With the 2021/22 season fast approaching, Premier League sides have begun their pre-season preparations. A combination of major international tournaments, such as Euro 2020 and Copa América, plus the financial impact of the Covid pandemic, have meant that the transfer market has been relatively slow to date.
Jadon Sancho has finally completed his big-money move to Manchester United, after intense speculation, and there is still time for plenty of movement in the market. However, a number of clubs in the Premier League may have to trust in players that are already at the club; due to the difficulty they are facing in completing deals. This may mean we see more young players given the freedom to perform in the Premier League. The following five young players are all very inexperienced in top flight football, but could be set to have impressive seasons.
Premier League Apps: 19
In comparative terms, Nathan Tella is the most experienced Premier League player of the five highlighted, with 18 top flight appearances to his name. However, he is by no stretch of the imagination an established Premier League footballer, with the majority of his appearances coming in the second half of last season. In fact, 11 of his 19 appearances have been off the bench.
Tella left the youth set-up at Arsenal in 2017 and, after trials at Norwich City and Reading, joined Southampton as an 18-year old. Despite his obvious talents, he had to bide his time before his first Premier League start, in a 3-0 home defeat to Leeds United in February 2021. His direct running and desire to take on opposition defenders make him incredibly exciting to watch, and the rawness of his game means he is very difficult to play against. With opportunities increasing for Tella, there is great potential to kick on and become a regular feature in the Southampton first team.
The young winger has one goal and one assist to his name in his senior career to date and will be looking to add to that in the coming season. His goal came against Fulham late in the season and should do him the world of good going forward, as he often snatched at chances when getting into good positions prior to that. At times last season Tella looked desperate to impress and pressed with the youthful exuberance that manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will love. This does, though, mean he often looks fatigued around the 60 minute mark when he starts matches. With another Hasenhuttl pre-season under his belt, and a greater role in the squad, expect Tella to get fans on the edge of their seat far more frequently in 2021/22.
Club: Crystal Palace
Premier League Apps: 0
Marc Guehi is a young player on this list who has benefitted greatly from the loan system and moving outside of the Premier League. The central defender has spent the past eighteen months on loan at Championship club Swansea City, where he has gone from strength to strength. Guehi made 52 league appearances for Swansea in his two loan spells, and nothing emphasised his influence more than the fact that he was the only ever-present member of Swansea’s backline last season in a campaign that ended in play-off heartbreak.
Swansea were very much interested in taking Guehi to south Wales for a third consecutive season, but Guehi was ready to tackle the Premier League and play-off failure meant that Swansea couldn’t provide this opportunity. He could have stayed at Chelsea and hoped for some first team opportunities, but instead decided to make the move to Crystal Palace where he should find first team football easier to come by.
The fee of £18 million that Palace paid Chelsea for his services in July shows just how highly the England U21 defender is regarded. The fact that Chelsea also included the option to match any future bid for Guehi shows that they feel he has enormous potential, even if they couldn’t offer him the playing time he craves just yet.
In terms of playing style, Guehi is very physical and strong, and has great athleticism which is incredibly useful for a central defender. He is not just brawn however, he is a clever defender who can do the technical side of the game and always favours a pass out from the back over a long ball to a striker. It is a shame for Palace and for Guehi that it looks unlikely that Gary Cahill will re-sign with the club after the expiration of his contract, as Guehi could have learnt so many valuable lessons from the former Chelsea man. However, despite being part of a new-look Palace with a focus on youth, there are still plenty of experienced defenders for Guehi to learn from.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League Apps: 15
Oliver Skipp has 15 Premier League appearances to his name, all of which have been for Tottenham Hotspur who he has been with since the age of 12. Skipp made his first-team debut in 2018 in an EFL Cup victory over West Ham United in October 2018, with his Premier League debut coming a matter of days later against Southampton. The central midfielder tends to play a deeper, more defensive role, and is highly rated at Tottenham.
