The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Klopp's Kids and Chelsea starlets battle for top spot

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We count down the ten best young players in the Premier League after Liverpool and Chelsea youngsters shine at Wembley.

Welcome to the weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings – our attempt to rate and rank the ten best young players in the Premier League on recent form.

Last week, free-scoring Rasmus Højlund took top spot for the second time in succession, but injury has prematurely ended his hot streak. That means he takes a break from our list, as do Tottenham Hotspur players Destiny Udogie and Pape Matar Sarr, neither of whom has played since we last compiled our top ten.

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The big story this week was, of course, “Klopp’s Kids” – but after helping Liverpool to win the EFL Cup on Sunday, can any of Anfield’s finest young players make a run at the crown? Will Chelsea’s bright young things be able to make up for a brutal late defeat at Wembley by being named the best Under-21 in the top flight? Let’s find out…

10. Facundo Buonanotte – Brighton & Hove Albion (re-entry)

Brighton’s form has been pretty patchy of late but that’s less true for the 19-year-old Argentine winger, who was one of the Seagulls’ best attacking outlets throughout the 1-1 draw against Everton and forces his way back into our top ten as a result.

His dribbling was sharp, his passing was incisive and he made five key passes to play his team-mates in over the course of his 72 minutes on the field – and he worked hard out of possession too, making three successful tackles and keeping Everton from making any successful forays forward down his flank. A fine all-round performance, filled with both graft and flair.

9. Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (new entry)

The young midfielder has slotted right into Palace’s first team since his big-money January move from Blackburn Rovers and looked like he’s been playing at the top level for years over the course of a 3-0 thumping of Burnley – a win he no doubt thoroughly enjoyed as a born-and-bred Blackburn lad.

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He’s not perfect yet, by any means, and could stand to be a little tougher in one-on-one situations -he won just two of seven duels - but he reads the game beautifully and his work off the ball was impeccable, as was his crisp and intelligent passing, which created several very decent chances. A very nice start to his Premier League career indeed.

8. Kobbie Mainoo – Manchester United (-)

No change this week for the industrious young Manchester United midfielder, who was very neat and tidy once more in the rather disappointing 2-1 defeat to Fulham, but struggled to really produce sparkling moments for all of his work rate and economical passing.

He only lost possession six times over the course of the game at Old Trafford, a remarkably low rate for someone who sees the ball so much, but couldn’t create any big chances for his team and didn’t have the best time when the final ball fell to him – his two attempts on goal both went miles wide, and one, in the second half, very nearly went out for a throw-in. He still needs a little bit of polish before he becomes the finished article, but he’s certainly proved himself worthy of a place in Erik ten Hag’s starting line-up.

7. Malo Gusto – Chelsea (⬇️ 2)

The young Frenchman had a fascinating, back-and-forth battle with Luis Díaz over the course of the EFL Cup final, winning most of his one-on-one battles with the Colombian and racking up six tackles over the course of 120 minutes, but while he did well in defence he wasn’t as dangerous going forward as he can be.

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He lost the ball a lot when attempting to get at Andrew Robertson down the right wing and his passing and crossing accuracy were not great, and he didn’t end up generating any great chances – rather, he tended to tee up counter-attacks during the first half, which is perhaps why he played a rather more conservative role for the rest of the game. Not his very best game, but there was still plenty to admire.

6. Conor Bradley – Liverpool (-)

No change this week for the first of Klopp’s Kids to make our top ten – Bradley was very solid in the EFL Cup final against Chelsea but other on both sides performed a little better. His passing game wasn’t at its best and his crossing was a little wayward on this occasion, but his movement and defensive work remained firmly on point before his second-half substitution.

He was better in the midweek 4-1 win over Luton Town, which also falls under this week’s purview, and offered a little more in the final third and creating a couple of very good chances, but there’s still some evidence that his decision-making could be just a little more sound and his final pass just a bit more accurate. He’s still making it easy to forget that Trent Alexander-Arnold is injured, mind you.

5. Levi Colwill – Chelsea (⬆️ 5)

Klopp’s Kids may have been the headline, but some of Poch’s Pups deserve credit for their performances, too – and while the Blues may have wound up defeated, you can’t place any of the blame at the feet of Colwill, who was excellent throughout and kept Cody Gakpo in his pocket for long periods before the Dutchman was replaced.

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He lost a couple of ground duels against the wide forwards but was otherwise basically faultless, winning everything in the air when Liverpool went more direct and cutting out passing and shooting angles effectively when they stuck to the ground. A calm presence in defence who marshals the defence well and plays the ball economically – he looked like he’s been doing all of this for so much longer than he really has, and the big match atmosphere clearly didn’t faze him in the slightest.

4. Harvey Elliott – Liverpool (RE)

Another young gun who was impressive in Sunday’s final, Elliott has been in and out of the line-up of late but was one of Liverpool’s best players over the course of the last two games. Against Chelsea he put in a cracking all-round performance, with strong dribbling, excellent direct passing and some very smart use of the ball. He gave nothing away and kept everything ticking over in attack.

And he did more than keep things ticking against Luton, where he was arguably the best player on the pitch – he was a huge threat up front, producing eight key passes and five shots on goal, one of which he lashed left-footed into the top corner to mark his hundredth Liverpool game with a goal. If these past two weeks doesn’t force Jürgen Klopp to start him more often, perhaps nothing will.

3. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (-)

The young Argentine’s performance in the defeat to Fulham wasn’t easy to analyse. Taking the most generous view, he was energetic, lively and involved throughout, beating his man repeatedly in one-on-one situations, drawing fouls (five of them in total) and working hard off the ball, with two tackles and an interception as he battled to keep United on the boil.

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The more pessimistic assessment of his game was that for all his endeavour, he wasn’t as effective as he can be. None of his three shots were especially threatening and he wasn’t able to get the ball to team-mates in dangerous areas often enough. He’s been excellent of late, so we’ve decided to err on the side of generosity and keep him at number three.

2. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (⬆️ 2)

Chelsea have drawn some heavy criticism for being too conservative during extra time at Wembley and essentially ceding the initiative to Liverpool having been in control for so much of the second half – but you can’t really lay that at the feet of Palmer, who was taking risks and creating chances throughout the match. So much of what Chelsea did well went through the former Manchester City youngster.

He lost the ball a lot – a whopping 33 times in total – and his passing accuracy of just 67% looks poor on paper, but so many of the balls he played were intended as killer final passes (and so many of them worked) that it’s hard to count that against him. He created most of the Blues’ best moments, in particular teeing up Conor Gallagher one-on-one against Caoimhin Kelleher for what could and perhaps should have been the winning goal and got five shots away. Had the Irish goalkeeper not been in such sublime form, Palmer could easily have bagged a couple of goals and assists and walked off with the man of the match award. As it was, the evening ended in disappointment, but Palmer remains the brightest spark among the embers at Stamford Bridge.

1. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬆️ 1)

For all the talk of the young players on display at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, it’s Everton defender Branthwaite who returns to top spot in the absence of Højlund. Perhaps the stage wasn’t as big at the Amex Stadium, but the centre-half put in yet another massive display as Everton came desperately close to ending the winless run that represents just one of their many, many problems.

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We commented last week on how much he seemed to be improving his distribution when he wins the ball – which was, once again, practically every time he was asked to - and he continued that trend this week, but it was his finishing which grabbed the headlines. His goal, swept home powerfully with his left foot from just inside the area, was a strike that any striker would be proud of. A brilliant defender who is really stretching his wings in recent weeks, and who thoroughly deserves to retake his throne in the Power Rankings.

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