Breakout star to watch for every Premier League team this season

Every year, a new crop of youngsters stake their claim to the starting XI. Here, playsarea picks out players aged 23 and under who are poised to make a bigger impact in the Premier League this season.

Eddie Nketiah

  • Club: Arsenal
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 20

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a lot of faith in Nketiah. After returning from a brief loan spell at Leeds United, he made seven Premier League starts and scored twice, and he played from the opening whistle against reigning champions Liverpool in the Community Shield. In June, Arteta said Nketiah is “extraordinary” for a player his age, and he’s not exaggerating. Nketiah recently added to his growing resume by scoring a hat-trick as captain of England’s Under-21 side in Euro qualifying last week.

Matty Cash

  • Club: Aston Villa
  • Position: Right-back
  • Age: 23

Cash made international headlines in January when he was linked with a move to AC Milan. But regular viewers of the English Championship were already aware of his potential. The Telegraph’s John Percy called Cash, a regular for Nottingham Forest, one of the “most coveted” players outside the Premier League. Aston Villa clearly agreed, paying a reported £12 million to sign him on a permanent transfer. After starting out as a winger, Cash converted into a full-back and brought those attacking qualities with him. He scored eight goals and added five assists with Forest and was named the club’s player of the year last season.

Ben White

Mike Egerton – PA Images / PA Images / Getty
  • Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Position: Center-back
  • Age: 22

Brighton pulled off a coup by signing White to a new four-year contract earlier this month. Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United were all interested in the 22-year-old, and Leeds also made repeated bids to sign him permanently. White didn’t miss a minute of action while on loan at Leeds last season, helping the Lilywhites reach the Premier League after a 16-year absence. Now he’s set for a key role in Graham Potter’s three-man defense. “His next challenge is to show his capabilities at the highest level of the domestic game,” Brighton technical director Dan Ashworth said.

Lewis Richardson

  • Club: Burnley
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 17

A regular place in Sean Dyche’s matchday squad is still a ways off, as competition for places remains high, but Richardson is making steady progress. He first turned heads as a gangly 15-year-old in November 2018, marking his full debut with Burnley’s Under-18 side with five goals off the bench. A year later, Richardson was promoted to Burnley’s U23 team, having met all the challenges in the younger divisions. Dyche tends to play older players, but considering how he’s handled another promising academy graduate in Dwight McNeil, there’s hope Richardson will get the same chance to impress at senior level.

Josh Onomah

  • Club: Fulham
  • Position: Attacking midfield
  • Age: 23

Fulham boss Scott Parker knew he was getting a capable player in Onomah, who left Tottenham after nearly 14 years to join the Cottagers in the Championship. Parker coached Onomah in Spurs’ academy, but his first few months at Fulham fell short of expectations. A knee injury made things even more difficult. But the temporary reprieve caused by the coronavirus pandemic allowed Onomah to heal, and he roared to life once play resumed, scoring three goals to help Fulham get promoted to the Premier League. “Josh is a young player who needed an arm around him, needed developing,” Parker said. “He has had a few who recognized his talent like I did. I had him as a baby.”

Billy Gilmour

Clive Mason / Getty Images Sport / Getty
  • Club: Chelsea
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 19

Gilmour broke through with a man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool in March. It was the first time he’d played a full 90 minutes of senior football, and did he ever leave a good impression. Roy Keane, the ex-Manchester United midfielder who’s notoriously hard to please, said the youngster looked “world-class” that night at Stamford Bridge, and few could argue against it. Gilmour made 11 first-team appearances in 2019-20, showing composure on the ball and the hunger to win possession. Barring a setback from a devastating knee injury, he’ll feature more prominently this season.

