This season has seen a breakthrough of young stars, several of whose emergence has been unexpected. We have selected a Premier League under-21 Team of The Season, seven of whom, it’s worth noting, are English.
Do you think it’s accurate? Who would you have included that didn’t make the cut?
GK – Jack Butland
Curiously, Butland is the only goalkeeper under 21 that has played Premier League football this season, although is currently loaned to Championship side Leeds United. Limited options therefore make him a default selection.
RB – Jon Flanagan
This is more like it, and the natural choice at right-back. Flanagan has emerged as a highly capable fullback and, although having just missed out on a league winner’s medal, could shortly be rewarded with a England call up, currently on the standby list. It’s also worth noting that Flanagan has the joint-highest tackles per game ratio (3.43 tackles per game, with Pablo Zableta) of any regular (over 20 appearances) Premier League defender.
CB – John Stones
In this, his inaugural season for the Everton, towering Barnsley-boy Stones has featured 21 times in the league. The England under-21 star is already being lauded as a future full international while being linked to both Arsenal and Chelsea. Also averaging less than a goal conceded per game (0.9), Stones’ good spell seems only likely to perpetuate.
CB – Matija Nastastic
Nastastic is often regarded as older than his 21 years of age, and often criticised as such if he is under-par in the heart of the City defence. Considering his age, Nastastic has performed decently and still has many years of development ahead of him.
LB – Luke Shaw
Like Flanagan on the opposite side, Shaw was the natural choice for this position. Swansea’s Ben Davies is making similar positive strides, but with Shaw inducing such spirited discussion so early in his career, Davies has to settle for a position on the bench.
RM – Raheem Sterling
This hotly contested position was rightly allocated to 19-year-old Sterling who has had a great, ever-so-nearly title winning season. Salah, Berahino, Deulofeu, Kasami, Ward-Prowse, Gnabry and Zaha all had a shout, but Sterling’s season must take precedent with his club having flown so high.
CM – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Another player who is widely considered older than just 20, Chamberlain is a quality pick whether played in the centre of midfield or out wide. In coming seasons, we may even see his glistening attributes moved further up-field to occupy the central striker’s role so wonderfully perfected by a certain Lionel Messi. Nabil Bentaleb had a strong shout for this role, but Chamberlain's prodigious talent and adaptation to central midfield superseded Bentaleb's emergence.
CM – Ross Barkley
Ross Barkley is simply magnificent. Used sparingly under Moyes, other than a minor slump mid-season, Barkley has flourished under Martinez and looks only to be able to take it up a few levels. Technically immaculate with an astute footballing mind, Barkley even appears to have the fiery temperament often compulsory to imprint a lasting impression on the international stage.
LM – Adnan Januzaj
Seemingly nomadic Januzaj was not certain of his place in this side, with pressure being applied by the same group hot on Sterling’s trail. What separated him from the pack, however, was simply his prominence in an underachieving yet highly capable Manchester United side. Ward-Prowse and Saido Berahino had similarly impressive years but, for me at least, Januzaj deserved his selection.
FWD – Philippe Coutinho
The man to pull the strings had to be the little Brazilian. Exciting, creative, and cool in possession, Liverpool’s positional number ten has performed, overall, excellently this season. Like his Liverpool contemporaries, Showtino was only one win away from a league winner's medal however, in a double-blow, he also missed out on World Cup selection for Brazil. A somewhat disappointing end to an inspired season.
STR – Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku was probably the only sure choice for this team. With 32 goals in 66 Premier League games across two different clubs, Lukaku is an emerging talent already fit for leading striker responsibilities. Whoever lands Lukaku in the summer will only improve on their current lot, that’s for sure.
Ben Davies (Swansea), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Mohamed Salah (Chelsea), Gerard Deulofeu (Everton), Saido Berahino (West Brom).