The Premier League season drew to a close this weekend and though the dominant story was, of course, Manchester City leaving it until the final day to see off Liverpool and end one of the most tightly-contested title races in living memory, 18/19 will also be remembered as a season where a host of gifted young ballers lit up the league on a weekly basis.
Trent Alexander-Arnold continued his development into one of the best full backs in the world by securing more assists from defence than anyone else in Premier League history, while Declan Rice followed up his nomination for West Ham Player Of The Season in 17/18 by winning the Players’ Player award this time around, alongside a full senior call-up to the England side.
While those two future England stars have now established themselves as Premier League stars with another successful season under their belts, there were several other young prodigies who enjoyed breakthrough campaigns this past season. From McNeil to Maddison, we’ve rounded up the ten best young players in the Premier League in 2018/19.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold has been grabbing the headlines of late, England have not one, but two of the coldest young full backs in world football. Just like Trent, he’s a local lad putting on for his boyhood club, but the pair are very different players. Wan-Bissaka is unreal in one-on-one scenarios, recovering the ball and, as an ex-winger, gifted with the ball at his feet. Speaking to us this year, Wan-Bissaka puts this down to being like Wilf growing up “I played quite a lot like Wilf. As an ex-winger, you get a better sense of what opponents try and do,” and after winning the club’s Player of the Season award, Wan-Bissaka is the latest local lad who has gained a cult status of his own in South East London.
Stepping up from Sheffield United for £10 million last summer, David Brooks represented one of the most intriguing signings of the transfer window but even Bournemouth fans will have been surprised by how effortlessly Brooks took to life in the Premier League. The 21-year-old ended his first season in the top flight with seven goals and five assists, playing the game with the type of vision, control and composure that makes us think he could be one of the Premier League’s most influential midfielders in many years to come.
Not many people were shouting about Dwight McNeil this time last year (we were one of the few exceptions) but as the 2018/19 season closes, the 19-year-old is rated as one of the most exciting attackers in England right now. No other teenager contributed to more Premier League goals this season than the technically-gifted winger, scoring three goals and making five assists in his 21 appearances. The young baller is the future of this Burnley team and he’s already getting props from the national team too, making his England U20 debut in March – when he was also asked to train with the senior team.
While it’s fair to say Matteo Guendouzi has had an up and down year in his debut season with the Gunners, stepping up from Ligue 2 to become a regular fixture in Arsenal’s midfield hinted that the 20-year-old could have the makings of a top player. His vision, composure and ball playing ability have seen him tipped as one of Arsenal’s brightest youngsters in years, and the second most valuable U21 player in European football. Last season will have been a key stage in Guendouzi’s development, and you can expect the young Frenchman to cement a starting spot for Arsenal in the next few years.
For two months at the start of 2019, Sean Longstaff looked like the greatest Premier League prospect that nobody had ever really heard of. An injury crisis at Newcastle meant the 21-year-old centre midfielder – who had spent the previous season on loan at Blackpool in League One – was given a surprise run in the first team for his hometown club. What followed was a monumental run of performances that included a Man of the Match turn in a shock win over Manchester City, a first Premier League goal in a win over Burnley, and a nomination for February’s Premier League Player of the Month. Injury cut his season short but Longstaff looks fit to dominate midfield in a black and white shirt for many years to come.
Yan Valery is another player who came from nowhere to make an impression on the Premier League in 2018/19. The marauding right back made his debut under Mark Hughes in December but it wasn’t until Ralph Hasenhuttl’s arrival that Valery truly started balling. Arguably stronger in attack than defence, Valery scored two goals in his first senior season, including a wild 30-yard strike at Old Trafford that earned him the club’s Goal of the Season Award. Valery also picked up the club’s Young Player of the Season award, confirming what everyone already knows: Yan Valery is next up at Southampton.
James Maddison just wrapped up the season of his life so far. The young baller’s first season in the Premier League was impressive from start to finish, playing the game with the type of bravery, awareness and technique that’s typifying a new generation of English players. He ended his first season at Leicester with seven goals and seven assists, and earned a first senior England call-up at the end of 2018. To cap it all off, he signed a new deal with PUMA to become one of the faces of the brand in the UK.
Calteck burst onto the scene this season after long being tipped to be “next up” out of England’s electric Young Lions squad that took home the U17 World Cup a few years ago. While good friend Jadon Sancho tore it up in the Bundesliga, Hudson-Odoi had to bide his time and wait to be afforded the opportunity while under Maurizio Sarri’s tutlege at Chelsea. While some fans were unhappy he wasn’t included earlier on in the season, Hudson-Odoi took every chance he was afforded, notching a goal contribution every 104 minutes in the Europa League and earning his first full senior start for his country when he still had yet to do so at club level. A nasty achilles injury cruelly cut Calteck’s breakthrough campaign short before the Blues got to Baku, but should he rediscover his early promise, Hudson-Odoi could go on to become one of the best young talents in the country.
Nailing down a starting spot in this Manchester City is no mean feat, but Phil Foden’s contributions towards the end of an intense title season proved that he’ll be a clutch player for City in years to come. While the sky blues are absolutely stacked in the midfield department, Foden is set to cement his spot in the next few years, particularly after Pep Guardiola refused suggestions he will be sent out on loan. His goal against Tottenham in City’s title run in was pivotal, meaning the 19-year-old has now secured back to back title wins for his boyhood club. He’ll be looking to become a more integral figure in campaigns to come, but should he fulfil his massive potential, he could go on to become one of City and England’s most decorated players ever.
What a debut season Ruben Neves has had. A controlling influence in the middle of the park for the entirety of the season, Neves has shown maturity far beyond his years on a weekly basis for Wolves, where he’s become renowned for his range of passing, reading of the game and insane ability from long distance. With Wolves set to re-invest in the squad yet again this summer in a squad that have vastly surpassed expectations, the potential that Neves and his talented teammates have in the West Midlands is massive – and a stint in Europe could be up next.