Identifying Every English Premier League Team's Next Big Thing

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

Identifying Every English Premier League Team's Next Big Thing

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    The Premier League is full of stars. Each side also has a number of rising prospects that could make a real difference in the near future.

    How do you define the "next big thing"?

    In this article, I am considering players who are likely to have great influence over their team in the coming years. This includes promising youth players, rising starlets and a handful of oldies who still have plenty to offer.

    Sit back, relax and enjoy.

Arsenal: Serge Gnabry, Midfielder

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    Arsenal fans are yet to see much of Serge Gnabry. The 17-year-old has received just one Premier League and Champions League substitute appearance so far, alongside a couple of Capital One Cup appearances.

    Even so, there's no denying the young German has a lot of Gunners excited for the future. He possesses a great turn of speed, an array of skills and has the ability to play with both feet. You know, two more than Marouane Chamakh.

    Arsene Wenger certainly thinks he will be a star (via The Sun).

Aston Villa: Andreas Weimann, Striker/Winger

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    Andreas Weimann will be recognisable to Premier League fans. The 21-year-old has racked up 18 appearances in the competition this season and should be considered one of Villa's most important talents.

    Christian Benteke is certainly Paul Lambert's star man, but he is unlikely to remain in the Midlands far beyond the current season (via Birmingham Mail).

    If Lambert is to see his young side build beyond the current campaign, Weimann will be pivotal. Four goals and plenty of missed opportunities outlines the Austrian as a real prospect for the future.

    His direct attacking style and ceaseless energy suggests Lambert can build his team around Weimann in the future.

Chelsea: Oscar, Attacking Midfielder

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    Oscar is becoming an international superstar far quicker than anticipated.

    The 21-year-old continues to make an impact at Stamford Bridge. In his first season with the current European Champions, he has netted one Premier League goal and contributed four assists.

    His Champions League record is pretty stunning, with five goals in as many starts for the Blues. Added to this, Oscar came off the bench in the Europa League tie against Sparta Prague to score an important winner.

    It's frightening just how good he can go on to be. Right now, comparisons to a young Kaka should be made.

Everton: Ross Barkley, Midfielder

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    It feels like Ross Barkley has been teetering on the brink of a first-team breakthrough for years. Remarkably, Everton's youngster is yet to exit his teens.

    Barkley enjoyed a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season, where he produced four goals in 13 appearances. While he joined Leeds United on loan in January 2013, the West Yorkshire club let him return to Everton after four games (via The Daily Express).

    David Moyes won't mind; he believes Barkley can be the next Wayne Rooney (via Sky Sports). Expect him to sign for Manchester United in 2015, then.

Fulham: Alexander Kacaniklic, Winger

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    We've seen flashes of excellence from Alexander Kacaniklic this season.

    Martin Jol has been reluctant to play the 21-year-old in recent times, especially with Fulham needing experienced heads to battle away from the relegation zone.

    Three goals and one assist in 15 games is a decent return for the former Liverpool starlet. Kacaniklic is a regular international with Sweden and helped his country overcome England at the end of 2012.

    Playing alongside individuals with the pedigree of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitar Berbatov, Kacaniklic has all the right mentors to become one of the world's best. Or cockiest.

Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho, Attacking Midfielder

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    Philippe Coutinho made his full Premier League debut in Liverpool's recent 5-0 whooping of Swansea City. The Brazilian settled right in, scoring a decent goal and showing creative quality on the ball.

    Alongside Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho is the type of signing Brendan Rodgers has been itching for. Direct, intelligent and technically gifted, he has the tools to become a real star at Anfield.

    Head on over here for an in-depth look at Coutinho's Liverpool debut.

Manchester City: John Guidetti, Striker

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    John Guidetti is perhaps a victim of the times at Manchester City. The 20-year-old has managed one League Cup appearance in three years at the club; a match where he provided the assist in a 1-0 victory.

    The 20-year-old was prolific in a loan spell at Feyenoord during the 2011-12 season. He scored 20 goals in 23 Eredivisie games and quickly outlined himself as one of the hottest prospects in world football.

    Guidetti was expected to represent Sweden at Euro 2012 but suffered a frightening nerve injury which could have ended his career (via Manchester Evening News).

    He is currently regaining fitness at the Etihad and playing for Manchester City's U21 side.

Manchester United: Wilfried Zaha, Striker/Winger

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    Manchester United fans will have to wait until next season to see Wilfried Zaha at Old Trafford. The 20-year-old forward—who signed a £15 million deal with the Red Devils in January 2013—has scored five goals in 31 Championship appearances this season (via The Daily Mirror).

    Zaha should bring a youthful zest to United's attack. He is likely to play on the wing, especially if Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia continue to stink up the United flanks.

Newcastle United: Sammy Ameobi, Striker

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    Sammy Ameobi may be the rawest footballer in existence. The Newcastle forward—famed for his good humour on Twitter—will have plenty to offer the Magpies in the coming years.

    He may be gangly and inexperienced right now, but expect Sammy to follow in the footsteps of his brother Shola. Alan Pardew will also hope he benefits from the French Invasion at St. James' Park.

    One start and seven Premier League substitute appearances are yet to yield a goal this season, but Ameobi has played with decent confidence when given the opportunity.

