English football is arguably the strongest division in Europe right now and a hotbed for promising young talent. The current season has seen several starlets continue to enhance their growing reputations, with the Premier League boasting some of the best u23 talent in world football.
We’ve decided to compile an XI of the stand-out young stars from the Premier League season, creating a combined side of the best players aged 23 or under.
Here is our U23 Premier League Team of the season
Goalkeeper: Illan Meslier – Leeds
It’s been a challenging season for Leeds who face a fight to survive in the season’s final week, with Illan Meslier tasked with keeping goal behind the division’s second-worst defence.
Meslier’s two seasons at Elland Road have been a baptism of fire for the 22-year-old, who was named as Leeds’ Young Player of the Season in 2020/21. He is youngest regular goalkeeper in the Premier League and the only first-choice stopper aged 23 or under.
Goalkeepers tend to improve with experience and Meslier’s early exposure to Premier League football should bode well for his development in the coming seasons.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
Trent Alexander-Arnold will not turn 24 until next season, but has already amassed an extraordinary list of career achievements.
Liverpool’s FA Cup victory saw the right-back, at the age of 23 years and 219 days, become the youngest player in history to have won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Club World Cup and Uefa Super Cup.
Champions League ✅
Super Cup ✅
Club World Cup ✅
Premier League ✅
League Cup ✅
FA Cup ✅
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 14, 2022
Only Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup at a younger age than the England international, whose contribution to his side’s success has included a career-best of 19 assists across all competitions.
Already third for all-time assists among Premier League defenders, he could set a record that will be almost impossible to match.
Reece James deserves a mention after a strong season at Chelsea, whilst the likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Valentino Livramento have also been impressive performers at right-back.
Centre-back: Ibrahima Konate – Liverpool
Liverpool secured the signing of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig last summer as the Reds added depth to their centre-back options and the 22-year-old has had an encouraging first season at Anfield.
Konate has made 26 appearances in all competitions and has largely been faultless for the Merseysiders, earning inclusion over Joel Matip during the Reds’ run to the Champions League final and for the club’s FA Cup success over Chelsea last weekend.
— Ibrahima Konate (@IbrahimaKonate_) May 14, 2022
The Frenchman has all the ingredients to be an elite defender and Jurgen Klopp will hope the centre-back continues his improvement under the guidance of Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool remain unbeaten with Konate in the side this season.
Centre-back: Marc Guehi – Crystal Palace
Marc Guehi has enjoyed a superb first season at Premier League level, after signing for Crystal Palace in an £18m deal from Chelsea last summer.
Guehi had impressed on loan at Swansea in the Championship before leaving Chelsea in search of regular first-team football. It has been a brilliant breakthrough campaign for the centre-back, who has been an ever-present for Patrick Vieira’s improving side and was named as Palace’s Players’ Player of the Year
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) May 10, 2022
The 21-year-old defender has captained the club during the latter stages of the season and earned his first international cap for England in March. He will hope to earn inclusion once again for this summer’s UEFA Nations League campaign and stake his claim for a place in the 2022 World Cup squad.
Another product of the Chelsea academy, Trevoh Chalobah, deserves a mention for his surprise emergence as a valued member of Thomas Tuchel’s squad this season.
Left-back: Marc Cucurella – Brighton
Marc Cucurella has been one of the signings of the season for Brighton, with the left-back having won the Players’ Player of the Season and Supporters’ Player of the Season accolades at the Seagulls’ end-of-season awards.
Cucurella arrived from Getafe in a £15m deal last summer and is believed to have already captured the attention of Premier League rivals, following a campaign full of endless energy, tenacity and quality for Graham Potter’s side.
Better is not possible 😂
It is an honour to recieve these awards.
Thanks to all my teammates for the help they provided me during the season and to all the fans for the support throughout the year.
It makes me really proud to be part of this great Brighton & Hove Albion family pic.twitter.com/ZpxrSzvrKR
— Marc Cucurella (@cucurella3) May 10, 2022
The 23-year-old has shone both at wing-back and as the left-sided central defender in a back three, with his bursts from the backline having been a feature of Brighton’s success this season.
Midfield: Declan Rice – West Ham
Declan Rice is a relative veteran among this u23 side, having already amassed 166 appearances in the Premier League since breaking into the West Ham team as a teenager.
The 23-year-old has taken his game to new levels this season and has captained the Hammers for much of the campaign, evolving into a more complete midfielder with his driving runs forward having become a trademark.
