The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Chelsea, Spurs and Man City starlets battle for top spot

Who is the best young player in the Premier League right now? Our weekly countdown of wonderkids tries to find the answer.
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Welcome back to the Wonderkid Power Rankings, our weekly attempt to decide on the best and most in-form young player in the Premier League. Last week, Cole Palmer was our number one off the back of a blistering run of form – but can he hang on to top spot?

The slightly weird staggered winter break means our rankings get chucked about a little bit this week, although only two members of last week’s top ten drop out simply because they weren’t able to play – Anthony Elanga and James McAtee can stake their claims again next week. Elsewhere, Rico Lewis was benched for Manchester City, Noni Madueke only got a few minutes on the field and Pape Matar Sarr didn't get off the bench for Senegal, so they all make way for now.

That means five new entries into the top ten this week – and remember, these guys are being ranked on recent form at the senior level, not on their overall potential or quality over the course of the season, and players are only eligible up to the age of 21.

10. Oscar Bobb – Manchester City (New Entry)

The 20-year-old is something of a cameo specialist at this stage of his career, but he isn’t half learning to make his scant minutes on the field count – and his winning goal against Newcastle United demonstrated that there is pure ice flowing through those Norwegian veins.

The stats sheet will tell you that Bobb’s goal was a 0.9xG sitter, but the first touch to take it around Martin Dúbravka and tee up the tap-in was so cool that St. James’ Park practically froze over. He only spent eight minutes in the game, but still found time to win four one-on-ones against Newcastle defenders and win the game. Give the man more minutes, Mr. Guardiola.

9. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬇️ 2)

The young Argentine had a pretty middling game in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, offering up plenty of bright moments but also demonstrating some of the deficiencies in his decision-making which have made such a frustrating figure at Old Trafford so far this season.

Garnacho touched the ball 49 times against Spurs, and ended up giving possession back to the opposition 17 times – losing the ball more than one time in three, which is pretty terrible. But there were also some sharp dribbles and some neat passes, and he’s still been more productive of late than ever before for United. A talented young man who still has a lot of development left to do.

8. Wilson Odobert – Burnley (NE)

The 19-year-old Frenchman wasn’t officially credited with an assist against Luton Town, but it was his smart run and slightly deflected pull-back that set Zeki Amdouni up for the opening goal at Turf Moor on Friday – and had there but any justice in the world, it would have been the winning goal too. More on that later…

Had that non-assist justly counted as such, it would have been the former Troyes man’s fourth goal contribution in the last six games and his fifth overall for the club. He’s still only completed the full 90 minutes once in the Premier League but is racking up goals and assists at a better rate than anyone else in claret and blue, and is an increasingly influential player for Vincent Kompany’s side. If they do go down this season, Odobert looks like one of the players who will find himself in demand in the summer.

7. Rasmus Højlund – Manchester United (NE)

Højlund has spent most of his short spell at United cutting an isolated figure up front, adrift from his team-mates and seriously lacking in his service, and based on his misses in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic, his confidence looked absolutely shot – but he came roaring back to life this weekend with a goal and an assist against Spurs.

To underline the point about how lonely his life as a central striker is right now, he touched the ball just 18 times on Sunday afternoon – but two of them allowed him to navigate his way around Cristian Romero and a third saw him lash the ball left-footed into the roof of the net, while another just before half-time played Marcus Rashford in for the England striker’s first goal in what feels like an age. If Erik ten Hag can figure out how to get the young Dane more involved in games, there’s plenty of evidence that he’ll score and set up quite a few more.

6. Levi Colwill – Chelsea (NE)

For all the recent discussion over whether Colwill should really be playing at centre-back, the role he is more familiar with, he’s been so good at left-back that it really hasn’t been much of an issue. And while some fans feel that he doesn’t offer the same offensive thrust as, say, the injured Ben Chilwell, the combined expected goals and assists of 0.21 he managed against Fulham and Middlesbrough in the EFL Cup semi-finals is still more than Malo Gusto offered up in the same two games.

