The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man City starlets impress in the battle to unseat Chelsea's Cole Palmer

The top ten best young players in the Premier League with Manchester City starlets on the march and Cole Palmer scrapping to stay top.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

We’re back once more with 3 Added Minutes’ weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings – our top ten of the best Under-21s playing in the Premier League right now, based on their present form at the very highest level.

Cole Palmer has had something of a stranglehold on the number one slot in recent weeks, but can he hang on after scoring just four goals against Everton? Well, yes, of course, but there’s plenty of movement going on elsewhere, especially because the entire rest of our top five rather struggled this week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We bid a fond farewell to two players from the bottom half of our top ten this week – Luton Town’s Teden Mengi missed out against Manchester City with an injury (which may have been a mercy for him given how that game went) while Conor Bradley takes a break after being forced from the field just minutes into the second half of Liverpool’s game against Crystal Palace. We’re sure they’ll both be back. In their place, we get two brand new entries to appreciate. Let’s find out how it all shakes out…

10. Milos Kerkez – Bournemouth (new entry)

The Hungary left-back struggled, along with most of his team-mates, earlier in the season, but has become more assured and more threatening as Andoni Iraola’s tactics have taken hold at the Vitality Stadium – and he caused Manchester United all manner of headaches in the 2-2 draw there this weekend.

He probably should have scored twice, missing some thoroughly presentable chances when he broke between right-back and the rather dazed-looking Willy Kambwala in the centre to get shots away, but aside from the wayward finishing there was plenty to like. His movement was excellent, his confidence with the ball at his feet impressive, and when performing his defensive duties he effectively silenced Alejandro Garnacho in the first half. A growing force down on the south coast.

9. Malo Gusto – Chelsea (⬆️ 1)

The Frenchman’s defensive skills weren’t exactly tested to the limit in the 6-0 demolition of Everton on Monday evening, although he did make every single tackle he needed to – all one of them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There was plenty of good work going forward, however, and he found space down the right flank on several occasions, whipping a couple of dangerous crosses in and producing a crisp passing display with a couple of nice long-distance passes to set up attacks. Not a great performance, but a rock solid one which kept his side ticking over nicely in attack.

8. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬇️ 4)

This wasn’t the best of weeks for United’s young guns. So ineffectual was Garnacho that he was hauled off at half-time before liking a bunch of tweets criticising Erik ten Hag for his own substitution – although perhaps that was just an over-protective social media intern or the like.

In any case, it’s hard to take too much issue with Ten Hag for that particular decision. In that rather desultory first half, Garnacho managed to successfully complete zero dribbles, made zero defensive contributions, and rustled up just one blocked shot going forward. Not his best day out.

7. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (new entry)

It may seem odd that the Belgian winger would be a brand new entry, but for those who haven’t been following along regularly, we only started this countdown halfway through the season, long after he’d blown Bournemouth away and in the middle of a spell on the sidelines which was succeeded by a distinctly lean patch of form. But he seems to be right back to his best now, bagging an assist against Aston Villa and following that up with a destructive display against Luton.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It took a while for him to be rewarded for some menacing running down the left wing, but his quick feet were far too much for Fred Onyedinma, who brought him down for the penalty which made it 3-0, and then Doku scored the fourth, twisting the unfortunate Onyedinma one way and the other before sliding an inch-perfect finishing inside the far post for Manchester City’s fourth. The icing on the cake was a late assist for City’s fifth, sliding a simple pass into Joško Gvardiol which the Croatian rocketed into the back of the net. A brilliant display.

6. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬇️ 3)

Branthwaite will want to forget Monday evening as quickly as possible, not least because he picked up a knock and had to be withdrawn after 55 minutes. Those minutes were, in any case, not the happiest of his young career.

Branthwaite has been superb against anything resembling direct football this season but Chelsea weren’t playing that game, and pretty much everything was happening on the ground and in front of him, which proved to be a proposition he couldn’t really deal with. He was beaten in one-on-one situations as often as he made the tackle, only had two opportunities to make his aerial presence felt at crosses, and was often left stranded by Chelsea’s superior pace. When the match was played on his terms, he was very good. Unfortunately, that wasn’t much of the match.

5. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (-)

It’s getting hard to know where to place Elliott. When Liverpool’s midfield was recently battered by injuries, he started every game and played superbly. His reward has been a regular spot on the bench, but he keeps coming on and playing perfectly well – as he did in the whole 8 minutes he was offered in the 1-0 defeat to Palace.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That wasn’t enough time to make much of an impression, of course, but he still wriggled his way into space to force a late save from Dean Henderson and his movement and ball skills looked as strong as ever in his few touches of the ball. Quite why he isn’t getting minutes when he seems to be playing better than some of his peers remains a mystery, but he’ll lose his spot in the top five pretty soon if he doesn’t start getting some starts.

4. Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (⬆️ 5)

Wharton is getting better and better with every passing game, and he didn’t put a single foot wrong in the shock defeat of Liverpool. This was a rearguard action and as such, he didn’t get much chance to show off his passing finesse and there wasn’t a big creative contribution this time around, but he was absolutely superb out of possession and played a huge role in helping his side hang on to their lead.

Regularly dropping back from midfield to supplement the defence, he racked up six tackles and five important clearances, dealing with attack after attack tidily and intelligently. He also managed to lose the ball just four times in 90 minutes, which is a remarkably low number for any player, less still a young lad who’s only just beginning to make his way in the top flight. A mature and highly impressive performance.

3. Rico Lewis – Manchester City (⬆️ 4)

Lewis has forced his way right back into Pep Guardiola’s starting side and has been repaying that faith wonderfully well. This time he took Kyle Walker’s spot on the right side of defence and did just about everything immaculately, losing possession just three times (take that, Wharton) and keeping Luton’s attack almost entirely silent for the whole match.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He notched up a 98% pass completion rate, didn’t put a foot wrong save for one single, solitary foul and supplemented the attack nicely, even if the depth with which Luton played didn’t offer him many chances to scorch down to the byline and get balls into the box. If he keeps playing at this level, and keeps getting starts, he surely becomes a part of Gareth Southgate’s thinking for the Euros.

2. Kobbie Mainoo – Manchester United (-)

In a week in which other members of the top five had offered much, Mainoo would certainly have dropped down our rankings, but his recent form has been strong enough to hold steady at number two despite a pretty lacklustre display down in Dorset.

The freshly-minted England international was perfectly tidy in possession and didn’t give the ball away too much or do anything drastically terrible, but he failed to offer any kind of creativity of penetration this time around and wasn’t able to sink his teeth into his defensive duties much either, making just one successful tackle before being subbed off with 12 minutes left to play. A brilliant player who was some way from his best, along with most of his team-mates.

1. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (-)

The Wonderkid Power Rankings probably don’t have perfect internal consistency when it comes to finalising our top ten, but there was no way we were going to move Palmer after bagging four goals against Everton to take the co-lead in the race for the Golden Boot. This was a perfect display from an astonishing talent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kicking things off with a perfect first-half hat-trick – a pinpoint left-footed finish, a close-range header which showed off his striker’s instincts as he pounced on a loose ball before anybody else, and a beautiful lobbed strike over Jordan Pickford with his unfavoured right – he then managed to cap it by winning a three-way brawl for the right to take a penalty and make it four from the spot. This was about as good a performance as could possible have been imagined. What a player.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.