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Ten young Premier League players who could make 2016-17 their season

West Ham's Reece Oxford

1) Josh Onomah

Tottenham Age 19, Midfielder

Already part of the furniture at White Hart Lane, the next task for the midfielder is to become a centrepiece. A graduate of the Spurs academy, Onomah made 19 appearances in all competitions last season. Seven of those came in the Europa League, though, where Mauricio Pochettino invariably rotated his team. Spurs have the Champions League to contend with this season, so it will be interesting to see if the rotation means more domestic game time for the 19-year-old.

2) Harrison Reed

Southampton 21, Midfielder

This could be a make or break year at St Mary’s for the central midfielder. Reed made just one appearance in the league last season after featuring on 10 occasions in all competitions in the previous campaign. A January loan move to Rangers did not work out, so Reed was left in the shadows on the south coast. Claude Puel is eager to bring young players through and Reed saw a fair share of game time in pre-season, though his competition for a starting place has altered due to Victor Wanyama’s exit to Tottenham but Pierre Emile Hojberg has been signed from Bayern Munich.

3) Ben Gibson

Middlesbrough 23,Defender

A key figure in Aitor Karanka’s promotion-winning team (who conceded just 31 times in the Championship last season), the defender was earmarked for an England call up after the European Championship due to a dearth of left-footed centre-halves. A call up seems only a matter of time. Gibson, who is from Nunthorpe and joined the club as a 12-year-old, has spoken about “building a legacy” at the Riverside, which sounds like a piece of welcomed long-term thinking for Boro.

4) Nathaniel Chalobah

Chelsea 21,Midfielder

After six different loan spells, including a period on the fringes at Napoli, it would appear to be now or never for Chalobah at Stamford Bridge and he has looked sharp in pre-season. Having played as a centre-half, he has been used mostly in a holding midfield role lately. There is little doubt over his talent but it seems wasted if he is not going to be offered sufficient opportunities by his new manager Antonio Conte to impress.

5) Reece Oxford

West Ham United 17,Defender

So much excitement was generated after the then 16-year-old’s immense display in last season’s opening game at Arsenal, but only two more starts followed and he was taken off at half-time in both matches. Stories of an £18m move away from West Ham linger but more of him should be seen in claret and blue this time around. Oxford is evidently assured for such a young player and reportedly queried if he will have a greater role under Slaven Bilic this season.

6) Rob Holding

Arsenal 20,Defender

After the centre-half’s debut in the friendly against MLS All-Stars, Arsène Wenger was quick to point out how surprised he was by the 20-year-old’s assuredness in marking Didier Drogba. “He reads the game well and understands what’s going on, anticipates well and that’s a quality at such a young age that you do not find a lot,” Wenger said of the £2m signing from Bolton, The long-term injury sustained by Per Mertesacker could mean he may well be dropped in at the deep end.

7) Jordan Pickford

Sunderland 22,Goalkeeper

Impressed in defeat when called on by Sam Allardyce in the FA Cup against Arsenal in January and started the league game at Tottenham a week later before Vito Mannone took over. Pickford, who has the rare distinction of having already played in the top five levels of English football by the age of 21, has signed a long-term contract on Wearside and Mannone has already spoken about the battle he faces to remain as No1 under David Moyes.

8) Matthew Pennington

Everton 21, Defender

Following a succession of injuries among defenders in Everton’s squad last season, Pennington became a fixture in the team towards the end of the season having been recalled from a loan at Walsall early. Looked strong in pre-season before picking up a hamstring injury but that should not stunt his progress greatly. Pennington would be in line to benefit if John Stones moves on, though he has also played at right-back. Unusually he has hardly featured for England’s underage teams, aside from involvement with the under-19s.

9) Demarai Gray

Leicester City 20,Forward

With Leicester also competing in the Champions League this season, rotation will be a must for Claudio Ranieri and the 20-year-old winger, who signed for the champions from Birmingham City, can be one of the beneficiaries. Gray has also left Gareth Southgate impressed since making his England Under-21 debut against Switzerland in March.

10) Sheyi Ojo

Liverpool 19, Midfielder

Jürgen Klopp is torn over whether the 19-year-old should go out on loan but unequivocal about what the future holds for the gifted winger. “Sheyi is a wonderful player,” he said: “And his future is 100% at Liverpool.” Ojo has made 11 appearances for Klopp’s team, impressing on both flanks, and performed well in England’s run to the European Under-19 Championship semi-finals. The former MK Dons prospect rejected Klopp’s offer of a post-Euros holiday to join Liverpool on their pre-season tour of the United States and made an impact in the games against Roma and Milan.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Alan Smith, for The Observer on Saturday 6th August 2016 12.21 Europe/London

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