Granted, though, that defending is his strongest suit, and he does that extremely well – he may have had some rocky moments at the Riverside but still made seven successful tackles, and was responsible for nine clearances and six turnovers of possession against Fulham. Chelsea aren’t playing particularly brilliantly at the moment, but Colwill is making sure things stay more or less on course.

5. James Trafford – Burnley (=)

You have to feel sorry for the former City goalkeeper – just about everyone thought he was fouled in the build up to Luton’s equalising goal on Friday evening except for the officials at Turf Moor or at Stockley Park. Was it an error to try and claim the cross in the first place? Perhaps, as he certainly wasn’t able to get near it, but he was otherwise excellent in the air against a team that knows how to orchestrate an aerial bombardment.

He also pulled off four important saves, which has become par for the course of late – after a slightly rock start to life as a first-choice goalkeeper, Trafford has begun to look very difficult to beat indeed of late. He does still need to work on his distribution and he didn’t find his team-mates often enough with the ball against Luton, but the fundamentals of a top stopper are all in evidence - and you'd hope so too, given the £19m Burnley spent on him last summer.

4. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (NE)

We felt a little mean excluding Branthwaite last week, as while he certainly wasn’t the root cause of Everton’s rough run of defensive form, he also hadn’t been putting in the kind of colossal performances he had been through the autumn – but the towering 21-year-old was back to his best in the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa.

Anyone who managed to stay awake through the course of the game (almost as tall an order as winning the ball in the air against Branthwaite) will have appreciated not just his usual aerial dominance and capacity to win the ball in key areas – he made two interceptions and four tackles this time out, a big contribution – but also his increasingly impressive use of the ball. His six accurate long passes helped Everton to spring counter-attacks all game, not that those attacks went anywhere. Along with the excellent Jordan Pickford, the standout performer in a boring game.

3. Joško Gvardiol – Manchester City (⬆️ 1)

This will be the Croatian’s last appearance in the Wonderkid Power Rankings – when we next publish our top ten, it will be on the day of his 22nd birthday and he will officially age out of footballing childhood. He at least managed to celebrate the occasion with an important win over Newcastle and an impressive performance at left-back.

Not that he did a great deal of defending, admittedly – his heat map was that of a winger, not a full-back, and he spent more time in the opposing half than his own. That attacking shift helped City to keep a stranglehold on possession and kept Newcastle pinned back until Kevin de Bruyne could come on to deliver the coup de grace. A brilliant technical player and an archetypal Guardiola defender who offers City so much on the ball.

2. Destiny Udogie – Tottenham Hotspur (=)

There was a dicey moment against United when the young Italian left-back, attempting to guide a cross out of play at the back post, contrived to crack a header against his own post – but once you look past that rather awkward piece of defending, Udogie was excellent once again.

He didn’t get down the field to support the attack as often as he usually does and from an offensive standpoint he was almost becalmed, but he did his primary job efficiently and effectively, with three interceptions and five tackles over the course of the game, and he used possession economically as well, with a 90% passing accuracy rate. This was a rock solid game from a massively talented player who can do a lot more than the basics, but is doing them increasingly well.

1. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (=)

Played up front as a central striker against Boro in midweek, Palmer struggled to make an impact. Played as a supporting player and able to get on the ball more and use his passing range and creative vision against Fulham, he was far more effective, and did enough to cement his place at the top of our rankings of the best young players in the Premier League once more.

His penalty was the highlight reel moment but as well as getting the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge (winning yet another match for his side, who are increasingly reliant on him for points) he also racked up 0.68xG’s worth of expected assists with his raking long passes and crosses. He plies the channels so well, finds space so easily, and uses it extremely dangerously. Up front, he looks a little lost sometimes, but as a number ten or out wide on the right, he becomes the beating heart of this Chelsea team.

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