Rahul Warrier brings you the next edition of this series and talks about the best U-19 players to watch out for in the Premier League this season.
Ola Aina // England // Chelsea // 19 // Right-back
Born in London, Aina belongs to a group of Chelsea youngsters that have come through the youth ranks, as opposed to being bought from a foreign country. Chelsea have enjoyed success at the youth level for a number of years now, and Aina has been part of that success. He’s continued to make progress, impressing former manager Mourinho who included him in the post and pre-season tours of 2015. Aina can play across the backline, but it is the right-flank which suits him the best. He isn’t afraid to get forward, constantly bustling forward in support of the right-winger and making overlapping runs. In the current era full-backs are expected to be a second winger, but Conte puts an emphasis on defensive stability as well. His awareness and strength allow him to be a strong defender too. He recently signed on the dotted line, and with starting right-back Branislav Ivanovic injured, Aina could start at right-back this season. This allows him the chance to put real pressure on Ivanovic when he comes back. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Aina make this his breakthrough year. The Chelsea faithful will hope he can emulate club legend John Terry.
Mason Holgate // England // Everton // 19 // Centre-back
John Stones made his move to Manchester City last week for a highly-inflated fee of 47.5 million pounds. A ball-playing defender, Stones had a penchant for impressing and infuriating at the same time. Koeman moved to replace him with the experienced Ashley Williams and wants to add Lamine Kone too. But there has been an alternative at the club for the past year. Mason Holgate was a signing made last season with an eye to potentially being the next Stones. Why? Both defenders came to Merseyside from Barnsley. Holgate has the ability to play at right-back in addition to central defense. He also possesses enough pace to allow him to push forward as well as track back. Holgate is 6 feet and 3 inches already, which means his physical development will be crucial in the coming years. Koeman will be able to help in the growth of Holgate as a player; he’s already a fan of the player. Holgate’s temperament is also such that he was tasked with marking Ibrahimovic in the recent friendly. There is a lot of promise and fans will hope this season will be Holgate’s year. If it is, the departure of Stones will be reduced to a minor memory.
Josh Tymon // England // Hull City // 17 // Left-back
Hull are the overwhelming favourites to go down this year after various injuries, a managerial resignation, departure of a key player and ownership troubles. However a small ray of sunshine in a side surrounded by gloom could be the emergence of Josh Tymon. The attack-minded left-back made his debut in January 2016 aged 16 and has continued to progress. He impressed in a 0-0 draw versus Arsenal and has piqued both Arsenal and Tottenham’s interest. Tymon is set to stay for another year at least. Though his positional competitor, Andy Robertson, is himself young and an impressive full-back, Tymon is set for his Premier League debut in the coming season and more. A season of progress will set him up well to be the starter in the following season if Hull stay up (when Robertson leaves). If they don’t though, Hull will struggle to hold on to Tymon. The Tigers have an impressive set of promising full-backs (Robertson, Tymon and Odubajo); expectations should be reined in, but fans must be hopeful Tymon will be a famous graduate in the years to come.
Ben Chilwell // England // Leicester City// 19 // Left-back
Leicester enjoyed one of the greatest sporting miracles last year, winning the Premier League, but what was most impressive was that Ranieri achieved it with a small squad size. This year however will be a greater challenge as they compete in Europe as well. That means more players are likely to get game time, and Chilwell could be the beneficiary of this. A product of the academy, he made his debut in the League Cup last year and also started in an FA Cup game, while he also spent a short time on loan at Huddersfield. He was impressive in a high-pressing style adopted by the manager David Wagner. Chilwell has pace and a decent cross on him, while he also supports his centre-back with his defensive work. He is also very mature for his age, having his head firmly on his shoulders. Leicester were tempted by Liverpool’s overtures this year, with a mooted 5 million pounds offer from the Merseysiders, but the left-back wisely chose to commit to the Champions. His development will be aided with game time at a high level. Fuchs is the left-back ahead of him, but at 30 he cannot play every game. Chilwell will have a major part to play this year; one hopes he will justify the hype around him.
Sheyi Ojo // England // Liverpool // 19 // Winger
The emergence of Sheyi Ojo is likely the reason fellow young winger Jordon Ibe chose to join Bournemouth. The winger joined Liverpool from MK Dons for a relatively huge fee for a 14-year old. He’s made progress since his move, moving to Wigan on loan in January 2015, making 11 appearances, and then to Wolverhampton last year, during which he made 19 appearances, scoring 3 goals and 4 assists. He had a topsy-turvy time at Molineux, racking up good enough numbers for a player making his way into football, but he was more the impact substitute than consistent starter. That could be his role this season under Klopp. Liverpool are blessed with a plethora of attacking options this year, which means Ojo faces a fight for game time, but his directness and pace means he remains a viable option to come on from the bench and potentially make a difference. Coupled with some injuries, Ojo may find his way into the starting XI. Whether he goes on to be a Sterling or an Ibe remains to be seen, but his future looks very promising for the Reds.
