Could Jordon Ibe be a regular starter for Liverpool next season?

ibe

The media hype over the past few months, has solely been over Raheem Sterling. Liverpool have another golden boy in their ranks, one that is eager and raring for a regular first-team berth next season. Jordon Ibe.

Admittedly, Liverpool‘s summer signings from last year have not proven themselves as particular successes – with the exception of young talent Emre Can – who needs to be deployed in a holding midfield role as opposed to play out of position at right-back. Mario Balotelli has blown hot and cold, mostly cold despite showing encouraging flashes in stages, but needs a fast strike partner to link up with. Daniel Sturridge on form is one of the best strikers in the league, but is often criticised for being too selfish, whilst Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini are not seen as good enough to lead the Liverpool frontline.

Danny Ings is a shrewd signing, albeit one that will come under some scrutiny, especially given the jump from relegated Burnley to the Reds, who have UEFA Champions League aspirations with a whole new atmosphere attached to the club itself. Lazar Markovic, who is still only 20, has shown glimpses of his potential, but has been used sparingly by Brendan Rodgers, which has been frustrating to watch for a team that look all too predictable at times and have been taken apart for doing just that.

Reds in need of attacking quality

For a team that have struggled over the past twelve months, attracting big-name strikers, who can do a good job at Anfield, will be hard to secure this summer for Rodgers, no matter how you look at it. If Liverpool can manage to keep hold of Sterling for perhaps one more season, and partner him alongside Ibe in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation ahead of Philippe Coutinho, who has been a shining light in an otherwise lacklustre campaign, they’d be able to combine well in attacking areas and use their blistering pace to create havoc for opposition defences.

Either way, Rodgers has a conundrum to sort out. Ings, Balotelli, Markovic, Sterling and others all want to play regular football, and that’s not even mentioning Divock Origi, who’ll also be hoping to take his chance at Merseyside upon arrival from his loan spell with Ligue 1 side Lille. If Ibe does continue to flourish and stay injury-free, which is easier said than done, there is no justifiable explanation as to why he cannot feature regularly in the team.

He’s already been pictured in training over the past few days, trying to recover from his knee injury in time for the official start of pre-season in July, where he’ll want to re-establish his glowing creditentials as a young talented player with potential that needs to be utilised effectively. Rodgers admitted a loan spell (at Derby County) did him a world of good, as he had first-team experience in the rigours of a top English league, albeit the second tier of the country, but even still, he came into his own element for the Reds when called upon in both the Europa League and Premier League already in 2015. If that’s not a sign of things to come, you’d struggle to find what exactly is.

With the likes of Sheyi Ojo and Jerome Sinclair patiently waiting for their time to shine amongst the first-team ranks in the not-too-distant future, they’ll be looking at the likes of Jordon and Raheem to aspire to become, a first-team regular who can establish their credentials based on impressing when they are given an opportunity to prove themselves at a high level of competition in a team still rebuilding to achieve their goals.

The 17-year-old Chelsea talent with the world at his feet

solanke

Stats and data correct to the 7th of March, 2015: 

Chelsea have an abundance of attacking riches in their squad, with the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Loic Remy, Diego Costa and their January addition Juan Cuadrado all to add into the mix. However, they have many youth startlets closer to home, waiting for their chance to shine in the first-team.

One of those, is 17-year-old forward Dominic Solanke. Born in Reading, Berkshire, with Nigerian heritage, the youngster has flourished and developed significantly over the past two seasons in the Chelsea youth set-up. So much so, that he was named England Men’s Youth Player of The Year for 2014 at the start of 2015, and has represented England at U-16, 17 and U-18 level thus far.

His knack for goal-scoring

During the 2013-14 season, Solanke managed to score 20 goals in 25 matches for the Chelsea U-18’s, an impressive feat. In doing so, he prompted youth coaches to stand up and take notice, earning a call-up to the U-21’s side where he currently showcases his ability on a weekly basis consistently. In all competitions, he has scored 15 goals and created six assists, in just 18 matches played this season.

STAT: Currently, he is the top scorer in the UEFA Youth League with eight goals in the competition, at the quarter-final stage.

