The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Chelsea & Man Utd young guns battle to be named Premier League's finest

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Ranking the best young players in the Premier League as Chelsea's Cole Palmer battles to keep hold of top spot.

Welcome back to the weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings, our speculative effort at ranking the most exciting and in-form young players in the Premier League – and there was plenty of Under-21 interest on the pitch over the course of the weekend, and plenty of talented youngsters doing their best to dethrone our reigning number one, Cole Palmer.

With several teams out of action this week thanks to the FA Cup quarter-finals, we will see a couple of players drop down the ladder, including Crystal Palace’s Adam Wharton who misses out entirely after taking the weekend off. He’s joined on the bench by Pape Matar Sarr, who had only just retaken his top ten spot but falls back out after a pretty horrendous performance in Tottenham Hotspur’s dreadful 3-0 defeat to Fulham.

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That means there’s space for two brand new entries this week, and there’s plenty of movement in the top five as well. Will Palmer hold on to the throne? Let’s get the countdown underway and find out…

10. David Datro Fofana – Burnley (new entry)

There are two David Datro Fofanas. Firstly, there is the frankly awful one, the one who didn’t get a goal for four games on the bounce before last week, the one who missed an open goal from three yards out when he contrived to turn Lorenz Assignon’s cross wide with the net gaping – a miss that will compete with Erling Haaland’s howler against Manchester United and Ellis Simms’ FA Cup clanger on Saturday for worst miss of the season.

Then there is the other Fofana, who scored Burnley’s second and decisive goal against Brentford – the composed, calm striker who found a yard of space like it was the easiest thing in the world and dinked the coolest finish imaginable past Mark Flekken. That was the version of Fofana that scored against West Ham United last time out and bagged a brace against Fulham back in February. In a week in which more young players played, the first Fofana’s form would have kept him out of our top ten – but with a bit of extra space available, we’re giving Fofana Mark Two his flowers.

9. Teden Mengi – Luton Town (NE)

Mengi has been gradually growing in stature for some time now, and his improved form has been reflected by his first call-up to the England Under-21 squad – a just reward for some fairly rapid development at Kenilworth Road which was underlined by his fine showing against Nottingham Forest this weekend.

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Mengi has consistently demonstrated his strength, determination in the tackle and his aerial prowess, but he’s gradually getting more confident with his distribution and his passing game is coming on in leaps and bounds. That growing comfort with the ball doesn’t yet extend to being good in one-on-one situations and there’s room to improve his technique, but his passing range is extending at pace and there’s plenty to be impressed by.

8. Destiny Udogie – Tottenham Hotspur (⬇️ 2)

Last week, we said that Udogie typically seems to either be excellent going forward or superb at the back, but seldom manages to be both in the same game. Against Fulham, he was neither.

He struggled badly in one-on-one situations and was dribbled past every time an opponent tried – and in fact, he failed to make a single successful tackle across the 90 minutes. He also struggled to offer much threat going forward and didn’t even get a cross away, although he did manage a couple of vaguely dangerous runs that didn’t go anywhere. A bad game for a brilliant young player.

7. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬇️ 3)

Our general policy is not to drop players in the top five entirely if they miss a week of action – so Branthwaite, who was in fourth place last week, merely slides in the lower half of our little league after being forced to put his feet up while Everton took a break from top-level football.

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6. Conor Bradley – Liverpool (⬆️ 2)

Bradley was benched for the FA Cup showdown against Manchester United, a slightly surprising development given his recent form, but he ended up getting about 45 minutes’ worth of game time after coming on as a second half substitute and he impressed just as much as he has almost every time he’s played since breaking into the first team a couple of months ago.

He was brilliant at shutting down United’s direct balls over the top down their left and made six successful clearances as he forced United to attack through the middle – which they did successfully, unfortunately for Liverpool. The eventual defeat doesn’t reflect on the Northern Irishman, however, and he really didn’t put a foot wrong while on the field.

5. Kobbie Mainoo – Manchester United (⬆️ 5)

After a couple of comparatively quiet weeks, Mainoo came roaring back into form against Liverpool. You knew he was on a good day early on, when a sublime dribble saw him dance his feet between and past no fewer than three opposing defenders before setting Marcus Rashford away along the byline.

He was brilliant with the ball at his feet throughout, with a perfect record of four successes from four attempted dribbles, put in some dangerous vertical passes to set attacks on their way and was typically tough off the ball, with five turnovers across the 80 minutes of play he got in his boots before he was taken off. And assuming that nobody cares to blame him for the heavy deflection which took Alexis Mac Allister’s shot beyond André Onana in the first half, you can’t say he put a foot wrong in a massive match, either. An excellent outing for the youngster.

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4. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (⬇️ 2)

Given how good Elliott has been lately, it was a genuine surprise not to see his name on the team sheet at the start of the derby game at Old Trafford – but he got on the pitch eventually, scored, and put in another efficient and effective display both on and off the ball.

His goal had a hint of fortune about it, granted, a speculative 25-yard drive which took a cruel deflection which wrongfooted the unfortunate Onana (again), but he did pretty much everything right with typically accurate and incisive passing and some hard work out of possession. He also hit the post with a shot which was, in all probability, actually a cross, but he’s the kind of player who makes his own luck. He drops a couple of spots more because of the achievements of others than any fault of his own.

3. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬆️ 2)

Officially, the young Argentine only assisted one of United’s four goals on Sunday. Unofficially, he created three of them, and his quick, direct play caused headaches all day long for Liverpool.

It was his parried shot that teed Scott McTominay up for the opener, just minutes after he had hared down the right flank and pulled back to give Rashford the first clear sight of goal of the game. Then there was Antony’s extra-time goal, which owed everything to the loose ball created by Garnacho’s dangerous dart into the box. Then, finally, the lightning quick two-on-one break in which he played Amad Diallo in for the dramatic winner. Garnacho still makes mistakes and certainly doesn’t get every decision right, but he offers the kind of threatening dynamism that United’s attack has been sorely lacking for large parts of the season.

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2. Malo Gusto – Chelsea (⬆️ 1)

The 4-2 win over Leicester City placed yet another really good performance under Gusto’s belt, and his recent form has been excellent and highly consistent. He also picked up an assist for the Noni Madueke’s magical final goal of the game, although that was admittedly one of Gusto’s weaker moments, a slightly misplaced pass that asked a lot of Madueke and was given even more.

Outside of that he wasn’t perfect in defence and was dribbled past three times, but given how often he was tested down the Leicester left that still represented a pretty solid rate of success and he chipped in with five tackles, a couple of them key, and he certainly can’t have any of the blame for the two goals conceded placed anywhere near his feet. Throw in some lovely, crisp passing and plenty of threat going forward, and it all amounted to another very good game from a player who has been superb of late.

1. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (-)

Another week, another game in which Palmer was the best player on the pitch, and another number one placing in the Power Rankings. Palmer scored one, set up another quite beautifully, and was yet again the difference for a Chelsea side who are, at times, utterly reliant on him.

The run for his goal was wonderfully well timed and his near-post finish ice cold, but the best slice of skill he served up was his inch-perfect, one-touch backheeled pass into the path of Carney Chukuemeka for Chelsea’s third, an absolutely gorgeous touch which any number ten would be proud of. Next up, the international break and a chance to earn a place in England’s starting line-up for Euro 2024. On current form, you wouldn’t care to bet against him.

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