Premier League Talent Scout: Hottest Prospects of Matchday 7 in the EPL
Welcome to the 7th edition of Premier League Talent Scout. The name change didn't really work out as planned last week, so we're switching back to what we started out with: Premier League Talent Scout. Last week's edition of PLTS can be found here.
As a reminder, and for those new followers of Premier League Talent Scout, here is what PLTS is all about:
At Premier League Talent Scout, we take a look at all the English Premier League games played over the weekend and identify the top five young players from those games, in the hopes of unearthing and tracking the biggest Premier League and world stars of tomorrow.
Got it? Cool. Remember, "young players" means that U-21 players are generally the only players considered, although U-23 players with less than five seasons of true professional experience can be included as well.
Now that all the rules are out of the way, let's get to the good stuff, and see the top five young players who most impressed us from last week's action.
Things were not as crazy in Matchday 7 as they were in Matchday 6, when we had an abnormally long list of young players who performed well, but there were still a number of young players who were impressive, but unfortunately not impressive enough to make the top five. Here they are:
Martin Kelly (21)—Liverpool, Right Back
Here's an interesting tidbit of information for you: This season, Liverpool have won every game in which Martin Kelly has started. Without him, they've drawn one game and lost twice. If that does tell you how important the young right back is to this Liverpool team, nothing will.
Barry Bannan (21)—Aston Villa, Right Midfielder
The young Scotsman has been making regularly top five and HM PLTS appearances for a couple of weeks now, and shows no signs of stopping.
Against Wigan, Bannan assisted Gabby Agbonlahor's opener, played several solid long balls to the Aston Villa frontman, and linked up well with his midfield teammates.
Stefan Savic (20)—Manchester City, Center Back
If Roberto Mancini gives Savic more playing time, you can expect to see him appearing on PLTS on a regular basis. The Montenegrin made a goal-stopping clearance against Everton last week after coming on, and against Blackburn he was able to score the fourth and final goal with an astute header.
Francis Coquelin (20)—Arsenal, Defensive Midfielder
In Arsenal's derby day loss to Tottenham, Coquelin was undoubtedly Arsenal's Man of the Match, and Wenger's silver lining. The Frenchman made a number of excellent tackles throughout the game, and passed the ball intelligently to his more attack-minded teammates.
If there's anyone who's benefited from the Carlos Tevez debacle, it's definitely Mario Balotelli.
For the first time in a long time, Balotelli is making the headlines for all the right reasons. He has now scored in each of his last three appearances for Manchester City, and is certainly challenging Edin Dzeko for the right to start alongside Sergio Aguero.
Against Blackburn, Mario Balotelli did not have the perfect game. Many of his good opportunities ended up going just wide or being skied over. However, Mario Balotelli showed great maturity to stay calm, and when Adam Johnson finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute, Balotelli was able to double Manchester City's lead soon after.
With Carlos Tevez looking increasingly unlikely to ever play for Manchester City again, Mario Balotelli can expect to get a great deal of playing time this season, a surprising scenario considering he was fourth choice at the start of the season.
What Balotelli does with the playing time is up to him. This could easily be the season where Balotelli goes from being "huge talent with an attitude problem" to "world-class superstar", but he must put in the work regularly to make it happen.
Watch out Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck may just be about to pull a Chicharito.
Although it does not receive a great deal of media attention, there is currently a major battle going on at Manchester United for the right to start in front of Wayne Rooney as Manchester United's goal scoring striker. The candidates are Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck.
Danny Welbeck started the season as Manchester United's first choice striker due to the fact that Hernandez was still recovering from injury, but he picked up an injury right as Hernandez was approaching full fitness.
It was expected that this unexpected chain of events would allow Javier Hernandez to naturally reclaim his starting position in front of Wayne Rooney, and allow Danny Welbeck to settle into the role of supersub or second-choice striker.
What was not expected, however, was that Javier Hernandez would struggle upon his return.
In three starts now since his double against Bolton in Matchday 4, Javier Hernandez has not found the net for Manchester United. Of course, he was taken off injured in the game vs Stoke, but against Chelsea Hernandez seemed to lack his usual cutting edge, and against Norwich he was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, it was Danny Welbeck who came on for Hernandez at Norwich City to score the clinching goal and ease the nerves of the Red Devils. This was his third goal of the week, following his double against FC Basel in the Champions League.
I'm not saying that Javier Hernandez is done for; I'm sure Sir Alex Ferguson will stick with him for a least a while longer, and this international break should give Hernandez time to recover from all his injuries and get some rest.
But, if Welbeck maintains the form he's been in, and Hernandez is unable to recapture his form of 2010-11, we could just see Welbeck displace him as the season proceeds, and pull a Chicharito the way Hernandez pulled one over Berbatov.
Kyle Walker is quickly becoming one of my favorite full backs in the Premier League.
Against Arsenal, Kyle Walker did everything asked of him, and more.
He absolutely shut down Gervinho, who had a poor game and was subbed off with 15 minutes to go. He marauded down the right flank with excellent pace and, of course, scored the winning goal with a lucky but spectacular strike from way outside the box.
Kyle Walker has already far surpassed the level of his predecessors Vedran Corluka and Alan Hutton, and has earned a much deserved call up to the England national team.
It's cliche and gets used time and again, but the sky is the limit for Kyle Walker right now.
After his display against Bolton, Andre Villas-Boas would have to be stupid to bench Daniel Sturridge in favor of any of the other strikers available to him in the squad.
Taking on his former team, Daniel Sturridge put in a Man of the Match performance.
He scored the opener with a powerful header, assisted Frank Lampard's first goal with a fine pass which Lampard had only to direct towards goal, and finished off the game with a tricky strike that bounced in front of the keeper and into the goal. By the 26th minute, the match was over.
Granted, it was only Bolton, who have been rather poor this season, but the limited sampling we've had of Daniel Sturridge's game this season has looked pretty good.
It's too early to call him Chelsea's savior, and it's likely he'll continue at right wing rather than at center forward, but he certainly is a strong talent who could add an extra dimension of flair and skill to Chelsea's new look starting lineup.
I may just have to put a cap on the number of times a player can appear in PLTS, the way Phil Jones is playing.
The Manchester United center back has now made the top five on six out of seven occasions, with the game against Stoke City being the only game he's played in this season in which he was not spectacular.
He still was good enough to earn an honorable mention though, which isn't always easy with all the other youth talents emerging in the EPL.
Against Norwich City, Phil Jones was back to his very best. Beside a rather shaky Jonny Evans, Phil Jones was able to stifle Norwich City's Steve Morison and cleaned up numerous messes made by Evans. His interceptions of Norwich's attacking play was particularly impressive.
Phil Jones has now received his second call up to the England national team after the first call up was cancelled following the London riots.
He is expected to start alongside John Terry in defense and, in due time, may just replace Rio Ferdinand in England's starting lineup, especially if he keeps his current form up.
What do you think of this week's selections? Are there 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?
If you haven't noticed, I tend to focus on the talents on display at the top six clubs of the EPL more than the talents playing for the rest of the clubs in the EPL, so if there are any guys who you feel aren't getting enough attention, make sure to let me know!
Also, any recommendations on format, what you'd like to see, etc, are welcomed.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading your comments below!
(Aaron Ramsey is the dishonorable mention of the week. He may have scored Arsenal's goal in the derby by tapping the ball in from Alex Song's cross, but he has done a poor job in filling the shoes of Jack Wilshere or Cesc Fabregas, and if I were Wenger I would start looking for replacements or change my formation to avoid selecting him.)