These youngsters will be exciting to watch in the 2021/22 season of the English league.
The 30th season of the Premier League is underway and things look to be as exciting as ever. Stadiums have started filling up after 18 uninhabited months and teams have started with all that they have. The new recruits have only made things exciting – a lot of players, both young and experienced – have flocked to the English top flight.
Like every other season, this edition will be the one to watch out for young prospects. From incoming transfers to academy products, most teams have a nifty lineup of starlets, who will want to make a statement.
From a French striker who has more goals than appearances to a Spanish winger looking to breakthrough into a London side, here are Khel Now’s top 10 U-20 footballers to look forward to in the Premier League this season:
10. Michael Olise (Crystal Palace)
Considered as a versatile midfielder coming through the ranks, 19-year-old Michael Olise is a talent to watch out for. The French international predominantly plays as an attacking midfielder and can be an asset for Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
What makes Olise a standout amongst a stream of youngsters is his experience in addition to the talent he possesses. The London-born youngster played 3200+ minutes in Reading’s EFL Championship campaign in 2020/21. For a 17-year-old, 44 appearances topped by seven goals and 12 assists is noteworthy.
Considering Palace’s squad and new management under Vieira, Olise can be expected to get enough playing time for a teenager. Provided that his career continues on the trajectory it has followed to-date, this can be a breakout season for the Palace youngster.
9. Ademipo Odubeko (West Ham United)
Not many youngsters, especially at the tender age of 18, get to boast academy experiences from both halves of Manchester. Ademipo Odubeko’s prolific youth career has seen him represent both clubs before settling at West Ham United.
With an astounding record of 27 goals and four assists in 26 games in age-group matches so far, Odubeko caught manager David Moyes’ eye last season. The center-forward is considered to have “astoundingly brilliant” goalscoring ability for his age. It won’t be a surprise to see him come in and score some goals for the Hammers this season. The youngster has already scored two in two starts in Premier League 2.
Despite being named in Moyes’ matchday squad on 18 occasions, Odubeko made just two appearances in the 2020/21 season. His debut came in a FA Cup fixture against Stockport County, where he replaced Michail Antonio. The 2002-born striker’s run of form and abilities only set him to contribute more this season.
8. Valentino Livramento (Southampton)
Coming out of Chelsea’s wide pool of young players, Valentino Livramento can be one of this season’s revelations. The 18-year-old joined the club at the age of nine and left this summer for Southampton. It was not a surprise that the right-back, with his attributes and the ability to execute, was crowned Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Year in his last season at the club.
The youngster made his first Premier League appearance against Everton and played the full 90 minutes in Southampton’s opening fixture. Decent enough for a start in the English top flight, Livramento is set to enjoy minutes this season, and hopefully, go on to fulfill the promise that he has displayed so far in his budding career.
7. Tariq Lamptey (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Another Chelsea youth player on the list, Tariq Lamptey is a prospect that has caught many eyes. The 20-year-old right-back made just one appearance for the Blues before moving to Brighton.
As part of an under-performing Brighton side, numbers do not justify the quality Lamptey possesses. However, in just 11 appearances in 2020/21, Lamptey did enough to impress and attract some offers from big European sides. While a move did not materialize, a wonderful season might put that back on the plate for the Brighton full-back. For now, it’s time to wait for him to come back and claim his place on the right flank.
6. Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)
Harvey Elliott has become a familiar name amongst the Liverpool supporters. Elliott signed his first professional contract with Liverpool in July 2021, after a loan spell at Blackburn Rovers.
The midfielder appeared in more than 40 matches for the Rovers, readying himself for a breakout season at Anfield. The 2003-born player scored seven goals and assisted 11 times during his time at Blackburn. After Gini Wijnaldum’s exit, Elliott and teammate Curtis Jones are expected to accumulate first-team minutes, glimpses of which have already appeared. The Fulham academy graduate started Liverpool’s first home game of the 2021/22 season against Burnley, pulling delivering an impressive performance.
5. Curtis Jones (Liverpool)
Curtis Jones is yet another prospect that Liverpool fans see succeeding at Anfield for the days to come. The 2019/20 Premier League 2 Player of the Season has made 30 appearances under Jurgen Klopp.
In addition to the potential that he possesses, Jones’ mobility and dribbling skills have been lauded by many, including Klopp. The central midfielder did relatively well in an injury-struck Liverpool midfield last season. Another factor that might help with Jones’ anticipated progression can be Wijnaldum’s departure and his complimenting attributes that match the void.
With a contract running until 2025, the club definitely see him as part of the project – this might be the season where it all comes together.
4. Bryan Gil (Tottenham Hotspur)
When Tottenham Hotspur completed a deal for £21.6m and Erik Lamela to bring Bryan Gil from Sevilla, a lot of eyebrows were raised. However, those who know of the 20-year-old will find this fairly justified – especially SD Eibar and La Liga supporters.
Gil enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Eibar from Sevilla in the entirety of 2020/21 with 26 top flight starts. An out-and-out winger by nature, his style of play suits newly-appointed manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s gameplan. Although the youngster has not started any games yet, it won’t be a surprise if he bags regular minutes. Proving his utility, the Barcelona-born starlet recently took part in Spain’s silver-medal winning Olympic campaign and has already represented the senior side.
3. Billy Gilmour (Norwich City)
Newly-promoted Norwich City welcomed Billy Gilmour in a loan deal from Chelsea one that seems to be a win-win for both sides. Ever since making his debut under Frank Lampard, Gilmour has shown potential to be a metronomic midfielder. At Norwich, Chelsea’s starlet is assured of playing time and some valuable top flight experience, which will only benefit all parties. The 20-year-old has already started both of Norwich’s two opening fixtures of the season.
Daniel Farke’s side lost Emi Buendia to Aston Villa in the summer and Gilmour’s season-long stay ticks every box. Norwich will look to hold on to their acquired top flight place and look to squeeze in points. In this regard, minutes for the Chelsea loanee don’t look difficult, paving the way for his full-fledged breakout season.
2. Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
Despite being just 18, it feels as if we’ve seen Mason Greenwood for long. The Manchester United attacker made his debut at just 17, impressing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer instantly. Terming Greenwood as a “natural finisher,” the Norwegian has handed him 67 league appearances so far. Justifying the manager’s trust, the 2001-born player has accumulated 19 goals and three assists.
However, there are more than just statistics that narrate Greenwood’s rise. With splendid shooting attributes, the striker’s ability to play in every position upfront is a plus for the Red Devils. In addition, Greenwood’s excellent sense of off-ball movement often sees him on the receiving end to get the final shot on goal.
Greenwood has already netted a goal each in Manchester United’s first two Premier League games of the season. If things continue to go on, the 18-year-old’s place in a studded lineup doesn’t look that premium for this season.
1. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
The ultimate name looking to breakout in the 2021/22 season has to be Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka. Justifying Gareth Southgate’s trust with an imposing European Championship, Saka will now look to lift Arsenal on his shoulders. He is one of the top U-20 footballers to watch out in the Premier League this season.
The 19-year-old has already made 60 appearances in the league for the Gunners, impacting Mikel Arteta’s side like only a few players can. Bagging six goals in the process, Saka’s constant presence upfront has provided a much-needed threat for a relatively dull Arsenal attack. Saka’s ability to carry the ball from wide and then setup or have a go at goal has only helped to strengthen his case.
Things only look to be positive for the young attacker – he’s commanding with all the skills you expect from an attacker that cuts in. “Bukayo,” meaning “adds to happiness,” will only add happiness individually and collectively, if he continues to build throughout the 2021/22 season for Arsenal.