Brightest Young Talent at Every Premier League Club
Premier League clubs are filtering back into pre-season training this week as they ramp up preparations for the 2015-16 campaign.
Friendlies and summer tours are often a great way for young prospects to get themselves noticed, and it's a rare chance to perform alongside the established seniors and in front of the manager.
With that in mind, we checked in on every Premier League club's brightest young talent—the 20 individuals, up and down the table, who possess the the biggest potential and have the best chance of becoming world-class stars (one per club).
A note about our definition of "bright young talent": Rather than make it a straight 21 or under policy, we've selected the best young players who aren't yet household names. If you're a Premier League aficionado you'll have heard of some, but we've strayed away from including the likes of Raheem Sterling—it's not like you need reminding of who that is!
AFC Bournemouth: Baily Cargill, LB/CB
Ryan Fraser, a 21-year-old forward/winger, is perhaps Bournemouth's crown jewel, but he's made over 60 appearances for the first team and has now gone out on loan. So we turn to the next in line.
Baily Cargill was given a Capital One Cup run by Eddie Howe last season, featuring against the likes of Liverpool, and has impressed the staff and coaches at the club. At just 19 years of age, he has room to grow as a multi-position player, but looks likely to find a home at centre-back at senior level thanks to his power, height and decisiveness in the challenge.
Unlike Fraser, Cargill will be kept in the squad this season; Howe told The Bournemouth Echo he has "Premier League potential" and intends to hone in. Calm on the ball and aerially excellent, he'll fit right in.
Arsenal: Dan Crowley, CM
Dan Crowley is quite the talent-in-waiting; a formidable midfield general even at his tender age.
He possesses the much-sought ability to control the tempo and pace of a game, takes the lead in the centre of the park and possesses a wand of a right foot. He's the playmaker, the mediator and the set-piece specialist wrapped in one.
He's not elusive enough to play as a No. 10, so he'll settle deeper, and that raises concerns over his projection to the first team: Arsenal are stacked in his position.
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish, AMC/LW
Aston Villa have traditionally had plenty of youth options ready to emerge, but the well has dried up just a little of late. That means Jack Grealish is our featured man despite the fact he's already exploded into our collective conscious in more ways than one.
Despite the fact he's now a household name, either for his wizardry on the ball or his infamy in Tenerife, he's made just 13 Premier League starts and has not yet reached the age of 20.
A typical, languid No. 10, he's Adam Lallana all over, possessing the ability to play on the half-turn and pick the lock, but he lacks the top-end pace to play as a true winger.
Chelsea: Charly Musonda, CM/AM/LW
Just picking one name here was hard enough; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jeremie Boga, Jay Dasilva, Andreas Christensen, Dominic Solanke...the list of superb Chelsea youth prospects just rolls on and on.
But we've plumped for Charly Musonda, who stands as their most exciting and intriguing young player. He's a treat to watch, combining the subtle skill and technicality of a No. 10, but also provides game-winning drive from the centre, and played in a deep midfield role when Chelsea beat Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup this season.
He played a key role further forward in the UEFA Youth League, swapping inside and out with Boga to wreak havoc upon Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk's defence.
Crystal Palace: Kian Flanagan, AMC
Our selection here would have been Mandela Egbo, but he signed for Borussia Monchengladbach at the back end of June, relieving Crystal Palace of their finest prospect.
Jerome Binnom-Williams, Hiram Boateng and Sulley Kaikai will all be harbouring first-team hopes this season should they not be sent on loan to gain experience, but the biggest remaining talent is Kian Flanagan.
Per the Daily Mail, Chelsea and Arsenal are both making eyes at him across the dance floor after the 15-year-old excelled for Palace's U-18 team in the hole behind the forwards.
Everton: Brendan Galloway, CB
Brendan Galloway proposes an intriguing dilemma for Roberto Martinez: Should Everton buy a left-sided centre-back to replace Sylvain Distin, or trust this youngster with serious first-team duty?
