Five youngsters who made their mark in pre-season
The World Cup has handed opportunities to a host of exciting young players.
The Premier League’s top six have used this summer’s pre-season tours to blood young talent in the absence of their World Cup stars.
The International Champions Cup friendly tournament in which all six teams compete has seen some impressive performances from young players, many of whom have seized the opportunity to make a case for more Premier League minutes.
Here, we profile five young players who have thrived in the limelight this summer.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – Chelsea, 17
Not the result we wanted but happy to get another 80 minutes vs Arsenal💙⚽️ pic.twitter.com/VZBsMmy7kw— Callum Hudson-Odoi (@Calteck10) August 1, 2018
Hudson-Odoi has been arguably the biggest breakout star of this summer’s friendly schedule, starting all three of Chelsea’s games on the left of Maurizio Sarri’s front three and earning plaudits for his pace, trickery and his assist for Pedro’s winner against Perth Glory in July.
The 17-year-old, who made four substitute appearances for Chelsea last season, has won two consecutive FA Youth Cups with the Blues’ under-18s, scoring eight times in six games in this year’s tournament. With Chelsea lacking wide options beyond Eden Hazard and Willian, who have both been linked with moves to Spain, Hudson-Odoi should be given plenty of opportunities this season to nail down a first-team place.
Emile Smith Rowe – Arsenal, 18
An elegant attacking midfielder who has been in the Arsenal ranks since the age of 10, Smith Rowe has made his name this summer with a goal against Atletico Madrid and an assist against Paris St Germain in the International Champions Cup. He was rewarded for these fine displays with a new long-term contract on Tuesday.
Smith Rowe has a good eye for goal and is something of a set-piece specialist, scoring a brilliant free-kick in Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup quarter-final win against Colchester in March. His path to the Arsenal first team is blocked in the short term by their impressive wealth in attacking midfield, but a loan spell might give Smith Rowe a chance to demonstrate his quality to Unai Emery.
Ethan Ampadu – Chelsea, 17
Play it cool, lads! 😎— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 27, 2018
The Blues are on their way to the airport... pic.twitter.com/c14cQJ3Dqg
Ampadu started Chelsea’s first two friendlies this summer, against Perth Glory and Inter Milan, and looks to have earned a chance in the Chelsea first team following his move from Exeter last summer. The centre-back, who can also play in defensive midfield, was praised by team-mate David Luiz as a “fantastic player” after Saturday’s penalty shootout win over Inter.
He is not lacking in experience for a 17-year-old, having played seven times for Chelsea, mainly in cup competitions, before an ankle injury in March curtailed his season. He also holds two senior caps for Wales. His pace and energy are well-suited to Sarri’s high defensive line and pressing style, and may give him the nod ahead of less mobile players like Gary Cahill.
Luke Amos – Tottenham, 21
Spurs have been particularly badly hit by the World Cup, with English, Belgian and French stars, who only return to training on Monday, making up the backbone of their side. In their absence, a number of youth players have stepped up to the plate, none more so than Amos.
The midfielder is yet to feature at a higher level than League One and yet impressed in Spurs’ 1-0 win over AC Milan, leading Mauricio Pochettino to talk up his chances of being involved in Tottenham’s opening Premier League game against Newcastle next weekend. With injuries to Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama opening up opportunities in midfield and Amos putting in collected performances in Spurs’ last three games, Amos may yet follow the path of Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Harry Winks from Tottenham’s academy to their first team.
Curtis Jones – Liverpool, 17
Proud to announce that I have signed my first professional contract with @LFC . This was always my child-hood dream🙌! I love the club and the fans and I always will❤️! Hopefully many more opportunities will come along the way🤞#LFC🔴 pic.twitter.com/z0YdJpwYQj— Curtis Jones (@curtisjr_10) February 1, 2018
Jones has featured in all seven of Liverpool’s friendly outings this summer, filling in for Jurgen Klopp in a variety of roles, including at right-back in the Reds’ 4-1 win over Manchester United. This versatility, as well as his quality and calmness on the ball, has earned Jones praise from fans and his manager this summer, and even provoked comparisons with Steven Gerrard.
Klopp has dampened down short-term expectations of the youngster, suggesting he will likely feature more for the under-23 team rather than in the first team next year, and Jones will find his opportunities blocked by new midfield signings Fabinho and Naby Keita. But whatever his role this season, Jones has already made his mark at the club with his displays this summer.