The 2021/22 EFL Cup is upon us, and it should be a superb showcase for some rising stars.
Two decades ago Arsene Wenger pioneered the concept that the EFL Cup could be used for blooding your young players, and as such turned prospects like Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, Emmanuel Frimpong and Sanchez Watt into cult icons with some great performances.
Other clubs took up Wenger’s baton and now the EFL Cup is a regular place for clubs to showcase their young talent, whether that’s Premier League clubs giving us a glimpse of what’s up next, or clubs further down just reminding everyone they can produce quality.
With that in mind, we’ve had a look and come up with 11 rising stars to get hyped about ahead of the 2021/22 EFL Cup!
1. Harvey Elliott
Harvey Elliott provided 11 assists for Blackburn in the 2020-21 Championship season, at least twice as many as any other player at the club.
He only turned 18 last month. ? pic.twitter.com/hoZeI3LXvW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 8, 2021
Position: Attacking midfield
Harvey Elliott was so impressive last season on loan at Blackburn, providing an incredible 11 assists for Rovers, that Jurgen Klopp has incorporated him into his first-team plans for this year and it’s likely we’ll see Elliott play in the Premier League every now and again (as we did in the win over Burnley). However while there he will be playing a team-focused role, in the EFL Cup he will likely be the star turn and will get to strut his stuff in the final third. A lightning bolt of a player capable of scoring or creating, we won’t see him until later rounds but he’ll be well worth the wait, you can be sure of that.
2. James Garner
Club: Nottingham Forest (on loan from Manchester United)
Position: Central midfield
James Garner is as cool and composed as his namesake was on the big screen. Garner is a superb midfielder capable of setti and controlling the tempo of matches as well as getting forward to score. He will be at Nottingham Forest on loan again this season, and if last season is anything to go by, he’ll be someone you want to keep your eyes on because if he’s quite likely to be the future of the United midfield.
3. Liam Delap
Club: Manchester City
All the clamour for Pep Guardiola to rush Phil Foden into the first-team is now likely to be recreated with Liam Delap, son of throw-in god Rory. Delap started and scored on his City debut in last season’s EFL Cup and picked up a winner’s medal too, but this season he will be out to feature even more. Guardiola himself has branded Delap “an exceptional striker,” and insisted that City “count on him” as a first-teamer this season. He may not get that many minutes in the Premier League but expect him to be an EFL Cup regular.
4. Ben Brereton Diaz
In 2017, Ben Brereton won the U19 Euros with England and no player scored more goals (3) during the tournament. ???????
In 2021, Benjamín Anthony Brereton Díaz has scored on his first international start for Chile in the Copa America. ?? pic.twitter.com/6HKC51cG1t
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 18, 2021
None of the players on this list can claim to have played against Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, nor play and score at a major international tournament, that is, of course, except for Ben Brereton Diaz. The Blackburn Rovers marksman shone in an underwhelming campaign for Chile at the Copa America this summer. Diaz is a strong, pacey forward with a sharp eye for goal; he currently has three goals in four games so far in the Championship and is out to kick on to the next level, with the EFL Cup providing a fantastic opportunity to do that.
5. Bryan Gil
Spurs fans weren’t happy when they found out Erik Lamela was moving to Sevilla, though their mood lifted when they found out Bryan Gil would be coming the other way. One of the brightest young talents in Spain, Gil is a tricky winger with plenty of creativity to cause problems for opposing defences, and he should make use of the EFL Cup to strut his stuff as he adapts to English football.
6. Fabio Carvalho
Fabio Carvalho's game by numbers for Fulham vs. Southampton:
100% shot accuracy
5/6 take-ons completed
3 ball recoveries
3 shots on target
1 chance created
He's only 18 years of age. pic.twitter.com/iL7qQ8Rbgv
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 15, 2021
Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League didn’t leave them with too much to shout about but the emergence of Fabio Carvalho was indeed a boon for the Cottagers, with the youngster even scoring on his debut. Now they’re back in the Championship this teenage sensation is ripping it up; he already has three goals and an assist to his name plus 7/10 completed take-ons. Carvalho will be out to lead from the front for Fulham, and Marco Silva might use the EFL Cup to remind everyone how good his team is.
7. Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson has scored his first ever Premier League goal on his first Premier League start of the season.
Its also his first senior goal. pic.twitter.com/O5puQznihg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 27, 2020
Club: West Ham
One of the ways a young player can make the breakthrough into the first-team is by being versatile and covering different positions and West Ham’s Ben Johnson embodies this line of thinking perfectly. He’s played up and down either flank for the Hammers and will doubtless use the EFL Cup to prove to David Moyes that he is reliable enough to trust in any game.
8. Luke Jephcott
Club: Plymouth Argyle
You know a real striker when you see one, and Luke Jephcott is a real striker. The kid just has a proper nose for scoring goals, all kinds of goals; tap-ins, blasts, headers, shots off either foot. He scored 18 times for Plymouth last season and has three in four so far this season. Jephcott is the kind of finisher that’s always worth watching and the EFL Cup should be a superb stage for him to showcase what he can do.
9. Boubakary Soumaré
Position: Central midfield
It may be a bit cheeky to label Soumaré a rising star when he joins Leicester with a Ligue 1 winner’s medal around his neck, but he wasn’t a regular for Lille as they won the title last season and won’t be a regular for Leicester either. But with Brendan Rodgers likely to rest one or both of his starting midfielders for the EFL Cup, Soumaré will be allowed to run the show in there and here is a kid who has every tool you’d want for a midfielder. He can dominate physically and technically, a scary prospect!
10. Tino Livramento
Tino Livramento’s game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
6 duels won
5 ball recoveries
0 x dribbled past
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 22, 2021
Chelsea put a buy-back clause worth £25m in Tino Livramento’s Southampton contract and having seen him be so dynamic against Manchester United you can see why. Livramento is a phenomenal young full-back, capable of technical skill, defensive diligence and explosive play. He’s absolutely box office and should shine for Saints in any and all cup games they play.
11. Jobe Bellingham
Jobe Bellingham is only 15 years-old, but then his older brother Jude was only 16 when he debuted for Birmingham and he left such an impression that the club retired his no. 22 shirt when he left for Borussia Dortmund. Should Jobe have a similar impact (and would you doubt it, given the prevalence of excellent football siblings throughout history?) then we might see Birmingham retire the no. 39 soon!
Of course before then Jobe will need to debut and play well, and where better to start than in the EFL Cup, the same competition Jude made his debut in? Keep an eye on Jobe Bellingham, this could be the year he joins his brother in the national conversation.