The Guardian’s 2021 Next Generation: Who is the top talent at each Premier League club

The Guardian have announced the 2021 edition of their ‘Next Generation’ series which identifies the top talent at each Premier League club.

The list focuses on ‘First Year Scholars’ who can be no older than 17 at the time of writing with most of them still being 16.

In the past, the Guardian have identified the likes of Bukayo Saka, Fabio Carvalho, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Curtis Jones and Angel Gomes as ones to watch, all of whom are already playing at the top level of European football.

Last season; Charlie Patino, Markus Ifill, Alfie Devine and Luke Mbete-Tabu made the cut and are all still impressing at PL2 level whilst on the verge of first team football with their respective clubs.

So the previous accuracy of the Guardian’s work means it is definitely worth looking at, here’s who is on the 2021 list.

Reuell Walters – Arsenal – 16 – Right Back – England

Walters was previously of Tottenham before turning down a professional contract with Spurs as he felt like he needed a break from the game. A risky decision has paid off, though, as he is back enjoying his football and thriving with the Gunners.

Walters’ break from football lasted around two years. After that, he was scouted by Manchester United and was set to sign for the Red Devils only for the Premier League to block the deal due to United having too many players on their books. That is when he joined Arsenal and found the place he truly sees as home.

At just 16, Walters is already a regular for Arsenal’s high-flying U23 side, operating either as a right back or right wing back.

A player who likes to attack, win his 1v1 battles and express himself on the pitch. Walters says he is hungry for more opportunities. 

Ajani Burchall – Aston Villa – 16 – Winger – England

Burchall joined Villa this summer for an undisclosed fee from Bournemouth. The Bermudian winger had already made his senior debut for the Cherries.

Villa reportedly beat a host of Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Leeds who were interested in his signature, with the Villans paying a ‘substantial compensation fee’ to Bournemouth.

He can play on either wing. He played mostly on the left for Bournemouth but so far Villa seem to prefer him on the right where he offers the constant threat of cutting inside and shooting on his dangerous left foot.

He has featured mainly in Villa’s U18s this season where he has three goals and three assists in the U18 Premier League. All three goals came in their incredible 10-0 win over Norwich City U18s earlier this season.

Burchall has unfortunately missed the last two U18 Premier League games through injury and also missed out on the chance to play for Villa in the EFL Trophy win over Burton, in which Cameron Archer scored his second hat-trick of the season.

The international break comes at a good time for Burchall as it means he won’t miss anymore games and could be back in time for Villa U18’s clash against Liverpool on October 16th.

Fin Stevens – Brentford – 18 – Right back – Wales

Stevens is the only player on the list who doesn’t fit the stipulated age bracket as Brentford scrapped their academy in 2016, opting instead for a ‘B team’ model which develops players aged 17-21.

He was part of the Arsenal youth ranks from six years old but left in 2019. He then joined Isthmian League Premier Division side Worthing where he broke into the first team at 16 years old and caught the eye of Brentford B head coach Neil MacFarlane with his aggression and his ability to compete physically at just 16 years old.

Stevens is a Wales U21 regular, he has made his senior Brentford debut but is yet to feature in the Premier League although he has been on Thomas Frank’s bench this season.

Jack Hinshelwood – Brighton – 16 – Midfielder – England

Hinshelwood is a talented midfielder who can also play in defence. He can pass very well with both feet, dictating a game from deep but he can also get forward to add goals and assists to his game. He has scored two and set up two so far this season for Albion’s U18s.

Brighton have a very promising academy. Markus Ifill was their featured player on the Guardian’s list for 2020 and he continues to impress, so for Hinshelwood to be named as the Seagull’s next big thing, is a huge compliment.

Wiktor Gromek – Burnley – 16 – Midfielder – Poland

Gromek was released by Leicester City this summer and Burnley won the race to his signature ahead of the likes of MK Dons and Birmingham City.

Gromek is a Poland U16 international and is described as a player who might some improvements to make technically but he is a good athlete and is one to keep an eye on.

Zain Silcott-Duberry – Chelsea – 16 – Forward – England

Chelsea’s selection is usually one to take note of, Cobham is one of the best wonderkid factories in the UK and the Guardian have been typically accurate with their Chelsea choices over the past few years, correctly predicting the progression of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Trevoh Chalobah and Valentino Livramento.
This season’s pick comes in the form of a talented, versatile attacker. He can play on either wing, as a number 10 or as a striker.