Galloway even managed to edge Luke Garbutt—the supposed favoured son to eventually replace Leighton Baines—out of the XI at left-back at times last season despite being a naturalised, tall, strong central player.
He clearly has the manager's trust, but he's yet to make a proper impact for the seniors. Is it a pivotal year for the young defender?
Leicester City: Hamza Choudhury, CM
According to Sky Sports, Europe's elite are circling around Hamza Choudhury, who has been excelling for Leicester City in the youth sector.
At just 16 years of age, he's playing a vital, energetic role in the centre of the park for the Foxes' U-18 side, matching those two years his senior in the most important area of the pitch.
Oh, and his hair is unbelievable.
Liverpool: Harry Wilson, AM
Harry Wilson is another fantastically agile, smooth No. 10 who should progress to become a world-class player if the dominoes fall in his favour.
The UEFA Youth League provided plenty of tape for us to peruse when it came to assessing him, and his wand of a left foot—be it from free-kicks or just outside the box—is as destructive as they come.
He weaves past outstretched legs and ducks challenges with precision and boasts that wonderful ability to slide the perfectly weighted pass into the box to pick out a striker.
Jordon Ibe is another one to watch very seriously.
Manchester United: Andreas Pereira, AM/Wing
Andreas Pereira's name was unfortunately tarnished by Manchester United's comical collapse at MK Dons early last season, but don't draw any sweeping conclusions about him based on that game.
If anything, judge him by his remarkable performances at the recent U-20 World Cup, in which he was Brazil's most impressive offensive player, hitting opposing defences like a graceful wrecking ball.
He's two-footed, capable on the flank, great at slipping into space inside, takes set pieces and scores great goals. A wonderfully exciting prospect.
Manchester City: Kelechi Iheanacho, ST
According to the Manchester Evening News, Kelechi Iheanacho is to be given his first-team shot in 2015-16; Manuel Pellegrini believes him to be ready.
The Nigerian is a typical No. 9 and has been ripping defences to shreds in the youth leagues, giving City's EDS side a lethal edge inside the penalty box.
He busies centre-backs, uses his strength well and unsettles defenders with his movement. He's got a finish, too, be it headed or with his feet.
Newcastle United: Rolando Aarons, Wing
Rolando Aarons is the perfect embodiment of the phrase "raw talent"; he's a bundle of energy and slick skill just waiting to be cracked open and harnessed for good.
Newcastle United fans saw promising glimpses of him last season only for a recurring hamstring injury to wreck his season. He's already bagged his first Premier League goal and assist despite making just four appearances.
He projects as a dynamic, exciting young winger with the ability to make a difference. His top-end pace makes him a threat in every area of the pitch.
Norwich City: Josh Murphy, Wing
Josh Murphy has begun making a sporadic impact upon Norwich City's first XI as their season in the Championship allowed him some game time, and now, if Alex Neil chooses to trust him, he could break out as a Premier League player.
A tricky, quick winger, Murphy is a player the Canaries can turn to if too much of a burden is placed upon Nathan Redmond's shoulders this coming campaign. He may yet go out on loan back to the Championship, as he's quite raw, needing refinement in the passing and crossing game.
Like most in his position, he's incredibly tough to project at this stage, but he has all the raw tools required.
Southampton: Jake Hesketh, AMC
Like with Chelsea, it was tough to pick between the reams of talent Southampton's academy can boast. We're big fans of Harrison Reed and Ryan Seager, but Jake Hesketh is the selection here.
The diminutive midfielder was promoted to Ronald Koeman's senior squad this season due to a raft of injuries sustained by first-teamers, and he even bagged a start of his own, but unfortunately he had to withdraw just 32 minutes into it himself.
He picks a pass like few others, weighting his deliveries perfectly to find runners even if the gap to fit it through is minuscule. He thrives between the lines as a No. 10 and looks a more penetrative, decisive player than James Ward-Prowse.