Norwich City: Luciano Becchio, Striker

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    Unlike others on this list, Luciano Becchio is not an up-and-coming youngster. The 29-year-old is a seasoned professional who scored 16 goals in 26 appearances for Leeds this season.

    He joined Norwich in January on the proviso that he has one shot at making it in the Premier League (via BBC Sport).

    The Canaries have scored one goal in their last five league outings, meaning Becchio's impact could be huge. He is an assured finisher who should thrive under the tutelage of Chris Hughton.

Queens Park Rangers: Andros Townsend, Winger

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    Andros Townsend should thank Harry Redknapp. The QPR boss worked hard to secure a loan deal for his former Spurs colleague in the January transfer window. Townsend's temporary move has finally given the 21-year-old chance to showcase his talents.

    The Englishman has looked sharp in his two Premier League appearances for the Loftus Road club. Even though he will return to White Hart Lane at the end of the season, Townsend could provide QPR with a sense of excitement that has been missing in recent times.

    God knows, they need it.

Reading: Hope Akpan, Midfielder

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    Hope Akpan has aspirations of being Reading's Yaya Toure or Patrick Vieira (via The Daily Mail).

    The 21-year-old has enjoyed a fantastic year that saw him earn a Premier League move after scoring six goals in 23 appearances from Crawley's midfield. His physicality is suited to England's top division—but rather interestingly—Akpan is the type of player who can instantly impact a match in other ways.

    He provided three assists in two starts and two substitute appearances for the Royals, including both match-changing passes in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea.

Southampton: Luke Shaw, Left-Back

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    Luke Shaw has been fantastic this season. It is crazy to think the 17-year-old is barely old enough to leave school, and yet, he is regularly challenging the Premier League's best.

    He already shows confidence and ability on the ball, summed up by his willingness to dribble. Although Shaw needs to improve his distribution, his maturity across 16 Premier League games cannot be faulted.

    The youngster recently revealed he is a Chelsea fan—will Roman Abramovich line up a move sometime soon (via The Daily Mail)?

Stoke City: Jack Butland, Goalkeeper

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    Stoke City pulled off a massive coup when they signed Jack Butland for £3.5 million in January 2013 (via BBC Sport).

    Although currently on loan at Birmingham City, Tony Pulis has landed one of English football's brightest young players. Butland already has international experience and is in line to replace Asmir Begovic as the Potters' No. 1 (via The Daily Mail).

Sunderland: Connor Wickham, Striker

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    Connor Wickham hasn't matched his potential at Sunderland so far. He has scored just two goals since joining in 2011 and needs time to develop.

    Currently on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, the 19-year-old now has time to do exactly that. Wickham is another played who seems to have been around for an age with little progress.

    Martin O'Neill will be excited to see his young forward receive ample game time at Hillsborough.

Swansea City: Ben Davies, Left-Back

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    Similar to Luke Shaw at Southampton, Ben Davies has received praise for his showings in the Swansea defence. After Neil Taylor's horrific injury ruled him out for the season, Davies has capitalised on the faith shown by manager Michael Laudrup (via BBC Sport).

    In 26 Premier League starts, the 21-year-old has provided three assists and a goal. He is reliable in difficult situations and galvanises the Welsh side's left side with an air of sensibleness. Davies should develop into one of the league's most exciting defenders.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lewis Holtby, Midfielder

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    Lewis Holtby is an accomplished footballer. His Bundesliga experience with Schalke has set the German international up for a successful career, underlined by his January move to Spurs.

    Andre Villas-Boas has been quick to use the controlling midfielder. The 22-year-old is strong in the tackle, quick at making interceptions and has the ability to produce defence-splitting passes.

    Expect Holtby to be an important fixture for both club and country in the coming years.

West Bromwich Albion: Romelu Lukaku, Centre Forward

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    Like Townsend at QPR, Romelu Lukaku technically isn't West Brom's next big thing. If we're judging the immediate future, the Belgian powerhouse deserves to be on this list.

    Lukaku boasts amazing physicality for a 19-year-old. He has scored 10 goals in 23 Premier League appearances for West Brom since joining on loan from Chelsea, many of which have come from the substitute's bench.

    It's clear the Belgian is thriving from first-team experience. At this stage, he has a lot of work to accomplish before Chelsea will give him a regular starting berth.

    Surely West Brom should try and acquire his services in the meantime?

West Ham United: Joe Cole, Winger

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    I realise Joe Cole is 31. I realise he has already been West Ham's next big thing and has gone full circle to appear at the Boleyn Ground once more.

    Even so, the former Liverpool man has the ability to propel himself back towards super-stardom in his second stint at the club. The Hammers have struggled in recent times—winning one of their last six Premier League games—and need creative inspiration to get going again.

    Cole can inject flair, decent delivery and cutting edge into the London club's battering attack.

Wigan Athletic: James McCarthy, Midfielder

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    James McCarthy has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool in recent times (via The Daily Mail). Rumours also suggest Everton will hunt his services if Marouane Fellaini departs (via The Daily Mirror).

    Such interest doesn't come easily. The 22-year-old defensive midfielder has thrived in a combative role for Wigan. McCarthy averages three tackles per Premier League game and is a key player in the Latics' quest for survival.

    If Roberto Martinez's side are relegated to the Championship, you have to believe McCarthy will somehow find his way back to the top flight next season.

    Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:

    All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.