STAT: He is the joint fourth top goalscorer in the U21 Premier League with Newcastle’s Adam Armstrong, having scored seven goals in 11 appearances this season. Ryan Seager, Adil Nabi, Chuba Akpom are the only players who have scored MORE goals than him, but ironically, they’ve all played more matches also.

Attacking flair and blistering pace

As a player, especially developing into a world-class one, you tend to have one or two strengths that you hold in high regard, as opposed to the rest of your game. For Solanke, as well as his goal-scoring ability, he has blistering pace to run rings around the defender, as well as attacking flair which adds an unpredictable edge to his bow; you are unsure of what he is going to do next, which he always delivers to devastating effect.

Chance to shine, when will it come?

In a star-studded team such as Chelsea’s, it is often hard for players to get the first-team opportunities they need to prove themselves at the highest level. Andre Schurrle, Kevin de Bruyne and even more recently, Mohamed Salah are three prime examples of this; they’ve gone onto pastures new and flourished with the prospect of playing regular football spurring them on to success at their respective clubs (AS and KDB, Wolfsburg; Salah at Fiorentina).

Jose Mourinho named Solanke as a first-team player towards the start of this season, but he is so far yet to start a competitive match for the senior team, something he’ll be eager and raring to do in the coming months. He has been on the substitutes’ bench on numerous occasions, which will do wonders for his confidence and help him experience the rigours of the Premier League, but the collective feeling is that Solanke needs minutes under his belt, whether that be for Chelsea or another club in Europe.

The most feasible option at the moment? Solanke has to be patient it seems, especially with Mourinho’s attacking headache at the moment, the youngster may find chances hard to come by, but his potential and obvious talent are too blatant not to look out for.

Brandon Barker – Manchester City’s rising talent

Rising Star: Brandon Barker

The 18-year-old English left winger has burst onto the scene in Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad; his impressive displays in both the U21 Premier League and UEFA Youth League have prompted coaches to take note of him for a future talent in years to come.

Brandon Barker, 18. The English left-winger has impressed City coaches with his rapid development over the past two years, his dazzling displays for the respective youth set-ups in Manchester hinting that the youngster could very well force himself into getting amongst things in the first-team at some stage next season. 7 goals and 5 assists in all competitions thus far; U21 Premier League and UEFA Youth League being taken into account.

He is already a regular on the international youth stage for the English; making his debut for the U18 team back in October of 2013 and has gone onto U19 level, where he has netted 3 goals in 5 competitive matches for the Young Lions. Brandon won the City Academy Player of the Year last campaign, and given his ability, has all the makings of a great professional footballer to come, as long as he stays grounded.

Brandon’s strengths:

Has electric pace, close-control dribbling strong, likes to take on defenders with ease, a good playmaker, quick on the counter attack.

Weaknesses:

Decision-making not perfect, could score a few more goals, crossing inconsistent.

Many sections of the media have criticised City for the lack of homegrown talent in their team, but if you delve deep enough, players like Barker are a good example that there are players with a lot of potential to fulfil, in the ranks. The Citzens themselves have an abundance of talent in their first-team squad, so Brandon will have to keep his consistency if he is to eventually get his chance amongst the star-studded players you often see every week, including the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva for example.

Very few academy players have flourished or reached their full potential, with the likes of Micah Richards, John Guidetti and Dedryck Boyata all still contracted to the club; despite reports suggesting that none of the above will stay at the club long enough to heavily feature. However, the future is bright in the blue half of Manchester. Karim Rekik, Jason Denayer, Pozo, Marcos Lopes, Thierry Ambrose and Bersant Celina are all very talented players in their own right, so do not be surprised if they turn out to be world-class players in the near future.

Rising star: The young, talented midfield dynamo at Spurs

The young, under-rated midfield talent who is flourishing at Spurs

Tottenham’s youth midfield talent, who turned 20 in November, is a rising star but with that being said, relatively under-rated in European football today. Read below, for exactly why.

English football has been criticised for the lack of young talents shining through the first-team ranks at the top Premier League clubs, but Nabil Bentaleb is certainly an exception. The 20-year-old Algerian midfielder joined the Spurs set-up in 2012 after non-professional spells in France and Belgium respectively. He signed a new contract until 2018 as a result of his impressive displays, and was consequently promoted into the first-team itself, back in the 2013-14 season; where he made 20 appearances in all club competitions as well as featuring in last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Since then, he has flourished in the Tottenham side, and is often one of the first names on the team sheet, when he is available and fit, mind you.