Axel Tuanzebe // England // Manchester United // 18 // Centre-back
Timothy Fosu-Mensah may be the more well-known youth in the first-team squad, but Axel Tuanzebe has as much potential in him to make it as a centre-back. Born in Congo, Tuanzebe is virtually a localite. He’s been involved in the United academy since 8 and was the recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award in 2015 for being the best u-18 player in the season. The ball-playing defender is athletic, a good reader of the game and is fast. He is also mature for his age, being the captain of the u-18 side. Weaknesses in his game aren’t obvious at this stage; though his physique is more on the slight side and is tackling isn’t the best. Tuanzebe has a bright future ahead of him, though comparisons to Rio Ferdinand, a United great, are premature. Mourinho has been impressed by him in training and in pre-season (against Wigan). The hope for this season is that his progress is not hampered: a loan to a Championship side for regular game time or a stay at United where he’ll play in the Cups, U-21 league and the odd game in England and Europe could help him. United’s lack of depth at the back could help him in this regard. A great prospect, United fans will hope he can emulate the success of Ferdinand.
Tosin Adarabioyo // England // Manchester City // 18 // Centre-back
John Stones became the second-most expensive defender in the world recently, signing for the Citizens. However his arrival is unlikely to stall the development of Tosin Adarabioyo, a fast-developing defender in the academy. A strong ball-playing defender, he joined the Man City academy aged 5. He made his debut for the first-side in an FA Cup game against Chelsea when then-managed Pellegrini put in a heavily rotated side and paid for it. Adarabioyo however was one to come out of the game with some credit. New manager Guardiola has been very impressed by the player of Nigerian heritage and gave him game time in all pre-season games, one of which he was named Man of the Match (v Dortmund). He is tall, rangy, quick and a good reader of the game. What Guardiola will be attracted to is his ball-playing abilities. The Spaniard may not be at City for a decade, but he may well guide Stones and Adarabioyo to be the backline for a decade. A loan move this season may seem the logical move, but he could stay if Mangala is sold. Either would be beneficial for the growing defender, and under Guardiola’s tutelage, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Josh Onomah // England // Tottenham Hotspur // 19 // Midfielder
The arrival of Pochettino has seen Tottenham develop a core of young and talented English players, including the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier. Josh Onomah could be the next name to add on that list. The academy graduate joined the club aged 9 and has not looked back since. He was a bit-part player last season, making appearances from the bench as the manager chose to stick with a side that was putting in consistent performances on a weekly basis. Onomah is versatile, able to play in central midfield and further forward, where he is best employed. He has a great range of passing, while his dribbling, physicality and movement are characteristics that hint to a highly promising player. Onomah can expect more game time this year, given their involvement in Europe. Pochettino has proven to be a manager that will give chances to the youth if they deserve it, and Onomah has been knocking at the door for some time. He has to look at Alli for inspiration- he made an impressive start to his season and never looked back. This year could be his season if he continues to work hard. Chances will come his way; the ball is firmly in his court. An exciting prospect for Tottenham and England fans to watch.
Jonathan Leko // England // West Brom // 17 // Winger
Saido Berahino has been the centre of transfer speculation for the last year, however the club should end the unwanted saga and sell Berahino for a fee which will definitely be in excess of 20 million. This money could be re-invested into the squad. Why should they sell a young English striker with a lot of potential though? The emergence of Jonathan Leko. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Leko has been capped at U16 and U17 level for England, and impressed in the games he got at the end of last season. West Brom are known for their dull and stodgy style, but Leko is the anti-thesis to this. He is technically gifted, quick and can go past his man; providing excitement in the attacking third. West Brom are a side that will end up in in safety, but to go to another level, they need to be more unpredictable, more crucial given the new owners. Leko is raw, his finishing isn’t the best but he can be a catalyst for the side. He’s an effective attacking option; it’s down to Pulis if he wants to eschew his principles for a bit more style and substance. Whether a substitute or starter though, Leko is set for a breakthrough season.
Reece Oxford // England // West Ham // 17 // Defensive midfielder
One of the best youth prospects in England, Oxford is yet another gem produced by the Academy of Football. He’s been highly-rated for a number of years now, and broke into the limelight with a great performance in defensive midfield against Arsenal in the PL opener, where he kept Mesut Ozil in his pocket and helped his side to a 2-0 victory, aged 16, the second youngest player in PL history. Great expectations were tempered last year as Bilic smartly let Oxford develop out of the limelight. One of his strengths is his versatility, as he can successfully play both at centre-back and in defensive midfield. This allows him game time, but at 17, he will have to find a primary position sooner rather than later. His speed, height and calmness are all positive attributes of his game. His strength is an issue, but his age must be taken into account. Oxford has been linked with moves to the Manchester clubs worth in excess of 10 million pounds, but West Ham would be wise to keep him. This year could be his breakthrough one, but even if it isn’t, it isn’t the end of the world. Only 17, Oxford has time on his hands to emulate and justify comparisons to another West Ham graduate and England great, Rio Ferdinand.
Read all our Talent Radar 2016-17 Young Players to Watch across all leagues, here.
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