The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Liverpool starlets surge as Everton and Chelsea youngsters battle for top spot

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Who are the best young players in the Premier League? Our weekly top ten attempts to find out...

Welcome to the Wonderkid Power Rankings – our weekly attempt to figure out the ten best and most in-form young players in the Premier League. Last week, Jarrad Branthwaite took top spot from Cole Palmer, but can he hang on despite Everton’s defeat in the FA Cup?

Because we’ve got midweek matches this week, we’re only considering the weekend’s Cup action this time around, to make it a little more fair – so everyone gets two games to force their way up the rankings. That is, admittedly, bad news for a couple of players whose sides were already knocked out in the third round or who found themselves rotated out of the starting line-up.

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Three players lose their places in the top ten this week, with Sheffield United’s James McAtee and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Jack Hinshelwood dropping away after disappointing games, while Levi Colwill misses out due to injury. A couple of players from the top five also slide down the ladder as they didn’t get a game, but as a general rule of thumb, we won’t knock players too hard for taking one weekend off. Anyway, with the admin out of the way, let’s take a look at our latest top ten…

10. Conor Bradley – Liverpool (new entry)

The 20-year-old Northern Irishman doesn’t get many games but has started two on the bounce in the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold and done remarkably well, bagging three assists, and he was especially impressive in the thrilling 5-2 win over Norwich City at Anfield.

His first assist of the day on Sunday was his best, robbing an opponent of the ball before breaking through a quick one-two and feeding Darwin Núñez, and while his second was probably a shot gone awry which happened to land on Ryan Gravenberch’s head, he still did well to find an acre of space at the back post in the first place. Throw in some very tidy passing and no fewer than five tackles, and it all added up to an extremely promising performance.

9. James Trafford – Burnley (⬇️ 4)

Burnley exited the FA Cup at the first opportunity this year, so young goalkeeper Trafford got to put his feet up for the weekend – but his superb recent form means he stays in the top ten regardless. He may have shipped an average of two goals per game, but he has also pulled off plenty of spectacular saves after a slow start to life at Turf Moor, and is one of the main reasons that survival isn’t too distant of a prospect for Vincent Kompany’s side.

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8. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (⬇️ 4)

Liverpool did get a game this weekend, of course, but the impressive Elliott had to settle for a spot of benchwarming – at least he picked a good game to be a spectator. Given the form of Curtis Jones and Gravenberch, it will be interesting to see if he breaks back into the starting line-up against Chelsea this week. There’s certainly plenty of competition for midfield places at Anfield at the moment.

7. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (re-entry)

Garnacho had a strange game against Newport County – but while he missed at least one very presentable chance and struggled to play telling final balls, we’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was also one of United’s most consistently threatening players throughout.

Making a mess of a League Two defence shouldn’t necessarily be beyond the scope of a Premier League winger but he provided the Welsh side with a massive headache throughout the game, crashing a ferocious drive against the crossbar when United were 2-0 up and finding pockets of space throughout. The Argentine still needs to be more consistent with his delivery and finishing, but all the signs are that he will be a quality player once he irons out his decision-making.

6. Ryan Gravenberch – Liverpool (NE)

The young Dutchman has been rock solid and hovering around the top ten for a while now, but for all his tidy passing he didn’t really have a big performance to hang his hat on – but that may have changed with his contributions against Norwich.

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It wasn’t perfect, by any stretch – he had a couple of very good chances to get on the scoresheet before he nodded Bradley’s cross-cum-shot home in injury time for his third Liverpool goal and was beaten at the near post from a corner for the Norwich goal which levelled matters at 1-1 – but his playmaking was immaculate with two key passes, and his defensive contribution was impressive too, with four turnovers for his team. The former Bayern Munich man is really warming to his task in England after a quiet start.

5. Rasmus Højlund – Manchester United (⬆️ 4)

Service continues to be a problem for the young Dane, and while he saw a bit more of the ball against Newport than he usually does, but was still only afforded the opportunity to get one shot away despite the relatively lowly opposition. The good news is that while he may not get many chances, he’s starting to make them count.

His added-time goal may have been fairly scrappy but he still had to show genuine composure to get the ball under control in a small and crowded space and pick his spot to score. United seem to have the answer to their struggles in front of goal – they just need to figure out how to give him the ball.

4. Pape Matar Sarr – Tottenham Hotspur (⬆️ 2)

None of the blame for Senegal’s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations can be pinned on Spurs’ young midfielder – and indeed he was one of the calmest players on the field in a tense and nervous game against the Ivory Coast.

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Over the course of 120 minutes he racked up five tackles, two interceptions, won eight of his 11 one-on-one duels, passed the ball extremely efficiently and even earned a 100% dribbling success rate – and buried his spot-kick in the eventual shootout. It wasn’t to be for the reigning African champions despite Sarr’s best efforts, but Ange Postecoglou won’t mind too much given that he gets one of his best players back sooner than expected.

3. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬇️ 2)

Last week’s number one drops a couple of spots after enduring a pretty average game in the loss to Luton Town. It wasn’t that he made any mistakes per se, but for once he was somewhat outgunned by the Hatters’ aerial bombardment, and while he made five important clearances he was also beaten in the air in half of his challenges – unusual for the lanky centre-half.

It was still a solid enough performance all told but he wasn’t able to make the crucial interventions Everton have often relied on this season, and he didn’t register a single successful tackle over the course of the 90 minutes. Still one of Sean Dyche’s best players this season, however, so we won’t punish him too harshly for one quiet game.

2. Destiny Udogie – Tottenham Hotspur (⬆️ 1)

The Italian full-back excelled again in a tough encounter against Manchester City, and while he found himself pegged back to an atypical degree by City’s attacking prowess, he still did his job superbly well and managed to make Spurs’ left flank a relatively safe space for the duration of the game.

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He lost the ball just nine times over the course of the game, chalked up four turnovers for his team and was as efficient and intelligent with his movement and passing as ever. For someone so young, he is remarkably unflappable and seldom picks the wrong option – Spurs could have their left-back slot locked up for years to come.

1. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (⬆️ 1)

Palmer head back to number one based less on a decent but hardly stellar showing in the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa, but more on his overall recent form, which has been simply exceptional. And while he may not have troubled the scoresheet in the FA Cup fourth round, he was still probably the Blues’ brightest player and best attacking outlet.

He did, admittedly, pass up on a couple of decent chances, but he still managed four shots (the most by a Chelsea player), played two key passes into his team-mates to create chances and was excellent with the ball at his feet, beating men and creating space for forays forward. He may not be a natural centre-forward, the position he once again found himself crowbarred into, but he’s doing a pretty damned good job in his adopted role. A brilliant player who hasn’t had a bad day in some time now.

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