BEST YOUNG PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS

Profiling the best young players the Premier League has to offer

From Crystal Palace to Leeds United, these are some of the best young players emerging into the Premier League with clubs outside of the established top six. We’ll keep this page updated with the up-and-coming youngsters as the season develops.

You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.

LAST UPDATED: DECEMBER 1, 2021

Conor Gallagher

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Crystal Palace are putting Conor Gallagher in a position to succeed. The Chelsea loanee had a decent season on loan at West Brom in 2020/21, but the Baggies were not able to make best use of the attacking quality Gallagher can provide. Now free to hunt for opportunities in the final third, he looks like a prime candidate to return to Stamford Bridge next season as a first team candidate.

STYLE OF PLAY

Coaches are always looking for goals from midfield. They ease the burden on the strike force, and turn your team into a more dynamic threat. Gallagher delivers that in spades. His powerful running from midfield allows him to both start and finish moves, and Patrick Vieira has given him the license to attack the penalty box whenever he sees an opportunity to score developing. Four goals and two assists in his first ten matches in 2021/22 underlines this; it is already two more goal contributions than he managed in 30 games last season.

Gallagher is a relentless worker on both sides of the ball. He is extremely aggressive defensively – perhaps too aggressive – with high pressure numbers paired with a low tackle success rate. These two stats tend to pair themselves regularly, but there is always room for improvement in terms of body shape and positioning when pressing incessantly.

Playing for a team like Palace, Gallagher only has a limited number of touches per game, but he is very effective. Barring an erratic first touch, he is very direct and clear-minded: his intent is to get the ball forward in any way possible, mixing a bit of ball-carrying and short passing in transitional opportunities to wreak havoc. His skillset is more limited when the game slows down and the defensive lines are compacted.

Charlie Cresswell

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Teenage Leeds United centre-back Charlie Cresswell is son of well-travelled Football League striker Richard Cresswell, and is certainly his father’s son.

Standing at 6ft 2in, Cresswell has been a dominant presence for Leeds United’s youth teams throughout his time at the academy. He has graduated the U16, U18 and now U23 setups with relative ease, making his Premier League debut early in the 2021/22 campaign whilst several first-team defenders were rendered unavailable through injury.

'Cresswell is incredibly vocal, and his presence at the back for the U23 side is notably missed when he is required in the first-team'

STYLE OF PLAY

Cresswell is a curious blend of old meets new. He has been described by U23 manager at Leeds Mark Jackson as an ‘old school’ centre-half who thrives in traditional defensive endeavours: winning aerial battles, physically dominating opponents and leading from the front.

The England U21 international is incredibly vocal, and his presence at the back for the U23 side is notably missed when he is required in the first-team setup. He is a threat in the opposing penalty area from set-pieces and marshals his teammates at defensive set-plays.

In playing out from the back, Cresswell is confident and looks to execute passes through lines with purpose, encouraging others to follow suit. Positionally, he can be caught out when Leeds employ a high line, as his turn of pace is not the sharpest. Similarly, there are occasions where he has been spun by more intelligent centre-forwards, however his handling of Michail Antonio on his Premier League debut is a career highlight so far.

 

Joe Gelhardt

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Joe Gelhardt is a product of Wigan Athletic’s youth system, making over 20 first-team appearances for the Latics before his 18th birthday. Due to Wigan’s financial crisis in the summer of 2020, Gelhardt was sold for a reported £1 million to newly-promoted Premier League side Leeds United and immediately placed in the U23 side.

After a 12-month bedding in process including close to 20 goals at PL2 level, Gelhardt began to infiltrate Leeds’ first-team – as well as the England U21 setup – following injuries to Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo.

STYLE OF PLAY

Gelhardt is a stocky, but technical centre-forward, capable of worming his way out of tight spaces, shaking off challenges and unleashing powerful strikes. The ex-Wigan man stands at roughly 5ft 10in, but competes well physically, especially on the floor. His straight-line speed is adequate, but it is his relentless off-ball work-rate – something which has been developed during his time at Leeds – that makes him a pliable centre-forward in modern football.

He is a gifted technician, who likes to drop deep to receive possession, before driving at defensive structures. Gelhardt is adept at winning fouls, leveraging his frame against agemates to win decisions.

Recently called up to England’s U21 side, he can be a touch predictable on his left foot, strongly preferring to shoot with it as opposed to the right. There are no issues with Gelhardt’s shot power but his placement is much less certain, which has led to several of his penalties at youth level being saved.

Armando Broja

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Once one of the most well-trodden pathways for loan players, the Chelsea-to-Vitesse partnership has drifted apart in recent seasons. But Armando Broja revived it last season, with a ten goal campaign leading the line for the Eredivisie club, while he also debuted and scored three times for Albania.

Orlando Valman analysed Armando Broja's impressive goal-scoring season on loan at Vitesse for our Patreon last year. Click below to sign up and read it for just £3 a month.

STYLE OF PLAY

Now with Southampton on loan, we are beginning to see Broja’s skills translating to Premier League level very effectively. His willingness to stretch defences with runs in behind is a very transferable skill for Premier League strikers, with the transitional style of the league suiting players with pace in behind. But Broja pairs that with a pretty big and strong frame, that looks very adept at playing at this physical level for a 20-year-old.

Broja can hit the channels too. He can drift wide and receive the ball in transition and properly attack the full-back marking him, and looks comfortable attempting to beat his man and delivering balls into the area. The best comparison is probably to Alvaro Morata during his first spell at Juventus, though Broja is a bit bigger and more functional alone up front, while Morata was at his best playing off Carlos Tévez.

Broja combines this all with a versatile range of finishes when he has opportunities to shoot. He can score off the dribble, running in behind, with his head, first time, etc. and in general gets into really good positions to score and has a high xG per shot.

Arsenal’s academy has provided he club with a number of high-level players over the decades – from Rocky Rocastle in the 80s and early 90s, to Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in the current generation. In terms of overall quality, it’s difficult to look past Tony Adams and Ashley Cole as the standouts.

Beyond Saka and Smith Rowe, there’s a new crop of impressive Hale End products coming through. Folarin Balogun is dominating in under-23 football, Charlie Patino is a standout, as is Omari Hutchinson. Reuell Walters is another one to watch.