Skipp was allowed to leave on loan last summer, but not before he had signed a new four-year deal. The contract signalled Tottenham’s intent and highlighted the potential that the club’s hierarchy believe he has. He impressed Mauricio Pochettino enough to be taken on a pre-season tour of America at 17 and went on to impress Jose Mourinho, who is notoriously hard to please, who said of Skipp after he had signed his contract: “I think he’s genuinely Tottenham’s future”.
After a year on loan at Norwich City, Skipp will be hoping he can now be Tottenham’s present. The England U21 international was pivotal to Norwich’s promotion campaign last season, playing 45 of the Canaries’ 46 league matches. He managed just one goal in that time but his role revolved around retrieving possession and dictating the tempo of games, rather than bursting forward. Skipp showed why he is so highly thought of at Tottenham, and why they were so keen to secure his future prior to sending him on loan, as he secured a place in the 2021 PFA Championship Team of the Year. It won’t be easy to break into the Tottenham midfield, especially as new manager Nuno Espírito Santo will be under pressure to get results straight away. However, with a year playing week-in week-out for Norwich under his belt, given a chance this season, Skipp could soon become a regular starter for Spurs.
Premier League Apps: 1
Brighton are a club that try to play an attractive brand of football under manager Graham Potter. One man that could benefit from that, as well as potential departures from the club, is 21-year old Irishman Jayson Molumby. Despite the fact that Molumby has already played nine times for the Republic of Ireland senior side, he has only made a solitary Premier League appearance; coming off the bench in a 2-1 Brighton win over Aston Villa in November 2020.
This appearance off the bench could have kickstarted Molumby’s Premier League career, but instead he found himself sent out on loan to Championship club Preston North End in January. While this won’t have been the fairy tale scenario Molumby may have dreamt of following his first Premier League appearance, it was perhaps a necessary one to ensure the midfielder continued to develop. The 15 Championship appearances he made for Preston, in addition to the 36 for Millwall a season earlier, would have benefitted him far more than watching on from Brighton’s bench.
With two Championship loans in the rear view mirror, Molumby can now look forward and try to make it extremely difficult for Potter to leave him out of the Brighton midfield. Molumby is very comfortable in possession and likes to try and break the lines with his probing passing, but is also not adverse to the less glamourous side of the game. Given a chance, he could make a real impact at the Amex this season and, if Brighton are to sell, could make Seagulls fans soon forget about Yves Bissouma.
Club: Norwich City (on loan from Chelsea)
Premier League Apps: 11
Billy Gilmour burst onto the scene for Chelsea in an FA Cup game against Liverpool in February 2020. He had played previously for the senior side, coming off the bench in the Premier League and being involved in their EFL Cup campaign that season, but it was in this game where the football world took notice. Just 18 at the time, Gilmour lined up against a midfield of Fabinho, Adam Lallana, and Curtis Jones, and completely dominated the game from start to finish; seeming to particularly relish the battle with Fabinho.
Gilmour won Man of the Match that day, which is a feat he repeated on his full Scotland debut this summer against England in the Euro 2020 group stage. On the biggest of occasions Gilmour appears completely unfazed, which is a trait that will serve him well playing at a club of Chelsea’s stature. Despite being only 5 foot 7, Gilmour has many strings to his bow. He can be destructive and break up play, as his clubmate Kante does better than anyone in world football, but he also possesses an elegance on the ball and a passing range far greater than many players his senior.
Gilmour is following in the footsteps of Oliver Skipp and has joined Norwich City on loan for the new season. Although, unlike Skipp who played for Norwich in the Championship, this loan will provide Gilmour with regular football in the Premier League. Norwich play an attractive style of football under boss Daniel Farke which will have been a huge factor in both Gilmour’s and Chelsea’s decision to spend the season with them. However, Norwich’s aim will be simply to secure Premier League survival, which is a different world from the glamour of Chelsea, and this is where Gilmour’s ability to battle and do the dirty work could be invaluable. It will certainly be intriguing to see how the former Rangers academy graduate will develop at Carrow Road.