After a long international break, Premier League Talent Scout is back to highlight the best young performers from this weekend's EPL action. As always, you can catch up with Matchday 7's action in the previous edition, here.
As a reminder for those of you who still aren't regular followers of PLTS, "young players" mainly entails U-21 players, though U-23 players with less than five seasons of true professional experience can make the occasional appearance as well.
In an attempt to increase the exposure of PLTS, I've decided to experiment with moving PLTS from its usual Thursday date to Monday. If you are strongly in favor or against this move, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.
Also, in response to the comments received last week, I've decided to set a cap of five on the number of appearances a player can make on PLTS.
The only player who has currently made that number of appearances is Phil Jones, and so he won't be included on any PLTS top five lists for the rest of the season.
There are, however, a number of other players, like Chris Smalling, Mario Balotelli, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, who have all made multiple appearances on PLTS, and will also be removed from the list once they hit five appearances.
With all the logistics out of the way, let's get right into the action and take a look at the most impressive young players in the EPL from this weekend.
Chris Smalling (21): Manchester United, Right-Back
After being out of the Manchester United lineup for a couple games due to injury, Chris Smalling returned against Liverpool and put in a good shift against Liverpool. He was given some trouble by Jose Enrique, but all in all prevented Liverpool from having much success down their left flank.
Javier Hernandez (23): Manchester United, Striker
Some will argue that Hernandez deserves to included in the top five for the week after his heroic equalizer for Manchester United, but for someone like Hernandez the bar is set higher and a poacher's goal just isn't enough.
He did well, and if he can keep scoring goals and earning more playing time he should find himself back among the top five of PLTS soon enough.
Apostolos Vellios (19): Everton, Striker
Everton's super-sub is quickly becoming a rising star in the Everton squad, and it should only be a matter of time before he gets to start for Everton. Against Chelsea, it took Vellios only 18 seconds to put the ball in the back of the net, though the game was already over by then.
Newcastle's young custodian has been in excellent form all season long, and it's about time he got some credit for the work he's put in this season. Thus, we're starting off this week's top five with Tim Krul.
Krul has been an instrumental part of Newcastle's surprisingly good start to the season, picking up three clean sheets and allowing only one goal in in every non-clean sheet game prior to the Tottenham match.
Even against Tottenham, despite the fact that he conceded two goals, Krul's performance was a huge reason why Newcastle were able to get a draw from the game and remain unbeaten.
In the second half, Tim Krul showed his excellent ability to read the game by being able to predict the through pass that Scott Parker would make to Jermain Defoe, and was able to get into the right position to beat Defoe to the ball and stop a sure goal.
He would also make another great save on Defoe near the end of the game, with Newcastle tied up 2-2 and looking to prevent Tottenham from taking the lead once again.
Tim Krul faces great competition from Michael Vorm, Maarten Stekelenburg and others in the Dutch national team for starting goalkeeping duties, but if he keeps performing the way he has this season, he'll surely earn multiple caps in his career, and maybe even become the Netherland's first-choice keeper one day.
And while those headlines did speak to the truth that it was largely RVP's brilliance that carried Arsenal to victory, those headlines overlook the solid performance put in by Carl Jenkinson—one Arsene Wenger will surely be happy with after the young right-back's recent shaky performances.
Against Sunderland, Carl Jenkinson handled his defensive duties well, although to be fair he had little to deal with. However, what was impressive is that he finally started pushing forward, running and getting involved with the offense.
His crosses weren't as precise as they needed to be, but they were a major sign of improvement from a right-back who will be crucial to Arsenal's success in the coming months, with Bacary Sagna not expected to return for around three months.
After a slow start to the season with Chelsea, everything seems to be clicking for Daniel Sturridge.
The striker-cum-winger has scored four goals in four games now, and looks to have hit top gear.
Against Everton, Sturridge opened the scoring after an excellent run and cross from Ashley Cole, and was lively throughout the match as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 lead and 3-1 win.
It seems only a matter of time before Daniel Sturridge is called up to the English national squad, and if he keeps up his current form, he could really be an X-factor for England at Euro 2012.
As a follower of world football, I've been waiting for many years to see just how good Mario Balotelli could be if he matured and got over his disciplinary issues. I have to say: I like what I see.
Against Aston Villa, Mario Balotelli scored the opener to start Manchester City's 4-1 rout of the Villians, making it four goals in four matches for him since the League Cup match against Birmingham City.
Though he didn't have any other key contributions in the game, his presence continued to stretch Aston Villa's defense, and allowed Manchester City to repeatedly exploit its weaknesses in notching up its four goals.
Admittedly, it was also pretty fun to see Balotelli rile up the crowd then quickly shut them up with his well-taken overhead goal.
Every once in a while, David de Gea puts in one of those goalkeeping performances that just absolutely wow you. He did it against Stoke, and this week he did it against Liverpool.
In Manchester United's 1-1 draw against Liverpool, de Gea made multiple magnificent saves. He started off by making an excellent save from Luis Suarez at near point blank distance, then followed it up with an amazing reflex save from Dirk Kuyt's shot off a Jose Enrique cross.
Finally, de Gea pulled off a world-class save to stop a great shot from Liverpool substitute Jordan Henderson from going in. And those were just the toughest of the bunch; de Gea made a handful of other important saves throughout the game.
For all the criticism he has received, it seems like de Gea is adjusting well to life in Manchester United (bar his penchant for donut-thievery), and is on the right track to being an able successor to Dutch legend Edwin van der Sar.
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?
As an interesting tidbit of information, there's now been 25 different players featured on PLTS, not counting players mentioned in the honorable mentions section.
Following Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge are the next highest appearance-makers, with three appearances per player.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading your comments below!
(Anthony Pilkington is featured here his since I was unfortunately unable to include him in the top five or even the honorable mentions of Premier League Talent Scout. The 23-year-old barely misses out on the eligibility criteria of PLTS due to the fact that he'd already played five years of professional football prior to this season.
Still, there's no doubt that Pilkington is one of the most impressive talents on display in the Premier League this season, having scored a brace against Swansea this weekend. His rise from the tenth tier of English football to the first is absolutely remarkable, and makes his success this season even more exciting to follow.)