Bentaleb has already played the same amount of games as he did last season, so far in the 2014-15 campaign; for both Spurs and Algeria (at the African Cup of Nations), where he scored his second international goal in a 2-0 victory over Senegal last week.

Although his overall stats upon first viewing do not look too impressive with two goals and an assist to his name, he is a hard-working midfielder who is ready to put his body on the line for his team-mates, a credible asset for any professional team to have. He is versatile and can play anywhere from CDM to CAM in the midfield, but is mostly preferred as a defensive-minded midfield player who looks to pass the ball up to the front-players, whilst doing the dirty work and getting involved in tackles galore.

His main strengths include his passing, whether that be short-range or long-range, as well as a lack of fear shown to get involved in 50-50 challenges and tackles to win the ball. The only real downside to his game, apart from the lack of eye-catching stats (goals and assists), is his lack of disclipine; three yellow cards in his last five matches proves this. The rate at which he is developing and maturing is very fast, and he is without a doubt, one of Europe’s finest young prospects for the future – as well as a key player for Mauricio Pochettino‘s men.

Opinion: Chelsea’s talented youth system and the problems attached to it

Stats, data – all correct to January 9, 2015: 

Chelsea’s youth set-up is full of potential, with wonderkids ready to break through into the first-team. So why are most of them being loaned out? Will they get their chance? Read below, for my opinion on the intriguing situation which is currently unfolding at Chelsea.

You could argue that The Blues have an interesting situation on their hands. They have many good young players amongst the U-18’s, U-21’s and other age groups, with some of those players having the potential to force their way into the first-team.

With that being said, Chelsea’s team is strong. They have strength in depth, and unlike most of their title rivals in the league, do not have to make many signings or additions to the squad in respective transfer windows. Obviously, this means that most players will not get as many minutes as they would like; unfortunate for a team in a league trying to pride themselves on having homegrown talent, especially given the criticism of recent years over the sufficient lack of world-class English players.

There have been many different young players that have joined Chelsea, and gone on to flourish elsewhere, with a prime example being Wolfsburg‘s creative midfielder Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is still relatively young at age 23, but only made 9 appearances for the first-team, with the majority of them being cameo appearances.

Chelsea signed him back in 2012 from Belgian side Genk, where he was being heralded as a player with potential to be special in the future. They sent him on loan, back to Belgium as well as to Werder Bremen – missing out on his talent.

STAT: De Bruyne has already created 10 assists in the Bundesliga alone so far this season, more than almost every player in the top five European leagues currently, apart from Cesc Fabregas, who has 14 at Chelsea – ironically enough.

He joined Wolfsburg in January 2014, and has looked a completely different player. One that plays with costlessdom and has the confidence to prove his doubters wrong, as well as Mourinho – he is a good player who should have been given a better opportunity to showcase his abilities in the first-team.

However, you could also spin the argument, and say that the fee brought in from the de Bruyne transfer shows that The Blues have an efficient way of selling on players that they know will not be able to gain first-team experience in the squad. They signed him for £7million, and sold him for £17million just two years later; a massive amount of profit which could help them in the future to ensure they keep in line with the Financial Fair Play rules and regulations.

The picture below (source: Wikipedia) just shows the sheer scale of players out on loan from Chelsea at the moment – the majority of which, are all young and under the age of 23:

Lucas Piazon, 20, has been compared to by current Chelsea first-team star Oscar amongst other Brazilian compatriots for his attacking flair, pace, skill and being a costless-kick specialist. With that being said, he has barely featured for his parent club – instead, being loaned out to the likes of Vitesse and Frankfurt. He has already admitted that he is open to staying in Germany, so what does that tell you?

Thorgan Hazard, 21 has been praised for having similiar attributes to his older brother, Eden, who is a star player in the first-team. He is currently on-loan at Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga, but will he get his chance eventually following his move in 2012 or find himself on a different pathway to his sibling?

