The first fixtures of the new English Premier League season are days away and the excitement in my household is palpable. The summer Saturdays of going to the beach or playing golf are done, football is back and this Premier League season promises to be as compelling as ever with conceivably six sides capable of winning a top four position and no distinct title favourite.
I am always excited to see which young players will be given opportunities to shine during the season and more importantly, which youngster takes his opportunity and becomes the next world star. This season I thought I would go out on the limb and predict four players who could make a splash in their debut seasons at the senior level. Of course I will have missed out on some of your favourites but I tried to take a fair representation from four different teams, many of which were suggested to me via Twitter. Enjoy.
19 | Midfielder | Chelsea | Spanish
Chelsea’s brand-spanking-new signing from FC Barcelona is in Columbia at the moment playing for Spain at the U20 World Cup. The “Bulldozer” as many Barca fans affectionately call him, continues the rich tradition of deep-lying midfields to come out of La Masia. Guardiola saw him as the natural back-up to Sergi Busquets but the arrival of Mascherano last summer and a knee injury in January meant that he only featured for the senior side in the final seven minutes in Barcelona’s final La Liga game of last season.
Romeu can play as a deep midfielder or central defender. In his limited time with the Barcelona first team and then leading the U20 Spanish midfield he has proved to be an aggressive tackler who plays with the ball well at his feet. His vision from a deep lying position in Chelsea’s midfield could be key to the success of Fernando Torres and company and he also provides some size with a 6ft 1in frame. Romeu is an important addition for Andre Villas-Boas who will start the season without injury plagued Michael Essien in midfield. The Spaniard will essentially be competing with John Obi Mikel for a place in the starting XI and it is conceivable that Boas will give the youngster every chance he needs to make the role his own at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas-Boas has already nothing but good things to say about his first signing “Romeu is one of the midfielders with the greatest potential there is. He has a brilliant future.”
23 | Midfielder | Blackburn Rovers | Argentine
Fresh from Argentina, Mauro Formica provides Blackburn with some much needed creativity in the midfield. Formica has played for Newell’s Old Boys (Lionel Messi’s original club) senior side since he was 18 years-old and that experience should do well for him in his first season in England. The attacking midfielder had a goal-scoring touch in Argentina where he averaged a goal every four and a half games.
The diminutive Formica (5ft 9in) should get ample opportunity to prove he can compete in the fast-paced English game and will be welcomed to a team whose top scorer only managed five goals last season. He has already shown flashes of what fans can look forward to during Blackburn’s Asian tour where he scored his first goal for The Riversiders.
17 | Full Back | Liverpool | English
Kenny Dalglish has a number of academy prospects at his fingertips for the coming season. Players such as Pacheco, Shelvey, and Flanagan all featured for the Reds last year and are still under the age of 20. However, it is young left-back Jack Robinson who could be likeliest to fight for a starting position during this upcoming campaign. A Liverpool lad his whole youth career, he was the youngest ever player to debut for the club two seasons ago. Last season a number of impressive performances had Robinson on every Liverpool supporter’s lips. An impressive performance against Arsenal in which he faced Theo Walcott got him on a BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks’ team of the week and he started his first game of the season late this spring in Liverpool’s 5-0 win against Birmingham.
The left-back position for Liverpool is in limbo to start the season. And, barring a late signing, it may come down to a competition between teenagers John Flanagan and Jack. 21 year-old Martin Kelly will likely struggle with Kyrgiakos and Skrtel to pair with Jamie Carragher in the center of defense. Regardless we will likely see many youngsters in Liverpool’s backline this season. A special mention has to go to Andre Wisdom, another 18 year-old full-back who has been a rock for England throughout his youth career. A solid rock in defense and powerful going forward, he could break into the senior side this season.
18 | Winger | Arsenal | Japanese
Arsene Wenger has come under a lot of criticism this season but whatever you say about him, the man can spot talent. Well, he found Miyaichi playing football at his high school in Japan and now he is a player wanted by teams all over the world. The Frenchman has done it again, Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi looks like a supreme talent. His loan spell with Feyenoord showed football fans why the lad has been compared to Lionel Messi. Feyenoord fans gave him the nickname “Ryodinho” after comparisons to Ronaldinho.
Miyaichi and Arsenal are awaiting a work permit for the youngster to allow him to stay in London for the season. Of course Dutch football fans hope to see him back in the Eredivisie next season which should tell you how exciting he is. Regardless Wenger believes he is ready and wants him in the senior team for this season, high praise for an 18 year-old.
He has electric pace and endless bag of tricks and loves creating off the wing. If he stays in England, he will provide some much needed competition and depth at the winger positions. He will pressure Walcott and Arshavin to perform consistently.