A number of young players have flourished in the 2016/2017 Premier League campaign. Tottenham Hotspur starlet Dele Alli has established himself as one of the best players in the English top flight, but the likes of Leroy Sane, Alex Iwobi, Gabriel Jesus and Ademola Lookman have been playing important roles in their respective clubs as well. Talent scout Phil Davidson, editor at FootballPredictions.com lined out the most talented youngsters of this season.
After scoring 18 goals in 62 league appearances for Milton Keynes Dons, Bamidele Jermaine Alli joined Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur on February 2, 2017. Dele Alli proved his worth on his Tottenham debut and a number of football experts were whispering that the star was born. The England attacking midfielder scored 10 goals in 33 appearances for Tottenham in the 2015/2016 Premier League campaign, while providing nine assists for his teammates. Alli has already netted 14 goals in the English top flight this term and it is no surprise the 20-year-old is considered as the best young player in EPL.
Manchester City chiefs needed a fresh blood in the summer transfer window and, as a result, they signed a contract with Brazilian youngster Gabriel Jesus, who joined the club in January 2017. Jesus came to the club with the reputation of being a hard worker and he quickly established himself as a first-team regular at Man City. The Brazilian teenager (19) managed to outrun Kun Aguero and it has to be noted that he scored three goals in four league appearances for the Citizens before suffering a serious injury. Anyhow, there is a bright future ahead of the Manchester City forward.
Alexander Chuka Iwobi is a product of Arsenal football academy and he has been playing an important role in Arsene Wenger’s team ever since he made his debut for the senior team. The Nigerian starlet made 13 appearances for Arsenal in the 2015/2016 Premier League campaign, but he has already played 23 games in the league for the capital club. The 20-year-old winger has netted three goals, while providing four assists for his teammates and, no doubt, he is a bright spark for Arsene Wenger in Arsenal’s underwhelming season.
After impressing with Schalke in the 2015/2016 Bundesliga campaign, Leroy Sane signed a five-year deal with Manchester City in August 2016 for a reported £37 million. The 21-year-old winger, who is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder as well, has established himself as a first-team regular at Man City and it is more than obvious that coach Pep Guardiola has faith in him. Leroy Sane scored against Monaco in the Champions League last 16, return leg, but the Citizens eventually failed to make it to the quarter-finals of the elite competition. The young wide-man is clicking on the pitch and he is on the right track to become one of the most significant Premier League stars.
Ademola Lookman have been producing splendid performances in the Premier League ever since he joined Everton. The former Charlton winger scored his first goal in the English elite division on his debut against Manchester City after coming as a substitute in the stoppage time. The £11 million signing was picked by Everton’s director of football Steve Walsh, who has a massive respect for the talented teenager. Ademola Lookman will hone his skills at the Goodison Park outfit, which transformed Manchester United superstar Wayne Rooney and, no doubt, Everton coach Ronald Koeman will count on him in the future.
Some questions that have been looming large in the minds of football followers across the world: “Will the beautiful game continue to speak Español in future? Or will we witness a counter revolution in the way the game will be played?”
La Rojas have been flying high in international and club football for quite some time now and there seems to be no stopping them. The Catalan crusade to purify the sport is quite clichéd by now. With hardly any success to show, the resurgent Merengues’ challenge can be categorised as “still taking shape”. Add to that, football followers across the world are desperately seeking a strong opponent for L’equip blaugrana, for the sake of healthy comparison.
Allow me to look beyond Spain as I switch my focus to the English game, and the direction it is heading towards. To talk about the English game, one has to start with Manchester United because of their sheer consistency with silverware. Any English club which has its eyes set on the Barclay’s Premier League glory has to perforce adapt to a life with United in topflight.
But what did we see a few weeks back? The Noisy Neighbours making The Red Devils appear like strangers in Old Trafford. Manchester United’s home form until that match was something the fans would brag about. Yet, the 6-1 drubbing was achieved with consummate ease and oomph. Mario Balotelli even took off his shirt to ask a very rhetorical question to the crowd in the Theatre of Dreams.
Mario Balotelli showing off a t-shirt saying ‘Why always me?’ after scoring against Manchester United
And since that weekend, while everyone was talking about it, the thought definitely crossed my skeptical mind:
“Is this a shock win?”
“Is the club following in the footsteps of its deep-pocket peers like Chelsea and the more recent addition, Anzhi Makhachkala?”
“Is money doing all the talking here?”
For me, the answer is, “No.”
Manchester City may have the money but their game is not shaped by it. They have achieved handsome victories since this season began. All this time I had been holding my judgement, saying it could be the bank that was the source of their proficiency. But half-a-dozen goals against Manchester United are proofs of a much greater determination. Mercenaries, that is, footballers hired for huge sums, are experts at what they do and they do it with élan. But it would take more than a pack of mercenaries to ram in three goals in the last 5 minutes. Though Manchester United did not help themselves with a so-called gung-ho approach, the killer instinct and sheer professionalism showed by City cannot be ignored. The desire to establish themselves was clearly visible. The coup de grace that Roberto Mancini’s men delivered on that fateful Sunday will be spoken of for a long time in the history of football in Manchester.
Sir Alex Ferguson believed that what cannot be obtained with money, can be more than made up for with desire. The Manchester United eleven, irrespective of who features in it, are driven by that desire to win. But the Manchester United determination astonishingly went missing in a derby match. Wayne Rooney was there to orchestrate the attack, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra to marshal the defence and Anderson, Nani, Darren Fletcher all raring to go – what was on the cards was a routine Manchester derby. The game unfolded kindly for Manchester United – more shots on goal, a wee bit more possession and definitely more purpose in their sallying forth. Manchester United had to deal with Jonny Evans getting sent off though. It appeared Manchester City was struggling to cope with Manchester United’s pressure early on but what it actually turned out to be was that they were soaking up the early pressure and biding their time. This, football lovers, is the counter revolution I was talking about. The men in blue patiently built up their game.
Manchester City Routs Manchester United 6-1
The Counter Revolution
A club founded on money is trying to make good on philosophy. Although it is the riches of the owners that is the wind in City’s sails, Mancini seems to be trying to mould their game with astuteness, adroitness and assiduousness. And there can be no doubt that the former Internazionale coach has the sense and understanding to achieve something like what he did for Inter. An example of it is the way he has gone about handling the mercurial Balotelli.
The enfant terrible of Italian football has the reputation of being something of a rake but Mancini appears to have impressed upon him the fact that when you are paid to play the game you better deliver on the money. No less astounding was his way of handling Carlos Tevez. He has portrayed the strict disciplinarian in him and everyone around knows who’s the boss.
And for those who have always sneered at money as an important tool for team building, this result is a worrisome sign. The theory that money cannot buy you a prize-winning team is fast turning out to be a myth that needs reappraising. But it’s still early days as far as City’s rise to glory is concerned. Sure, they are yet to win the laurels in England and in Europe but it is their approach to football that seems to me to be a new vocabulary of style – “Rich kids sweating it out, earning it.” If this marriage of money and desire is consummated, then clubs which rely on power, determination and/or panache, will have a serious bogey to reckon with.
History of football is, however, full of episodes of rich clubs squandering away their capital and culture, and eventually turning out to be a bad investment for their owners and a sad excuse for a football team. But there is everything to be said for this revolution, that is, if it is one.