To be considered for inclusion in this list, players must have made no more than ten first-team appearances in any top-flight league around the world before this season. So no Dominic Calvert-Lewin (11 Premier League games in 2016/17) or Andreas Christensen (1 Premier League game and 62 Bundesliga games from 2014/15 to 2016/17). On with the show…
ARSENAL – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (2 previous top-flight apps)
Arsene Wenger has given Premier League debuts to four Arsenal players born after he took charge of his first game in north London in October 1996. It is far too early to make judgements on Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles is further along in his development. The 20-year-old had previously learned the trade on loan at Ipswich, but has taken to first-team football this season. His 29 appearances in all competitions have come at right-back, left-back, left midfield and central midfield. Versatility and flexibility is the key.
BOURNEMOUTH – Lewis Cook (6 apps)
A grand total of six Premier League appearances in 2016/17 provided an unlikely platform for Lewis Cook to become only the second man to captain an England side to World Cup glory in the summer. The 21-year-old has since stepped out of the shadow of Jack Wilshere and into the Bournemouth first team – eventually. He started just four of the club’s first 14 league games this season, and 19 of their subsequent 21.
BRIGHTON – Solly March (0 apps)
Solly March played 255 Premier League minutes in August, 270 in September, 168 in October, 134 in November, 445 in December, 218 in January, 11o in February, and 107 so far in April. In March, March was handed just 28 minutes. That’s about it, really. But in his first-ever top-flight season, he’s actually been alright.
BURNLEY – Nick Pope (0 apps)
Considering Nick Pope had played as many games in non-league as he had in the Championship at the start of the season (33), the Burnley goalkeeper has taken to is first campaign of Premier League football in remarkably assured fashion. The 26-year-old’s CV includes work experience at Bury Town, Charlton Athletic, Harrow Borough, Welling United, Cambridge United, Aldershot Town, York City and Bury, yet he is in the England fold and behind only Manchester’s imperious pair in the goalkeeping stakes. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or one Tom Heaton’s long-term shoulder injury is Nick Pope’s long-awaited opportunity. Or something.
Nick Pope hasn't made a single error leading to a Premier League goal this season (according to official stats). Joe Hart has made two in the last three games.
— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) April 16, 2018
CHELSEA – Ethan Ampadu (0 apps)
Exeter have every right to feel a little aggrieved at the eventual result of the tribunal to set a fee for Ethan Ampadu. Chelsea will pay an initial £1.3m for the 17-year-old, with only £1.2m in add-ons. For a Welsh international who has already displayed his prodigious brilliance in blue, that is an absolute steal.
CRYSTAL PALACE – Aaron Wan-Bissaka (0 apps)
The ultimate breakthrough Premier League player of this season, Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be at the top of every alternative list for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 20-year-old has already held his own against Dele Alli, Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard and Sadio Mane in his nascent career thus far.
EVERTON – Beni Baningime (0 apps)
There are few positive vestiges of David Unsworth’s ill-fated eight-game reign as Everton caretaker manager. A bizarre feud with Joey Barton, Wayne Rooney’s seventh – and presumably final – Premier League hat-trick, and Beni Baningime are all that truly remain of what was left. The central midfielder has featured a little less regularly under Sam Allardyce, but his unexpected promotion from the under-23 side has been solidified. He certainly plays more than Davy Klaassen.
HUDDERSFIELD – Christopher Schindler (0 apps)
It is difficult to fathom that this has been Christopher Schindler’s first season of top-flight football. The centre-half spent seven years in the lower reaches of the German league pyramid before joining Huddersfield in 2016, where he cleared, headed and intercepted his way to a Championship play-off victory. The only two players to have played more minutes for the Terriers this season are Jonas Lössl (eight seasons in the Danish Superliga, Ligue Un and the Bundesliga) and Zanka (11 seasons in the Danish Superliga and Eredivisie).
LEICESTER – Fousseni Diabaté (0 apps)
When the Financial Times conducted research into which manager had handed the most first-team minutes to under-23 players since the 2008/09 season, few would have expected Claude Puel to top the list. But the unassuming, quiet Frenchman has continued the trend he set at Lyon, Nice and Southampton at Leicester. January signing Fousseni Diabaté has been quite the find.
Reporter: A debut goal for Fousseni Diabate. Robbie, now can you remember the last player to score on debut for Leicester?
Savage: Hmmmm, me?
Reporter: Nathan Dyer. pic.twitter.com/4plxE30lEf
— Coral (@Coral) January 27, 2018
LIVERPOOL – Trent Alexander-Arnold (7 apps)
‘Trent Arnold has a terrific chance of making it as a top professional,’ wrote Steven Gerrard in his autobiography in 2015. ‘He’s quite leggy but he’s got a lovely frame and seems to have all the attributes you need. He can play as a number 6, a holding midfielder, but he’s versatile and I’ve seen him fill various positions. I know England are all over him.’
