The wait is almost over, after months of patience and anticipation we’re just under a week away from the return of the Premier League. With the summer transfer window also concluding in the coming days, now seems the perfect time for fans from across the globe to cast their predictions ahead of the new season. If you’re eager for my thoughts you’ll have to wait a little more, but for now here’s my perspective on five under-23 players you should look out for ahead of the new season.
5) Matteo Guendouzi | Club: Arsenal | Position: Midfielder | Age: 19
After Arsenal announced the signing of Matteo Guendouzi from Lorient, I don’t think anyone could have imagined that the 19-year-old would hit the ground running so quickly. While he has only featured in preseason fixtures, Guendouzi has typically been one of the best players on the pitch and looks set to make his debut for the Gunners on Sunday against Manchester City.
Overall, Guendouzi has a good reading of the game and also looks very composed when on the ball. His movement on the pitch also looks impressive thus far with him always trying to create a passing option for a teammate. In addition, his passing during preseason fixtures has also been a joy to watch. Similarly with Granit Xhaka, the 19-year-old can always play a simple pass but he also has the intelligence and technique to produce a long pass that puts a player further up the field through on goal.
When he’s played, Guendouzi has helped balance the team and will likely get a lot of opportunities with the first-team during the season – especially with Arsenal contesting in the Europa League once again.
4) Issa Diop | Club: West Ham | Position: Defender | Age: 21
Out of all of the players that West Ham have signed this summer, Issa Diop could definitely go on to become the best of the lot. After last season’s antics, the Hammers needed to bring in a top defender and they couldn’t have done much better than signing Diop.
Despite his young age, Diop has had a pretty successful career thus far. The Frenchman has played an integral role in the heart of the defence for France at youth level as well as for former club Toulouse where he made 85 appearances for the club and captained the side last season.
With a host of top European clubs previously interested in the defender, West Ham inherits a top prospect that should bolster their defender for years to come. As you’d expect from a 6ft 3in defender, Diop is an imposing figure and also strong in the air, yet he’s also comfortable on the ball and can help West Ham build-up play from the back.
I expect the 21-year-old to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Hammers, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to life in the Premier League.
3) Ryan Sessegnon | Club: Fulham | Position: Wide Midfielder| Age: 18
In case you didn’t know, Ryan Sessegnon is only 18-year-old! Be prepared to hear that statement on numerous occasions from commentators this season. Sessegnon is arguably the most exciting player coming from England and the praise he’s received is certainly justified.
Similarly, with Diop, Sessegnon is no stranger to first-team football like most young players and has shown tremendous loyalty to Fulham in the last two years. Sessegnon’s versatility has been significantly beneficial for manager Slaviša Jokanović. Despite initially playing as a left-back, Sessegnon has also flourished as a wide midfielder as well as a winger – both on the left flank.
Assuming the young Englishman will take up the left-wing spot for Fulham this season, it’ll be exciting to see how he links up with new recruits Aleksandar Mitrović and André Schürrle in attack. It’s fair to say that Fulham will have a very underrated attack next season and Sessegnon will be integral to this.
2) Ben Chilwell | Club: Leicester City | Position: Left Back| Age: 21
And here we are now with a natural left-back and yet another Englishman. In a league that lacks top performers in the left-back position, this season could be the perfect opportunity for Ben Chilwell to establish himself as one of the best players in the league in this role.
Although the 21-year-old has typically lacked game time for the Foxes, he finally became their first-choice left-back towards the end of last season, replacing Christian Fuchs until he was forced out of the squad with an injury in May. With the latter slowly declining, now is the perfect opportunity for Chilwell to get the consistent game time that he needs and try to establish himself as one of the best left-backs in the league.
From an Arsenal perspective, I’d absolutely love for us to sign him in next season’s summer transfer window.
1) Diogo Jota | Club: Wolves | Position: Winger/Forward | Age: 21
Last but not least, while most football fans will probably be interested in seeing how Rúben Neves performs for Wolves this season, I’d like to draw your attention to a different Portuguese player who will also be playing at the Molineux Stadium, this season.
For Wolves, the 21-year-old has typically been deployed on the left flank in attack acting as an inside forward but has also played down the middle when Leo Bonatini has been unavailable. On the left flank, Jota likes to cut inside and dribble towards the goal (or produce an opportunity for a teammate)
Last season, Jota scored seventeen goals and produced six assists as Wolves went on to lift the Championship title. While he was unlucky to not be featured in the Championship Team of the Season, you can’t deny the influence he has had on the club. Stepping up now to the Premier League, it’ll be exciting to see how Jota performs against better opposition.