Buidling Dreams Together


Three U21s That Will Take The Premier League By Storm In The 2023/24 Season

There has been a plethora of youngsters that have taken the Premier League by storm over the years.

Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old for Everton, before becoming Manchester United’s all-time top goal scorer. Jack Wilshere was showcasing his talents for Arsenal by 16 before going on to do the same for the national team. And Joe Cole brought flair to East London aged 17.

Clubs have looked towards their academies more recently than in previous years. Potentially down to the inflation of the transfer market or the change in playing style, meaning older players are becoming unfashionable.

More obvious players like Evan Ferguson, Cole Palmer, Cameron Archer, and Joao Pedro can be expected to have strong seasons. Here are two less obvious predictions and one more prevalent one.

New Number Nine For European Champions

West Ham’s summer transfer window has been nothing short of abysmal. The UEFA Europa Conference League champions are yet to sign a single player (at the time of writing) but have sold two of their best players for £130 million. There is unhappiness amongst the experienced players and conflict at the head of the club. The East London club is in turmoil.  

There are few things to be optimistic about as a Hammers fan- one of them being the emergence of 18-year-old Divin Mubama. Divin had an unbelievable 2022/23 season for the club’s youth teams. He led the line as the U18s side waltzed to the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 24 years. Scoring eight goals in just five games secured the youngster the golden boot. 

His form in the cup and the league earned him a promotion to the U23s side. His strength and speed helped solidify him as one of the best players of his age group.

He netted 13 times in 20 appearances, becoming a permanent feature as the Premier League 2 team survived their relegation battle.

Such statement performances caught the eye of first-team manager David Moyes, who decided to give the Englishman a first-team opportunity in their 3-0 Conference League win against FCSB. The youngster took his chance, playing 77 minutes and seeing his off-target header deflect in off a defender.

Divin would spend the rest of the season floating between playing for the U23s and being in the first-team matchday squads, culminating in a place on the substitute’s bench for West Ham’s European success in Prague. 

As pre-season started and chaos began in Chadwell Heath, Mubama saw a potential starting spot up for grabs at the club.

Gianluca Scamacca joined Atalanta for £30 million, while the future of Michail Antonio, the club’s record premier-league goal scorer, has been in doubt since January. That leaves Danny Ings, a 31-year-old with little future at the club, as his main competitor for the starting nod. 

The best indication of Moyes’ intention came in the Hammers’ final pre-season game against Bayer Leverkusen, which the Youth Cup winner started, despite the availability of Antonio and Ings.

Therefore, there’s reason to believe that Mubama will play a much bigger part in the Premier League this season. With experienced players such as Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, and Said Benrahma supporting him, he is bound to score goals.

Penalty Hero Ready To Make Prem Impression

(Photo by Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images)

When James Trafford dove to his right and saved Abel Ruiz’s 96th-minute penalty, it sealed England’s first trophy at the U21 level in 39 years.

It also guaranteed another clean sheet for the Carlisle native, which meant the 20-year-old did not concede a goal in the tournament- for the first time in its history. An amazing achievement and a great conclusion to what was an unbelievable season for the English youngster. 

Coming through the Manchester City Academy can be greatly beneficial for youth players. The opportunity to learn football from coaches teaching Pep Guardiola’s philosophy is potentially the best in the world.

That became evident in the 22/23 season when he was sent out to Bolton Wanderers on loan. He claimed the starting job immediately and conceded just once in his first four league games for the Trotters. 

His brilliant form saw him become a mainstay in the Wanderers’ League One campaign. He ended the season making 45 league starts, keeping 22 clean sheets (including a club record eight consecutive at home) and conceding just 34 goals. He was also drafted as starting goalkeeper during the latter stages of the club’s run to EFL Trophy glory. Bolton’s fine season ended in the play-off semi-finals, where they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Barnsley.

Nevertheless, the season was a perfect preparation for European competition, of which his country was touted as one of the favourites. Solid performances throughout the tournament, including a rare assist for Harvey Elliot’s beautiful goal against Germany, put him on Burnley’s radar.

Their manager Vincent Kompany, who was at Manchester City as a player when Trafford was a youngster, needed a solid no.1 for his club’s first season back in the top flight. It took £19 million, a sell-on clause, and a buyback clause for City to part with the 20-year-old.

But, he joins a Burnley side that boasted the best defensive record in the Championship last season. Even though the Premier League offers up significantly stronger opposition, he will look to prove his price tag in a stable Burnley system.

Ameen Ready To Adapt

(Photo by Antonio Pozo / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport)

Burnley’s relegation from the Premier League in 2022 was the start of something new. Sean Dyche departed in April and the transfer window that summer was absurdly busy, and Vincent Kompany was appointed as Burnley manager on the back of two promising seasons managing Anderlecht.

He brought Josh Cullen, Anass Zaroury, and Vitinho with him from Belgium and utilised the loan market magnificently, signing essential players such as Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Ian Maatsen, and Nathan Tella for the season. However, the departures of defenders Nathan Collins, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, and Erik Pieters left the Northerners lacking depth at the back. 

The January transfer window allowed for the opportunity to address their issues (although four points clear at the top of the league does not constitute many issues).

Lyle Foster and Hjalmar Ekdal were added to the squad, alongside young Iraqi-born Belgian, Ameen Al-Dakhil.

The 21-year-old transferred from Sint-Truidense for £4.3 million but took time to acclimatise to English football. He found himself down the pecking order in the depth chart.

But, when Harwood-Bellis and Jordan Beyer got injured, Al-Dakhil stepped up and took his opportunity, starting six of the last eight games of the season, winning them all and conceding only four goals.

The 2023/24 season could be great for the centre-back. Taylor Harwood-Bellis returned to his parent club Manchester City and pre-season has shown Ameen’s versatility.

Although some Burnley fans were not impressed with his performances at right-back, Vincent Kompany has shown his trust in the youngster to cover the position if required. On top of the potential starting role at centre-back, he could see a large chunk of playing time. 

In addition, having one of the best defenders in Premier League history as your manager can only be beneficial. Having a full pre-season under his belt, on top of the five months he spent adapting to the former City captain’s system, could mean a breakout season for the young Belgian.