Stoke City: Julien N'Goy, ST
Stoke City fended off legitimate interest from some of the Premier League's big clubs to sign Julien N'Goy in 2013, and he's now about ready to challenge for a first-team position.
His academy director back in Belgium, Nkandu Ntondo, a man who has worked with Romelu Lukaku, has labelled him "one of the best I have ever seen," per David Woods of the Daily Star, and he's progressing quickly to become an all-round striker.
He's quick, lean, just over six foot tall and technically capable. If The Potters find themselves shy of goals this season, he may just get the call.
Sunderland: Duncan Watmore, ST/Wing
Duncan Watmore is a player who stood out at the 2015 Toulon tournament this summer, impressing the various scouts and journalists with his direct, positive tendencies and ability to fashion goalscoring chances.
Once thought of as a centre-forward, Watmore has found a nice spot in the supporting forward/winger role, identifying space to hit and pushing forward with the ball at his feet after being found well.
Like Julien N'Goy at Stoke City, Watmore will be a name Black Cats fans bay for if their team struggle for goals again this year.
Swansea City: Matt Grimes
Swansea City have done a good job producing homegrown talent of late, but Matt Grimes perhaps doesn't fall into that category—he was signed from Exeter City at the start of this year.
The 19-year-old still managed to land in the League Two Team of the Season (despite playing half a campaign), as his talent in central midfield is obvious to anyone who watches.
In the mould of Leon Britton, or perhaps a more penetrative, effective Tom Carroll, Grimes will be sniffing out first-team chances this coming season after training with the seniors and making a sporadic debut on the left in 2014-15. He's an England youth regular and has captained his age group too.
Tottenham Hotspur: Marcus Edwards, AM/Wing
Marcus Edwards is a live-wire with the ball at his feet and has a knack for making the decisive difference in games.
Those who weren't aware of his heroics for Tottenham Hotspur's academy games learnt of his brilliance at the European Under-17 Championship, in which he was parachuted in as a substitute against Italy in the opener to score the winner and set up a strong tournament run.
Spurs have plenty of young talent to parade—Milos Veljkovic and Ismail Azzaoui are two of many players—but we spoke to youth expert Chris Miller privately, and he assured that if Edwards keeps his mind on track, he's the brightest prospect the club has.
Watford: Xane Zaineddine, AMF
If Danny De Silva doesn't work out, Australian football fans will next pin their hopes on Watford's Xane Zaineddine. After his family relocated from down under to London, he joined the Hornets' academy—despite receiving offers from Barcelona and Milan et al.
Zaineddine plays anywhere across the advanced midfield three and stands an incredibly tricky player. Nike already sponsors him—as sure of an affirmation of early talent you can possibly get.
Watford have several irons in the fire—Michael Folivi scored a bucket-load for the academy last season and Ogo Obi is a genuine talent—but Zaineddine is the pick.
West Bromwich Albion: Tyler Roberts, Wing
West Bromwich Albion have pumped through quite a few strong prospects in recent years, but rarely are they able to keep them from being poached by bigger teams at an early age.
But Tyler Roberts has stuck around, and the 16-year-old is receiving praise from every direction—be it from West Brom and Tony Pulis or the Welsh national setup.
His one-on-one dribbling ability, speed, technical prowess and willingness to drive forward make him an intriguing watch, and he's already trained with the Wales first team so Chris Coleman can get a better look at him close up.
West Ham: Reece Oxford, CB
Reece Oxford is a bright young hope for England and West Ham at centre-back. He was one of the best players at the recent European Under-17 Championship, landing a spot in Wyscout's Team of the Tournament in defence.
The young Hammer is a technically proficient player, shows excellent timing in challenges and boasts the perfect set of physical tools. He's tall, can pack muscle onto his frame and possesses superb recovery pace.
There have been a few false dawns when it comes to new defensive West Ham heroes; fans will hope Oxford bucks the trend.