3 Premier League youngsters who have made a poor start this term

As we enter the busy Christmas period in the English top-tier, several young players have made a mark in the league. On the contrary, some players, who were expected to thrive, have underperformed.

Here are 3 youngsters who have struggled in the league so far.

Phil Foden

Phil Foden is one of the most naturally-gifted performers to have been developed by the English game but he faces fierce competition for places at club level.

Foden, 19, is one of the brightest stars in English football but he has struggled to establish himself in Guardiola’s side and continues to find himself behind the likes of Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and even Riyad Mahrez in the pecking order.

Foden shot to stardom in June 2017 when he was the star of the show in the England U17 side’s stunning World Cup triumph, winning the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.

Phil Foden 1068665
Foden celebrates a goal (Image credit: Getty)

He played alongside the likes of Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi and was tipped to go on and establish himself in the senior side. But while Sancho and Hudson-Odoi have won senior caps with Gareth Southgate’s team and have a chance of being involved in Euro 2020 next summer, Foden has found himself ignored at the highest level.

Foden’s struggles can be compared to the playing time that Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney got as teenagers at Manchester United in 2003 and 2004.

Ronaldo thrived because of the departure of David Beckham and an early-season injury to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that opened up a place in the team. Rooney, meanwhile, was already a regular starter at international level and was a major signing, despite his age.

In the same way, Foden might find his feet next season after a couple of departures but at the moment, his career seems to be going into stagnation at Manchester City.

Nicolas Pepe

Pepe joined in a £72million deal from Lille in the summer but he has been unable to make an immediate impact with the Gunners.

It needs little repetition that the 24-year-old inverted winger is Arsenal’s record signing at present, leaving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette behind him. Playing close to the opponents’ goal, Pepe is capable of creating and scoring goals. His confidence has clearly waned, however, and opponents have found out his overdependence on his left foot all too easily.

Pepe has shown flashes of brilliance in his fledgeling Arsenal career. When confident, he can be devastating with the ball and his potential partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette could flourish into one of the most effective in England.

Nicolas Pepe
Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille (Image credit: Getty)

Jesus Vallejo

Spanish centre-back Vallejo joined Wolves on loan from Real Madrid in the summer. Despite arriving with a big reputation, fresh from captaining Spain’s under-21s to European Championship glory over the summer, Vallejo has only featured twice in the Premier League.

Vallejo has struggled to adapt to a position on the right side of Wolves’ back three, having played the majority of his football as a left centre-back for Madrid. Vallejo made his Premier League debut in the 5-2 defeat to Chelsea in September and has only started two Carabao Cup ties since then, with Nuno Espirito Santo choosing Romain Saiss, Ryan Bennett and Max Kilman instead.

Vallejo came to Wolves in the summer with the experience of 19 Real Madrid games behind him but he has struggled to make an impact at Molineux.

He started three of their Europa League qualifying games in August but has not played in the group stage, while being restricted to just two Premier League appearances.

Jesus Vallejo
Vallejo in action (Image credit: Getty)

Even with Willy Boly out since October with a fractured fibula and Ryan Bennett missing games due to a groin strain, the Spaniard has not been considered for selection in the Premier League or Europe lately.

Instead, midfielders Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker and right-back Matt Doherty have all been tried at centre-back, while fellow central defender Max Kilman was chosen ahead of Vallejo for both games against Slovan Bratislava.


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