A two-time winner, congratulations, Declan! 👏 pic.twitter.com/O0LcGCXzuv
— West Ham United (@WestHam) May 9, 2022
Named as ‘Hammer of the Year’ for a second time this season, he ranks second in the Premier League for interceptions this season and fourth for progressive carrying distance.
The driving force of a West Ham team which reached the Europa League semi-finals and is targeting a top-six finish, there is a long queue of clubs interested in prising him from the London Stadium.
Midfield: Conor Gallagher – Crystal Palace
Conor Gallagher has enjoyed a breakthrough season in the Premier League and was awarded Crystal Palace’s Player of the Season award after an outstanding campaign on-loan from Chelsea.
The 22-year-old has helped transform an ageing Palace team into a youthful squad with real potential, making 36 appearances and scoring eight goals across all competitions.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) May 10, 2022
Gallagher’s performances saw him earn a first England cap in November and he has drawn comparisons to Frank Lampard for his box-to-box running, with the ambition of the midfielder now to follow in Lampard’s footsteps and become a regular at Stamford Bridge.
Palace want to keep hold of Gallagher, but it will be difficult to do so with the youngster – named as Young Player of the Year at the 2022 London Football Awards – who is hot property right now.
Midfield: Mason Mount – Chelsea
Mount is another experienced name in this team with more than a century of Premier League appearances behind him, with the Chelsea midfielder having continued to grow in influence at Stamford Bridge.
The 23-year-old is among the first names on Thomas Tuchel’s team sheet and has enjoyed a career-best campaign around goal for the West Londoners, becoming the youngest Chelsea player to reach 10+ goals and 10+ assists in a Premier League season.
Mason Mount 2020/21:
🏟 54 Games
⚽️ 9 Goals
🅰️ 9 Assists
Mason Mount 2021/22:
🏟 51 Games
⚽️ 13 Goals
🅰️ 16 Assists
Outstanding improvement. 💯 pic.twitter.com/MbDz2SOUMd
— London Is Blue Podcast ⭐️⭐️ (@LondonBluePod) May 11, 2022
Mount’s 21 goal involvements in the Premier League trail only Harry Kane (24) among English players and he will be a central part of Gareth Southgate’s plans as England travel to Qatar for the World Cup this winter.
Right-wing: Dejan Kulusevski – Tottenham
Kulusevski signed on loan for Tottenham in January and has become an instant fans’ favourite in North London, starring alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min during an impressive turnaround for Antonio Conte’s side.
The Sweden international has provided 11 goal involvements in just 13 league starts for Spurs, with his average of 0.6 assists per game the joint-best record of any player in the Premier League this season.
Most goal-creating actions p90 in the Premier League this season:
🇸🇪 Dejan Kulusevski [1.05]
🇧🇷 Gabriel Jesus [0.90]
🇪🇬 Mohamed Salah [0.83]
Super January signing. 👏 pic.twitter.com/8GRC5hrvi2
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 12, 2022
The 22-year-old has been a fine fit for Spurs, who are set to activate a £25m clause to make his move from Juventus permanent this summer.
His mid-season arrival has contributed to the club’s push for Champions League football and the instant impact of Kulusevski earns his place in our side ahead of Emile Smith Rowe.
Left-wing: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Bukayo Saka moves across to the left wing to accommodate Kulusevski in our side, with the 20-year-old having been integral to Arsenal’s push for a top-four finish this season.
Saka has shouldered responsibility in an inexperienced team and has scored 11 goals in the league, whilst contributing a further six assists.
From back to front in the blink of an eye 🌪️
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 20, 2022
The winger has bounced back from his missed penalty disappointment at Euro 2020 to enjoy a superb season for the Gunners, enhancing his status as one of the best u21 players in European football.
Arsenal’s season looks set to end without Champions League football after a disappointing end to the campaign, but in Saka the club have a talent to build around as the North Londoners look to continue their improvement under Mikel Arteta.
Forward: Phil Foden – Manchester City
Winner of the PFA Young Player of the Year last season, Phil Foden will be in contention to join the likes of Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney in winning back-to-back accolades.
Foden has been excellent once again for Manchester City with the Stockport-born star continuing to improve under the guidance of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad, scoring 14 goals and providing nine assists across all competitions.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) March 20, 2022
The 21-year-old has starred in a number of roles across the forward line and is incredibly heading towards a fourth Premier League winners’ medal – and ninth major honour – before his 22nd birthday.
Foden boasts adhesive close control in tight areas of the pitch and an ability to change games with limited space, traits that will serve both City and England well over the course of the next decade.