Year after year, we see seemingly unknown and overlooked Premier League youngsters break out and perform on the biggest stage of them all. From Chelsea to Huddersfield Town, there are players with incredible potential in each club. Not everyone can cut it in the Premier League – it is often heralded as one of the most physical of the top leagues – but there are those that flourish. Take a look at Harry Kane: after struggling for years with Championship and League One sides, the Englishman suddenly banged in 21 goals in 34 appearances for Tottenham in the 2014/2015 season at just 21 years old. He then followed that up with a 25 and 29 goal seasons respectively. Moving over to Manchester, look no further for a breakout star than Marcus Rashford during the 2015/2016 season: The 17-year-old became United’s youngest European goalscorer after scoring a second half brace against Midtjylland in the Europa League round of 32. He then scored 5 goals in 11 league appearances to establish himself as a Premier League player. We at Offside football are looking ahead to the 2017/2018 season and examining just who are the most likely candidates to have a break out year that can jumpstart their career.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal)
The first player on our list of potential breakout players is one of the most versatile youngers in the league. The 19-year-old can play at several positions: right midfield, right back, and holding midfield in particular. The Englishman flourished on loan at Ipswich during the 2015/2016 season before returning to Arsenal the following year. In addition, he just recently won the U20 World Cup with England, featuring in the second half of the final. Maitland-Niles has been at Arsenal since he was nine, becoming the club’s second youngest player to appear in the Champions League in 2014 against Galatasaray (second only to Jack Wilshere). The two time FA Cup winner will surely play a role as Arsenal will have many matches to play – as thy are once again in Europe – but the question is at what position? At any rate, his defensive workrate – paired with his dangerous crossing and set-pieces – makes him a definitive option for the Gunners.
Dan Agyei (Burnley)
The Burnley forward spent the first few months of the 2016/2017 season on loan, scoring five goals in 20 appearances at Coventry City before being recalled in January. On March 12th, he then made his Premier League debut against Liverpool, coming on as a late sub. Primarily a left-winger and striker, the 20-year-old is becoming difficult to stop. The club’s development coach Michael Jolley raves about the youngster, stating that “He has got some great natural assets, pace and power, he’s got a terrific left foot, he can head it. He’s got a lot going for him”. The club struggled for goals this past campaign, scoring only 39 goals the entire season. Burnley will definitely be hoping for a breakout year from the youngster to improve on a 16th place finish in the league.
Charly Musonda (Chelsea)
On a team with a seemingly endless supply of youth prospects (and projects), Charly Musonda stands out as one of the most successful. The young Belgian began his youth career at Anderlecht before transferring to Chelsea in 2012. For the 2015/2016 season – as well as half of the 2016/2017 season – Musonda played on loan at Real Betis in La Liga, making 24 appearances. The 20-year-old can play attacking midfield and left wing, a spot that is sorely in need as Eden Hazard will likely be out for the first couple months of the season recovering from a broken ankle. Musonda, who will be wearing number 17 for the upcoming season, is one of the most creative young players in the Chelsea system. His creativity and ball control make him a constant threat, something Chelsea have struggled with when facing off against teams that bunker down and defend with numbers behind the ball. Look for Musonda to make quite an impact on the Blues’ attack.
Ben Chilwell (Leicester City)
The Foxes, just a year off of their improbable, historic Premier League Title win, have returned back to Earth and are decidedly midtable. To help solidify them as a Premier League side, the club turn to an academy in Ben Chilwel. The 20-year-old defender spent five years at the academy level before making the jump to the senior team in 2015. He made his professional debut on 27 October 2015 in the club’s League Cup match against Hull City, in which we played the entire match. After a short loan to Huddersfield Town in the Championship, he returned to Leicester and made his league debut on December 26th, 2016 against Everton. After finally breaking into Claudio Raineri’s first team, Chilwel showed exactly why clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool had become interested. The defender is solid defensively, but also likes to get forward and partake in small interplay. Chilwell’s role will likely continue to increase for club and country as the seasons and years go on.
Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke)
After spending a decade at his childhood club of Al Ahly back in Cairo, Ramadan Sobhi made the switch to Stoke City in 2016 for £5 million. He made his Premier League debut for the club on August 20th, 2016 against English giants Manchester City, his first assist came on October 31st in a 3-1 win over Swansea, and his first league start came in the very next match against West Ham United. The 20-year-old left-winger is already an established face in the Egyptian national team and made 17 appearances for Stoke this past season. He is a creative threat as well as a defensive workhorse, tracking back and threading through balls whenever called upon. Sobhi, with his strong physique, lightening fast feet, and calm composure, states that he wants to have his own style and be different. Only time will tell if this style catapults him to Premier League stardom this coming season.
Jonathan Leko (West Brom)
The final player on our list of young players who could have their breakout season this fall is Jonathan Leko, a Congolese born – but English national team system transfer – attacker for West Bromwich Albion. At just 18-year-old, Leko has already made 14 appearances for the club between the last two seasons. He made his first start for West Brom on April 30th, 2016 against West Ham – becoming the first player born in the year 1999 to start in a Premier League match. He earned his first league assist in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool, setting up Salomon Rondon after a great solo run. That season, Leko was awarded West Brom’s Young Player of the Season Award. As well as attacking midfielder, the young Englishman also excels at the right wing. He almost glides along the pitch with an incredible quickness and has a creative spark that can cut through a defense. Leko will surely be hoping to improve on an already impressive 10th place finish from West Brom this past season.
As the Premier League season quickly approaches, we here at Offside Football are counting the days. Transfer rumors can get tiring – there are only so many times you can get your hopes up and then end up disappointed – so take a break and join us for a new analysis article every day until the season. For more on the Premier League, keep your eye on the line and stay with Offside Football.