Arsenal’s January arrival didn’t feature much in the second half of last season, but Arsene Wenger is extremely positive about the Brazilian centre-back’s future at the club. A committed, proactive, no-nonsense defender in the mould of his compatriot Lucio, Gabriel seems like the type of defender who will make mistakes while he acclimatises to English football, but he has the potential to become a top-drawer defender. Per Mertesacker’s place may come under threat, with a regular partnership between Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny likely by the end of the campaign.
Aston Villa (Carles Gil)
The Spanish attacking midfielder seemed an exciting signing in January, at a time when Aston Villa were playing truly dreadful football under Paul Lambert. His stunning strike against Bournemouth in the FA Cup hinted at a wonderfully talented footballer.
The change of manager didn’t suit Gil, however, and among niggling problems with a groin injury, he received few opportunities under Tim Sherwood. Nevertheless, Sherwood is keen to give him opportunities after some impressive pre-season friendly performances.
“Carles Gil is going to play a lot more football this year because we’re not in that situation where it’s a relegation battle,” he said. “I didn’t know him [last season] and we were playing a different way. It was almost like we needed to get over the line. It’s different now, hopefully we can get him on the ball in important areas of the field. I see his best position as a No.10.”
Bournemouth (Tyrone Mings)
Maybe it’s obvious that Bournemouth will expect a good season from their club record signing, but £8 million Mings is completely unproven at the highest level, and still yet to turn his potential into consistency. Nevertheless, he appears to have all the qualities needed to succeed in the Premier League. A composed, intelligent and physically dominant defender capable of playing either in the centre of defence or at left-back, Mings has also impressed with his humility and professionalism. Chased by Arsenal over the last year, his move to Bournemouth came as something of a surprise.
It’s not unreasonable to think Mings could be in the England reckoning by the end of the campaign, especially with Roy Hodgson’s lack of options in defence.
Chelsea (Ruben Loftus-Cheek)
You have to go back 15 years to find the last time a Chelsea academy product established himself in the first team - John Terry - but Loftus-Cheek seems a decent bet to follow in the footsteps of the current Chelsea captain.
A true all-rounder, Loftus-Cheek is a central midfielder capable of shielding the defence, before bursting into attack to provide key contributions in the final third, too. His stamina and strength are impressive, but he boasts good technical quality.
Jose Mourinho was highly critical of Loftus-Cheek’s contribution in a recent post-season victory over Sydney, questioning his work rate and decision-making in possession. But that hints Mourinho believes Loftus-Cheek has great potential, and he should be involved in Chelsea’s Premier League title defence this term. The fact he hasn't been sent out on loan suggests as much.
Crystal Palace (Patrick Bamford)
Palace needed more options up front, and the loan signing of Bamford from Chelsea provides them with a pacey, hard-working striker with the potential to establish himself at this level.
Fresh from hitting 17 goals with Middlesbrough last season, a step up to the Premier League seemed inevitable and Palace could suit him nicely. With Alan Pardew playing two quick wingers, plus Yohan Cabaye's through-balls from the centre of midfield, Bamford should get plenty of goalscoring chances.
He’s determined to establish himself at his parent club, however, and a fine campaign at Selhurst Park could see him return to Chelsea in time for next season, albeit as Mourinho’s third-choice centre-forward. Upon joining Crystal Palace he penned a new three-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
Everton (Tyias Browning)
With Sylvain Distin finally departing to join newly promoted Bournemouth, and John Stones looking set for a switch to Chelsea, Roberto Martinez might be forced to give opportunities to youngster Browning.
Having been in the Everton youth system for a decade, Browning made his Premier League debut last season - something of a baptism of fire, as a substitute in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.
“He showed incredible composure and great pace,” said Martinez. “He's a phenomenal defender who gave us real penetration.” It’s not often you hear a manager praise a player’s penetration, but that summarises Browning’s technical quality.
Like Stones, he’s comfortable at right-back but seems more likely to become a regular in the centre of defence. Martinez will surely purchase another defender before the end of the transfer window, but Browning will also be in his thoughts.
Leicester (Ben Chilwell)
England Under-19 left-back Chilwell has already been hailed as a "fantastic player" by new Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, having been included in the Foxes' pre-season plans following an impressive season for the under-21s. He was also part of the side which reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
Chilwell was linked with Arsenal in June but the youngster - Leicester's academy player of the year - looks to have an excellent chance of forcing his way into Ranieri's first-team plans. He's got ex-Schalke man Christian Fuchs to contend with this season, but looks a much better long-term bet than the seasoned Paul Konchesky.
