Several young players in the Premier League have blossomed into key role players at their respective clubs this season. Throughout the year, teams have had to rely on young talent as a tightly packed season of fixtures has encouraged rotation within squads to avoid injuries. As a result, new players have stepped up and shown their worth in crucial games. However, five players have stood out from the rest as their contributions have influenced their teams’ success throughout the season.
These players may not always be out on the pitch, but they make sure to leave their mark on a match when given the opportunity. The following list ranks the best Premier League players under the age of 23 based on their form throughout the 2020-2021 season. A player’s performance and impact on their team’s success have been considered while creating the following list.
Pedro Neto – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Pedro Neto has been one of Wolves’ best players this year. The 21-year-old secured a starting role in the squad early on in the season. However, a significant knee injury has left him on the sidelines. In 31 appearances, the Portuguese star scored five goals and assisted six.
Neto has been a crucial player within an injured Wolves squad. Notably, his tenacity on the press, clinical finishing, and sharp movements have been exemplified under Nuno. Despite a wonderful season, Neto is just shy of the top five due to injuries. In due time, Pedro will be one of the best wingers in the league.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the best full-backs at the attacking end. Despite an injury-ridden Liverpool season, Trent has scored two goals and assisted six in 33 appearances. The 22-year-old also ranks first in the Premier League for crosses into the box.
Alexander-Arnold is a lethal offensive threat because of his crossing ability. He often joins Liverpool attacks from the right side and feeds Firmino and Jota in the box. On the defensive end, Trent is often caught out of position or run past. Therefore, he sits just outside the top five as he lacks a complete footballing skillset.
#5: Reece James – Chelsea
Coming in at fifth place is Reece James. James has established himself as one of the most versatile young players at the right-back/ right wing-back position. Early on in the season, Frank Lampard regularly chose Reece at right-back due to his offensive contributions. He was able to create chances for the team even when they looked sluggish throughout fixtures.
However, since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, the 21-year-old has been forced to prove himself to a new manager at both ends of the pitch. Under Tuchel, he has played at a wing-back position where he has shined. Defensively, James effectively uses his strength and pace to nudge wingers off the ball. On the other end of the pitch, Reece uses his speed on the counter-attack to provide pinpoint crosses into the box. Despite inconsistent playing time under Tuchel, James has become a much more well-rounded full-back/wing-back. His improvement at the defensive end has helped Chelsea secure 19 clean sheets under Tuchel. As the fixtures become more meaningful, it is difficult to imagine seeing Reece James on the bench.
#4: Mason Greenwood – Manchester United
At 19-years-old, Mason Greenwood has already proven that he is built for top-flight football. His creativity on the ball, blistering pace, and ability to shoot remarkably with both feet makes him a phenomenal talent to watch.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Greenwood has slowly started to see more playing time. This season, the young English man has scored five goals and bagged two assists in 28 Premier League appearances. Yet, it is essential to note that Greenwood has only played a full 90 minutes eight times out of the 28 matches he has featured. Mason’s raw talent suggests that he should receive more playing time; however, his lack of experience compared to his teammates says otherwise. A lack of consistent and meaningful playing time has put him just outside the top three.
Though Mason Greenwood has not started every game, he has helped United secure 2nd place in the Premier League. Moreover, as United’s only natural right-winger, it is only a matter of time before Mason sees consistent playing time.
#3: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Though Arsenal has struggled this season, Bukayo Saka has looked amazing on the pitch. The 19-year-old has managed to score five goals and assist two in 27 Premier League starts. His importance to Arsenal has earned him third place on this list.
Saka has played multiple positions for Arsenal and has been instrumental in keeping the club’s top-four dreams alive. Though naturally a left-winger, Arteta has featured the youngster at left-back, right-wing, and even midfield. Above all, his versatility has been crucial to the team when players like Tierney and Pepe have been injured.
On the attacking end of the pitch, Bukayo has compensated for his teammates’ lack of form. When starting alongside Emile Smith Rowe, “the Gunners took 23 points from 12 League games this season. Without them, Arsenal has amassed 23 points… but from 21 matches.” At just 19-years-old, Saka has become one of the most important players for Arsenal. His role within the squad will only grow as he gains experience.
#2: Mason Mount – Chelsea
Mason Mount is one of the fascinating young Premier League players. Mount is the one Chelsea player aside from N’Golo Kanté, who has maintained a starting role under Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel. In 33 Premier League appearances, Mount has scored six goals and assisted five. The 22-year-old has only missed one game in Premier League for Chelsea this season. He has had a tremendous impact on Chelsea’s midfield and has propelled the club to a top-four position.
Mount’s creativity at the CAM position has been crucial to Chelsea’s attacking build-up. Mason has created 11 big chances for his teammates and ranks 14th in the Premier League for shots taken (71) this season. In addition, the 22-year-old almost always makes the right passes in the final third and is clinical with his finishing.
Mount has already secured a regular starting position in Chelsea’s deep squad at such a young age. Mason’s creativity in midfield and distribution to teammates earns him second place on this list. With Mason Mount at the helm, the future looks very bright for Chelsea.
#1: Phil Foden – Manchester City
Phil Foden grabs first place on this list as he is enjoying a fantastic season at Manchester City. In just 26 Premier League appearances, Foden has scored seven goals and assisted five. Moreover, the 20-year-old has been involved in 24 goals within all competitions this season. At such a young age, Phil is proving to be a generational talent.
Pep Guardiola has trusted Foden in meaningful games throughout the season despite the midfielder’s young age. He has featured the 20-year-old in matches against top clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea. In each of these headlining fixtures, Foden rose to the occasion and was integral in City’s build-up play. Out of all the premier league players, Phil Foden has been one of the best to watch.
Phil’s technical skills with the ball, intuition on the pitch, and versatility in positioning separate him from the rest on this list. In addition, Foden’s willingness to play to his manager’s expectations has transformed the City squad. The future is ever so bright for “The Stockport Iniesta.”