The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Everton & Man Utd youngsters try to beat Chelsea star to top spot

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Counting down the best young players in the Premier League as Cole Palmer’s position comes under threat.

Welcome to this week’s Wonderkid Power Rankings, our regular effort to rank the best young players in the Premier League based on their form at the highest levels of the English game.

Most weeks, that means that Cole Palmer is our number one – but between missing the game against Arsenal through illness and a rare game without a goal, will he finally lose his iron grip on our top spot? Read on to find out…

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We also have one returning player and one brand new entry to admire this week, but we say a goodbye, for now at least, to the injured Malo Gusto and the recently red-carded Milos Kerkez in order to make room for them. We must also congratulate Top 10 Alumnus Teden Mengi on his 22nd birthday - whilst noting that he is now officially too old to be a wonderkid for the purposes of these rankings, so that’s the last we’ll see of one of our recent regulars. Well played, Teden, and best of luck with adulthood...

10. Illia Zabarnyi – Bournemouth (re-entry)

The Ukrainian centre-back has been hovering around the fringes of the Top 10 for a while now and with a few injuries and red cards, he finally gets to hop back in thanks to a highly impressive performance in the 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.

Wolves tested him endlessly but he stood firm throughout, racking up the tackles and clearances, showing good judgement to keep his sheet clean and avoid giving away fouls (just one in a game where he was pretty busy from start to finish) and using the ball sensibly when he won it as well. A rock solid performance from a ball-playing defender who has grown in stature considerably since the start of the season. Sadly, illness ruled him out of the weekend win over Brighton & Hove Albion, but it still seems only fair to give him his flowers this week.

9. Tino Livramento – Newcastle United (new entry)

The full-back gets his first call-up to our top ten after putting in an absolutely blinding performance against Sheffield United. You may assume that the league’s worst team, in the process of taking a 5-1 thumping, wouldn’t offer much of a test, but Livramento was kept more than busy.

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He managed five turnovers, won five ground duels, made three clearances and racked up a 92% passing accuracy rate from 75 attempts – he had over a hundred total touches in the match, which is a hugely busy afternoon for any player in any position. A good test of a talented player who has been in and out of Newcastle United’s team recently, and one he passed with flying colours.

8. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (⬇️ 3)

Last week we described the flying Belgian as being back to his best – this week, he went off the boil a little bit. He failed to make much of a dent in Nottingham Forest (where he was played, unusually, on the right wing) and was substituted at half-time, although he did at least put in a pretty good shift off the ball when called upon.

Then in the 12 minutes of game time he got against Brighton his only major contribution was to miss a good chance from just inside the box after a quick break. Sometimes you just don’t get much time on the pitch and can’t make it count, and that was Doku’s story this week.

7. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (⬇️ 1)

It hasn’t been a great week for Liverpool, to say the least, but Elliott was still among the brighter patches between the gathering clouds – he was their most threatening player after coming off the bench against Everton with some excellent direct passes into the box, and backed that up with a lively performance in the draw against West Ham United.

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He got four shots off at the London Stadium, hit the woodwork, created a few presentable chances for his team-mates and generally showed the energetic, vertical play that marks his best matches. Every time he gets on the pitch, he looks a cut above, and you wonder why Jürgen Klopp hasn’t made sure he’s on it a bit more often. Would he have made a difference at Goodison Park if he’d started? Who knows…

6. Morgan Rogers – Aston Villa (⬆️ 1)

Although Rogers scored once more against Chelsea with a superbly-placed strike inside the near post from 18 yards out, he didn’t actually have his best all-round game at Villa Park – but then, making big contributions even when you aren’t having your best day is what good players make a habit of doing. He also nabbed Cole Palmer’s celebration, in a clear declaration of his intent to claim his Wonderkid Power Rankings crown.

Either side of the goal he found the going a little tough, giving the ball away 21 times over the 90 minutes and struggling to pass the ball with his usual precision. He also found himself outmuscled too often in one-on-one situations, winning just two of the 13 duels he got involved in. But then, he scored what proved to be a crucial goal with the one moment of absolute quality he did managed to muster, and that’s a more than useful return in its own right.

5. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬆️ 3)

If you were being a harsh judge, you might say that the Argentine winger was wasteful against Sheffield United and Burnley – he did, after all, fail to score from a total of no fewer than 12 shots which totalled up to an xG of over 1.1, most of which flashed wide or over the bar.

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But then he also had the dynamism to carve out those chances and offer his side a bit of threat that they lack without him, and his passing and build-up play was as good as it has been this season. Garnacho can be hugely frustrating, but he has the ability to make things happen which so few of Manchester United’s players seem to have these days.

4. Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (⬇️ 1)

Wharton only drops one place because of achievements elsewhere – he was excellent once again in the games against Newcastle and Fulham, especially defensively, and has proven that the time he’s needed to adjust to live in the top flight was little more than five whole minutes.

He turned the ball over seven times against Newcastle and then repeated the trick against Fulham, winning the ball back time and again in one-on-one battles than you’d expect someone of his relatively slight stature to lose. His passing wasn’t, in general, at its very best over the two games, but he still showed enough creativity with the ball to get a pass into the feet of Jeffrey Schlupp which resulted in a late equaliser at Craven Cottage. A heck of a player on and off the ball, and a remarkably consistent one at the top level.

3. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (⬇️ 2)

Palmer’s reign of terror at the top is finally over after he failed to get his name in the goal contributions column for the second match in a row – games which were sandwiched by a leave of absence due to illness which coincided with Chelsea’s humbling defeat to Arsenal.

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In his defence, he was still plenty threatening at Villa Park and could easily have hit the back of the net on a couple of occasions, but for once the killer instincts were just a little off, as was his final ball when trying to tee up his team-mates. Given the extent to which he’s dominated these rankings over the past few months, he can be allowed a week off.

2. Kobbie Mainoo – Manchester United (-)

Mainoo spends a third consecutive week as the bridesmaid at number two – his performances against Sheffield United and Burnley were tidy and deeply impressive by any normal standards, but not quite enough to secure the number one spot this week.

But that’s not because of any failing on his part. He was brilliant against the Blades, picking up an assist, using the ball brilliantly throughout the game and bossing a string of one-on-ones in the heart of the park – and he was very neat and controlled against Burnley as well, although he did find the physical side of that game a little less straightforward. Basically, Mainoo was a calm and mature presence in midfield once again and only misses top spot because he just wasn’t quite as heroic as…

1. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬆️ 4)

It couldn’t be anyone else after the effort he put in to help his side to a vanishingly rare win in the Merseyside Derby. He was simply titanic throughout, with a massive eight clearances and four blocked shots on his stats sheet as he repelled wave after wave of Liverpool attacks, barely put a foot wrong and even got his scuffed and slightly scruffy goal as more than fair reward for the work he put in.

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If Everton didn’t have Branthwaite this season, they may well not have survived. He’s made a massive difference time and time again (and was excellent in the 1-0 win over Brentford too), towering over opposing forwards and dealing with hundreds of balls in behind or over the top over the course of the season. A brilliant player, who deservedly returns to the top of our list.

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