The Foxes clearly rate him highly, and some first-team football this season out on loan might stand him in good stead for a big 2016/17.
Liverpool (Jordon Ibe)
Once Liverpool fans accepted they weren’t going to be seeing Raheem Sterling at the club this season, attention turned to Ibe. An energetic, versatile and speedy young wide player, the similarity is obvious.
Others, like Roberto Firmino and Lazar Markovic, will probably play Sterling’s role in the side more literally, but Ibe is someone Liverpool fans can pin their long-term hopes on.
Hugely impressive in sporadic appearances last season, the 19-year-old is flexible enough to play in a variety of systems, which means he suits Brendan Rodgers nicely.
It remains to be seen whether Ibe can pin down a permanent role in the side, but if he enjoys a good season with Liverpool, Euro 2016 isn’t an unrealistic goal.
Man City (Rony Lopes)
A hugely gifted young attacking midfielder, Lopes is the most promising graduate of Manchester City’s academy for years. Actually named Marcos, but nicknamed ‘Rony’ because he always turned up for training with a Brazil shirt with ‘Ronaldo 9’ on the back, the Portuguese playmaker will hope for first-team opportunities this season.
He spent last year on loan at Lille, where he performed steadily. He has all the attributes you’d expect of a Portuguese attacking midfielder - pace, close control, passing ability - but is also notable for his bravery and determination, too, suggesting he should fit into Premier League life well.
After all, having been at City since he was 15, he qualifies as a homegrown player too. Sterling’s arrival probably doesn’t help, but expect Lopes to get more opportunities in the League Cup.
Man United (James Wilson)
At the moment, Manchester United only have one established centre-forward: Wayne Rooney. It seems likely others will be signed to share the goalscoring burden, but Wilson will pray no one else arrives.
Wilson was thrust into the first team by Ryan Giggs during his brief spell as caretaker manager, and since then has played sporadically under Louis van Gaal. An astonishingly quick centre-forward who likes going in behind defences, there’s still much for Wilson to learn - the timing of his runs must improve, and Van Gaal will want to work on his link-up play. Still, Van Gaal loves putting his faith in youngsters, especially those he can mould to his own specifications. For that reason, Wilson seems in a very good position.
Newcastle (Adam Armstrong)
A diminutive forward with tremendous finishing ability, Armstrong has consistently appeared as a supersub for Newcastle, usually thrown on when Newcastle are chasing the game. As a result, Armstrong hasn’t had the happiest start to Premier League life - 14 of his 16 outings have ended in defeat.
That’s no reflection upon Armstrong’s ability, however. He’s banged in the goals for the England youth sides, and last season received some personal advice at St George’s Park from Wayne Rooney, who complimented the Geordie on the way he gets across the front of defenders and into dangerous positions.
Armstrong has joined Coventry on loan for the next six months, but with Newcastle’s other forwards all inconsistent, it would be nice to see Steve McClaren using his youngster from the start upon his return, too.
Norwich (Jacob Murphy)
Murphy has come through the ranks at Norwich alongside his twin brother Josh - former manager Chris Hughton once asked them to wear different coloured boots, so he could tell them apart - and it was the latter who often received more praise for England’s youth sides.
But Jacob appears to be in the better position to play games for Norwich this season. He’s part of the Canaries' 25-man training squad currently in Germany playing pre-season matches, whereas Josh has been left behind to train with the youth side, suggesting Alex Neil is currently keener on Jacob. Having impressed in a loan spell at Colchester last season, the quick forward will now hope for more first-team chances.
Southampton (Matt Targett)
Targett might have hoped to be Luke Shaw’s replacement at Southampton, but the signing of Ryan Bertrand meant he continued as the Saints' backup left-back at St Mary's last season.
He needed to wait until midway through the campaign, when Bertrand was ineligible for a match against his parent club Chelsea, for his first league start. And he was hugely impressive, turning in a display notable for his positional intelligence and his well-timed tackles.
Much like Luke Garbutt at Everton, Targett finds himself behind an England international at left-back, and it’s difficult to imagine how Southampton can play both he and Bertrand together. Nevertheless, with the south-coasters involved in Europa League competition this year, manager Ronald Koeman will need to rotate and that could play into his hands nicely.
