Premier League Talent Scout: Hottest Prospects of Match Day 2 in the EPL
Last week, we started our tracking of the best talents of the English Premier League with the first edition of "Premier League Talent Scout." Today, we continue that with the second edition, identifying the five best U-21 players from match day two.
With the big Arsenal-Liverpool matchup featuring a whole host of youngsters, three of which put in noticeably impressive displays, and Manchester United's young lineup emphatically beating Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, there's a lot of young players to choose from.
Let's get to it.
I normally don't and won't do this, but considering the vast array of solid talents on display this weekend, I felt like their performances could not go uncongratulated.
Wojciech Szczesny—Arsenal (21), Goalkeeper
Szczesny would've surely made his second appearance in the top 5 of the Premier League Talent Scout had Arsenal not absolutely crumbled below the weight of an awful transfer campaign and numerous injuries to the first team.
Despite his team's loss however, Szczesny showed extreme confidence in dealing with every shot, cross or header thrown at him, and was an impenetrable wall before once again getting beaten by a defensive mix-up between Aaron Ramsey and Ignasi Miquel. He was not at fault for either of his team's conceded goals.
Ross Barkley—Everton (17), Central Midfielder
Another who would've surely made the top 5 had his team won. In Everton's opener against Queens Park Rangers, Ross Barkley had an excellent debut, being named man of the match despite his team's loss. His followup performance against Sheffield United in the Carling Cup has pundits and writers alike believing he will be a key player in the near future for Everton.
Chris Smalling—Manchester United (21) Right-Back
The performances of Manchester United's youth have been so good that I initially had to wrestle with whether to put Tom Cleverley or Chris Smalling here, but then Cleverley was eliminated from the discussion by technicality as he turned 22 twelve days ago.
Against Tottenham, Chris Smalling played his third game in a row at right-back, and though Gareth Bale regularly challenged him, Chris Smalling stood up well to the challenge. Poor Rafael da Silva will have a great deal of trouble displacing him when he returns from injury.
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Nowadays, due to injuries and the departure of key players, it has become normal to see Arsenal start a match with three or four youth players and indeed, against Liverpool, Arsenal played most of the match with five (Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Ignasi Miquel, Emmanuel Frimpong, Aaron Ramsey). If you add Walcott (who is only 22-and-a-half years old) and Henri Lansbury (who's 20 and came on as a sub) into the discussion, you can see just how young Arsenal's lineup currently is.
A lot of these players look like they will be decent English Premier League players, while a few look like they just don't have the quality to play for Arsenal or in the Champions League. Emmanuel Frimpong, however, is not one of those players.
Though he did get sent off in the 70th minute of Arsenal's match against Liverpool, the Ghanian bossed play prior to his second yellow card and almost single-handedly kept Arsenal in the game. He was Arsenal's shining ray of light, and his surging runs in the midfield were a sight to behold.
At 19 years old, Frimpong is far from the finished product, and may likely even find himself relegated to the bench once Alex Song returns from injury. However, make no mistake, Frimpong is the real deal and could truly be the next Patrick Viera for Arsenal.
Last week against Sunderland, Martin Kelly was overlooked by manager Kelly Dalglish in favor of 18-year-old John Flanagan, and though he did not make any glaring errors, his performance at right-back left a little to be desired.
This week, Martin Kelly was given the opportunity to show his abilities at right-back in place of the injured Glen Johnson, and did not disappoint. He did not put a foot wrong in defense (admittedly against a rather lost Arsenal offense), but even showed the ability to go forward and contribute in offense, with one of his shots hitting the outside of the post.
It remains to be seen if Kelly has done enough to convince Dalglish that he should continue to start once Glen Johnson returns, but given his versatility in defense he should remain a vital asset to the squad, even if he is displaced from the starting lineup when Glen Johnson returns.
Team: Aston Villa
Position: Central Midfielder
For years now, Fabian Delph has been touted as "the next big thing" in English football. At Leeds, he was reportedly on the verge of moving to Arsenal and finished the 2008-09 season as the Players' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year (for Leeds and League One). He was also selected for the PFA League One Team of the Year.
His move to Aston Villa didn't result in immediate stardom however. In his first season at the club, he was slowly worked into the team, picking up largely substitute appearances, but had his development greatly impeded by a cruciate ligament injury, which kept him out for eight months.
He returned to action at Aston Villa on February 26th, 2011, but had to be brought back up to speed and was not given a starting position in midfield before the end of the season.
Now, however, it seems Fabian Delph is finally being given the opportunity to stake his claim in the team's starting lineup, and is taking the chance with both hands. Slotting into Nigel Reo-Coker's vacated central midfield position alongside captain Stiliyan Petrov, Delph has started both of Aston Villa's Premier League games thus far and has reportedly impressed his manager.
Against Blackburn, Fabian Delph was involved in the buildup to Emile Heskey's goal, making the pass to Agbonlahor, who then subsequently made the assist for Heskey's goal. Additionally, Fabian Delph calmly controlled the midfield, showing great athleticism on the ball and making timely tackles when needed.
Team: Manchester United
Phil Jones becomes the first player to make two-consecutive appearances on Premier League Talent Scout's top five list, but unlike last time, he is fully deserving of his inclusion this time around.
Against a hungry Tottenham team, Phil Jones completely shut out the Tottenham offense, particularly neutralizing Jermaine Defoe on the ground and in the air. Alongside Jonny Evans, who has previously proven to be a rather unstable defender, Phil Jones made Manchester United fans hardly notice the absence of their two starting centre-backs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
With Rio Ferdinand out for up to six weeks, and Nemanja Vidic out for four to five weeks, it is likely that Phil Jones will be repeatedly called upon in the coming weeks to perform for Manchester United. If he continues to put on performances like the one he put on against Tottenham, Manchester United fans can be well assured that they have nothing to worry about.
Team: Manchester United
For the second-consecutive week, Manchester United earn the title of having the best talents of the week.
Though he failed to blow away Manchester United fans with his performance in his first game against West Bromwich Albion, Danny Welbeck put in a much improved and much more clinical performance against Tottenham.
Though Tottenham managed to keep Danny Welbeck shut out for 60 minutes, Welbeck was finally able to open the scoring in the 61st minute off a cross from Tom Cleverley, and then doubled Tottenham's pain in the 76th minute with an exceptional back-heel flick to Anderson, who coolly slotted home the goal to effectively seal the win for Manchester United.
With Javier Hernandez now fit much earlier than expected, it is expected that Danny Welbeck will be relegated to the role of a super-sub. But should Javier Hernandez lose form or go on any sort of goal drought, Danny Welbeck will be patiently waiting on the bench to show his abilities for Manchester United once again.
What do you think of this week's selections? Any players you think should've made the top-five cut that didn't? How about the players on the list, do you believe any of them should've been excluded?
Make your opinion known in the comment box below. I look forward to reading your comments and discussing them with you.
(I felt bad for Cleverley and decided to at least give him a picture on this slide, but please do not ask for his inclusion in the comments section as he does not meet the criteria (i.e, age) to make to make this list.)