All of the so-called ‘big six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – want to be the best now (even if some teams aren’t exactly showing that these days *cough* Spurs *cough*), but there’s also a focus on being the best in the future.
Now more than ever, with finances tight and squads needing strengthened, having the best youngsters coming through is paramount.
Let’s take a look at how well stocked each of the ‘big six’ are for under 21 stars…
Tottenham’s youth development has stalled somewhat in recent years. Mauricio Pochettino was famed for putting his faith in young players, but that trend has slowly disappeared.
In the first team, Japhet Tanganga and Ryan Sessegnon have both shown signs of promise but are both still waiting for a real breakthrough, while the criminally underused Oliver Skipp is still waiting in the wings.
There are a few exciting talents in Spurs’ academy, with Troy Parrott leading the charge. Dennis Cirkin, Malachi Walcott and Jamie Bowden are all worth mentioning, but there’s a lot of unproven talents with a lot of work left to do, and so they rank bottom of the big six..
Phil Foden is flying the flag for Manchester City’s expensive youth system, and rightly so. The midfielder is an outstanding talent who looks set for a lengthy career at the top of the sport.
He’s the only young star regularly in the first team at the minute, though Eric García is knocking on the door. Midfielder Tommy Doyle could soon add his name to that list, but the majority of City’s top prospects were bought in their recent shopping spree.
Yan Couto, Claudio Gomes, Adrián Bernabé, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jayden Braaf are all worth keeping an eye on in the near future. Ben Knight, Liam Delap and Samuel Edozie are just three of several Under-18 stars of whom there are high expectations but a lot of unknown quantities.
In Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool have one of the most exciting 21-year-old players on the entire planet, and while he’s the only youngster of his kind regularly in Jürgen Klopp’s lineup, there could be plenty more next season.
Curtis Jones and Neco Williams have both made a real impact already and will hope for more minutes going forward, while the Premier League’s youngest ever player Harvey Elliott is also expected to join in the fun.
Rhian Brewster could also see minutes after scoring for fun on loan at Swansea.
Dutch duo Sepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever are both higly rated and have shone in cup outings, while expectations are high for homegrown duo Layton Stewart and Leighton Stewart.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not been afraid of turning to the academy this season, and by promoting both Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams, he has made Manchester United immeasurably better.
There’s always chances to impress on offer at Old Trafford, and next season, the likes of Teden Mengi, Ethan Laird, James Garner and the very highly rated Hannibal Mejbri will all be scrapping for any available minutes with the seniors. All four look ready as is.
Tahith Chong and Noam Emeran will be keen to see some minutes too, and let’s not forget that Diogo Dalot is still just 21. Before his injury, the young right-back was seen as one of Europe’s finest at his age.
With his futute in doubt, Mattéo Guendouzi’s status as Arsenal’s top youngster is now being passed between Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who have helped steer Arsenal through their tough season.
Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah are also first-team regulars, while William Saliba is expected to be when he finally arrives at the Emirates this summer.
Emile Smith Rowe has done enough out on loan with Huddersfield to earn a spot in the first team next year, with Tyreece John-Jules and Robbie Burton not far behind.
The reason Chelsea sit atop this list is that several of their top prospects are already first-team stars for club and country. Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi are England internationals, while Reece James and Billy Gilmour have both been tipped to break through soon enough for England and Scotland respectively. Loanee Ethan Ampadu is a core part of the Wales setup.
Behind them, there are high hopes for Tino Anjorin, Ian Maatsen, Dujon Sterling, Armando Broja and Valentino Livramento, and then you’ve got Lewis Bate and Marc Guehi and even young Charlie Webster all waiting for opportunities.
Oh, and did I forget Christian Pulisic? Still only 21, the USA star has already earned (semi-justifiable) comparisons to Eden Hazard and is expected to become one of the world’s finest.
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