Three years on, and he’s a regular right-back, the youngest Englishman to ever appear in a Champions League semi-final, and surely on Gareth Southgate’s mind for this summer.
MANCHESTER CITY – Phil Foden (0 apps)
The runaway champions Manchester City may be, but the opportunities for homegrown youngsters have not been forthcoming at the Etihad Stadium. Phil Foden should still be content with his chances, mind; four Premier League appearances and two Champions League starts is a fine course for a 17-year-old to take.
MANCHESTER UNITED – Scott McTominay (0 apps)
Scott McTominay has been in as many matchday squads this season as Paul Pogba (33), has made more appearances (20) than Luke Shaw, and has played more minutes in all competitions (1,113) than Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick combined. And anyone who pretends to have predicted anything even close to that back in August is a bare-faced liar.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – Jacob Murphy (0 apps)
The fifth-most expensive signing in Newcastle history has hardly enjoyed a stellar season, but that is hardly a criticism of Jacob Murphy. The 23-year-old’s experience before this season was restricted solely to one season in the Championship with Norwich, and spells in Leagues One and Two at six different loan clubs. One goal – against Manchester City – and one assist in 11 Premier League starts is a foundation upon which the winger will look to build next campaign.
JACOB MURPHY THATS A START BUT WHERE IS MERINO
— SHΛY 🇪🇸 (@MagikelMikel) April 23, 2018
SOUTHAMPTON – N/A
Only two players in the current Southampton squad had ten top-flight career appearances or fewer before this season. Josh Sims has one Premier League start this campaign, while Michael Obafemi is still distraught that he missed a rather presentable chance against Tottenham in January in his first and only game thus far.
STOKE CITY – Tom Edwards (0 apps)
Tom Edwards would have been forgiven for just giving up, with the first two Premier League starts of his career coming in the 7-2 defeat to Manchester City in October and the 5-1 reverse against Tottenham in December; he was substituted early in both games. But the 19-year-old was rewarded for his persistence with a 3-1 win over West Brom and 1-1 draw with Huddersfield over the festive period. Having said that, he has not played a single minute under Paul Lambert, confirming his demotion back to the Under 23s.
SWANSEA CITY – Tammy Abraham (2 apps)
A haul of 23 goals in 41 games for Championship side Bristol City assured Chelsea that Tammy Abraham was ready for the next step up, and persuaded Newcastle and Swansea to do battle for the striker. His goal against West Brom earlier this month was his first in the Premier League since October, but five goals in his first nine games of the season brought a pair of England caps. Perhaps the expectation was always too high: Swansea have asked the youngest player in their squad to lead the line in his first season in the top flight.
TOTTENHAM – Kyle Walker-Peters (0 apps)
Rewind to August, and the unbridled panic that greeted Kieran Trippier’s ankle injury in a pre-season friendly win over Juventus. The blow came eight days before Tottenham’s first game of the Premier League season against Newcastle, three weeks after the sale of Kyle Walker to Manchester City, and three weeks before Serge Aurier’s arrival. There was a spot to fill, and Kyle Walker-Peters slotted ably into the role on his debut. The 21-year-old has been on the fringes since, but has his first goal for the club, a Champions League appearance and a slot on Dele Alli’s Fortnite squad to his name.
Kyle Walker Peters over Aurier for me.
— Hotspur World⚽️ (@Hotspur_World) April 18, 2018
WATFORD – Will Hughes (0 apps)
It felt like it might never happen. Will Hughes had spent five years being linked with Premier League clubs and likened to a Premier League legend in Steven Gerrard, but reported moves never materialised. Derby’s inability to escape their Championship prison and inevitable stagnation damaged the midfielder’s stock somewhat, before Watford came to his rescue last summer. Two goals and three assists in 12 appearances is a fine return.
WEST BROM – Sam Field (9 apps)
“Those kids need to go out and play proper football. There’s a real good group that need to get out and learn,” said Tony Pulis in August, namedropping Rekeem Harper and Sam Field in his impassioned missive to West Brom. The Welshman was initially content with teaching those all-important lessons, starting Field in West Brom’s first two Premier League games of the season, which both resulted in victories. But he had to wait until November for his next game. The Baggies have lost just two of the seven league matches Field has started this campaign.
WEST HAM – Declan Rice (1 apps)
“The young player makes a really poor mistake for the second goal,” said David Moyes after West Ham’s defeat to Arsenal last week. “I hope he learns from it because he’s got big potential, but I think it really flattened the team.”
Such positive man-management has done absolute wonders for Declan Rice, voted West Ham’s Young Player of the Year for a second season running. The 19-year-old certainly has a future – but only if he takes such inspirational talks on board.