Analysis

EVERY Premier League club’s breakthrough star of 2019/20

Mason Greenwood Manchester United

New signings are lovely and everything, but they’re rarely as satisfying as academy boys coming good. Most of the below fit that bill – as profiled by Youth Hawk

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Arsenal – Eddie Nketiah

With the Gunners condemned to another season in the Europa League, there may be a temptation to keep some of their promising youngsters close to the Emirates. That said, it’s surely time for Nketiah to spread his wings and build on the fleeting minutes he’s come by in recent years.

There are no shortage of suitors to loan the 20 year-old striker, whose pace and remarkably consistent scoring rate had scouts across Europe flocking last term.

He may follow his team-mate Reiss Nelson in making a temporary switch to Germany, or perhaps his England colleague Tammy Abraham by cutting his teeth in the Championship. Whoever wins the fight to secure his signature will be getting their hands on one of English football’s brightest young forwards.

Aston Villa – Andre Green

Villa's return to the Premier League after three years away brings with it the challenge of assembling a squad that's capable of more than just avoiding relegation. With several loanees returning to their parent clubs and a clutch of veterans bidding farewell, there are plenty of positions up for grabs – and Green might fancy taking one of them for himself.

After he flirted with a breakthrough early last season, Villa officials decided that a loan to League One promotion-chasers Portsmouth was the best course of action. It didn’t work out, however, and the Villans recalled him in the winter transfer window after he struggled to earn playing time outside of the cup competitions. 

Be it through fate, circumstance or sheer luck, a return to the Midlands was exactly what Green needed. He forced his way into regular rotation out wide in Smith's 4-3-3, featuring in all three play-off matches en route to victory over Derby County at Wembley. With Albert Adomah on the wrong side of 31 and more than 600 career appearances in the bank, the 20-year-old Green will fancy his chances of moving up the pecking order.

Bournemouth – Lloyd Kelly

Lloyd Kelly

When you swap Championship for Premier League and cost £13m at the age of 20, it’s hard to avoid the spotlight. Kelly, however, is the sort of cool, calm and confident character who should thrive under the pressure. 

A smooth left-footed operator who is at home either in central defence or at left-back, the England U21 international established himself in Bristol City’s first team last season as the Robins made a strong but ultimately unsuccessful play-off push.

Bournemouth are never shy of going after talented homegrown players, and Kelly will join the likes of David Brooks, Chris Mepham and Dominic Solanke on the south coast. He will quickly provide excellent competition for Nathan Aké, and could even replace the Dutchman if Eddie Howe’s last-season experimentation with Aké in midfield is solidified. 

Brighton – Viktor Gyokeres

Chelsea and Manchester City have drawn attention for their wide-reaching recruitment policy at under-23 level, but Brighton have launched an expansive campaign up there with any top-flight club in recent years. From Romania to South Africa, Argentina and Ecuador, the Seagulls’ transfer portfolio is increasingly diverse – and they’ve been particularly focused on the Nordic countries.

Viktor Gyokeres had two-and-a-half seasons of senior football under his belt before Brighton swooped in January 2018, and that experience has shone through in his Premier League 2 appearances ever since. 

The full Sweden international made his Brighton debut last August but struggled for more playing time under the ever-conservative Chris Hughton. With Graham Potter now in the dugout, the 21-year-old can be much more optimistic of game time.

Burnley – Jimmy Dunne

It’s not easy for young players to break into the first-team ranks at Turf Moor, but Dwight McNeil’s successful ascent has inspired the academy hopefuls at Barnfield. 

Former Manchester United scholar Dunne started last season on loan at Hearts before swapping Tynecastle for Wearside, where he helped Sunderland to the League One play-off final – and got a first senior call-up by the Republic of Ireland to boot.

At a time where Burnley defenders Ben Gibson and James Tarkowski face uncertain futures, the Clarets could well turn to one of their own for depth at centre-back.

Chelsea – Mason Mount

Mason Mount

Being in the right place at the right time can accelerate a promising career (just ask Marcus Rashford) – and it seems like the stars might be aligning perfectly for Mount at Stamford Bridge this summer. 

After an impressive maiden senior season on loan at Vitesse in 2017/18, Mount turned down some big suitors to work with Frank Lampard (his Chelsea idol) and Jody Morris (his former youth team coach) at Derby in the Championship.