Silcott-Duberry joined the Blues from Norwich in 2017 and has played for England at U16 level. This season, he has a goal and an assist to his name in the U18 Premier League.

Kayden Rodney – Crystal Palace – 17 – Midfielder – England

Rodney is a defensive midfielder who has been tipped to be the long-term replacement for Luca Milivojevic at Crystal Palace. He is a consistent performer, reads the game well and has a knack of stepping forward and scoring goals from long range.

Rodney can also play in defence and has played up an age group throughout his time at Palace. He is expected to step up to the Palace U23s team this season alongside boss Paddy McCarthy who managed Rodney at U18 level before taking the U23 job.

Jenson Metcalfe – Everton – 17 – Midfielder – England

Another midfielder. Metcalfe has already signed his first professional deal with the Toffees, shortly after turning 17, after being with the club since U5 level.

His idol is Sergio Busquets, with Metcalfe admiring how comfortable the Spanish midfielder is on the ball. This is something Metcalfe tries to implement into his own game. He tries to dictate the tempo of the game and is comfortable with the ball on both feet.

He has already had a taste of U23 football but will be looking to make himself a permanent fixture in David Unsworth’s side in the coming months.

Cian Coleman – Leeds United – 17 – Midfielder – Republic of Ireland

Coleman is an extremely versatile player. He has played in midfield, at centre back and at right back for Leeds and was a striker in his younger years.

He showed those striking instincts recently, bagging a brace in Leeds’ 5-2 win against Liverpool in the U18 Premier League.
He was playing as a number eight in that game, his future seems to be in midfield rather than at the back. He has played in the number four or ‘Kalvin Phillips’ role as Leeds fans know it, but his engine, ability to carry the ball and eye for goal make him a good fit in the number eight, box-to-box role.

Coleman is said to be highly rated by the Whites, he was involved with the first team in pre-season but is yet to break into the U23s.

Despite being born in Leeds, Coleman represents the Republic of Ireland at international level. He has been called up to the U19 squad for the last two training camps and has already played for the Boys in Green at Under-18 level.

Chris Popov – Leicester City – 16 – Forward – Wales

Popov joined the Foxes this summer from Manchester United, after rejecting a contract offer from the Red Devils in favour of a faster progression through the ranks at Leicester.

Popov, born in Cardiff, is a regular at youth level for Wales and has three goals in the U18 Premier League for Leicester so far.

Kaide Gordon – Liverpool – 16 – Winger – England

One of the more well known members of this list. Gordon has already caught the eye at just 16 years old.

He is easily comparable to Liverpool’s first team star Mo Salah as he is a quick, direct winger that loves to cut in from the right and score goals.

The Reds capitalised on Derby’s financial crisis to pick up Gordon for what will surely prove to be a bargain price of £1.1m (could rise to £3.4m – still a bargain!) and he made his senior debut in the Carabao Cup win over Norwich last month.

“He’s ready for these moments, he’s just ready!” Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports after Gordon’s debut.

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Luca Barrington – Manchester City – 16 – Winger – England

Barrington has been with City since the age of six, a local lad, a tricky forward who loves to drift in field and score goals.

The 16-year-old has two goals and two assists in the U18 Premier League so far this season, as City sit second in the table.

Ethan Ennis – Manchester United – 16 – Midfielder – England

Ennis has already had one controversial moment in his short career as he swapped Liverpool for Manchester United…

The attacking midfielder is described as a quick, two-footed player with an eye for goal. He scored on his Liverpool U18s debut last season and ended the season with five goals in eight U18 Premier League games.

Ennis also caught the eye on his FA Youth Cup debut, scoring a hat-trick against Sutton within 20 minutes of entering the action off the bench. The Reds made the final of the competition but were beaten by Aston Villa.

Liverpool understandably didn’t want to lose their talent and offered him a scholarship deal but Ennis declined. Chelsea were also interested but Ennis chose the move to Liverpool’s biggest rivals instead.

Ben Parkinson – Newcastle United – 16 – Winger – England

Parkinson has started the season brightly and made himself a mainstay in Newcastle’s U18 side, he has featured in every U18 Premier League game so far this season as the young Magpies sit 10th in the North Division.

Parkinson can play on either wing or as a number 10, he has occupied all those positions in six games this season and he has one goal and one assist so far.

