The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man Utd & Liverpool players among young stars trying to unseat Cole Palmer

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We rank the ten best young players in the Premier League as Cole Palmer looks to hang on to top spot once more.

Welcome back to the weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings, in which we assess the brightest young talents in the English top flight and rate them in top ten based on their form at the very highest level.

With two rounds of Premier League matches since our last report, there’s plenty to get through, but before we start counting down to number one, we’ll note the likely temporary departure of Liverpool’s Jarell Quansah, who missed out against Sheffield United and made an unfortunate mistake which allowed Bruno Fernandes to score in the game against Man Utd. A temporary setback, we’re sure.

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His omission leaves room for one returning face, but the real question is whether anyone can unseat Cole Palmer after the Chelsea man returned to the top spot last week. Let’s see if they could…

10. Malo Gusto – Chelsea (⬇️ 4)

Gusto’s week can be summed up pretty succinctly and accurately with the following sentence: Show up, play pretty well, get booked, get subbed, get injured.

The young Frenchman managed 75 rock solid minutes against Manchester United, characterised by some typically crisp passing, intelligent off-ball movement and a robust defensive contribution, but was then hauled off and therefore entirely uninvolved with his side’s thrilling comeback. On the flip side, he can’t be tarred by association with the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United, either, as he missed out with a knock. Hopefully he’ll make a more telling contribution this week.

9. Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (⬆️ 1)

Wharton has taken to the Premier League like a duck to a stretch of water with a stream of breadcrumbs flowing into it after his January move from Blackburn Rovers, as rather neatly demonstrated the lovely through ball he played to set Jean-Philippe Mateta through to score the opener against Manchester City.

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And that wasn’t the only perfectly-weighted pass he was responsible for over the course of back-to-back defeats against City and Bournemouth, nor were a few nicely-judged passes his only contribution – against the Cherries, in particular, he put in a big defensive shift too. An elegant player who seems to grow in stature with every game he plays. With any luck, he’ll start winning some soon, too.

8. Teden Mengi – Luton Town (-)

The only real weakness in Mengi’s game at this point is that when he wins the ball, he still isn’t the best at making sure it finds its way to a team-mate. But then again, when you win the ball as often as Mengi, it doesn’t always matter.

The England Under-21 international seemed to be everywhere in the narrow defeat to Arsenal, blocking three goalbound shouts and chucking himself into one-on-ones all over the defensive third – and he made the tackles, too, at least for the most part. He was pretty solid in the vital win over Bournemouth, too, if not quite as busy. A big presence at the back for the Hatters and another player who feels more imposing and more impressive week after week.

7. Rico Lewis – Manchester City (re-entry)

Lewis doesn’t get too many minutes under Pep Guardiola, but when he does he’s usually hugely effective, and so it proved once more as the one-cap England international played two more blinders against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace after being lifted back off the bench due to injuries.

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The bouffant utility player was excellent in defence across both games (he was dribbled past just twice across both matches) and even better with the ball at his feet, using the ball brilliantly and drawing six fouls in two games with his graceful touch and technique. To cap it all off, he bagged City’s second against Crystal Palace courtesy of a helpful deflection. A little lucky, perhaps, but very well earned.

6. Conor Bradley – Liverpool (⬇️ 4)

The young Northern Irishman hasn’t put too many feet wrong since taking up Trent Alexander-Arnold’s role in the Liverpool side, but didn’t have the best game against Manchester United. He was bullied off the ball a few too many times, couldn’t find his passing range and ended up conceding possession 15 times before getting hooked by Jürgen Klopp.

He was perfectly solid against Sheffield United when the Reds beat them 3-1 in midweek, but he didn’t really manage to get too much going down the right flank and neither was he greatly tested in defence – so we have this down as a slightly below-par week for him, even if that’s largely because he’s set the bar so high in the first place.

5. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (⬇️ 2)

Bradley’s Liverpool team-mate Elliott drops a couple of spots, too, but more as a consequence of a lack of game time than because of anything he did wrong – Elliott seems to be back to bench-riding despite some excellent displays in recent months. In fairness to his manager, he didn’t really make much impact against Manchester United either.

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But he was pretty effective when he came on against the Blades, with some brilliant final balls and some very accurate crosses as he harried and hassled a tiring back line. That was the Elliott we’ve seen so much of lately – creative, precise and penetrative. But apparently not sufficiently to earn a place in the starting line-up now that players like Ryan Gravenberch and Curtis Jones are back.

4. Alejandro Garnacho - Manchester United (⬆️ 3)

The young Argentine can count himself a little unfortunate to have been on the losing side at Stamford Bridge after scoring twice, first seizing on Moisés Caicedo’s misplaced pass to open the scoring and then heading in Antony’s glorious outside-of-the-boot cross – but unfortunately, it isn’t really meant to be Garnacho’s job to defend, something his team-mates failed to do quite miserably.

And they also struggled with passing, which might serve to explain why the winger only got 26 touches of the ball against Liverpool. He and his fellow forwards may as well not have been on the pitch in that match – again, not Garnacho’s fault, but it does stop him climbing the ranks too far despite a lovely brace in midweek.

3. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬆️ 2)

The Everton centre-half wasn’t necessarily at his absolute best over the course of the games against Newcastle United and Burnley put he still put a pretty great shift in and played his role exactly as required as the Toffees picked up what could be four crucial points. Just before they lost two of them again, anyway.

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He did get beaten a few times in the kind of one-on-one, dribbler-versus-defender situations that he’s normally excellent in, but he was typically dominant in the air and got to just about every second ball and hopeful ball in behind first, with 14 clearances in total over the course of his two matches. Most importantly for Everton, he only saw his own net bulge once, as well. Rock solid.

2. Kobbie Mainoo – Manchester United (⬆️ 2)

Mainoo gets a two-place bump up our rankings as reward for an influential performance against Chelsea, some superb defensive work against Liverpool, and of course for his star turn to give United the lead against their old rivals.

Channelling the spirit of Federico Macheda was the cherry on top of the week for Mainoo but he did a ton of hard yards in both games, with a grand total of eight tackles, four interceptions and three blocked shots – more work than most of the actual defenders did in his own half of the field. The only issue was that United as a whole were so poor and gave their midfielders so few options that Mainoo attempted just 49 passes over two whole matches. That’s a testament to a badly-organised team, however, not to any deficiencies the England international might have.

1. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (-)

Well, of course we weren’t going to dump Palmer off of top spot after his stunning, match-winning late show against Manchester United, when he bagged his second and third goals in the 100th and 101st minutes respectively to earn one of the most dramatic victories of the season.

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And even as Chelsea’s momentum immediately evaporated after a lacklustre display at Bramall Lane, he picked up an assist and was the fulcrum upon which everything good his team did turned. He is so much more creative and threatening than anyone else in a blue shirt at the moment that it borders on the absurd. And while you could complain, if you really wanted to, that two of his goals against United were penalties and the last took a hefty deflection, the fact is that he’s the only player on that team demonstrating the guile and gumption to make things happen, and he deserves every slice of luck he gets.

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