Which youngsters could impress ahead of the FA Cup third round?
Jude Soonsup-Bell has scored FOUR goals in an FA Youth Cup game for Chelsea while Facundo Pellisitri’s ‘dream’ is to make his Manchester United debut this year… ahead of the FA Cup third round, which youngsters could get their chance to impress?
- Young talent could get its chance to shine in this weekend’s FA Cup third round
- The hectic scheduling and Covid absences could lead to chances for youngsters
- Arsenal and Liverpool are two clubs to have relied heavily on youth this season
- Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 players who could make their mark
The third round of the FA Cup is once more upon us and that usually signals a weekend of first-team debuts for the best talent around in the country.
The current hectic schedule and squads being consequently stretched to capacity as well as Covid-related absences means this is even more likely to be the case, with youngsters chomping at the bit to force their way into further first-team involvement.
Liverpool and defending FA Cup champions Arsenal are two sides who have heavily relied on youth this season, with Jurgen Klopp suffering a crisis in defence and turning to Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips, while the Gunners’ poor form has led them to throw players like Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock in at the deep end.
But which other talents could join their fellow emerging players and make the step up this weekend? Sportsmail leads you through 10 players who may well make the headlines this weekend.
Arsenal youngsters (from left to right) Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson all impressed in last season’s FA Cup
Crystal Palace have already seen the benefits of recruiting young talent this season in Eberechi Eze, but a player three years his junior has already got fans of the club salivating.
Described to The Athletic by Clyde manager Danny Lennon as ‘the boy next door that every mother wants as a son-in-law’, Scott Banks was signed 12 months ago from Dundee United and has gone on to earn rave reviews, with the winger’s dribbles and composure in front of goal seeing him net four goals and record three assists in the Premier League 2.
He was nominated for the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award for September, and is predominantly someone who likes to cut in from wide areas but that is equally capable as an attacking midfielder, Banks’ development has soared through the roof in the last year.
He returned to Scotland on loan for the second half of last season with Alloa Athletic, and while another such spell away from Selhurst Park cannot be ruled out, he may well get the chance to show what he is all about when Roy Hodgson’s men face Wolves on Saturday.
Scott Banks was nominated for the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award for September
Jude Soonsup-Bell – Chelsea
The exciting Chelsea striker has already created history in the FA Youth Cup this season and continues to blossom in their academy.
No Blues player since Roger Bill 59 years ago had managed to score four times in a one game in that competition, but that is exactly what the 16-year-old did in the 8-1 thrashing of Barnsley in November.
He scored 26 goals in all competitions for various Chelsea youth sides in just 17 appearances, and this season has even gone on to make his Premier League 2 debut, as well as netting against Manchester United in his second game of the season to go along with his 11 goals at U18 level in the current campaign.
For England, he netted a hat-trick against Spain during an U16s match earlier this year, which has helped make him the country’s joint second-highest ever scorer at that level with Jadon Sancho, with six goals in seven appearances.
Chelsea are already ensuring everything is in place for him to sign his first professional contract when he turns 17 on Sunday, and what a birthday present it will be for him to get some first-team minutes for Frank Lampard’s men on the same day against Morecambe.
Jude Soonsup-Bell, 16, has already played and scored for Chelsea in the Premier League 2
Miguel Azeez – Arsenal
The 18-year-old midfielder’s debut came earlier this season in Arsenal’s final game of the Europa League group stage at Dundalk, and there is every chance it was the first of many opportunities for Miguel Azeez.
Identified as a potential holding midfielder by academy boss Per Mertesacker after initially developing as a box-to-box midfielder, the youngster has been a key part of the U23s this season.
Identifying Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets as a role model, Azeez has by no means set the bar low, telling Spanish journalist Guillem Balague last year that he ‘wants to become the best footballer in the world’ and has the talent to do so, but acknowledged the hard work has only just begun.
After making his Gunner debut, he also endeared himself to the supporters, stating: ‘I will play with passion because I love the club. I’ve been here since the age of five so I’m an Arsenal fan through and through and obviously, I just want to give something back to the fans and play my best games every single day.’
Perhaps the England youth international, who can also represent Spain through his mother and Nigeria for his father, will be given the opportunity to do just that on Saturday against Newcastle.
Miguel Azeez made his Arsenal debut with a substitute appearance against Dundalk
Jacob Ramsey – Aston Villa
The latest talent off the production line at Villa Park, and his debut last month against Wolves in the Premier League – in which he played the full match – shows just how he has shown his worth.
The 19-year-old has since made another four appearances in the top-flight under Dean Smith, while his only goal contribution this season has come with an assist against Bristol City in the League Cup.
Ramsey impressed in central midfield against West ham, always open to receiving the ball and working tirelessly to hunt down the opposition without it, and it drew the praise of Smith.
‘He’s [Ramsey] a good player,’ said Smith after the game. ‘I had no qualms about putting him in.
Jacob Ramsey made his Premier League debut against Wolves and has gone on to impress
‘I just felt with his [Ramsey’s] legs, his energy and what he has shown in the last couple of weeks in training and what he has done in cup games this season that he could handle it. And he handled it.
‘Yes, he does [want the ball]. He can handle the football. And that’s what I want from my players. But he’s got legs as well. Really good legs. He can go up and down the pitch. He can break into the opposition penalty box. And he can show composure.’
A host of Championship clubs are reportedly interested, but with comments like that and the ability to develop into a well-rounded player, Smith is likely to stick with him against Liverpool should the game get given the green light following an Covid outbreak at the Midlands club.
