1. Harry Winks (Tottenham, 20)
Tottenham’s latest academy graduate is Hemel Hempstead-born Winks. The central midfielder has appeared in Spurs’ last 15 games in all competitions, demonstrating an ability to shift the ball at his team’s demanding pace and clearly impressing Mauricio Pochettino en route.
The 20-year-old’s physique is slight but he is rarely dispossessed, having completed almost 90% of his passes in the Premier League (a figure which rises to 93% in Europe). While his fellow young club-mate Josh Onomah struggles to make Spurs’ matchday squads, Winks is kicking on at White Hart Lane.
2. Tom Davies (Everton, 18)
Davies made his first Everton start in the final Premier League game of the Toffees’ disappointing 2015/16 campaign – and under Ronald Koeman, the talented 18-year-old has kicked on.
Like Winks, Davies is now a regular call-up from the bench, but he made his first league start of 2016/17 against Southampton last time out and provided an assist for Romelu Lukaku in the 3-0 victory at Goodison Park.
With Gareth Barry nearing the end of his career, there will soon be a void in Everton’s midfield. Davies, having joined the club aged 11 – just like team-mate Ross Barkley – looks well placed to fill it.
3. Ben Chilwell (Leicester, 20)
Chilwell was the subject of sizeable bids from both Arsenal and Liverpool before he’d even made his Premier League debut for Leicester. But after the Foxes turned down Jurgen Klopp’s overtures in the summer, Chilwell penned a new five-year contract and is beginning to reap the benefits.
After an excellent loan spell at Huddersfield last season, the confident England U21 international is now pushing Christian Fuchs for Leicester’s left-back position and has started two of the champions' last three Premier League games, putting in particularly impressive performances against Everton and West Ham before the New Year.
4. Sam McQueen (Southampton, 21)
Since his Premier League debut in October, McQueen has competed with England international Ryan Bertrand for the left-back spot at Southampton. His first start was a big one – at the San Siro, in Saints’ unfortunate 1-0 defeat by Inter in the Europa League – which was followed up by a first top-flight start against Manchester City. How’s that for a full introduction?
Despite strong competition from Bertrand, local boy McQueen has started three of Southampton’s last six Premier League matches and looks to have proven himself as a genuine option for Claude Puel after finishing last season strongly on loan at Southend.
5. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, 18)
An impressive League Cup run has given Liverpool’s young right-back the opportunity to flourish in Jurgen Klopp’s first team, with three starts in the domestic cups (one against Leeds, a fixture for which he was once a Liverpool mascot as a child) and a very brief one-minute introduction to Premier League football at Middlesbrough.
This season is probably too soon for the 18-year-old to oust Nathaniel Clyne in the first team, but he won’t be panicking: the Merseyside boy has been highly rated at Anfield since he joined the club at the age of six, and will be chuffed with the opportunities he’s been afforded already this term.
Alexander-Arnold possesses all the qualities of a potential Premier League full-back: composure, speed, skill and defensive proficiency. If Liverpool are to continue succeeding in the domestic cups, Alexander-Arnold will have even more chances to impress his manager.
6. Jonathan Leko (West Brom, 17)
Seventeen-year-old Leko was voted West Brom’s Young Player of the Season in 2015/16, having been the first 1999-born player to feature in the Premier League.
He showed enough flair to excite Baggies fans despite only featuring in six games, but West Brom’s development coaches have particularly raved about off-the-ball improvements that will endear him to manager Tony Pulis.
Leko has only appeared for 90 minutes in West Brom’s excellent season so far, but the DR Congo-born forward is the youngest player on this list and looks set for a distinguished career in his adopted nation.
7. Aleix Garcia (Manchester City, 19)
Manchester City’s Spanish central midfielder has a promising future at the Etihad Stadium – although his prospects are partly dependent on Pep Guardiola. If the Catalan wishes to develop from within the club, Garcia has established himself as one of the most likely players from City’s development squad to make the step up.
It’s no easy leap at Eastlands, though – so far only Kelechi Iheanacho can legitimately claim to have done it. Garcia, similar to Guardiola in playing style, will hope Pep can perform a similar job to the one he managed with Sergio Busquets at Barcelona.
Originally a Villarreal product but brought to Manchester aged 18 in summer 2015, the 19-year-old Garcia has represented Spain at every level from U16 to U19. With a promising pedigree behind him, he’ll be pining for a first Premier League start to improve upon the three top-flight substitute appearances he's managed to date.
8. Harrison Reed (Southampton, 21)
Another Southampton product who’s flirted with first-team football for some time, Reed actually made his professional debut for the club in August 2013 but hasn’t mustered more than 10 appearances in a season since.
That looks set to change this term, though, and at only 21 the defensive midfielder still has time on his side. Southampton are well stocked in his position, with Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg supporting the seasoned Steven Davis, so it’s not much of a surprise that Reed is still battling to be noticed.
But with the Saints struggling, opportunities may beckon. Reed has plenty of reason to believe his time will come – as it has for so many of Southampton’s young upstarts.
9. Reece Oxford (West Ham, 18)
At the beginning of last season, Oxford was launched into the spotlight after being named in Slaven Bilic’s starting XI for the Hammers' 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, aged just 16. Things haven’t gone his way since, though – injury has limited the 18-year-old to just two senior appearances this season, both in West Ham’s brief Europa League campaign.
He has at least pledged his long-term future to West Ham by signing a four-and-a-half year contract in December, having been strongly linked with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal since making his high-profile top-flight debut.
Now back in action, Oxford’s task is regaining full fitness and keeping boss Bilic sweet. “I really believe he has got everything,” the Croatian said in December. “On paper he has all the abilities to become a world-class player and it’s now up to him to train hard and for us to manage him well for him to fulfil it.”
10. Ola Aina (Chelsea, 20)
With John Terry close to a Chelsea exit, versatile defender Aina – who joined the Blues as an under-11 – will be eyeing 2017 as his chance to impress Antonio Conte before the summer. It’s so far, so good for the 20-year-old, who was initially included in the first-team setup by Jose Mourinho without actually playing under the Portuguese.
But under his new boss, things are different: after coming close to leaving, a new deal was followed up with summer appearances in Chelsea’s tour of the USA, and then a full debut against Bristol Rovers in the League Cup.
With four appearances since, it’s clear that Conte likes what he’s seeing. Terry’s likely departure will pave way for at least one new defender in the Italian’s squad, and Aina’s versatility will stand him in good stead for a crack at filling the hole.
11. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton, 19)
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Everton’s £1.5m summer signing of Calvert-Lewin from Sheffield United flew quietly under the radar, despite his status as one of the Football League’s most promising talents.
Koeman eased the forward in gently with four substitute appearances (in one, he missed a sitter against Hull that would have won the game), then handed the 19-year-old his first start against Southampton alongside team-mate Davies. That appearance ended prematurely, however, with injury forcing him off after only 12 minutes.
Now out for around two months, Calvert-Lewin will be desperate to return for the season’s latter stages and give Koeman some summer food for thought.
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