Best Premier League youngsters in 2017-18
"If you're good enough, you're old enough."
Sir Matt Busby said that when discussing the challenges in building a new squad after the Munich Air Disaster. Many viewed the remark as needs must, preferring experience to vitality. More and more however vitality is winning out.
Last season Jordan Pickford and Tom Davies made their marks in senior football, proving Sir Matt's statement true. This season the Premier League has seen many exceptional young players perform far beyond their age.
In no particular order, here are five of the best U21s in the 2017-18 Premier League:
Leicester City's heir to the omnipresent N'golo Kante, Ndidi is already among the best defensive midfielders in English football. Arguably the Premier League's most underrated player this season the Nigerian hasn't received proper credit for the role he has played with the Foxes. The Super Eagles midfielder has won 91 tackles in the league, most by any midfielder in Europe's top five leagues. At 6'2" Ndidi is strong, visionary, composed, athletic and dynamic. Tackle, pass, shoot, block, clear, create. You name it; Ndidi can do it all. Just 21, he has the world at his feet.
A vital part of the record-breaking Manchester City team, Sane is turning heads with his performances. Brought in by Pep Guardiola last summer for a hefty €37 million, he struggled early. This season, we have seen a different player altogether. The German winger is the among the first names on Pep's teamsheet and quite often the scoresheet. The 21-year-old Citizen is joint-top the Premier League assist chart with nine. He's also put the ball past keepers himself a half-dozen times. Along with Raheem Sterling, Sane provides the width and searing pace that open the centre of the park for Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, and Sergio Aguero. He's making a solid case to be named PFA Young Player of the Year.
Andreas Christensen is the rare player who has successfully managed to transition from the Chelsea academy to the first team. The Dane took full advantage of his loan deal to Borussia Monchegladbach, blossoming into a quality centre back. Christensen is no stranger to a back three. Accordingly, he has settled well into Conte's side. The Chelsea number 27 is calm and composed with the ball at his feet. He also boasts an impressive 94% passing accuracy. A wise head on young shoulders, Christensen is rock-solid defensively, an excellent reader of the game, and strong in the air. Is he the next John Terry in more ways than the path taken into the Blues' starting XI?
When a manager benches Sergio Aguero to accommodate another striker, the alternative must be truly special. Gabriel Jesus is. The Brazilian sensation is a perfect modern day poacher: lethal and clinical. He's neither the fastest nor tallest but is blessed with tremendous technical ability. More often than not he knows where the ball will fall. He makes incisive runs into the box and holds the ball up well. As a Pep Guardiola favourite he can obviously pick a pass. The 20-year-old has eight goals and two assists to his name this campaign. He's been slowed by a knee injury but is expected to return by February.
Richarlison is a major reason for Watford's success under Marco Silva. Bought from Fluminense for €11 million he's become an an instant success. Adapting to the English game quickly the Brazilian has banged in five goals and registered four assists. The Hornets no.11 gives defenders nightmares with his tricky feet completing 1.3 dribbles per game. Although his form has dipped recently that's normal for a 20-year-old. Expect him to be back to banging in goals sooner rather than later.
Joe Gomez, Ainsley Maitland Niles, Jonjoe Kenny, Marcus Rashford, Rueben Loftus Cheek, Harry Winks, Mikel Merino.