The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Team of the Season starring Chelsea & Man Utd youngsters

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After monitoring their performances every week this season, this is our Premier League young team of the season.

Over the course of the past season, we’ve been tracking the most talented young players in the Premier League and have spent our time figuring out a weekly top ten of the best and most in-form Under-21s in the top flight – The Wonderkid Power Rankings.

Many tremendous young players powered into and drifted out of our rankings over the course of the season, but some stood out more than others. So it is that, after a campaign in which young starlets shone almost every weekend, we present our team of the season, made up of players who were eligible for our rankings at any point. These were the best of the best…

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GK: James Trafford (Burnley)

Naturally, goalkeeper isn’t the most competitive position in our squad, but while Trafford’s form waxed and waned and he eventually lost his starting spot to Aro Murić, there was plenty to admire. Gareth Southgate hasn’t added the Burnley youngster to his Euro 2024 training squad on a whim, after all.

It’s the unfortunate fate of goalkeepers on bad teams to sometimes impress despite conceding a bunch of goals, and his best performances often came in defeats. He was superb in a 2-0 loss to Liverpool, for instance, and was often doing his best under siege with unflattering scorelines the inevitable result. Maybe his best game, in fairness, came in a 2-0 win at Craven Cottage, during which he made five saves in the course of keeping his sheet clean. His confidence did rather disintegrate in the new year and his eventual benching was fair, but there was plenty to suggest that he has a bright future ahead.

LB: Joško Gvardiol (Manchester City)

There are a couple of players who can count themselves rather unfortunate not to make our team of the season, one of which is Destiny Udogie – but while the young Italian was mightily impressive, Gvardiol (who aged out of our rankings back in January) ended up as a league champion for a reason.

The Croatian was consistently impressive on and off the ball, adding plenty to Manchester City’s attack while offering reliable defensive work at the other end of the pitch. He’s been composed and imposing throughout the season, and ended the campaign on scintillating form and with four goals in his last seven games. A fantastic player, and an important contributor to yet another City title win.

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CB: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton)

Only Cole Palmer spent more weeks at number one in our rankings than Branthwaite, who came on in leaps and bounds this season to prove himself as one of the toughest and most towering defenders in the entire league. If Manchester United do end up dropping a vast sum of money on him this summer, he will have earned it.

His brilliance in the air, physical strength, goals from set pieces and superb anticipation of crosses and balls over the top all shone through, but he also improved his passing, distribution and confidence with the ball at his feet considerably over the course of the campaign. Probably Everton’s most important player of the season.

CB: Levi Colwill (Chelsea)

Before we even got underway, there was a big old brouhaha over whether Chelsea would keep or sell Colwill, who impressed on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion last season – and they’ll be very glad they held on after a massively impressive campaign which saw him earn his first England caps.

Even though he was routinely forced to play out of position at left-back to cover for injuries, Colwill never looked out of place or anything less than absolutely certain of his own ability, a confidence which was quite justified by his performances. An excellent defender with few apparent weaknesses, boundless mental strength and rock-solid technique. Try to keep hold of him, eh Todd?

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RB: Malo Gusto (Chelsea)

Chelsea’s owners may have made quite a few expensive ricks in the transfer market since taking over two years ago, but to give credit where it’s due, they look to have been bang on with Gusto, who made light of Reece James’ long absences and established himself as a Premier League-level full-back sooner than he should have had to.

He’s at his best darting forward and his speed and sharp movement make him a genuinely dangerous player down the wing, but he’s also developed his defensive game nicely, making key interventions and tracking back quickly and effectively when required.

DM: Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United)

God knows that Manchester United haven’t had too many bright spots this season, but Mainoo’s emergence has been a little beacon of hope between the woeful performances and the waterfalls running down from the Old Trafford roof. Heaven knows how much lower they would have finished without him.

His passing is excellent, his technique and knack for finding space remarkable, he’s a brilliant tackler who knows when to press hard and when to sit back and he seems to be completely unflappable – a necessary quality given how often he’s been ploughing a lone furrow with everything going to pieces around him. Now a nailed-on member of the England squad despite being entirely obscure before the turn of the year. What a rise.

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DM: Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace)

Speaking of calm, composed and technically-impressive young midfielders who rarely miss a tackle and have exploded onto the England scene… Wharton will cost £22.5m when all his add-ons have been paid (which they will) and looks like an absolute snip at the price, adapting to top-flight football in the blink of an eye.

He’s excellent off the ball, racking up big numbers of tackles and interceptions week after week, and has a fantastic eye for a line-breaking pass forward, helping an increasingly impressive Crystal Palace side to spring the quick attacks on which they thrive. He’s only been at the club for five minutes, but he’s already established himself as their engine room.

AM: Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)

Heaven knows what position Elliott will end up playing in the long run – he started as a dashing right winger, now plays like an attacking playmaker with number ten credentials, but was generally used by Jürgen Klopp in a more intermediary midfield role. It doesn’t seem to matter, mind you, as he’s been superb wherever and whenever he’s played.

Immensely creative, excellent with the ball at his feet and blessed with a ripping long shot, Elliott got better and better as the season went on and graduated from rotational piece to regular starter, seldom missing a step along the way. He hasn’t been talked about as much as many other young attacking players over recent months, and probably deserves greater recognition for just how good he’s getting.

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LW: Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United)

There’s a very good argument that Jérémy Doku deserves this spot instead, but while the Belgian flashed at times and went off the boil at others, Garnacho was – along with Mainoo – one of the few players at Old Trafford who seemed to be giving his best almost every week, and he was their best attacking outlet after Bruno Fernandes.

He has a lot to learn (when not to shoot being top of the list) but given how little support he often had from those around him, he did a fine job of carving out chances and making things happen when nobody else appeared willing or able. He’ll need to improve his decision making, but under the circumstances his 11 goal contributions deserves a lot of credit.

CF: Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

Much as Chelsea themselves often did, we’ve crowbarred one of the best signings of the season into a false nine role and trusted to his incisive finishing, superb first touch and unimpeachable vision to make things happen up front. Given that only Erling Haaland could manager more goals than him this season and only Ollie Watkins managed more assists, it’s trust that’s well earned.

Palmer dominated our rankings before ageing out just this month, picking up the number one spot week after week. He was generally streets ahead of the competition, and comfortably makes any sensible team of the season which doesn’t even worry about age restrictions. A magnificent, talismanic player who carried his side on occasions.

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RW: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Saka aged out of our top tens as far back as September, so this feels a little like a cheat – but excluding him when he was eligible would have been more ridiculous still. His 16 top-flight goals helped to propel Arsenal’s title challenge and his guile, skill and speed ensure he still stands out as one of the best attacking players in England.

He’s worked his way through injuries and knocks all season, never complaining but just keeping up his monumentally high standards, stretching the play and scoring goals and requiring a minimum of two defenders on him at all times just to keep him a little bit quiet. There isn’t a team in the world that wouldn’t be thrilled to have him, and that includes ours.

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