Eberechi Eze

  • Club: Crystal Palace
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 22

After an impressive stint in the Championship with Queens Park Rangers, Eze joined Palace for a reported £16 million, promising to bring goals and creativity to a side that lacked both last season. Eze led QPR with 14 goals and eight assists in the 2019-20 campaign and started every single league match – a considerable feat in a division as physically demanding as the Championship. As a floating No. 10 who can play on the left and right flanks, he has the versatility to fit into different systems. Maybe the plan is to replace Wilfried Zaha, who’s champing at the bit to leave for greener pastures. Whatever happens, Eze’s going to get loads of playing time.

Anthony Gordon

  • Club: Everton
  • Position: Left wing
  • Age: 19

Gordon’s finally in Everton’s plans after nearly two years on the fringes. He made his senior debut in a Europa League match way back in November 2017, but the academy graduate failed to kick on from there and spent much of his time with the Toffees’ development squad. Then, Carlo Ancelotti took over and included him in the matchday squad before handing him a surprise start in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool in June. Gordon would prefer to play out wide, but Ancelotti is convinced he can play in a central position as well. “Gordon, honestly, he is ready to play every game,” Ancelotti said in July.

Jamie Shackleton

Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images Sport / Getty
  • Club: Leeds United
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 20

Shackleton is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Kalvin Phillips, a fellow academy graduate who’s earned a recurring role in midfield under manager Marcelo Bielsa. But he may have to make a sacrifice to get consistent minutes on the pitch. The majority of Shackleton’s 48 appearances have come off the bench since he made his debut in August 2018. Even when opportunities have come along, he’s been shunted into the right-back position, far from his favorite midfield role. But Leeds clearly see Shackleton as a player for the future. He scored his first goal for the club in July and signed a new four-year contract in August.

James Justin

  • Club: Leicester City
  • Position: Right-back
  • Age: 22

Having joined Leicester from League One last year, Justin had a fairly seamless transition to the Premier League. He made nine starts to end the 2019-20 Premier League season, an unexpected development in the absence of the injured Ricardo Pereira, and a welcome reminder of Leicester’s budding talent in the full-back position. Though the Foxes stuttered toward the end of the campaign, Justin thrived, especially in the defensive department. The English U21 international led in tackles and recoveries in a late-season draw against Watford, and Justin is set to earn more playing time with Pereira out until October.

Curtis Jones

  • Club: Liverpool
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 19

Jones has already captained Liverpool – becoming the youngest player to do so at just 19 years of age – and boasts a Premier League winners’ medal. Now, it’s about nailing down a place in the starting lineup. Jones’ stellar performances at the U23 level led to a promotion to the first team, and he found himself right at home, needing little time to adjust to the demands of top-flight football. His composure on the ball is superlative for a player of his age, and his versatility in midfield should be an asset to manager Jurgen Klopp. Jones signed a long-term contract with the Reds in the off-season, and with few, if any, transfers coming in, he should have more chances to rotate into Klopp’s midfield.

Tommy Doyle

LEE SMITH / AFP / Getty
  • Club: Manchester City
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 18

Pep Guardiola has a hard time giving any of City’s homegrown talent a long run in the first team. So the onus is on the lucky few who get the nod, like Doyle, to make the most of their opportunities. Doyle made three senior appearances last season, featuring in the League Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League after a successful period in City’s developmental squad. He comes with a pedigree as well. His maternal and paternal grandfather both achieved cult status at City, and the hope is Doyle, a two-footed midfielder who’s captained the club’s youth team, will build on that legacy. With Fernandinho nearing the end of his career, Doyle may find a route into Guardiola’s lineup.

Ethan Galbraith

  • Club: Manchester United
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 19

United’s academy is producing a solid generation of players, and Galbraith is hoping to join Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Brandon Williams as the next in line. The biggest obstacle has already been cleared: Galbraith made his competitive debut for United in the Europa League in November 2019 and traveled with the squad to Germany for the remainder of the tournament in June. He can play as a defensive midfielder or on the right of a diamond, and considering his industry off the ball, he could very well balance out Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attack-minded midfield.

