Picking a Premier League Under-20 Best XI for Next Season
Chances given to those under 20 years of age in the English Premier League are few and far between.
The talent and mental maturity needed to make an impact at such a level is borderline absurd, but a special selection each season are given a real chance to make a name for themselves.
Looking ahead to the 2013-14 season, which youngsters can come in and make an impact? We select our U-20 XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
To be eligible for the side, players must be 20 or younger on the day the season starts.
GK: Jed Steer, Aston Villa
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Let's face it, goalkeepers 20 years of age or less very rarely get the chance to shine.
The large majority of managers believe in securing experience between the sticks, then subsequently loaning out their younger models for game-time experience at a lower level.
This, combined with the fact that many English Premier League clubs have three senior 'keepers on the books, makes this area of the side difficult to fill.
If anyone's got a chance, though, it's Jed Steer. Recently announced as Aston Villa's sixth summer signing via the club's official website, he's going to hope Paul Lambert gives him a shot—at least in the cup competitions.
RB: Guillermo Varela, Manchester United
Andre Wisdom has more experience in the English Premier League, but he is expected to head out on loan this season to find more playing time.
That leaves us with Manchester United new-boy Guillermo Varela, who's currently starring at the FIFA U-20 World Cup with Uruguay.
As the only deputy for Rafael at right-back, Varela should see a bit of action in 2013. Phil Jones needs consistency in a central role and Antonio Valencia is no long-term right-back.
Expect Varela to learn, then seize his chance against weaker opposition.
CB: Nathan Ake, Chelsea
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A centre-back by trade, Nathan Ake was utilised by Rafa Benitez as a holding midfielder last season in an effort to give the youngster some playing time.
He's proven adept in the role and can deputise there for Jose Mourinho, but with question marks over the central defensive corps, he could emerge in the defensive line too.
It will be a case of whenever, wherever for Ake, but he'll take every minute he can get.
CB: Matija Nastasic, Manchester City
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Matija Nastasic was immense for Manchester City last season.
Brought in as a young, unknown defender, he solidified his spot in the lineup alongside Vincent Kompany and outplayed the Belgian for long periods of the campaign.
City fans will hope he can continue his exponential improvement, making their defensive line the best in the league.
LB: Luke Shaw, Southampton
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There's a little competition at left-back, but Luke Shaw should come out on top, seeing off the challenge of Swansea City's Ben Davies.
Davies' workload will likely decrease a little upon Neil Taylor's return to fitness, whereas Southampton see Shaw as their starting left-back for the new season.
Defensively, Shaw is sound. His shining moment came in nullifying Gareth Bale for 89 minutes last season—an impressive feat for a 17-year-old. He can improve in an attacking sense, but one so young has done superbly and continues to make rapid progress.
CM: Ross Barkley, Everton
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Ross Barkley is a physical specimen, and if he can hone his technical game to the required level, he can be a force in the English Premier League.
At 19 years of age, he's bigger than most EPL midfielders already, and when he gets going he's a train. Many clubs are looking for a forceful, direct central midfielder to make the difference, and Roberto Martinez needs to make sure he gives Barkley the chance to shine.
CM: James Ward-Prowse, Southampton
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James Ward-Prowse is arguably Southampton's most exciting prospect, but Luke Shaw's emergence has taken the limelight away.
The midfield maestro is a pass-master who excels when deployed between the lines, dictating games with ease and playing in a very un-English fashion.
Mauricio Pochettino needs to show the same bold nature Nigel Adkins did in starting JWP when the season starts in August.
RW: Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United
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Who knows what kind of an impact Wilfried Zaha will have on the English Premier League next season?
He could feature regularly for Manchester United given their lack of in-form wingers. On the other hand, he could be shipped on loan to Crystal Palace and star once more for them.
He injects raw pace, power and natural trickery into any side, and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to a considerably higher standard of play.
He's used to pressure—he single-handedly dragged Palace through the playoffs—but how will a crowd of 70,000 at Old Trafford effect his nerves?
AMC: Suso, Liverpool
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Suso faces some pretty sterling competition to get back into the Liverpool side following the flurry of summer signings in and around his position.
That said, he's doing himself a world of good by excelling at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and Brendan Rodgers will be delighted to see him playing such an influential role in Spain's tiki-taka style.
He'll need to perform in preseason to win a shot in the Reds' side, but he's got the talent to do it. He's ready for first-team football.
LW: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal
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This is the season, make or break.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs games to realise his sky-high potential, and his limited exposure in the Arsenal first team has ensured he's made almost no progress since signing from Southampton in 2011.
Whether that's a loan to an English Premier League club or elevation to the first XI at the Emirates...England fans don't care, they want their prodigious talent back.
ST: Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea
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Whether it's at Stamford Bridge or on loan again, expect nothing less than another beastly season from Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian scored 17 goals for West Bromwich Albion last season, displaying the kind of skill set even an established complete forward can admire.
Pace, power, creativity and a massive frame give him all the utensils to succeed in any team. Will Jose Mourinho put faith in him?