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
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
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
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.
Manchester United – Mason Greenwood
With Ole at the wheel, prospects for the teenage contingent at Old Trafford improved overnight. Greenwood’s cameo in Paris for United’s memorable Champions League comeback victory against PSG will live long in memory for the forward.
The 17-year-old enjoyed a hugely productive season, notching 42 goals and assists in just 29 appearances for United’s academy sides and prompting Solskjaer to beam in April: “Mason Greenwood, 17 years of age – yeah, you are for me. We want to give you a chance to become a top player at this club.”
If the Norwegian is good to his word, 2019/20 could be a breakthrough year for the boy from Bradford.
Newcastle – Kelland Watts
Quite what to expect from Newcastle United in the coming months is anyone’s guess, and the chances of an academy hopeful making the grade in their first-team squad come some way down the list of immediate priorities.
That said, an expectant fan base that loves little more than championing one of their own will encourage whatever combination of board and manager is in place at St. James’ Park to look within when planning for the future. It was the blossoming of Sean Longstaff under Rafa Benitez, after all, that really helped bring balance to the Magpies’ midfield as they pulled clear of relegation.
Watts spent the last month of the campaign on the fringes of Newcastle’s first team, but could break in this term with his tall and elegant left-footed play from the centre of defence (or even slightly further forward in midfield). So far it’s earned him easy admiration, and the hope is that he remains in the plans of whoever takes over.
Norwich – Patrick Roberts
From the 2014 FA Youth Cup Final, the following have played in the Premier League: Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter, Moussa Dembele, Emerson Hyndman, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kasey Palmer, Patrick Roberts and Dominic Solanke.
Roberts actually made his debut for Fulham five weeks before the west London final, and followed that with 20 appearances for the relegated Cottagers in 2014/15 – but his path back to the top has been a maze ever since his 2015 move to Manchester City.
Now, after loan spells in Scotland and Spain, the 22-year-old finally returns to the top flight at Norwich City. All parties will be desperate to remain there this time.
Sheffield United – Tyler Smith
The Blades return to the Premier League for the first time since 2007, but they do so with a squad so experienced that 25-year-old Jack O’Connell is their youngest outfield player. To expect a young starlet breaking through at Bramall Lane as they (presumably) look to avoid relegation would be optimistic at best.
That isn’t to say they want for potential at the Steelphalt Academy; far from it, in fact. Tyler Smith’s consistent production in front of goal at youth level netted him a loan move to Barrow last summer, but with 11 goals in 24 appearances, he quickly moved up the pyramid and spent the second half of the season with League One play-off semi-finalists Doncaster.
Still only 20, he was described as a “star in the making” by then-Rovers manager Grant McCann, and will be a Blade to watch on loan in 2019/20 as he forges a path back to Bramall Lane.
Southampton – Kayne Ramsay
Ralph Hasenhuttl was intent on blooding youngsters as soon as he arrived on the south coast in December. “I wanted to get to a club that is open-minded for new things, likes to work with young players and develop players,” he said – and the Austrian was true to his words in the second half of the season at St Mary’s.
Marcus Barnes, Tyreke Johnson, Michael Obafemi, Callum Slattery and Josh Sims all featured for the Saints, though Ramsay’s emergence as a defensive option may prove most useful in Southampton’s likely survival fight this term – particularly with Matt Targett having left for Aston Villa.
Tottenham – Oliver Skipp
Coming in at No.25 of our 50 most exciting teenagers in English football list from February, 18-year-old Skipp will have been more than happy with his end to the season – he played in Premier League outings against Leicester, Huddersfield and Everton, taking his tally to a dozen Spurs appearances for 2018/19.
The likeable, combative midfielder will be wary of Tanguy Ndombele’s mooted arrival from Lyon, though he still has time on his side to keep learning under Mauricio Pochettino. What’s more, his familiarity to the team may just keep him in the picture throughout 2019/20.
Watford – Domingos Quina
The Hornets’ acquisition of Quina for just £1m a year ago was one of the best transfer deals of last summer. Sure enough, his 13 appearances for Javi Gracia’s side demonstrated both the faith invested in him and gifted 19-year-old’s exciting talent.
It won’t be easy for the Portugal U20 international to force his way into Gracia’s midfield permanently, but Vicarage Road remains the likeliest place for a Premier League breakthrough. The Guinea-Bissau-born teenager’s eye-catching style never fails to entertain fans in Hertfordshire.
West Ham – Ben Johnson
In 2017/18 it was Declan Rice. Last season it was Grady Diangana. The next one off the conveyor belt at the self-proclaimed Academy of Football could (and perhaps should) be Reece Oxford, but after a number of false starts and no shortage of mistakes from both player and club at every turn, his immediate future appears to lie away from the London Stadium.
And so we turn our attention to full-back Johnson, who seems to have been on the verge of something much bigger for a while now and will hope that 2019/20 presents no false dawn. He was thrown in at the deep end for his Hammers debut in February, but held his own in a narrow defeat away to eventual champions Manchester City.
The former winger-turned-full-back – cousin of Ledley King, nephew of Paul Parker – boasts the athleticism and technical quality to make an impact at both ends of the pitch. With Pablo Zabaleta gearing up for his 18th season of professional football and Ryan Fredericks trying to carry his improving form into the new campaign, Johnson has his work cut out to make an immediate impression.
Wolves – Max Kilman
Wolves return to UEFA competition for the first time since 1980 this summer, and although that means their campaign gets underway several weeks before their Premier League rivals, it provides ample opportunity for the club’s youngsters to get their feet wet in the first team.
In defender Kilman they have a former England futsal international who stepped up from Maidenhead United to the Premier League in less than a year – and his journey is only just beginning.
Already namechecked by Nuno Espirito Santo, the 22-year-old has the right profile to slot into Wolves’s back three and hold his own against some of the teams they might come up against in Europa League qualifiers. If he plays his cards right, that could lead to plenty more opportunities at Molineux this season.
While you're here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers' offer? Get 5 issues of the world's greatest football magazine for £5 (opens in new tab) – the game's greatest stories and finest journalism direct to your door for less than a pint in London. Cheers!
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Quizzes, features and footballing fun
Get daily World Cup 2022 news, updates and other football frolics to your inbox
Get daily World Cup 2022 news, updates and other football frolics to your inbox
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.