Best young England players
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourite emerging English talents
Powered by the Premier League and arguably the best football pyramid in the world, England are becoming a powerhouse of youth development. Here are reports on some of their emerging generation. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
More profiles can be found in the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers sections. Below, you’ll find profiles covering backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses, while providing links to where you can find out more about them.
For full in-depth analysis of some of the best young players from all over the planet, check out our profiles page. We have countlesss profiles on players there, focussing on a range of talents from across the world. There are also exclusive interviews too, and plenty more.
Reece James has been at Chelsea since the age of six. A two-time FA Youth Cup winner, two-time U18 Premier League champion, Toulon Tournament winner, Toulon Team of the Tournament, Toulon Tournament Player of the Final, UEFA European U-19 Championship winner, his youth career was prestigious.
But it was a loan spell to Wigan during the 2018/19 season that provided the Cobham graduate with his first taste in senior football, and it was Frank Lampard’s arrival at Chelsea that gave him a chance at his boyhood club. He hasn’t looked back since, establishing himself as a key player.
Reece James' style of play
Reece James played on the right side of a back three, as a wing-back, a full-back, and even in an all-action midfield role at Wigan, and the same has come true since he moved into the Chelsea first team – he is an extremely versatile defensive piece.
Physically, James is stocky, strong, and unrelenting. He moves quickly enough to cause concern, as well as combining it with a strength that makes him a powerful runner. His stamina means he can hit the same velocity in the first minute right until the last too, as well as allowing him to attack the penalty area at times, knowing he can cover the ground behind him.
A great crosser of the ball, his ability to find team-mates on the run from dead-ball situations makes his distribution arguably his greatest asset. He has a catalogue of different deliveries into the box, utilising his strong technique to whip all kinds of crosses into dangerous areas.
Defensively, his athleticism enables him to cover big spaces in behind the defence, and his physicality is a huge asset in one-v-one duels. All in all, James is a well-rounded full-back.
Reece James is an impressive distributor and crosser from out wide. He is just an excellent ball striker in general. Combined with his strength, stamina and defensive nous, he is a fantastic all-round full-back talent
Reece James’ main weakness is his defensive over-eagerness at times that can see him allow spaces in behind him for the opposition to exploit.
It is possible that Trevoh Chalobah could have broken into the Chelsea senior team a little earlier, but three senior loans have served him well. Two spells in the Championship, in addition to his 2020/21 spent in France with Lorient, has seen him blossom into a dominant ball-winner in midfield, or as a centre-back in a three.
He may have slightly lucked his way into become a fixture of the Chelsea senior team, but Chalobah is still on the fringes of the squad and reliant on other players being unavailable to pick up minutes.
Trevoh Chalobah’s style of play
Chalobah does have some on-ball limitations. He struggles to progress play with his passing, which is problematic playing in the midfield of a big team. Likewise, moving with the ball through traffic is not one of his strengths either.
It really lends him to have a higher ceiling as a centre-back. From there, these limitations are less problematic, and his ability to carry the ball into space quickly and proactively comes to the fore.
Regardless of whether he is playing in midfield or defence though, Chalobah is an elite ball winner that leverages his incredible athletic profile into being a nuisance off the ball.
He is fast, agile and robust in the challenge as well – the perfect profile to be the most aggressive defender in a back three that will step out of the defensive line and pressure the ball carrier. But likewise, playing in midfield he has the freedom to be almost as aggressive as he wants to be, turning him into a massive roadblock for opposition teams trying to progress the ball.
Trevoh Chalobah has an elite athletic profile – he is strong and robust, but incredibly quick and mobile too. And he uses it to his advantage, combining it with plenty of aggression to make him an elite ball-winner.
Trevoh Chalobah has some on-ball weaknesses, especially playing in midfield. His progressive passing is lacklustre and he can struggle when pressed hard. However, these issues are far less noticeable when he plays as a centre-back.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s inevitable development into a top-level talent has been clear for some time. Dominance at youth level for Chelsea and an Under-17 World Cup title as a key player in one of the most dominant youth international teams in recent history underlined that. A chequered injury history since then has been the only thing threatening to derail his progress.
