The Premier League season is drawing to a close but, fortunately for football fans, there’s a World Cup to look forward to. International managers will no doubt have their squads already in mind but there’s always room for wildcards.
There could yet be an opportunity for something of an unknown quantity who has enjoyed a productive season at club level and could, maybe, carry that over on to the grandest stage of them all.
With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at the most productive players in the English top flight under the age of 22. The ranking is dictated by goals and assists per 90 minutes. There are some obvious names, as is expected, but there are also a number of interesting inclusions in the top ten – players who have gone under the radar this term for various reasons.
The top ten
It’s no surprise to see Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus leading the way. The two Manchester City attackers have been in fine form this season, with the Germany international being involved in 21 goals – 12 of those being assists – and his Brazilian team-mate helping himself to ten strikes in just 1299 minutes of play, while setting up a further three. They’ll both be representing their countries at the World Cup.
But the next name on the list is a bit of a shock. Anthony Martial has been tipped to leave Manchester United this summer after losing his place in José Mourinho’s starting XI to January signing Alexis Sánchez. He’s failed to score in his last six appearances for the Red Devils, and has registered just one assist in this time, but he has nine goals and five assists in 1,468 minutes this campaign.
Manchester United’s No.11 is vying with Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé, Thomas Lemar and a certain Antoine Griezmann for a place in the French squad. Didier Deschamps may overlook the 22-year-old due to his rough finish to the season but it’d be naive on the manager’s part.
Even when Martial isn’t scoring or assisting, he’s still creating opportunities for team-mates. He’s averaging more open-play key passes (1.53 to 1.29) and creating more big chances (0.49 to 0.23) than Paul Pogba this season. He’s a game changer.
Kenedy joined Newcastle United in January and has made himself right at home at St James’ Park. He’s been involved in four goals in 689 minutes of play. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but but it goes to show, if given a run in the first team, he can deliver on a regular basis.
The Magpies should look to make his loan move permanent in the summer. It’s doubtful he’ll get a call-up to to a star-studded Brazil squad, but on form right now he deserves the nod ahead of compatriot Richarlison.
Marcus Rashford, with 0.63 goals or assists per 90, ranks sixth. He’s having his most productive season to date for the Red Devils but, much like Martial, isn’t a guaranteed starter. However, Gareth Southgate seems to be a fan of the 20-year-old and he could be England’s wildcard ahead of Fulham‘s Ryan Sessegnon.
Dele Alli might not have been at his prolific best this season, managing to find the back of the net on just eight occasions, compared to the 18 last term, but he ranks highly on this list because he’s turned into a creator and has ten assists – the most in a single season in his career to date.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the closest midfielder to Alli under the age of 22 in terms of goals and assists, but he’s managing just 0.17 per 90, way below the Tottenham Hotspur man’s 0.59.
Alli is a shoo-in for the England squad but Dominic Calvert-Lewin isn’t. The Everton forward has showcased his versatility this year, turning out for Sam Allardyce’s men as a centre-forward as well as a wide player. And the 21-year-old has been involved in ten goals in an underperforming Everton side. Had he been featuring in a more expressive team, the former Barnsley star might’ve forced his way into Southgate’s squad.
Alex Iwobi has been lost in the shuffle at Arsenal. Whether or not Sánchez and Mesut Özil would leave dominated the first half of the Gunners’ season, while it’s been the Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang show since January. However, the Nigeria international is plugging away in terms of goals and assists.
Bournemouth’s Jordon Ibe ranks ninth on the list having enjoyed a much better second season under Eddie Howe. Last term he failed to score or register an assist in 1,059 minutes, but this time around he’s got two goals and six assists in 1,886 Premier League minutes. His third campaign with the Cherries could be even better if he’s given more opportunities.
It’s been a difficult debut campaign in the top flight for Tammy Abraham. The on-loan Chelsea striker enjoyed a fruitful period with Bristol City last term, involved in 26 goals in the Championship. This time around, however, he’s chipped in with just five and one assist for Swansea City.
With just five games left to play, it doesn’t seem like the greatest return, but the 20-year-old has featured in only 1,613 minutes of action for a Swansea side in a relegation battle, struggling to create chances. When all of this is taken into account, Abraham’s season hasn’t been as disappointing as it appears on paper, although he’s not going to get anywhere near England’s World Cup squad.