Stoke (Jack Butland)
Butland has been knocking around for a while now - he made his England debut in 2012, the year he was named in both the European Championship and Olympic squads - but wasn’t able to displace Asmir Begovic as Stoke’s first-choice. He’s still made only six Premier League appearances, and has been loaned out to Birmingham, Barnsley, Leeds and Derby.
Therefore, it’s slightly difficult to gauge Butland’s true level of ability but, with Begovic becoming Thibaut Courtois’ understudy at Chelsea, this is his time to shine. A tall, calm and composed goalkeeper more akin to a traditional shot-stopper than a modern sweeper-keeper, he will be Stoke’s first choice this season.
“He’s a player that we have every confidence in,” said Mark Hughes. “He’s bided his time, he’s been patient. He’s an outstanding young keeper and I think that’s acknowledged right across the board, so we all feel his time is now – he will have an opportunity to really stake a claim.”
Sunderland (Adam Matthews)
Having played in Wales with Cardiff, and in Scotland with Celtic, Matthews will now play in England with Sunderland after a £2m transfer. It’s a move that has gone somewhat under the radar, but could turn out to be a canny buy. “I like to attack but the manager has already told me I need to work on my defending so I’ll try my best to do that,” Matthews said at his unveiling. “I like to get on the ball, I like to get forward and hopefully score a few goals.” But in a side like Sunderland, Matthews will spend the majority of the time on the back foot, and it will be his defending that is more closely examined as he aims to end the campaign with a place in Wales’ Euro 2016 squad.
Swansea (Matt Grimes)
A former England Under-20 captain, Swansea signed the promising young midfielder from League Two outfit Exeter City in January, although he only made three substitute appearances last term.
This season, he’ll hope to get more regular football under his belt. Swansea have a host of impressive young midfielders but Grimes fits their style well - comfortable in possession, sensible with his use of the ball and capable of getting up and down the pitch, too.
“He has been excellent since coming in,” said manager Garry Monk. “He is a talented young player, we are pleased to have him here and we are excited by the future for him.”
Tottenham (Alex Pritchard)
Mauricio Pochettino has packed his Tottenham side with young academy graduates, and Pritchard could be another to feature this season having been hugely impressive in a loan spell at Brentford last year.
An attacking midfielder who has regularly played for England U21s, Pritchard mixes intelligence in possession with an ability to provide the unexpected on the edge of the opposition penalty area, and seems capable of playing in a variety of midfield positions.
“I feel like I've done my time in League One, done my time in the Championship and now it's time for me to get a chance at Premier League football,” he said recently.
Watford (Essaïd Belkalem)
Predicting Watford’s likely starting XI for this season is extremely difficult - they have a huge squad packed with newcomers to English football, and it’s tough to know how many of them will settle.
Belkalem is a confusing case. Regularly impressive for the Algeria team which reached the World Cup knockout stages last year, he’s one of many players who signed for Spanish club Granada before immediately being loaned to Watford, who he then signed for permanently. He moved to Turkish side Trabzonspor last season, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be part of Quique Sanchez Flores’s plans.
A physically impressive defender who also boasts good positional sense, Belkalem has all the qualities to succeed in the Premier League. Whether he receives opportunities, however, remains to be seen.
West Brom (Adil Nabi)
Tony Pulis isn’t exactly renowned for bringing through youth players, but with Nabi he might have no choice. An exciting, pacey young striker who has regularly scored for the Baggies’ U21 side and was named the club’s young player of the season for 2014/15, Nabi says he wants to follow in the footsteps of Saido Berahino and become a first-team regular. It’s difficult to see him starting much this season, but he could be an ideal supersub.
If Nabi proves a success, West Brom also have his young brother waiting in the wings - 17-year-old Samir is a promising midfielder in the academy.
West Ham (Martin Samuelsen)
A highly-rated deep-lying Norwegian forward who came through Manchester City’s academy, Samuelsen’s contract expired at the end of last season and he took the brave decision to move down south and join West Ham, where he believes he’s more likely to receive first-team opportunities.
“I like to get physical and I like the direct way of playing so in that way the English style of play suits me. I really like watching Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, of course, but my main role model is Michael Laudrup,” he said upon signing a two-year contract with the Upton Park outfit.
Having impressed in pre-season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in West Ham’s matchday squad this season - and he could be the perfect player to symbolise the club’s transformation in the post-Allardyce era.
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