It’s that time of the year again. Pre-season training has started; new managers have started work, and new players too. Teams are strengthening their squads for the upcoming season whether by making marquee signings, or one’s for the future.
However we are so focused on where Edinson Cavani is going to play, that we lose sight of the good young players that are being signed or being given the chance to solidify their place in the first team.
Here are five players that I think can do that in 2013/14
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsenal
It’s a no brainer isn’t it? You don’t have to be an Arsenal fan to see just how good “the Ox” is. While Chamberlain has played a role in Wenger’s first team plans over the last season it is obvious to me that he isn’t the first name on the team sheet. His performances last season for club and country were extremely encouraging and should earn him some more playing time for the upcoming season. It’s his place to lose.
Iago Aspas – Liverpool
Aspas has been highly rated in Spain for years, but not everybody can play for Real Madrid and Barcelona. The 25 year old moved from Celta Vigo to Liverpool this summer and has been touted as a replacement for Luis Suarez. However, if Liverpool can keep hold of Suarez the addition of Aspas would be a potent addition to an emerging offense that also includes Daniel Sturridge. Aspas is clinical in front of goal and a threat from distance too. Add that to his good-to-very good passing ability (which helped him amass 7 assists last season), and Liverpool has the perfect focal point for Brendan Rodgers’ system should Suarez leave, and a massive additional threat if he stays.
Marco Van Ginkel – Chelsea
Van Ginkel is being touted as “one for the future” by Chelsea fans, but I think we’ll see him contribute quicker than we think. With a midfield role in Mourinho’s midfield still up for grabs, Van Ginkel has demonstrated for Vitesse and for the Netherlands that he is mature beyond his 20 years. He would be the perfect fit for Chelsea’s deep-lying playmaker role, and can mature playing alongside the player he was signed to “replace” – Frank Lampard. Van Ginkel is a very similar player to Lampard, a box-to-box midfielder with superb passing ability and an eye for goal. The sky is the limit for the Dutch youngster.
Wilfried Zaha – Manchester United
Zaha set the Championship alight last season, helping Crystal Palace to gain promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Manchester United quickly moved to snap up Zaha for a cool £10 million and while originally it looked like an investment for the future, David Moyes looks to have Zaha firmly in his first team plans for this season. Not only is Zaha fast and skillful he’s about six feet tall too, making him an aerial threat as well as one with his feet. A more dynamic winger than Antonio Valencia and a physically stronger one than the easily-felled Nani – Zaha could, and should, force his way into the Manchester United starting eleven this coming season.
Phil Jones – Manchester United
Why does everybody forget about Phil Jones? Defenders aren’t sexy, we know that, but Phil Jones is still just 21 years old. Watching Phil Jones play at Blackburn, I knew he would make the step to a “top-four” team before long. So when Manchester United signed him in the summer of 2011 it was a crucial step in his development. He may have not been a first team regular for Manchester United thus far, but that has nothing to do with his ability. With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ageing, Phil Jones’ time is now. In addition to being a defensive stalwart, Jones can play very adeptly in midfield if needed. He’s a great passer, a superb tackler and he gives everything. Watch for Phil Jones to be a future Manchester United and England captain.
Special Mention: Luke Shaw – Southampton
Shaw is already a first team regular for the Saints. He’s 18 years old. Shaw looks set to stay with the Saints for the upcoming season and I applaud him for turning down some big offers to do so. Another classy product of the Southampton youth system along with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he made 29 appearances last season, look for him to add to that this year. Shaw is another young player who is maturing beyond his years and could soon be one of the best fullbacks in the Premier League.
Other notable players to watch: Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Lewis Holtby (Tottenham), Jake Livermore (Tottenham), Yaya Sanogo (Arsenal), Wallace (Chelsea), Andreas Cornelius (Cardiff), Nicklas Helenius (Aston Villa), Luis Alberto (Liverpool), Adam Campbell (Newcastle), Robbie Brady (Hull), Serge Gnarby (Arsenal).