A move to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2022 looks like a good springboard to reignite his career, gaining valuable first-team minutes in an exciting team; some continuity that he always lacked on the fringes of the Chelsea first team.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s style of play
Hudson-Odoi is elite, or around the elite level, in a number of categories. But first and foremost, he is an incredibly good ball-carrier, whether it be charging into space in transition, or beating a player on the dribble.
Importantly, when he does this, he can continue on into the final third and be extremely damaging, proving himself to be an adept progressive and creative passer, as well as a good goal scorer during his time playing at youth level. The goalscoring has tailed off at senior level as he continues to play in more reserved roles with less license to charge forward.
While it is an asset for most players, Hudson-Odoi’s versatility has been a key factor holding him back at Chelsea. However, Thomas Tuchel’s insistence on playing him as a wing-back subsided in 2021/22, and the Englishman got back to his best, playing predominantly off the left.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is a varied attacking threat that can be effective as both a creative passer and dribbler in the final third.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s main weakness so far in his career has been an inability to consistently stay fit, which has stopped him from being able to play regular first team minutes to embed himself in the starting XI.
While Chelsea have done a better job of blooding young academy players into the first-team in recent years, there will be many players that decide to forge a pathway away from the club. Tariq Lamptey is one of them.
He made the move to Brighton & Hove Albion in the winter of 2020, and his decision to leave Chelsea has been thoroughly vindicated. Away from Stamford Bridge, Lamptey has been able to break into a Premier League team and establish himself as one of the league’s most exciting young players. His only concern has been ongoing injury troubles that have hampered his ability to play consistent minutes.
Tariq Lamptey's style of play
As a miniature player, Lamptey is always going to struggle body-to-body, but he has shaped his game around his best asset: his electric pace. His speed allows him to command the entire right flank, making direct runs at the opposition full-back near the penalty area at one end, before just as quickly recovering to make an intervention near his own box.
Already he is developing a great tactical understanding working within Brighton’s three-man defensive system, recognising when he has cover to push forward and stretch the field, or when he needs to tuck in and provide defensive cover himself.
Perhaps his best defensive attribute is the amount of cover he can provide his team when they have attacking set-pieces. It is so hard to launch direct balls to counter Brighton from these situations because Lamptey can cover the ground so quickly.
With the ball at his feet, he can be a little bit untidy. However, his directness constantly puts defenders into stressful situations where they are in danger of giving away penalties. His excellent agility when moving at speed makes it very difficult to tackle him cleanly.
Tariq Lamptey is a pocket rocket who has extraordinary body control that manifests itself in lightning quick changes of pace that help him beat defenders and play with incredible directness.
Tariq Lamptey can be a little overzealous when moving at maximum speed, sometimes losing his bearings and making mistakes.
Former Tottenham Hotspur academy player Noni Madueke has had a blockbuster start to life as a professional footballer, rapidly announcing himself on the youth football circuit in the Netherlands since his 2019 arrival.
Madueke made it abundantly clear with his straight-line dynamism, strong ball-carrying ability for his age and ability to turn ball dominance into tangible opportunities that he was ready for first-team football.
At PSV, Madueke has been used as a right-sided forward or right-winger, often from the substitutes’ bench to accentuate his outstanding physical attributes.
Noni Madueke's style of play
He has high-level potential as a dribbler, makes smart decisions which often end in goals or assists and has strong command over his technical ability even when moving at pace. Combined with his natural athleticism, Madueke has the potential to play multiple positions and in multiple setups, although against high-lines he will naturally be most devastating.
For a player so young, the core attributes which often develop a little later such as honed ball-striking technique from good locations and the ability to ride multiple challenges are already in place.
Should he continue to add to the building blocks currently aiding him in becoming one of the Eredivisie’s most explosive players, there is nothing to suggest he cannot be a top-five leagues calibre attacker.
Reece James, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are probably the stadnout best young English players, but there’s a srong supporting cast beneath them as well.
Chelsea’s Cobham academy has been a huge pool of talent for English football over the past decade or so. Other elite-level academies, like Arsenal, have produced their own. The strength of England is their depth, though, particularly with an extremely strong football pyramid.