Combined XI: The best players aged 23 and under in the Premier League this season

Combined XI: The best players aged 23 and under in the Premier League this season

The Premier League is home to a plethora of talented young footballers.

Some are biding their time, waiting for their big break, while others have already broken into the first-team picture at their clubs.

Indeed, many of the best performers in the Premier League so far this season are aged 23 and under, so we’ve made a combined XI.

It’s perhaps surprising that seven of our 11 picks play for clubs outside of the ‘big six’, showcasing the vast array of young talent throughout the English top-flight.

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga

Age: 24
Club: Chelsea

Now we know what you’re thinking: what’s a 24-year-old doing in a combined XI of players aged 23 and under? The reality is no goalkeeper aged 23 and under has featured in the Premier League yet this term; at 24, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Everton’s Jordan Pickford are the youngest players to play between the sticks so far.

Having conceded fewer goals and kept more clean sheets than his positional colleague, Kepa just about edges out Pickford and is likely to be Chelsea’s goalkeeper for years to come.

Key stat: Kepa has conceded seven goals in 10 Premier League games for the Blues, keeping five clean sheets.

Right-back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Age: 20
Club: Crystal Palace

Gareth Southgate will either be happy he has a number of high-quality right-backs at his disposal or rueing the fact he can’t give them all a chance. Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold are all currently battling for a Three Lions starting spot, but at Selhurst Park another competitor is emerging.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka is still only 20 but he is already a regular in the Premier League having started nine of Palace’s 10 games this season. The one he missed was due to a suspension for a red card against Liverpool. He still has some maturing to do, but there is a top future player in there.

Key stat: Wan-Bissaka has won more tackles (30) and more total duels (86) than any other Premier League player this season.

Centre-back: Joe Gomez

Age: 21
Club: Liverpool

Another young defender giving Southgate a selection headache is Joe Gomez, who has been in superb form for Liverpool. A product of Charlton Athletic’s academy, Gomez has formed a strong partnership with Virgil van Dijk this term and has also filled in at right-back.

What’s more, he has proved himself as an ideal option in England’s back three, if Southgate decides to revert to that formation in future games. Indeed, the versatility Gomez has demonstrated by playing in multiple positions for Liverpool has seen his reputation grow exponentially since the beginning of the campaign.

Key stat: Only Van Dijk (38) has won more aerial duels than Gomez (17) in the Premier League for Liverpool this season.

Centre-back: Nathan Ake

Age: 23
Club: Bournemouth

Nathan Ake has been one of the best centre-backs outside the ‘big six’ ever since leaving Chelsea permanently for Bournemouth in the summer of 2017. It’s hard to believe he’s still only 23 as he’s already a mainstay in the Cherries’ defence, playing in every Premier League game last season.

He has carried that consistency into the current campaign, playing every minute of every match and helping his side climb to sixth in the table. Yes, he was part of the defence that shipped four goals against Burnley, but other than that, Bournemouth have conceded just eight goals in nine league games.

Honourable mention: Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez almost made the XI but he has looked a little shaky at times. Coincidentally, Ake has been linked with a move to Spurs.

Left-back: Ben Chilwell

Age: 21
Club: Leicester City

Those who have been watching Ben Chilwell for a long time will know he was always destined to become an established Premier League player. Since a short but impressive loan spell at Huddersfield Town in 2015/16, the left-back has gradually improved more and more.

Now a regular for Leicester, his bursting runs down the left have earned him plenty of plaudits and two England starts since the beginning of the season. At 21, there is still plenty of time for Chilwell to develop further, too.

Honourable mention: Chilwell just about pipped Luke Shaw to the post. The two could be set to battle it out for an England starting spot for the foreseeable future.

Central midfield: Ruben Neves

Age: 21
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers

It was quite the coup when Wolves managed to lure Ruben Neves – the youngest player to ever captain a team in the Champions League – to the Championship last season. The Portugal international proved pivotal in Wolves’ promotion campaign and has been instrumental in the Premier League, too.

Reports of Wolves slapping a £110m price tag on Neves after rumoured interest from the Manchester clubs surfaced last month following his excellent start to the season. Nuno Espirito Santo could have a difficult time convincing the midfielder to stay beyond next summer, but Wolves are certainly enjoying him for now.

Key stat: Only Joe Hart (75) and Paul Pogba (73) have completed more long ball passes than Neves (71) in the Premier League this season.

Central midfield: Lucas Torreira

Age: 22
Club: Arsenal

The stats say it all when it comes to Lucas Torreira’s impact for Arsenal. In the 284 Premier League minutes the Gunners have played without him on the pitch, they have scored five goals and conceded seven. In the 525 minutes with him on the pitch, they have scored 19 goals and conceded six.

Torreira has been hugely influential from a defensive perspective, freeing up Unai Emery’s side to get forward more often without having to worry about being open at the back. The Uruguayan is already staking his claim for the title of Premier League signing of the summer.

Honourable mention: Take your pick. The likes of Matteo Guendouzi, Wilfred Ndidi and Declan Rice all nearly made the XI; the Premier League is quite the talent pool for central midfielders.

Right wing: David Brooks

Age: 21
Club: Bournemouth

England’s loss is Wales’ gain. Having represented the Three Lions at Under-20 level, David Brooks switched to Wales as an Under-21 international and has now made seven appearances for the senior team since last year. That rise in stature on the international stage is reflected by his club career.

Brooks left Championship side Sheffield United for Bournemouth in the summer and has settled incredibly quickly in the Premier League. He scored his third league goal of the season against Fulham on Saturday, making him just about impossible to drop for Eddie Howe at the moment.

Key stat: Only Callum Wilson (13) has managed more shots on target than Brooks (7) for Bournemouth in the Premier League this season.

Central attacking midfield: James Maddison

Age: 21
Club: Leicester City

Like Brooks at Bournemouth, James Maddison has taken to Premier League life rapidly, fast becoming one of Leicester’s most important players. He has been tasked with providing the creativity and flair robbed of the Foxes after Riyad Mahrez’s exit and so far he’s done a brilliant job.

As well as being Leicester’s creator-in-chief, Maddison has also chipped in with three goals, one of which was a wonderfully struck free-kick against Huddersfield Town. If he keeps up his current form, the midfielder will soon make his first appearance for England. He was named in Gareth Southgate’s most recent squad but didn’t make an appearance.

Key stat: Only six players – three of whom play for the ‘big six’ – have created more chances than Maddison (22) in the Premier League this season.

Left wing: Raheem Sterling

Age: 23
Club: Manchester City

By now we’re all well aware of Raheem Sterling’s huge improvement under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. Sterling fired Manchester City to the title with 18 goals in 33 appearances last term, proving himself to be far more versatile than many gave him credit for.

The former Liverpool forward has carried his 2017/18 form into this season, and he even appears to have found his feet in an England shirt, scoring twice in the recent victory over Spain. His assist against Tottenham this week was a clever piece of quick thinking, a key character of the new Sterling.

Key stat: With four goals and three assists, Sterling has had a hand in seven goals in eight Premier League appearances this season.

Striker: Richarlison

Age: 21
Club: Everton

Richarlison made a stunning start to his debut season in England with Watford last year but tailed off towards the end of the campaign. As a result, there were fears the reported £50m Everton spent on him over the summer might not have been the wisest of investments.

The Brazilian has already started to prove those doubters wrong. It’s still early days, of course, but Richarlison has scored four goals – and a provided an assist – in eight league outings this term and it might have been more if not for a red card and the subsequent ban.

Honourable mention: Anthony Martial appears to be coming good, although Manchester United favourite Gary Neville remains critical of the Frenchman.