20 EPL youngsters who will play bigger roles in 2013 (Part 2)

by Willie Gannon

Following on from yesterday’s first half, it’s the second lot of exciting young Premier League players to look out for next year.

QPR: Junior Hoilett (22)

It was surprising to many that Junior Hoilett chose Queens Park Rangers for the next step in his career. However, it is here that Hoilett will be shaped for years to come.

Hoilett is a highly talented support striker who is comfortable in any position across the final third of the field. So far this season Mark Hughes has used him on the wings and behind Bobby Zamora, the main striker.

Hughes, though, would be better suited if he moved toward using a 4-2-3-1 formation where Hoilett would become centre stage alongside the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and possibly even Adel Taarabt.

If Hughes can use this formation to get the best out of Hoilett and his entire team, they will avoid relegation.

But, it all depends on whether he can get the best from Hoilett or not.

So in every which way, 2013 will be massive for manager, player and club alike.

Reading: Alex McCarthy (22)

It speaks volumes about the Premier League and how goalkeepers mature far later than other players that Alex McCarthy is the only ‘keeper on this list.

The 22-year-old has done nothing but impress since replacing Adam Federici after just two games.

He made his debut in the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and has yet to finish on the winning side this season as Reading really do look out of their depth.

Saying that, McCarthy, the English U-21 international has looked a Premier League player—even if some of his teammates do not.

2013 will be a huge year for Reading, as they strive to avoid relegation.

But, it will also be a huge one for McCarthy because if he continues to impress he will start to attract attention from clubs with youth policies—like Liverpool.

Southampton Town: Nathaniel Clyne (21)

The 21-year-old Nathaniel Clyne will be ultra-important for the Saints and Nigel Adkins as they try to avoid relegation this season.

The 5’9″ full-back has already amassed almost 150 first-team appearances with, old club, Crystal Palace and Southampton—whom he joined in August.

Even though he is still maturing as a player, he is almost everything you would want in a right-back.

He is quick and powerful and is a defensively disciplined player who only commits himself to the attack when the opportunity arises.

As 2013 rolls around the Saints will be mired in the bottom five and involved in the relegation battle, Clyne will have to raise his game substantially if they are to avoid this fate.

He is capable, but whether his team will meet his high standards remains to be seen.

Stoke City: Steven N’Zonzi (23)

Steven N’Zonzi is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League.

The French U-21 international only joined Stoke City this summer and is already a major part of Tony Pulis’ team.

N’Zonzi is a huge, powerful man with a deceptively deft touch and patrols central midfield like a guard dog, ready to snap into any challenge that may present itself.

As the Potters’ season progresses N’Zonzi is sure to cement a place and become a far more important player in the starting XI due to his athleticism and defensive attributes.

Sunderland: David Meyler (23)

At 23, David Meyler is one of the oldest players on this list but in terms of development he is still in the rookie stage.

Despite being with Sunderland since 2008, the Cork-born Irish international has only played 31 times for the Black Cats. The lack of first-team action has been caused by successive serious injuries that have kept the energetic midfielder out for long periods.

Now back in full training and nearing full fitness, the Ireland star, who has been capped seven times, is chomping at the bit to show Martin O’Neill and the many Sunderland fans exactly what they have been missing these past few years.

As a player, Meyler is a box-to-box midfielder with huge amounts of energy and the ability to break down play as well as initiate the main attacks.

There is definitely a place in the Black Cats team for a player with these abilities. As the season moves forward and Meyler’s fitness improves, he should be in a position to make a return to regular first-team action.

Swansea City:  Ki Sung-Yueng (23)

South Korean international Ki Sung-Yueng enjoyed three great seasons in Scotland with Celtic before Michael Laudrup and Swansea City snapped him up for the Premiership.

The 23-year-old creative midfielder is as honest as they come on the pitch and can play in any central midfield position from just in front of the back four to just behind the main striker.

He is technically superior to most Premier League midfielders and possesses great vision which, when, combined with his shooting ability makes him very dangerous from outside the box.

At Celtic he was worshipped because of the difficult acclimatisation from South Korean football to the rough and tumble of the Scottish Premier League, so the combative nature of the EPL is unlikely to phase him.

If he can continue to improve and show his worth, he is exactly the kind of player that Arsene Wenger loves to sign.

Tottenham Hotspur: Steven Caulker (20)

As it stands, Tottenham Hotspur’s Steven Caulker is just about the best defensive prospect in the Premier League today.

The 20-year-old was an integral part in Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea team, impressing and surviving last season. He is also the main reason that Michael Dawson was put up for sale at the start of the season by Andre Villas-Boas.

The 6’3″ 20-year-old has been capped at every level for England, bar senior—but that only seems a matter of time, as he has already played 112 games as a pro and is now a major part of Villas-Boas’ team going forward.

He is highly mobile, strong in the tackle, reads the game very well and is very comfortable on the ball—as is evident by his play with Spurs this season and with Swansea last year.

2013 will be a massive year for the youth because he knows that the centre-half berth at Spurs is up for grabs and that if he can make that his own, the World Cup in 2014 will be just around the corner.

West Bromwich Albion: Romelu Lukaku (19)

The second loan signing to make the list is none other than Romelu Lukaku.

The giant Chelsea striker is, surprisingly, on loan with the Baggies for the rest of the season. Given the Blues’ lack of depth up front and Lukaku’s early-season form, it would not be a huge surprise to see him back in blue come January.

Lukaku is a huge, hulking figure in the mould of Didier Drogba and like his Belgian teammate, Christian Benteke, he has a huge future ahead.

So far this year he has been used sparingly by Steve Clarke during West Brom’s impressive climb to the upper half of the table, but he has managed to score three times in eight games—mainly as substitute.

He is perfect in a 4-2-3-1 formation but lacks speed over long distances that Shane Long easily exploits, so if Lukaku is to make the main striker role his own, he will have to learn how to read the game much better.

If that happens, West Brom or Chelsea will possibly have the most frightening striker in the league.

West Ham: Jordan Spence (22)

A graduate of the famed West Ham academy, Jordan Spence could quite possibly be the next big thing to come out of the Boleyn Ground.

The 6’3″ defender is primarily being used as a full-back by Sam Allardyce but as his game matures, he is sure to be moved inside to centre-half.

Allardyce has a track record at developing good central defenders. Think Gary Cahill at Bolton (now at Chelsea) or Phil Jones at Blackburn (now at Manchester United), and you see the influence the former centre-forward can have on his players.

Spence, like Caulker, has also been capped at every level by England, but unlike Caulker he is also used as a full-back because of his superior speed.

If Spence can continue to learn his trade at the current rate, he is sure to earn a place in the Hammers’ team toward the season’s end.

Wigan Athletic: James McCarthy (21)

The best midfield prospect outside the traditional top five is Wigan’s James McCarthy.

The 21-year-old Irish international, who was born in Scotland, is used to doing things the hard way in football.

By the time he joined the Latics in 2009, the youngster had already racked up an incredibly impressive 109 games for Hamilton Acedemicals in the SPL. So when Roberto Martinez signed the kid who had attracted attention from all over Europe, he pulled out something of a coup.

Now in his seventh season as a professional and his fourth with Wigan, McCarthy, who has been capped eight times, might just possibly be the most experienced 21-year-old footballer on the planet.

But in terms of making his stamp on the game, he is still an up-and-coming star.

McCarthy has a great engine, is a gifted passer and is on the verge of greatness.

2013 will be a huge season for him regarding club and country.

Because while he is trying to make the international starting berth his own, he is also the mainstay in his team, and avoiding relegation yet again hangs firmly on his young shoulders yet again.

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