The Premier League’s 2019/20 Rising Stars

Gabriel Martinelli

Yet another example of Brazil’s extraordinary footballing talent, Martinelli was playing in the fourth tier of Brazilian football before moving to north London. He’s as tenacious and fearless as a freeclimber and although he may lack height and stature, his quick feet, range of finishes and mature decision-making are evidence of precocious ability. Still only 18, he’s already scored 3 goals in 5 league starts this season. Clearly, Arsenal have unearthed a gem.

Brandon Williams

The departure and decline of Ashley Young and Luke Shaw respectively has enabled this Manchester United academy graduate to break into the first-team. Rather than looking out of place or short of confidence, which would be typical of a teenager appearing in the most watched league in the world, Williams’ excellent showings have caught the eye. Proficient with both feet, quick, good technically and able to hold his own against the very best, he is the epitome of the modern fullback.

Williams had no trouble counteracting the threat of Adama Traore, one of the most powerful and skillful wingers in the league, so much so that Adama was forced to switch flanks in the repeat 3rd round FA Cup fixture.

Emiliano Buendia

The Argentine’s stats this season are something to behold. He’s completed the 3rd most take-ons (78) and the 2nd most chances created (68) in the division, with only Kevin De Bruyne having created more goal scoring opportunities. He’s also the only player in the league to have completed 50+ tackles, take-ons and chances created.

These stats are evidence of his tremendous quality; he works as hard as anyone, while also having the close control and passing ability of an elite playmaker. With Norwich almost certain to go down, the 22-year-old should be at the top of many clubs’ shopping lists.

Todd Cantwell

The England U21 international has been another bright spark for a side who’ve been bottom for most of the season, having popped up with 6 goals and 2 assists so far. Born and bred in Norfolk, and a product of the Norwich academy, he’s a talented dribbler with clever passing and movement which makes him a real handful for defenders. He is another Norwich player who’s been linked with a move away pending their imminent relegation.

Tammy Abraham

After scoring 25 goals in the Championship with Aston Villa last season, the 22-year-old returned to his parent club this season and has donned the number 9 shirt for Chelsea accordingly. Tall, quick and skillful, his quality is undoubted after scoring 13 goals in 23 appearances so far this season.

His clever movement in addition to fine link-up play means he will always pose a threat, and his performances this season have deservedly led to an England call-up. With Harry Kane facing a long injury layoff, Abraham will relish the opportunity to lead the line for the Three Lions at the upcoming European Championships.

Japhet Tanganga

Tanganga had to wait patiently to be given his first league start for Tottenham after impressing in pre-season against the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus. After being thrust in for his Premier League debut against Liverpool earlier this month, the 20-year-old followed it up with another outstanding display against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in which he was named Man of the Match.

Primarily a centre-back, he’s so far been deployed at right-back and left-back in addition to his favoured role, and some have even gone so far to suggest that he could be an option in defensive midfield. His positional sense fused with his astute reading of play makes him a top-class centre back, but his speed and comfort on the ball makes him adept in both fullback positions.

Replacing the elite Belgian centre-back pairing of Vertonghen and Alderweireld will be no easy task but supporters and staff alike are confident that Tanganga can cement himself in the Spurs backline for years to come.

Dean Henderson

The 22-year-old is a stalwart of Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team and has been key to their success over the last 2 seasons. With current England ‘keeper Jordan Pickford flattering to deceive, many fans are calling for the in-form Blades goalie to replace Pickford between the sticks.

The on-loan Manchester United ‘keeper has conceded just 20 goals in 23 appearances this season, racking up 8 clean sheets. This trumps both Pickford and Nick Pope, who are Henderson’s main rivals for the England number 1 jersey - Pickford has conceded 35 in 24 appearances with 6 clean sheets, while Pope has let in 38 in 23 with 7 clean sheets.

Henderson’s save percentage is superior too. Of the 15 Premier League goalkeepers to have saved 50+ shots this season, Henderson has the highest save percentage (74.68%). Meanwhile, Pickford and Pope’s save percentages are 64% and 60% respectively.

The main gripe with Henderson is that his passing stats are not particularly attractive. While Pickford has completed 56.77% of his passes this season, Pope has completed 38.29%, but Henderson’s passing accuracy is just 33.72%.

Southgate is a keen proponent of playing out from the back and it seems unlikely that he will replace Pickford between the sticks, whom he’s trusted for the last 2 years, but there’s certainly a strong case for Henderson.

Reece James

This youngster is a phenomenon; it’s rarely the case that a player is able to combine technical excellence with physical power and strength, but James is a special case. Though he’s just 19, James plays well beyond his years. It is no wonder why he was named Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Year 2017/18, Wigan’s Player of the Month 4 times in the same season, and in the EFL Championship Team of the Season 2018/19. Although his defensive positioning could be improved upon, he’s often the most creative player on the pitch with his magnificent passing and unrivalled crossing ability. He’s always an outlet on the right-hand side with his pace and intelligent forward runs, and in addition to his direct dribbling, he possesses a menacing shot, his strength is devastating and he has no trouble getting stuck in and timing tackles to perfection.

James’ competencies allow him to excel in a variety of positions, from his favoured right-back role to centre-back to central midfield. His talent and versatility is so noteworthy that it led Wigan’s manager, Paul Cook, to proclaim that “Reece James could play in goal, he’s that outstanding!”.

England have a flurry of top-class right backs at the moment, and Reece James is making a case for himself to be the most complete. Jermaine Jenas on Match Of The Day described him as a hybrid between Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Aaron Wan-Bissaka because of the way in which James possesses the best qualities of them all.

Jack Grealish

Grealish was still a boy with unleashed potential when his side were relegated from the top-flight 4 years ago, however, this time round he is a fully fledged man and has been a shining light for a team who are among the dark depths of possible relegation.

Able to effectively break the lines with marvellous dribbling and an eye for a pass, he also tracks back and works hard defensively, while also being a first-class finisher who’s adept with both feet. The talisman of his boyhood club has been one of the standout players in the league and his presence significantly increases Villa’s chances of staying in the division. It beggars belief as to how he’s not yet been called up for England, with seemingly everyone but Southgate praising his remarkable ability.

At 24, he has all the necessary qualities to succeed wherever he goes, and a big money move is surely on the cards this summer. Tottenham will be rueing the fact that they came close to securing his signature in the summer of 2018 for a fee that would’ve been paltry compared to his value now as he would’ve gone a long way towards replacing Christian Eriksen.

All stats from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football & https://www.premierleague.com/


Ali Abdi

Politics student writing about football

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