The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man Utd & Liverpool youngsters dominate final top ten of the season

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We count down the ten best young players in the Premier League for the last time in the 2023/24 season - can Jarrad Branthwaite cling on to top spot?

The Premier League season is finally over – and that means it’s time for our last Wonderkid Power Rankings of 2023/24. Each week through the season, we’ve ranked the ten best young players in the top flight based on their recent form at the highest level, and now we get one last chance to figure out who the best of the best has been.

Last week, Jarrad Branthwaite made it three straight weeks at the top after another dominant defensive display, but his position has been under constant pressure from the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Harvey Elliott – can any of them take top spot from Everton’s towering talisman?

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Before we find out, we like to note the players who are dropping out of our top ten this week – in this case Tino Livramento, who missed the last two matches of the season through injury, and Jhon Durán, whose stunning cameo against Liverpool earned him a spot in the top ten for the first time but who drops straight back out after failing to make a dent in Crystal Palace on the final day. Perhaps they’ll be back next season…

10. Amad Diallo – Manchester United (new entry)

There is, perhaps, a slight unfairness in the fact that players from a few teams got two games in which to impress us over the final week of action, and indeed Diallo breaks in to the top ten for the first time based mostly off the back of his brilliant performance against Newcastle United. Fair? Perhaps not – but it would be a lot less fair not to recognise a magnificent showing from the young Swede.

You can argue as to whether his assist for Kobbie Mainoo was entirely intentional, and it may well be that the pass wasn’t intended to make it as far as the midfielder, but his second-half goal was built for pure, unrefined intent, a magnificently sweet strike of the ball which thundered inexorably past Nick Pope. He wasn’t bad on the final day against Brighton & Hove Albion, either, although his contribution was more about crisp and incisive passing than stunning strikes. And hey, if you want unfair, this will be Amad’s first and last appearance in the top ten – he’ll be too old by next August.

9. Pape Matar Sarr – Tottenham Hotspur (-)

The Senegalese midfielder finishes a very promising first season in the Premier League with a pair of performances against Manchester City and Sheffield United that can basically be described as ‘absolutely fine’, if perhaps not too much more than that.

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Sarr offers bagloads of control on the ball and his passing and composure in the centre of the park are unquestionably superb, but he didn’t really sink his teeth into the kind of tough one-on-one work that he’s capable of in either match (partly, perhaps, because both games bypassed the midfield quite frequently) and nor was he able to create much. The 21-year-old is calm, reliable and smart in possession – but perhaps next season, he needs to find a way to offer just a little more creativity and threat.

8. Jarell Quansah – Liverpool (re-entry)

The young centre-half has spent most of 2024 hovering just outside the top ten, demonstrating a great deal of promise and maturity when called upon by Liverpool without necessarily flashing as hard as some of his other young defensive peers. But he’s always done a tidy job at the back and generally uses the ball extremely well – and finally, on the last day, he got his flash.

It wasn’t really because of the goal, poked over the goal line from barely half a yard out, although that was a nice cherry on top of things for him – it was because he absolutely dominated the Wolverhampton Wanderers front line, winning almost every one-on-one, producing five turnovers and an important blocked shot while dealing with every aerial ball Wolves put into the box. Add in his usual fine passing and control and this was pretty much the complete display. A very promising sign heading into the start of the Arne Slot era.

7. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬇️ 2)

The Argentine winger has had 34 shots on goal since he last scored, against Chelsea ten games ago. 34 shots, most of which have been optimistic, wayward, or easily blocked. There is little argument that Garnacho can be wasteful and his decision-making and end product definitely need to improve if he wants to live up to his potential – but he’s also one of the few United players to show consistent drive, ambition and attacking flair this season.

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There weren’t too many flashes of it against Newcastle, admittedly, which was one of those matches which he becomes sidelined in, but he was sharper against Brighton, managing four shots on goal (three of them charged down, granted) and succeeding with every attempted dribble. The question isn’t whether he’s exciting, or talented – the question is whether he can turn that into goals, and he’s frustrated as often as he’s thrilled in recent months.

6. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (⬆️ 4)

Doku hasn’t been the most consistent component of Manchester City’s relentless winning machine this season, but he has been one of its most entertaining – his direct running, dangerous dribbling and ability to take players on have made him a ton of fun, and he signed off the season with some more impactful performances against Spurs and West Ham United.

It was Doku who put Pedro Porro into a tangle to earn the decisive penalty at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and his surging run and precise pass which set up Phil Foden’s excellent second goal. He’s always lively, but his work rate is perhaps somewhat underappreciated – he presses hard and won five tackles against West Ham, which is more than the overwhelming majority of Premier League defenders managed this weekend.

5. Murillo – Nottingham Forest (⬆️ 1)

The Brazilian centre-back was superb for the first half of the season, tailed off as soon as rumours started to fly about that Atlético Madrid wanted him, but recovered to finish the season in rock solid style when his side needed him the most.

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He was pretty much imperious at the back during the 2-1 win at Turf Moor which confirmed Nottingham Forest’s survival, dealing with just about everything Burnley tried to throw at him – which was a lot, given that he made a frankly colossal 11 clearances over the course of the game. He also won every single aerial duel he was put up for – this may not be the Sean Dyche version of Burnley, but there was still a lot thrown into the mixer, and Murillo threw it all right back out.

4. Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (⬇️ 2)

The wiry young midfielder loses a couple of places after the final week of the season not because he did anything wrong but simply because others have been very, very good – Wharton has adjusted so quickly to life in the Premier League that it’s genuinely breath-taking, and he’s rapidly become a key cog in Oliver Glasner’s rather exciting side.

In the 5-0 win over Aston Villa he was solid but not necessarily spectacular, passing the ball nicely and breaking the lines a couple of times without creating any big chances, and not winning quite so many turnovers out of possession as he so often does. But still, he didn’t do a thing wrong, and the future looks remarkably bright for him.

3. Kobbie Mainoo - Manchester United (⬆️ 1)

The unflappable young midfielder finished the season in fine style with a coolly-taken goal against Newcastle (there are plenty of veteran number nines who wouldn’t have made such easy work of that chance) and a controlled and controlling display at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

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On the ball, he recycled possession well and carried it impressively, and was often the only Manchester United midfielder capable of effectively transitioning from defence to attack without resorting to a long pass. And out of possession, he was hard-working, making a couple of well-timed tackles and winning the bulk of the duels he got entangled in. Another very fine pair of performances by a player who is already well on his way to superstar status.

2. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬇️ 1)

The colossal centre-back loses his grip on top spot just as the season draws to a close. He didn’t do too much wrong in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal (although a mislaid pass did present Declan Rice with a squandered half-chance) but neither was this the kind of dominating, one-man-against-the-world kind of display he’s more than capable of.

There were four blocked shots – an intervention which deflected a Gabriel Jesus effort wide was perhaps the pick – and his usual anticipation and ability to read the game was in full evidence with seven clearances and plenty of last-man moments, but this was a sound rather than stunning display. Still, a perfect reasonable way to cap a brilliant season for a defender who has come a very long way in a relatively short space of time.

1. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (⬆️ 2)

Elliott has drifted in and out of the top five or so this season but a consistent fact is that when he gets starts, he tends to play brilliantly – only to be benched again soon after. He’s been number one once before, which was more of a quirk of an international break than anything else, but he’s tended to be rotated too much to make it all the way to the top. Finally, he has been given a run of games. And boy, has he delivered.

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Elliott was the best player on the pitch in Jürgen Klopp’s final game, breaking the lines and creating chances time and again with some magnificent deliveries – he completed six of seven crosses and five of six long passes, which is a frankly ridiculous rate of return both in terms of quality and quantity. Even the greatest playmakers don’t usually get anywhere near that kind of productivity in a game.

He was dangerous and dynamic throughout, hard-working off the ball and got into the box to cause a few problems of his own, too. He topped a superb showing off with the assist for Alexis Mac Allister’s opener, and was, more generally, simply brilliant from start to finish. A fabulous player who maybe doesn’t get as much recognition he deserves in the media at the moment - well, he gets it from us, of course…

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