He only turned 20 midway through the campaign but racked up 16 goals and assists combined in 44 appearances, though those numbers only paint a partial picture – Mount’s industry, pressing and effort off the ball became a crucial aspect of the Rams’ style of play. His injury absence through February and March coincided with Derby winning just two of 10 matches. 

With Lampard set to take the reins in SW6 and the Blues under a transfer embargo, being a youngster at Chelsea just got interesting.

Crystal Palace – Sam Woods

Eighteen months ago you’d have been forgiven for never hearing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Yet, after fewer than 50 senior appearances, his departure to Manchester United for almost as many millions has demonstrated the value of a strong academy production line. 

Palace, aside from the talismanic Wilfried Zaha, have struggled to be quite as prolific in that regard since their return to the top flight in 2013 – yet there is promise in Paddy McCarthy’s under-23 ranks.

Defender Woods made his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup last October, then spent much of the season travelling with Roy Hodgson’s team. The 20-year-old’s ascent might not be as spectacular as Wan-Bissaka’s, but he’s well positioned to force his way into contention at centre-back.

Everton – Joao Virginia

There should be no shortage of contenders to make the grade for Marco Silva’s Everton this season, after the Toffees’ under-23s completed a league and cup double back in April. David Unsworth’s charges claimed the Premier League 2 title for the second time in three years, and now have a clutch of experienced youngsters looking to take the next step. 

Silva, however, hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with opportunities to impress; Tom Davies made just 10 league starts in 2018/19, Ademola Lookman even fewer with just three, while Mason Holgate (West Brom) and Jonjoe Kenny (Schalke) have been forced to go out on loan for playing time. 

If there is scope for someone to force the door open, it’s surely in goal. Jordan Pickford started all but two matches in the last campaign, while new signing Jonas Lossl and the ageing Maarten Stekelenburg are there for the taking. 

Silva would be wise to consider his compatriot Joao Virginia for a game or two in the Carabao Cup to kick things off. The 19-year-old made the rather surprising switch from Arsenal 12 months ago, but has long been touted as a star of the future and kept 14 clean sheets in 21 appearances for the U23s last term. The time is right to give him more of a challenge.

Leicester – James Justin

James Justin

Anyone who watched Luton’s relentless charge to League One promotion last season will be aware of Justin’s gifts. For a bargain price of just £6m up front, Leicester are set to find out for themselves just how good the full-back production line is at Kenilworth Road. 

From Norwich’s Premier League-bound duo of Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, to Bristol City’s Jay Dasilva and now Justin, the Hatters are massive drivers of attacking full-backs who can also handle their defensive business.

Justin can play on either side, but settled into a left-back role under Nathan Jones at Luton thanks in part to the rampaging destruction caused by Jack Stacey on the right. He’s unlikely to play much initially while Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira hold down the starting berths, but will surely have a significant role to play under Brendan Rodgers. 

Liverpool – Rhian Brewster

Winning the Champions League before making your competitive debut is not a customary path to success, and Brewster still has a long way to go to fulfil his undoubted potential. But ending 18 months of injury hell with a smile on his face and a medal around his neck in Madrid would have contented even the most unenthusiastic onlookers.

Two operations were required to fix ankle and knee problems inflicted in a Premier League 2 game in January 2018, three months after he’d won the Golden Boot at the Under-17 World Cup. It restricted the 19-year-old to just two appearances for Liverpool’s U23s last season. 

However, his involvement in Jurgen Klopp’s matchday squad for huge European ties against Barcelona and Tottenham show that the German still has plenty of faith in his teenage targetman, who could well step into the squad spot vacated by Daniel Sturridge this summer.

Manchester City – Phil Foden

Foden provided the highlight of England’s tournament at the Under-21 European Championship finals this summer, when he slalomed through the French defence before slotting home into the bottom corner. Things went decidedly downhill from that moment for Aidy Boothroyd’s side, though the majestic nature of that solo goal – and subsequent reaction from those watching on – demonstrated the high regard in which the youngster is held.

Pep Guardiola has an unenviable task on his hands to maintain the extraordinary standards his team has set in Manchester over the past two years, and establishing the prodigious Foden as more than just a bit-part player remains challenging for the Catalan. 

The Stockport-born teen has just 374 Premier League minutes to his name and will be hoping, if not demanding, a significant increase in the season he turns 20. David Silva is entering his final year as a City player, but the team already has his successor.