Football Features

11 Carabao Cup wonderkids we’re excited to see

By Ben Green

Carabao Cup: Wonderkids we’re excited to see in the third round

Published: 10:44, 22 September 2020

There is no respite this season with the congested schedule kicking up another gear as the Carabao Cup third round gets under way.

After last week’s second round action, the heavyweights now enter the fray, with all of the ‘Big Six’ in the mix for domestic cup bragging rights.

With much at stake in the Premier League, and divisions below the top flight, already, some managers may use the Carabao Cup as a chance to rest key players and blood in young talent, such is usually the way in these early rounds.

For fans that means a chance to catch a glimpse of that up-and-coming talent you’ve heard so much about, or that precocious overseas wonderkid you’re just dying to see in action. Not all will make the pitch of course, but there will be a wealth of teenage talent on display.

With that here are 11 Carabao Cup wonderkids we’re hoping will get some minutes on the pitch and can showcase their budding potentials.

William Saliba (Arsenal)

Much has been made about the talented French tyro, who linked up with Mikel Arteta and his squad this summer following a productive loan spell at Saint-Etienne. Defensive frailties have hindered Arsenal in recent years, so the expectation on Saliba to remedy those ailments is high in north London.

At just 19, the France U20 international stands at 6ft 4in and is raring to go. In Arteta’s 3-4-3 system Saliba should find opportunities this season, and we’re hoping he will finally be given a chance to show Arsenal fans what he brings to the table against Leicester on Wednesday.

Not the easiest baptism of fire, particularly if Jamie Vardy makes the XI, but to be the best you will have to take on the best.

Neco Williams (Liverpool)

Now a fully-fledged Wales international — and goalscorer — the 19-year-old is one of the most promising youngsters on Merseyside at the minute. Of course, a certain Trent Alexander-Arnold stands before him in the pecking order, but Jurgen Klopp will be keen to not overwork his current full-back superstar.

That means Williams should be handed chances away from the Premier League and European spotlight. He has already racked up 12 appearances for the Reds and started in the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal. Against Lincoln on Thursday, he should be handed another first-team berth.

James Garner (Watford — on loan from Man Utd)

Another exciting academy product off the Man Utd conveyor belt, Garner is highly thought of at Old Trafford, accumulating four appearances in the Europa League last season, and has often been likened to current first-team coach Michael Carrick, for his ability to dictate the tempo and his innate appreciation of space.

Now on loan at Watford for the season, Man Utd fans will be keeping a close eye on Vicarage Road. The Hornets are well-stacked in the midfield area, and the Championship is a notoriously difficult league to adjust to, often described as a sink-or-swim environment, but those in the Old Trafford dugout believe he has the minerals to cope.

Watford lock horns with Newport away from home on Tuesday, and Garner — who made his debut from the bench on Saturday — is tipped make Vladimir Ivic’s XI. With Watford kicking off at 7:00pm and Man Utd at 8:15pm, proceedings at Rodney Parade will offer Man Utd fans a tasty appetiser before the main course.

Curtis Jones (Liverpool)

Handed the illustrious No. 17 shirt for the new season, a jersey previously adorned by glittering Merseyside figures like Steven Gerrard and Steve McManaman, Jones is lurking on the precipice of first team action at Anfield alongside Williams. He has already made an appearance off the bench against Leeds, and not a cameo role either, entering the pure madness of that curtain raiser in the 66th minute.

He was also on the bench as the Reds casually swept past Chelsea, but with the acquisition of Thiago Alcantara, Jones may just have slipped down the pecking order. More offensive than the metronomic Thiago, Jones will feel he has his own unique style to offer Klopp, and he should get a chance to demonstrate that later this week away to Lincoln.

Teden Mengi (Man Utd)

Much has been made of Man Utd’s defensive shortcomings, particularly as a Wilfried Zaha-inspired Crystal Palace blitzed past Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on the opening day, and that could mean a changing of the guard at the back for the Norwegian.

With Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe still injured, and Chris Smalling’s future remains in limbo, Solskjaer may be tempted to throw Teden Mengi into the mix. Last term’s U-18s captain made his senior debut against LASK in the Europa League and has been hailed immensely by his manager.

Likened by Solskjaer to Matthijs de Ligt, the Norwegian was not afraid to wax lyrical about a player he believes has a bright future in the Man Utd jersey. “Teden’s got something special in him. It’s about picking the right moment to give him a chance,” Solskjaer said. Could Tuesday’s match be that chance?

Tino Anjorin (Chelsea)

Frank Lampard has a penchant for nurturing young talent, we’ve already seen that from last season, and one player who was handed opportunities to make some noise in the first team was Anjorin. The 18-year-old was named in Tuttosport’s famed Golden Boy award for 2020 and picked up two appearances last season.

One of those was at this stage of the competition last September, in a 7-1 humbling of Grimsby Town, and another in the Premier League against Everton. Despite offers of a loan, the teenage talent will stay in and around the first team this season, such is Anjorin’s determination and belief of his abilities.

Although a raft of world class talent has been couriered to Stamford Bridge this summer, there are whispers Anjorin could be handed plenty chances to demonstrate his natural talent and follow in the footsteps of Reece James, Tammy Abraham et al.

Joao Pedro (Watford)

Signed from Brazilian outfit Fluminense, the same club Watford prised Richarlison away from in 2017, there are high hopes for Joao Pedro, who has played in all three matches for the Hornets this season, including the previous round of this competition. Yet to open his account, Pedro will be hoping to get some minutes at Rodney Parade and kick start his Watford career, with the teenager set for an important role this season.

Niels Nkounkou (Everton)

The signing of Nkounkou has gone somewhat under the radar with the other transfer business Everton have pulled off this summer, but the former Marseille man, who rejected an improved deal at the Stade Velodrome to further his development with world class tactician Carlo Ancelotti, has already impressed.

Deployed in the former round against Salford City, the left-back caught the eye with his buccaneering runs down the touchline and link up play with Anthony Gordon (another Everton wonderkid to keep an eye on). Competition is fierce with Lucas Digne the current first team regular, but against Fleetwood Town this week, he should start ahead of his compatriot, who is due a rest.

Luke Thomas (Leicester City)

The 19-year-old picked up a healthy dose of Premier League action towards the backend of last season, and Brendan Rodgers could renew those first team opportunities later this week. With Ricardo Pereira still out injured, and Ben Chilwell no longer a fixture at the King Power, Rodgers may be tempted to shuffle his full-back pack and that could mean an appearance for the highly-regarded Thomas. It is against Arsenal, though, so don’t be surprised to see Rodgers stick with the fruitful partnership of Justin James and Timothy Castagne, but Thomas will certainly be on Rodgers’ mind.

Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa)

A promising first ever start for Villa in the previous round against Burton, but will Dean Smith stick or twist with Jacob Ramsey? Fans were impressed with the youngster’s mature showing against the League One club and they will be hoping the promising midfield can once again hold his own against Bristol City this time round.

Harrison Ashby (West Ham)

The full-back area has been a massive problem position for West Ham for some time now. David Moyes has stressed the need to bolster his backline this summer, but any sign of a new defender in east London has been scarce to say the least. This could be where Harrison Ashby steps into the frame. A promising 18-year-old full-back, the Scot made his senior bow against Charlton in the previous round, coming on for Ben Johnson with six minutes from the end and immediately caught the eye, which is no small feat with such little time to impress. Fans will be hoping the club have once again unearthed a hidden gem.