Who were the best U21 players in the Premier League this season?
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Who were the best U21 players in the Premier League this season?

25/05/24 18:00

As another pulsating season of Premier League football comes to an end, I take a look at the next generation of stars who impressed most in the 2023/2024 campaign.

As you would expect players from Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are included but young stars from Everton, Bournemouth and Brighton also enjoyed stand out seasons.

Players eligible for selection must have been aged 21 or under as of 31st July 2023.

Bart Verbruggen (Brighton)

The Dutchman’s displays will have caught the eye of top clubs across Europe after injury to Jason Steele saw Verbruggen given an opportunity by Roberto De Zerbi. He has looked confident and assured, managing four clean sheets in 21 appearances for the Seagulls. Averaging 3.10 saves a match, Verbruggen boasts an impressive 69.89 save success rate.

Malo Gusto (Chelsea)

With injury to Reece James ruling him out for most of the season, Malo Gusto was entrusted by Mauricio Pochettino to play a considerable number of minutes on the right side of Chelsea’s defence. The Frenchman thrived with his marauding runs down the right flank netting him six assists and eight big chances created. He proved a real threat down the right-hand side managing 64 crosses and a pass completion of 89.24.

Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton)

The England international enjoyed a mightily impressive campaign at the heart of Everton’s defence which has attracted interest from the country’s top clubs. The Toffees managed 12 clean sheets in a season which saw Branthwaite cement himself as one of Europe’s top young defenders. His displays caught the attention of Gareth Southgate which has resulted in his selection for the European Championships in Germany.

Illia Zabarnyi (Bournemouth)

Tipped for relegation by many Andoni Iraola’s side finished 12th in a season full of positives for the Cherries. Vital to this was Ukrainian Illia Zabarnyi whose defensive attributes contributed to a record Premier League points tally. Zabarnyi was a constant presence, missing only one league game and completing 90 minutes in every game he played. A brilliant one on one defender he completed 59 tackles, 138 clearances, and won 77 aerial duels.

Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City)

Part of a team of superstars the Croatian international often goes under the radar in a side who have won four consecutive league titles. Gvardiol was vital in the title run in which saw him find the net 4 times during the last weeks of the season. Despite not playing in his preferred position, he managed 55 tackles, 27 interceptions and 12 blocks in a solid second season for the blue side of Manchester.

Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester Utd)

In a disappointing season which saw Manchester United record their lowest Premier League finish, the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo has been a shining light. The 19-year-old has cemented a regular first team spot since making his league debut in November. The teenager’s impressive displays were rewarded with his first senior England callup in March, and a place in the England squad for the European Championships this summer.

Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace)

Since the arrival of Oliver Glasner at Selhurst Park Adam Wharton has flourished resulting in a call up for Euro 2024. He has endeared himself to the Palace faithful with his passionate displays in the centre of midfield. His best performance came in the 4-0 demolition of Manchester United in May. His defensive capabilities have contributed to Palace’s upturn in form averaging 3 tackles, 4.8 ball recovered, and 1.3 interceptions per game.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

Winner of the Premier League’s Young Player of Year Award Cole Palmer has enjoyed a remarkable debut season following his summer move from Manchester City. Despite Chelsea suffering from inconsistency, Palmer managed a remarkable 33 direct goal involvements more than any other player, with 22 goals and 11 assists. His sensational campaign has seen his inclusion in England’s squad for the 2024 Euros.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Arsenal’s campaign which saw them narrowly miss out on the title was down in large part to winger Bukayo Saka. Having now improved his output in consecutive seasons, Saka managed to improve on his last campaign netting 16 goals and providing nine assists. The Englishman has cemented himself as one of the first names on the team sheet for club and country. It is vital that England get the best out of him if they are to go the distance in Germany this summer.

Joao Pedro (Brighton)

Despite suffering with injury problems in the second half of the campaign Joao Pedro enjoyed a promising start to life on the south coast. Pedro only started half of Brighton’s Premier League matches but still managed a respectable nine goals and three assists. A nightmare for defenders, a blend of speed and technical ability has seen him stand out in the blue and white of Brighton. His best performance came against Spurs at the Amex in a rampant display which saw him net a brace.

Jeremy Doku (Manchester City)

The Belgian international struggled to cement a regular place in Pep Guardiola’s side this season but showed flashes of brilliance when called upon. Doku managed three goals and eight assists in 29 appearances despite starting in less than half. His potential is huge with his technical prowess and trickery perplexing defenders resulting in 87 successful dribbles throughout the campaign. He is likely to improve next season as signings often require a year to get accustomed to Guardiola’s unique tactical system.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Lewis Carr

Football Writer

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