Parkinson is the latest promising Newcastle youngster to catch the eye. U23 captain Elliot Anderson and midfielder Joe White are said to already be in Steve Bruce’s plans, while Dylan Stephenson is on fire in front of goal for the U23s and surely can’t be far of a first team chance. Stephenson has seven goals already this season, second only to Man City wonderkid James McAtee in the PL2 scoring charts.

Alongside Parkinson in the U18s, Michael Ndiweni has impressed. He has five goals in five games in the U18 Premier League.

Osman Foyo – Norwich City – 16 – Midfielder – English

The former Chelsea youngster has been the brightest spark in a torrid start to the season for Norwich U18s.

The young Canaries, like their first team, are yet to register a point this season. They have scored just two and conceded 25 in their opening six games which includes a 10-0 thrashing by Aston Villa.

Foyo is responsible for one of those goals, a 25-yard screamer against his former club and he has shown he has the potential to become an all round midfielder.

Kamari Doyle – Southampton – 16 – Midfielder – English

Doyle made headlines earlier this season when he scored five goals in one game against Birmingham City for Southampton’s U18s.

One of those was a sublime free kick, made even better by the fact that a video later surfaced of him practicing set plays years before with Saints’ free kick master himself, James Ward-Prowse.

Since that five star show from Doyle, he has stepped up to the U23s and has started the last four games in the PL2. Southampton B (U23s) Head Coach Dave Horseman has been impressed by Doyle who, due to his range of abilities, has played as a central midfielder, right midfielder and attacking midfielder this season.

“Kami has got great quality so he takes most of our set plays,” said Horseman. “He has practiced with Prowsey [James Ward-Prowse] in the past, his free-kicks, and he was disappointed about a good free-kick chance he had.

“He really stepped up. He gets hold of the game and wins loads of tackles. He can run with the ball and he is, technically, very good.” Horseman said after Southampton U21s were beaten 4-1 by Charlton in the EFL Trophy.

Jamie Donley – Tottenham – 16 – Striker – Northern Ireland

Tottenham might have another player to add to their impressive recent history of developing strikers.

Harry Kane being the most obvious example followed by Dane Scarlett and Troy Parrott who are both highly rated by Spurs, Jamie Donley might be the latest.

Donley has 5 goals in 5 games for the U18s this season and also scored in Spurs U17’s 9-0 win over Arsenal in the PL Cup.

The 16-year-old has been with Spurs since the age of eight and is eligible to represent both England and Northern Ireland internationally. He has spent time with both countries in recent years. He has been away with England U17s for the current international break and was with Northern Ireland U19s for the September break, scoring the winning goal in both games.

Adrian Blake – Watford – 16 – Winger – England

Watford are the only side in the Premier League to not have a category one academy (except Brentford who don’t have a recognisable U18 or U23 side) therefore their youth sides do not compete in the U18 Premier League or PL2.

For that reason Blake might be one of the more unknown players on this list. The 16-year-old is described as a pacey winger who likes to make runs infield and in behind off the flank and is always a goal threat. Blake thrives in one-v-one situations and is at the start of a two-year scholarship with the Hornets.

Kaelan Casey – West Ham – 16 – Defender – England

The young centre back played four times for the Hammers U18 side last season while he was still a schoolboy. Now a first year scholar, Casey is a mainstay in the team and has scored one goal in six games so far this season.

Casey was also named in the U21 squad that beat Ipswich in the EFL Trophy, showing that they’re could be opportunity for progression if he keeps improving.

Casey has been at West Ham since the age of five and cites Declan Rice as an idol of his. He is described as a ball-playing centre back with his skillset leading some to believe that he could adapt to a midfield role. Replicating Rice’s journey might not be an unrealistic aim for Casey.

Owen Farmer – Wolves – 17 – Striker – England

Farmer is a talented attacker who can play anywhere across the front line or as a number 10. He made his U23 debut at 16 years old but predominantly features for the U18s who he has three goals in four games for this season.

Although Wolves U18 boss Steve Davis has praised Farmer’s ability to score “poacher’s goals,” Farmer is more than a goal scorer, he can create chances too which is why Davies believes he is better at “playing off somebody rather than a lone central role.”

“He’s better coming off the side and playing off the front with somebody, he tends to link well with his other centre-forward.” Davis says.

Farmer turned 17 at the start of September and Wolves are said to be keen on tying him down to a professional contract sooner rather than later. They have high hopes for him, Farmer regularly trains with the U23s.