Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the 5 Best Young Talents in the EPL
UEFA's impending Financial Fair Play rules along with the desire for instant success have put increasing pressure on English Premier League clubs to find and feature younger talents. This Premier League season has seen a number of talented youths take England's top flight by storm.
These starlets are being thrust into regular action sooner than usually expected and many are already starting to make a name for themselves. Granted there is always a lot of hype surrounding young prospects, particularly domestic players. But in some cases the hype and not-insignificant transfer fees are beginning to be justified.
Here is a list identifying the six most promising prospects who have shot to prominence so far this season.
Two Talented Midfielders Who Don't Make the List
Only injury has kept Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley off this list. The pair have missed too many games to make a sufficient enough impact on the Premier League.
Wilshere in particular could be expected to head a list of this kind. But an awkward injury and numerous setbacks have robbed the talented Gunners youngster of the opportunity to showcase his abilities in a more creative role.
The list is comprised of players in the 16 to 21 age range who have made a consistent contribution to their respective team's efforts this season.
6. Victor Moses, Striker Wigan Athletic
Twenty-one-year-old Victor Moses has been one of the few bright spots of a dismal campaign so far for Wigan Athletic. The bullish Latics forward is one of the most dynamic young attackers in the Premier League and is the main threat in a frequently misfiring Wigan forward line.
Moses possesses a blend of straight-line speed and brute force that makes him an intimidating player for defenders to try and deal with. The ex-Crystal Palace prodigy is also able to add intricate ball skills and trickery to his tremendous strength and pace.
Moses in full flow is one of the most exciting spectacles in the Premier League. If there is one thing he needs to improve it is certainly the accuracy of his shooting. The youngster reigns a bevvy long-range efforts on goal in every match. Yet Moses has only managed two league goals so far this season.
Ostensibly listed as a striker, Moses is often played out wide by manager Roberto Martinez. But given the goal-scoring problems that serve to cripple Wigan on a regular basis, maybe Martinez should consider turning Moses loose in a central striking role.
5. Kyle Walker, Right-Back Tottenham Hotspur
Fleet-footed right-back Kyle Walker has added even more pace to a Tottenham Hotspur team that can stretch any defense. Walker's lightning speed and direct style make him a danger every time he ventures forwards.
The England youth has also gradually become a better defender as the season has wore on. His superior athleticism often masks poor positioning. But Walker is beginning to learn how to use his strength and quickness to anticipate problems sooner and break up attacks.
Walker has given Spurs yet another attacking outlet and provides genuine competition for Glen Johnson's right-back berth in the England squad. The 21-year-old certainly has a very bright future ahead of him.
4. Phil Jones, Central Defender Manchester United
Nineteen-year-old Phil Jones has begun to live up to the sizeable transfer fee Manchester United paid to secure his services. Jones first demonstrated his potential at Blackburn Rovers. But since moving to Old Trafford he has refined his game and looks increasingly composed and assured.
A quick-thinking and combative defender, Jones has the physicality all central defenders need in the Premier League. But the youngster is also blessed with underrated technique and a keen eye for a pass.
The latter qualities have enabled Jones to occasionally play in the revolving door that is United's midfield. Injuries and the seemingly ever-changing pattern to United's defensive lineup have stunted his progress somewhat. But when healthy Jones has been the best of the Red Devils' summer acquisitions.
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Attacking Midfielder Arsenal
Although it's a little disturbing how quickly Arsenal fans have just decided that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a superstar, there's no denying that the pacey wide forward is blessed with an abundance of talent. He may be in danger of being overburdened by hype that is approaching frenzy, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has the ability to be a key player for the Gunners for years to come.
The former Southampton starlet has quickly broke into the Arsenal first-team fold. He really shot to prominence after a capable showing against defending champions Manchester United. Although his performance was not as impressive as many Gunners fans chose to believe, Oxlade-Chamberlain did enough to prove he can impact a game against top opposition.
After a frankly laboured display against Aston Villa in the FA Cup, Oxlade-Chamberlain produced arguably his best effort for the Gunners in their 0-0 draw away to Bolton Wanderers. He posed a constant threat with his powerful and incisive runs.
The 18-year-old also displayed a speed of thought and ability to spot and play a creative pass that should see him become a vital part of Arsene Wenger's tactical structure. It would be nice though if the same fans who berate Wenger for substituting Oxade-Chamberlain, remember just who it was who actively pursued and eventually signed the youngster in the first place.
2. Danny Welbeck, Striker Manchester United
Although this author is not as enamoured with Danny Welbeck's abilities as many seem to be, there is no denying that the 21-year-old local product has had a positive impact on United's season so far. Six Premier League goals is sufficient proof that Welbeck has quickly become a vital contributor for the Red Devils forward line.
Welbeck offers blistering pace to the United attack and is at his best when stretching a back four and latching onto passes over the top. He is also able to match the threat posed by his speed with excellent instincts and anticipation in the box.
Welbeck is occasionally guilty of trying to do too much. But if he can learn to simply stay direct, rely on his pace and stay healthy, there's no reason why Welbeck can't add to his impressive scoring tally.
1. Junior Hoilett, Attacking Midfielder Blackburn Rovers
It almost defies belief that none of the top clubs made a move to snap up Canadian speedster Junior Hoilett during the January transfer window. The criminally underrated Blackburn Rovers youngster is easily one of the most explosive young talents in the Premier League.
Hoilett combines accomplished technique and intricate skills with frightening straight-line speed. The 21-year-old is a constant threat from wide areas and is capable of delivering pinpoint accurate crosses.
Hoilett also has the intelligence and creative instincts to drift into the middle and thread some clever passes through a defense, or even offer a goal-scoring threat of his own via some well-timed runs. With his future at Ewood Park uncertain, Hoilett should have no shortage of suitors come the end of the season.