It’s been a season to remember in the English Premier League. The just concluded campaign is most unique because Leicester City from out of the blues won the title. Many still think it’s a dream but its reality. Claudio Ranieri’s team along with Tottenham Hotspur were able to alter the balance as the big guns in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United were all dismal by their standards.As usual these sides splashed clash and made very expensive acquisitions, some whose price tags were questionable (i.e. Raheem Sterling, £49 million from Liverpool to Manchester City, Christian Benteke, £32 million from Aston Villa to Liverpool) during the transfer window. Not all the big signings were able to make impact but one thing that stood out for this season was the rise and showcase of some youngsters in the first team of the big guns. These top sides have very good youth systems but hardly utilise their home made products. These youngsters that cost very little or nothing to acquire set the EPL abuzz with some fine displays.
This post will look at the starlets that made an impact and by all indications do have a bright future.
ARSENAL: Alex Iwobi
Arsene Wenger didn’t spend so much in the two transfer windows with Petr Cech (£11million from Chelsea) and Mohamed Elneny (£5million from Basel) the only major recruits. Wenger’s failure to dig deep in the market cost him dearly as many key first team players got injured and the Gunners form slumped when they were in serious contention for the title. Wenger has been known to raise up youth and integrate them into the first team as seen with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Hector Bellerin among many others and Alex Iwobi joined that list.Iwobi who joined Arsenal while in primary school is famously known for being the nephew of Jay-Jay Okocha having moved to England from Lagos at the age of four. Wenger’s decision to start Iwobi ahead of Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell in the Champions League round of 16 tie against Barcelona at the Camp Nou raised some eyebrows but even though the Gunners lost 3-1, Iwobi proved his critics wrong by putting in a fine display which eventually drew plaudits. He never looked back since then going on to play an integral part in the Gunners run to finishing a surprising second in the league ahead of Tottenham scoring two goals in 21 appearances. Iwobi can surely look forward to a bigger and better season come 2016/2017.
CHELSEA: Kenedy, Bertrand Traore
2015/2016 is a season Chelsea would want to forget quickly. As champions from the previous season, they found themselves struggling in the bottom half of the log. Despite retaining the star studded squad that won the league, they couldn’t replicate such form. The addition of Pedro Rodriguez (£28million from Barcelona) and Baba Rahman (£14million from Augsburg) did not do much to improve the side. Chelsea cannot boast of regular first team home grown talent bar John Terry because they send a chunk of these youngsters out on loan many times with no eventual future at Stamford Bridge. However, two starlets in Kenedy and Bertrand Traore have shown that Chelsea must reconsider its policy on youth rather than to continue spending big.Kenedy was a £6.3 million signing from Brazilian club Fluminense last summer. As a versatile 20 year old player that can play anywhere on the left flank, there was obviously no way he would force his way into the first team but the dip in form of players particularly Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta meant Kenedy was given the chance to shine, making 13 overall appearances, scoring two goals.
Traore spent the 2014-2015 season with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem on loan scoring 20 goals in 51 appearances. He would score his first Chelsea goal in the 5-1 routing of MK Dons in the FA Cup fifth round. He then got his first Premier League goal in a 5-1 win over Newcastle United. He scored four goals in the space of five games, making 11 total appearances. Traore has been described as the “ultimate poacher” and has majorly come in to replace the disappointing Diego Costa. He’s got a good eye for goal and positions himself in the right place. With more game time, the 20 year old is sure to evolve into another fine African talent.Should Costa or any other Chelsea player struggle next season, incoming boss Antonio Conte can look towards Kenedy and Traore who are sure to deliver.
*To be continued.