Five Starlets Set To Take The Premier League By Storm This Season
When answering the question about what delights a football fan the most, of course a smash and grab victory away on the road, a world class signing arriving and seeing your arch-rivals beaten will score highly.
However, something else that probably deserves a Europa League place in the football delights stakes is seeing a young kid enjoy a breakthrough spell in your club’s first team, defying all the odds to mix it with the big boys, despite their age.
Barely boasting any facial hair and still sitting their GCSE’s, some of the most famous breakthrough stars include Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere and given it’s pre-season right now, a plethora of young hopefuls have been receiving increased playing chances with their clubs while out on pre-season tour.
One kid who received his first ever taste of senior action this week was Chelsea’s 19-year-old Brazilian forward Kenedy who has been brought from Fluminense this summer.
Arriving for a fee of £6.3 million, which is some price to pay for a relatively unknown talent, the attacker impressed against star-studded opposition in his unofficial debut against Barcelona, and showed why the Blues shelled out for him.
Hoping to avoid the inevitable loan switch to Vitesse Arnhem, Kenedy will hope he’s done enough to perhaps become a wildcard option for Jose Mourinho in the Premier League this season.
With this in mind, here are five other precocious young talents, who we could be getting far more familiar with over the course of the 2015/16 campaign.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide – Arsenal
Arsenal fans are more excitable than most – I mean they literally get hysterical whenever a new Sky Sports poll is posted online, but in fairness to Gooners, Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s performances in the Emirates Cup at the weekend were simply scintillating.
A surprise starter against Wolfsburg, the 17-year-old – who most Arsenal fans probably didn’t even realise was signed this summer – looked lively and brave on the ball throughout, and even had the audacity to skin £40 million Manchester City target Kevin de Bruyne in the process.
Perfectly weighting an assist through to Theo Walcott for the winning goal to boot, Reine-Adelaide’s performance was the most eye-catching in the tournament since the breakthrough of Jack Wilshere.
After the game, Arsene Wenger claimed the young Frenchman won’t be disappearing on loan this season and will continue to work with the club’s Under-21 squad, but given how impressive he was, perhaps he could do a Serge Gnabry in terms of becoming a wildcard option for the first team part way through the campaign.
Alex Pritchard – Tottenham Hotspur
In the eyes of 99.9 per cent of Tottenham fans, if Alex Pritchard doesn’t make the breakthrough to Spurs’ first team this season, he never will.
The England Under-21 international was a magical loan signing for Brentford last term, who were enjoying their first campaign back in the Championship for some time, and courtesy of 22-year-old Pritchard’s 12 league goals and plethora of assists, the Bees defied the odds to make the play-offs.
Going down to Middlesbrough in the semi-final, it was still a fantastic season for the west London club, who under Mark Warburton were one of the most eye-catching teams in the second-tier, with their cavalier, expansive playing style.
With the White Hart Lane faithful demanding their team plays in the same way, Pritchard returns to White Hart Lane a more experienced player in this system, and having made Gareth Southgate’s cut for the European Under-21 Championships this summer, Spurs fans are praying he returns from injury and usurps the inconsistent Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend.
A diminutive and tricky character, you simply can’t take your eyes off Pritchard when he’s in possession and who knows, he could be the next big breakthrough story after Harry Kane.
Kelechi Iheanacho – Manchester City
Commentators will be hoping he remains in Manchester City’s reserves given his elongated surname, but Kelechi Iheanacho is likely to defy the odds, having again been a star of the Citizens’ pre-season preparations.
The Nigerian youngster was picked up by City last summer from the Taye Academy in his homeland, and although not officially registered, he played a part in Manuel Pellegrini’s side that toured the United States, with Iheanacho scoring against Sporting Kansas City.
Fast forward to the pre-season campaign of 2015 in Australia, and Iheanacho has gone about further improving his reputation, bagging a goal against Roma, not to mention assisting Raheem Sterling for his first ever City strike.
Now while most will claim they have more of a chance of winning the lottery than a Manchester City starlet has of successfully breaking through into the first team at the Etihad, now Iheanacho is fully registered, there is no reason why he can’t break the mould.
With Stevan Jovetic in the midst of completing a transfer back to Serie A with Inter Milan, Iheanacho will probably be relied upon as City’s fourth choice striker behind Sergio Aguero, Bony and Edin Dzeko.
Having already proved he can mix it with the first team on tour, it is probably the Nigerian and not Spanish starlet Jose Angel Pozo who has the better chance of establishing themselves in Manuel Pellegrini’s plans going forward.
Joe Gomez – Liverpool
Caught in the crossfire of Liverpool spending big to land the likes of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke this summer, the Reds also snapped up Joe Gomez from Charlton Athletic.
Rated ever so highly by the Addicks, the 18-year-old has been a firm fixture in Brendan Rodgers’ pre-season preparations, starting three of the four games Liverpool have played as part of their Australasian tour.
Easily capable of playing in both full back positions as well as at centre half, if you didn’t know who Gomez was, from afar he looks like a seasoned professional, standing at 6ft2 in and being calm when in possession.
Given how much he’s played in pre-season, Gomez looks a player capable of emulating the likes of both Jenkinson and Calum Chambers in respect of receiving regular playing chances at an elite English club ahead of schedule.
Expected to be a member of Liverpool’s Under-21 squad upon his arrival, it appears many Reds fans have been won over by his impressive pre-season displays already, and when you consider Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure haven’t covered themselves in glory since arriving at Anfield, perhaps Gomez’s chance will come sooner rather than later.
Jordon Ibe – Liverpool
Another Liverpool player who has absolutely grasped his big chance in pre-season has been Jordon Ibe, who it can be argued actually enjoyed his breakthrough spell with the Reds last term.
The Wycombe Wanderers academy product was actually recalled from a fruitful loan spell at Derby County part way through last season, given the fantastic displays fans became accustomed to seeing at Pride Park.
And upon being thrusted into Brendan Rodgers’ first team plans, the step up in class did anything but faze the 19-year-old, who in many ways picked up from where he left off, beating players for pace and gallivanting up the touchline.
Given their rise from Football League beginnings, many comparisons have been drawn between both Ibe and the since departed Judas himself, Raheem Sterling, and with the £49 million man now having burned his bridges with the Kop, many are expecting Ibe to step up in his absence.
Expected to be far more of a first team fixture this term, right now there is no reason why Ibe can be considered a lesser selection than the likes of the big money imports of last summer such as Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, and that’s a credit to the braveness and quality of his game.