Facundo Pellistri – Manchester United
‘That is my biggest dream. Yes, that it what I am working on [getting a debut] and, hopefully, I am going to have it.’
Manchester United summer signing Facundo Pellistri was not beating about the bush recently when asked what his goals were for the calendar year.
The 19-year-old joined Old Trafford from Uruguayan giants Penarol in the summer upon the recommendation of former striker Diego Forlan.
Facundo Pellistri admits it is his ‘dream’ to make his senior Manchester United debut in 2021
Since his move he has been adapting to a new country with the U23s, and is slowly showing signs of progressing, having scored two goals in his last three games at that level.
He was an unused substitute in Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League group stage wins at Paris Saint-Germain and at home to Istanbul Basaksehir, and fans are excited he may well be the answer to their right-wing problem.
And while a more sustained quality of performance at youth level may be required before he starts to regularly figure in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans, he will be hopeful encouraging words from Solskjaer and more impressive performances will see him realise his dream.
Billy Koumetio – Liverpool
The youngest ever player to represent Liverpool in the Champions League at the age of 18 years and 25 days old against Midtjylland last month, Billy Koumetio had had a thrilling start to life at Anfield.
The Frenchman was a mere ballboy when Liverpool achieved the impossible and mounted an epic comeback against Barcelona at Anfield in 2019, but then came to play in the same competition in Denmark by replacing Fabinho as a substitute.
The defender idolises current star Virgil van Dijk and with Liverpool not set to enter the transfer market despite the injuries to the Dutchman and Joe Gomez means Koumetio may well have another chance to deliver upon the promising signs at youth level.
Billy Koumetio (right) is the youngest player to represent Liverpool in the Champions League
‘He (Koumetio) will learn and especially we let them have the experience without making this one game too big,’ Klopp said after the game in Denmark.
‘It is a wonderful thing to have your first Champions League game but your career is about how many you have. He is already really skilled but has have a lot to learn and we will give him the time to do so.’
The relentless nature of the fixtures may well reduce that time available however and see Klopp thrust Koumetio on to centre stage once again at Villa Park.
Luke Mbete – Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has already admitted he feels his squad is on the verge of breaking point and confirmed he will turn to the academy for the FA Cup tie against Birmingham.
Manchester Evening News claimed that a number of youngsters responded to that news with added tenacity in training, with centre-back Luke Mbete prime among them.
The 17-year-old primarily plays in central defence but can also play as a left-back, and was rewarded for helping City’s U23 side keep nine clean sheets from his ten starts by naming him on the bench at Chelsea last weekend.
Mbete also has caps and at England U15 and U16 levels, and has won the FA Youth Cup, with Leeds reportedly interested in a January move according to The Athletic.
But with the likes of Eric Garcia unavailable to Guardiola and Mbete able to do little more to earn his chance, there is a strong chance he will be part of the rotation policy currently used by the Catalan boss.
Luke Mbete (centre) was named on the Manchester City bench at Chelsea last weekend
Dane Scarlett – Tottenham
Scarlett became Tottenham’s youngest player of all time (16 years and 247 days) when he replaced Lucas Moura in the 4-0 Europa League win against Ludogorets in November.
Beating John Bostocks’ record, who was aged 16 years and 295 days when he made his Tottenham debut in November 2008, the striker has enjoyed a meteoric rise few have experienced.
In fact, his first-team debut against the Bulgarian side came nearly a month before he played for the club’s U23s, but his form has been impeccable at U18s level, netting 13 goals and recording four assists this season from just 10 matches.
Scarlett has had the added hindrance of a knee injury that kept him out for 10 months last season, but after recovering fully in August and now the England U16 international could well appear in the biggest game of his career so far against eight division side Marine.
Dane Scarlett became Tottenham’s youngest ever senior player against Ludogorets last year
Owen Otasowie – Wolves
There is nothing like discovering that the Premier League is a different beast to youth football than making your top-flight debut against Chelsea.
But that is what American midfielder Owen Otasowie experienced but with Wolves struggling with numbers and the fixture schedule, Nuno Espirito Santo was left with few other choices.
His most recent appearance in the first team saw him come on for three minutes in the thrilling 3-3 draw at Brighton, and while he has looked able to fill in so far, he missed an easy header with the last touch of the game, which would have seen his side snatch all three points.
Owen Otasowie has been thrust into the limelight by Nuno Espirito Santo this season
‘He has a long way to go yet,’ Nuno said after the game. ‘He’s very talented, very powerful. Again, he gave a big hand. All the academy players, we expect good things for them.
‘This is the way we work. We work with a young and short squad because we believe in the way we do things. We’ll keep supporting them and at the same time teaching them that when you have your chance you have to take it.
‘Otasowie had one, he didn’t take it, but he will have another one for sure.’ Perhaps after such a glaring miss, few senior players would get such an immediate chance to put it behind them, but the defensive midfielder may just get that against Crystal Palace.
Sam Greenwood – Leeds
Arriving in a £3m deal from Arsenal in the summer, Greenwood’s strides in the U23s have only been halted by a recent injury.
The 18-year-old forward won the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award back in October, before an injury on international duty with England has curtailed his progress.
What however it did not prevent was an impressive return of six goals in eight games for Leeds’ youngsters operating as both a centre-forward and a central midfielder.
Recent reports have suggested he will not be loaned out to Cardiff City this month with Marcelo Bielsa believing he is not far away from a first-team bow, and Leeds supporters will be hoping that comes against Crawley on Sunday.
Sam Greenwood has scored six goals in eight games for Leeds’ youngsters since joining
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