute appearances, and has a scoring rate of once every 82 minutes. However, Unai Emery seems happy to leave him where he is for now, “His progress has been great. In pre-season he worked with us but here minutes and responsibilities are more difficult because he’s young and the decision to leave is important for him and for us.”
Nelson signed a five-year contract with Arsenal before going on loan and it seems likely that Emery will be planning to integrate him into his first team next season. The player has also said that he is keen to play for the England senior team after scoring two goals in four Under-21s games, and Gareth Southgate has said that he is watching him very carefully.
Frank Lampard wanted to borrow Ethan Ampadu from Chelsea and take him to Derby City for the rest of the season, but the team would not let him. Ampadu, who is just 18 years old, was playing in the Football League when he was 15.
Ampadu has only played for the Chelsea first team three times, but this is largely due to injury. He had four senior Wales caps before he turned eighteen and coach Ryan Giggs said, “He’s going to be magnificent.”
It is not yet known where Ampadu’s best position is, he came to Chelsea from Exeter as a midfielder, but he has spent more time at the back with the Blues. Sarri is likely to give him time as a centre-back, but it is his versatility that makes him so attractive to clubs.
Not long ago Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo came under a lot of pressure when his side had won just one point from six games. In response, Santo brought on Gibbs-White. The 18 year old was given his first Premier League start against Chelsea, and he then played a leading role in the team’s victory in that match.
Gibbs-White, who is an England Under-17 World Cup winner, set up his team’s equaliser in that game, making him the youngest player to make a Premier League assist in close to 20 years. However, it was his general performance that truly caught the eye. He was asked to play in a false nine role, and managed to be a constant irritation to Chelsea while they fought to build up their usual passing momentum.
After the game Nuno said, “He’s one of the best generation of English players for a long time. Together, we’re going to try to build something.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is eager to give Manchester United’s younger players a chance and so far there has been the biggest buzz around 17 year old Mason Greenwood.
Greenwood was even on the bench for the team’s Champions League trip to Valencia with Mourinho, and that a week before his starring role in the team’s 4 – 3 win that knocked Chelsea out of the FA Youth Cup.
Greenwood is a centre-forward capable of playing anywhere across the front line. He has scored 20 goals in 17 appearances this term across United’s Under-18s and Under-23s and created another five. He signed his first professional contract in October, and he looks set to make his first team debut any day now.