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As we head towards this season’s player awards, it seems most of those in contention for the PFA Young Player of the Year will be established stars in the likes of Marcus Rashford, Leroy Sane and Trent Alexander-Arnold. However, new stars are emerging. Here, we count those who have put themselves firmly on the Premier League map this season.
10. Angus Gunn (Southampton)
Goalkeepers more than any other position in the game have to wait for their Premier League chance. Just six months on from his arrival at Southampton, 23-year-old Gunn has overtaken Alex McCarthy and has established himself. Gunn started making his case in the domestic cups, but earned his Premier League debut against Chelsea and kept a clean sheet. Gunn was again excellent as Southampton tried to keep Manchester United in check at Old Trafford. He possess excellent reflexes and presence in-goal, but needs to improve his distribution. Having seen off two England capped ‘keepers at St Mary’s, Gunn will likely continue his progress with the Under 21’s before pressing his claims for a senior call.
9. Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City)
While most talk around City’s new young talent has centered around Phil Foden, it’s Oleksander Zinchenko who has made the strongest play for a regular start. The Ukrainian has slotted in seamlessly at left back, notching 3 assists in just 6 Premier League games. In all, Zinchenko has made 18 appearances this season and scored his first goal for the club. With Benjamin Mendy proving injury prone, and both Danilo and Fabian Delph only ever sticking plaster solutions, Zinchenko looks set to retain the left back slot for the foreseeable future. However, convincing Pep Guardiola he doesn’t need to spend big on a left back this summer remains a formidable challenge.
8. Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Back in December, Joe Gomez would have been #1 on this list, but a broken leg has interrupted his fine season. Having flashed potential last season most notably marking Neymar at Wembley, Gomez found it difficult to establish a regular start at Liverpool. However, this season he formed an excellent centre back partnership with Virgil Van Dijk. There are question marks as to when Gomez will return, but there seems little doubt he’s now a fixture in defence for both Liverpool and England.
7. Sean Longstaff (Newcastle United)
It has been a forgettable season at Newcastle, but Rafa Benitez appears to have unearthed a gem in Newcastle-born Sean Longstaff. He made his senior debut in November and has become a regular starter for Newcastle. Longstaff scored in the FA Cup before winning the decisive penalty that beat Manchester City. In addition, Longstaff scored his first Premier League goal against Burnley and appears to have a fine passing range. While uncertainty and mistrust still swirl around St James’ Park, it seems the Toon Army at least have a new local hero to cheer.
6. James Maddison (Leicester City)
There were plenty of eyebrows raised when Leicester paid in excess of £20 million for a player with just one full season of Championship football behind him. However, James Maddison proved an instant hit in the Premier League starting with an impressive debut at Old Trafford, and then scoring on his home debut. He has established himself as a creative #10 and free kick specialist, notching 5 goals and 5 assists this season. Maddison sits on the fringe of the England squad and will likely get a chance to further enhance his reputation at the European Under 21 Championships this summer. With Brendan Rodgers now in charge at Leicester, Maddison will be hoping Rodgers’ coaching can do for him what it previously did for Raheem Sterling and Philip Coutinho.
5. Harry Winks (Tottenham)
Harry Winks has long been touted as the next great product from the Spurs academy. Last season hinted at his potential, with a series of impressive displays in the autumn before an ankle injury curtailed his progress. This season looked like make or break for the midfielder, and Winks has responded by establishing himself at the heart of Spurs’ midfield. Winks is a fine passer of the ball from deep midfield, and his fine form made it easy for Spurs to let Mousa Dembele leave in January. Winks is now firmly established with England and looks likely to receive a PFA Young Player of the Year nomination.
4. Ben Chilwell (Leicester City)
This was always going to be a critical season for the young left back; the year he moved firmly ahead of veteran Christian Fuchs in the Leicester pecking order. Ben Chilwell has not only established himself as Leicester first choice, but with England too, starting the last 4 games for his country. His promotion this season can be put down to his improved defensive work to go with the overlapping ability he’s always showcased. Rumors of interest from Manchester City have gathered pace in recent weeks, and Chilwell looks set to spend his summer playing at the Nations League finals in Portugal.
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crsytal Palace)
Having made his senior debut in February of 2018, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has now established himself as the best young right back in the Premier League. Wan-Bissaka is quickly becoming a world class covering fullback and leads all Premier League defenders in tackles this season. Still with England’s Under 21’s, it looks likely Wan-Bissaka will get his first senior call up later this month. End of season accolades usually go to attacking players, but it would be a major shock if Wan-Bissaka isn’t at least shortlisted for Young Player of the Year and selected as right back for the PFA Team of the Season.
2. David Brooks (Bournemouth)
David Brooks has proved the most exciting new talent in the Premier League after joining Bournemouth from Championship side Sheffield United. From an attacking midfield position, Brooks has teased defenders with his ball skill and drive, notching 6 goals and 4 assists in 22 games. Brooks committed his international future to Wales in 2017, but under the management of Ryan Giggs, he has firmly established himself as a first-team player at international level. Brooks has received admiring glances from bigger clubs, but under tutelage of Eddie Howe, he looks set to stay with Bournemouth for now.
1. Declan Rice (West Ham)
The leading candidate for Young Player of the Year is surely West Ham starlet Declan Rice. West Ham’s rapid improvement from a disastrous start to the season can be in part attributed to Manual Pellegrini inserting Rice into his side as a screening midfield player protecting the back four. Rice in turn has gone from promising utility player to the first name on West Ham’s team-sheet.
Unsurprisingly, Rice recently signed a new deal to keep him at West Ham until 2023, as The Hammers attempt to see off interest from other clubs. At international level, Rice has caused controversy by switching allegiance from Ireland to the country of his birth England.
Picture Credits: Getty, FourFourTwo, Evening Standard