Rabu, 12 September 2012
Teenagers In The Premier League
Some of the youngsters that could bewitch and bedazzle in BPL for years to come.
10) Gael Bigirimana - Newcastle - 18
There may be more talented players on this list, but you can be sure none of them have a story quite like Bigirimana's. He arrived in England as a nine-year-old refugee from Burundi, from where he and his mother escaped the civil war in 2004. An 11-year-old Bigirimana approached Coventry for a trial which, after some persuasion, they granted and then took him on. Aged just 17, he made his debut in Coventry's appalling relegation season, but after a hugely promising opening spell, he was dropped towards the end of the season, only for Newcastle to scoop him up in the summer. Bigirimana made his league debut for Alan Pardew's men as a replacement for Danny Simpson, and with money still tight at St James's, a bright future awaits for the 18-year-old.
9) Denis Suarez - Manchester City - 18
While of course Manchester City have spent the last four years shooting money around like an over-active and out-of-control t-shirt cannon, they have been rather quietly investing in youth too. And that investment is beginning to show in their first team, with Suarez joining the likes of Abdul Razak on the fringes of the City side. Along with Liverpool's Suso, Suarez was part of the Spanish Under-19s side that won the European Championships over the summer, suggesting their dominance has a few years left yet. An attacking midfielder in the David Silva mould, Suarez is lucky to have the real thing showing him how things are done at City, and with Sheikh Mansour's spending apparently slowing down a little, Suarez can expect to see a bit of first-team action at some point this season.
8) Ross Barkley - Everton - 18
There's something irritatingly sensible about David Moyes's handling of young players. Wayne Rooney was a slightly different case, because his talent was so obvious that anything other than regular inclusion in the Everton side would have been madness. When there is a talent available, the impulsive fan in all of us wants to see them play in every game, and so it is with Barkley. To use the standard jargon of a coach, Barkley never seems to need to look down at his feet - his head his always up, constantly aware of what is around him and considering what the best course of action is. It's a simple thing, but an incredibly valuable one. We'd like to see more of Barkley, but Moyes knows a little more than us about these things, and his gradual introduction into the first team is probably a shrewd move. Bloody spoilsport.
7) Nick Powell - Manchester United - 18
"When Mick and I went to watch Nick Powell we came away and I said: "He's definitely a player. There's no doubt about that"." So said Sir Alex Ferguson, who the odd aberration aside, knows a player when he sees one. United elbowed their way to the front of a rather disorderly queue to sign young Powell from Crewe in the summer, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all keen to nab the midfielder. As with all youngsters with his sort of talent, Powell has an assuredness on the ball that one doesn't associate with one so young, and as those of you who saw the League Two play-off final will know, he has a goal in him too. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Powell gets this season, but even if it's minimal, he shouldn't be overly concerned.
6) Matija Nastasic - Manchester City - 19
One school of thought when dealing with young talents is the 'sink or swim' approach. Chuck a kid in, and see how he does. Delio Rossi tried this at Fiorentina last season, giving Nastasic his first start against AC Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Nastasic kept the 6ft 4 ego quiet in a 0-0 draw, suggesting Rossi knows how to handle a player. Of course, Rossi was later sacked for slapping Viola man Adem Ljajic, so make of it what you will. But I digress. What is clear is that Nastasic, a Serbian central defender, is a serious talent, and has somewhat inevitably compared to Nemanja Vidic. But if nothing else, whatever happens to Nastasic, he surely can't be as bad as Stefan Savic...
5) Kerim Frei - Fulham - 18
If there is a Turkish version of The Daily Mail, one can only assume their star columnist is going utterly berserk at the prospect of Frei, born in Austria, raised in Switzerland (who he represented at several youth levels) but recently declared for Turkey, playing their national team. Still, one imagines most fans will be more than happy if this particular 'Plastic Turk' can fulfil the early promise he has shown for Fulham. A tricksy sort who has generally played out wide in his handful of first-team appearances thus far, Frei has a directness that is refreshing in the possession-obsessed game of today. If he turns out to be as good as the early signs suggests, the Swiss are going to be pretty annoyed that he escaped their clutches. And the last thing you want to do is upset the Swiss...
4) Ryo Miyiachi - Arsenal - 19
While it doesn't tell you everything about a player, an indication of Myiachi's talent can be found in the lengths Arsene Wenger and Arsenal travelled to secure his future. Getting a work permit for a Japanese 17-year-old isn't easy, but Wenger and Arsenal ensured they got their man by jumping through any number of hoops and eventually sending him on loan to Feyenoord. "Ryo has natural technical ability," said Wenger at the time. "He has good balance and phenomenal pace, and his passing and crossing is consistently of a high level. He is a very exciting player." His loan spell at Bolton last season went pretty well, and with the departure of Victor Moses, one imagines he will have plenty of opportunities to impress on loan at Wigan too.
3) Raheem Sterling - Liverpool - 17
The elevation of Sterling to the senior England squad may have been a more political move than a footballing one, with talk that the Jamaican FA were sniffing around (perfectly reasonable, given he was born in Kingston), so expect a five-minute cameo if the Ukraine game is done and dusted on Tuesday night to tie him down. Sterling may have been over-promoted now, but there's a reason for the hype. Even at the revoltingly young age of 17, Sterling has a touch and an assurance about him to go with the explosive pace that so many of his age group possess, a combination you don't see every day. Through a mixture of necessity at Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers's faith in youth, Sterling will have plenty of chances to justify the hype this season. We shall see.
2) Romelu Lukaku - Chelsea - 19
If you can remember as far as 18 months ago, cast your mind back. For that olde and simpler time was when an uncommonly enormous Belgian teenager was the must-have purchase for any big European side with any ambition to street cred. He was the Global Hypercolour t-shirt, the Pog, the Tamagotchi of the football world - if you weren't interested in Lukaku, you weren't worth knowing. Since he idolised Didier Drogba, Lukaku had only eyes for Chelsea, but as so often happens in these scenarios, the reality turned out to be slightly different to the fantasy, with Andre Villas-Boas not quite as big a fan as those who spent something like £18million on the youngster. While Villas-Boas might not have been sure of his talents, it's clear Lukaku has that ferocious mixture of strength and pace that can make a striker utterly unplayable. West Brom could well benefit this season - we hope so.
1) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Arsenal - 19
There are so very many false dawns in football. In life, really. Bands are called the next big thing and have just made the record that will change your life. We're sold all sorts of sh*t on the basis that you won't have to worry once you buy it. This book will alter your perceptions about basically everything. Of course, this generally turns out to be nonsense. The record will turn out to be half-decent but forgettable, the thing will be used twice before gathering a layer of greasy fudge at the back of the cupboard and the book remains partially thumbed, eschewed in favour of Wayne Rooney's autobiography (volume four of 16). With the cynicism that accompanies these disappointments, it's easy to miss it when the real thing comes along.
Oxlade-Chamberlain feels like the real thing. You can tell from seeing him in the flesh, as we did at an under-21 international last year - Oxlade-Chamberlain came on at half-time with England struggling, promptly changed the game and created four goals. He has an assurance that probably has plenty to do with his size - 19-year-olds are not usually built like Oxlade-Chamberlain, with his chest span probably enough to envelop two Theo Walcotts. Without the usual frailties of youth, it's much easier for Oxlade-Chamberlain to look and feel at home among the men of the Premier League, and boy does he look at home. He's currently a winger, browning the pants of full-backs up and down the land, but one day he'll be a central midfielder. Really, he could probably be whatever he likes.