Dan Barlaser

  • Club: Newcastle United
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 23

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce promised to give Barlaser the preseason to show he has what it takes to stick with the Magpies full time. Barlaser impressed while on loan at Rotherham, helping the club win promotion to the Championship last season, but he’s working toward a loftier goal. There’s no question Barlaser can pick out a pass and quarterback play from a deep-lying position. Though there’s a lot of competition in midfield – Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey, Matty and Sean Longstaff, and Jeff Hendrick are all in contention to start the season – Barlaser could make an impact in the cups.

Regan Slater

Chris Vaughan – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty
  • Club: Sheffield United
  • Position: Defensive midfield
  • Age: 21

Slater is fighting his way into Chris Wilder’s plans after spending the past seasons on loan at League Two sides Carlisle United and Scunthorpe United. A midfielder by trade, the 21-year-old made himself available as a right wing-back in preseason play. He’s quick to play with his head up, and he’s capable of producing the kind of crunching tackles that draw hearty applause from the stands. He’s been handed a squad number this season, so there’s reason to believe he’s done enough to convince Wilder that he’s ready to take the next step.

Will Smallbone

  • Club: Southampton
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Age: 20

With Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg off to Tottenham and out of the way, Smallbone has a direct route into the first team. He’s already well-regarded at the club as a tight-dribbling and possession-savvy midfielder with a cannon of a shot and a keen sense of positioning. One could easily picture Smallbone finding Danny Ings with a marvelous pass en route to goal. But he’ll have to do more on the ball to impress manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who commands his players to hound opponents when out of possession. Good thing Smallbone is a quick learner. He made nine Premier League appearances last season, and he can expect more this term.

Japhet Tanganga

  • Club: Tottenham Hotspur
  • Position: Center-back
  • Age: 21

Jose Mourinho made it a mission to promote Tanganga. It’s easy to see why: he’s a no-nonsense defender who can clear lines and recover ground at high speed. Mourinho did his homework, too. He reviewed footage of Spurs’ preseason friendlies and noticed how well Tanganga marked Cristiano Ronaldo in an exhibition against Juventus. Shortly after replacing Mauricio Pochettino as manager, Mourinho handed Tanganga his Premier League debut – against Liverpool no less – and publicly declared his faith in the young center-back. Tanganga was rewarded with a long-term contract at the end of the season, and the 21-year-old could carve out a role in the heart of the defense with Jan Vertonghen out of the picture.

Grady Diangana

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images Sport / Getty
  • Club: West Bromwich Albion
  • Position: Attacking midfield
  • Age: 22

In a hugely unpopular move, West Ham United sold Diangana to West Brom for a reported £18 million, upsetting supporters and even their own players. Diangana had just returned from a season-long loan spell at West Brom, having recorded eight goals and six assists in 30 Championship appearances, and encouraged his would-be teammates at West Ham with his effort and hustle in training. Ajax and PSV Eindhoven were reportedly interested in signing Dianganga, but he ultimately knew he could start weekly at West Brom.

Ben Johnson

  • Club: West Ham United
  • Position: Right-back
  • Age: 20

With Pablo Zabaleta moving on, Ryan Fredericks failing to impress, and Michail Antonio far more useful in an attacking role, academy grad Johnson should favor his chances of making the right-back position his own. He’s flexible, so even if there’s a need at left-back, Johnson can fill in without issue. He’s just as promising going forward as he is responsible at defending, and he knows when to time the overlapping run. Johnson impressed in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in July, containing Rashford while recording a team-high 13 tackles and five clearances.

Fabio Silva

  • Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 18

Wolves broke their transfer record to sign Silva from Porto for £35 million, a massive investment for a player relatively short on experience. But there’s a buzz in Portugal about this particular 18-year-old. He left Porto as the club’s youngest-ever scorer and, fair or not, he’s often been compared to Cristiano Ronaldo. A pure No. 9 who can shoot from anywhere on the pitch, Silva is always ready to attack the space ahead of him and turn on a dime. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo could easily form a two-man strikeforce with Silva beside Raul Jimenez, but it remains to be seen how much of a workload he’ll get.

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