Top Ten: Young players to watch
Every season there are one or two young stars who are able to use the season to advance their careers and put themselves in the spotlight. Here, we take a look at a few who could grasp that chance in 2009-10.
Federico Macheda - Man Utd: The Italian burst onto the scene with a stunning strike against Aston Villa last season that virtually saved Manchester United's flagging title challenge. Plucked from the Lazio academy, the powerful striker uses his physique well to hold the ball up and has shown himself to have a decent finishing touch when presented with an opportunity. He won't knock Wayne Rooney or Dimitar Berbatov off the starting positions, but (along with Danny Welbeck) will push them hard and will make an impact when brought off the bench.
Jack Rodwell - Everton: Everton have success in recent years with graduates from their academy and Rodwell is the latest to make a real impression on the first-team along with Jose Baxter. Possibly a regular in central midfield this season, the tough-tackler is ultimately seen as a central defender but his versatility has pushed him into the Toffees' team early. The sale of Joleon Lescott could see him deployed in his more familiar centre-back role. The youngest ever Everton player to feature in Europe, Rodwell is mature beyond his years and does not look out of place alongside some of the best players in the league.
Aaron Ramsey/Jack Wilshere - Arsenal: Arsene Wenger has shown great faith in his young players and Ramsey, a £5m acquisition from Cardiff, is top of the queue along with Jack Wilshere. A real talent with the ball at his feet, Ramsey has a great eye for a pass and boasts a temperament that sets him apart from other players of a similar age. Wilshere, too, has impressed in pre-season and, although he may not get too many first-team chances this season, Fabio Capello has already shown an interest in bringing him into the England squad. Wenger will most likely use the duo to spearhead his Carling Cup campaign, but if Cesc Fabregas decides that his future lies at Barcelona, then Arsenal may already have two ready-made replacements.
Michael Mancienne - Chelsea: The defender is a rare breed at Chelsea - an Englishman to have progressed through the club's academy and make the breakthrough into the first-team squad. Rewarded for his impressive loan performances for Wolves with a call-up to the England squad, the versatile youngster is viewed in the same mould as John Terry (although is able to play at right-back with ease). Strong, determined and fearless, Mancienne looks set to provide backup to Blues' defence in the coming season, but any injuries to the starters may give him his chance to shine.
Emiliano Insua - Liverpool: Following an impressive run of games towards the end of last year, Insua is viewed by many Reds' fans as the natural choice to start at left-back. The Argentine has great speed and tactical awareness and should get more of a chance to battle Fabio Aurelio for the starting berth with Andrea Dossena out of the picture. Academy ace Christopher Buchtmann isn't quite ready, but with the signing of Glen Johnson on the other side of defence, Liverpool could find great success with a pair of flying full-backs pushing the opposition backwards and Insua will be keen to stake his claim at the earliest opportunity.
Nathan Delfouneso/Fabian Delph - Aston Villa: A pair of exciting prospects, Delfouneso's goalscoring record at reserve level earned him a debut for the first-team last season, while Delph was a reported £8m capture from Leeds. Both will be looking to impress on the first-team this season and will provide plenty of competition for the likes of Emile Heskey, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young. After his exploits for the England Under-19 side this summer, Delfouneso may need some time to recover; but Delph, an U-21 international, will certainly be pushing for a place.
Junior Stanislas - West Ham: Upton Park's academy has brought a number of top names to the world's attention and now Stanislas, a left-sided midfielder with blistering acceleration, is keen to join them. The youngster has been with the Hammers since the age of eleven and his pace and power on the ball has impressed the staff at Upton Park to the extent where he was given his debut for the first-team in March 2009. Other West Ham starlets like Freddie Sears have been farmed out on loan, but the Hammers appear to have other plans for Stanislas and other youth products Jack Collison and James Tomkins.
James McCarthy - Wigan: It was quite a coup for Wigan to snap up the highly-rated McCarthy from Hamilton Academical. The midfielder made his debut for the Scottish club as a 15-year-old, helped the side gain promotion and also picked up individual honours by winning the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award in his first season in the top flight. Boasting great touch and awareness, he created controversy when he chose the Republic of Ireland over Scotland, but comes to the Premier League with a huge reputation and could prove to be a real bargain for the Latics.
Andrew Surman - Wolves: A vital player for Southampton before their financial woes forced them into selling him to Wolves, Surman is an England Under-21 international, who can play in midfield or at left-back. Full of energy and with a high work-rate, he also has an eye for goal and scored 18 times in his 142 appearances for the south-coast club before newly promoted Wolves snapped him up for a bargain price of £1.2m.
Kevin McDonald - Burnley: The midfielder caught the attention last season by scoring a double to knock Arsenal's kids out of the Carling Cup and send the Clarets through to the semi-finals. McDonald rejected Liverpool and Celtic to complete a £500,000 move to Turf Moor from Dundee in 2008 and his power and passing ability have stood out since he made the move to England. He is viewed as one of the top prospects in the Scotland setup and has already made his name in the Under-21 side.