It is all well and good, to have a world-class youth system. But if you do not utilise your youth players and give them chances to shine, then what is the point? To say, that Chelsea do not give some of their talented players a chance amongst the stars in the team, is unfair. Defensive partnership Kurt Zouma and Nathan Aké have been tipped for world stardom, and have played cameos in the side following impressive spells in the youth set-up and elsewhere.

Dominic Solanke, a 17-year-old English striker of Nigerian descent, has starred for the youth squad and earned himself a call-up to their UEFA Champions League group stage squad against NK Maribor towards the end of last year.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 18, received a huge welcome onto the Champions League scene, as he played ten minutes in their 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon in December.

All of these youth startlets have been tipped for glory and success in the future. It is exciting to see how they develop and excel amongst the youth ranks. But, it is important not to forget that these are just a FEW of the many amongst the current crop at Stamford Bridge who are waiting patiently for a game. Will they get it? That’s the major question.

Magic Meyer – Schalke’s next gem

meyer

Schalke’s 19-year-old attacking midfielder Max Meyer is gradually becoming one of Germany’s brightest young prospects, and a prized asset at Schalke. Certainly one to watch under Roberto di Matteo alongside the likes of Draxler and Goretzka; read below for more.

Maximilian Meyer, a 19-year-old attacking midfielder who currently plays his football in the Bundesliga with FC Schalke, is certainly a youngster with a lot of talent, potential and one to look for years to come. He burst onto the scene in German football two seasons ago, taking advantage of his chance when it came as a result of numerous injuries; with a vulnerable Schalke midfield on display, he shone under pressure and has established himself as a player with world-class potential.

BACKGROUND:

He was born in Germany on 19th September 1995 and joined Schalke’s youth ranks in 2009, before making his professional debut for the club in the Bundesliga and Champions League competitions in the 2012-13 season.

CHANCE TO SHINE: 

He was very successful with the Schalke U-19 side, winning the U-19 championship against rivals Bayern Munich in their final game, having featured in 15 matches – scoring 11 and creating 11 assists in the process. As a result of his impressive performances, he was rewarded with a professional contract up until the 2015 season, and there were glimpses within his play to suggest that he would settle in perfectly with the first-team set-up at the club.

FIRST-TEAM OPPORTUNITIES:  

Meyer has played 59 matches for the first-team, scoring 7 goals and creating 5 assists in over 3,300 minutes of football. It may not seem like much, but in his bit-part spell he has been able to impose himself upon the squad and impress other clubs across Europe with his confidence and technical ability at such a young age.

Last year, he signed a contract extension with the club until June of 2018, virtually sealing his immediate future with the side that had promoted him to a professional level; he currently wears the number 7 jersey and he has forced his way into being looked at for a potential spot in the World Cup winners squad.

INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS: 

Meyer has been involved for both club and country since a young age, he featured as part of their U-17 squad in the U-17 championships, which Germany lost in a penalty shoot-out in the final. He was awarded the best player of the tournament, and has gradually moved up in the national team ranks from U-17, to U-19 and was named in the 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup.

He made his debut for the German senior national side in a 0-0 draw against Poland, albeit in a friendly at the end of last season – but this could easily be a sign of things to come over the upcoming years given the amount of opportunities on-show.

STYLE OF PLAY AND COMPARISONS TO MESSI:

Meyer himself is predominately a attacking midfielder, who can play at in a deeper role and his playing style has already raised comparisons to the likes of Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, who is easily one of the best players ever to grace a football pitch. Although it would be unfair to compare the two, you can see why Meyer has been dubbed the “German Messi”, because of his dribbling skills and fast-paced speed alone are two attributes hard-to-find. His technique is superb, also.


With youngsters emerging at Schalke, such as Draxler, Kolasinac and Goretzka – it’s not hard to see why Meyer has the potential to flourish with these types of young players alongside him.

The 20-year-old Barca wonderkid who has coaches purring

munir

Munir El Haddadi, currently aged 20, has burst off onto the scene in dramatic style as he hits the ground running in the Barcelona first-team. He is a youth talent with a lot of potential to be special in the future, and certainly one to look for many years to come. He has already dazzled supporters and admirers with his attacking flair, skill and goal-scoring ability is impressive at such a young age.

He joined the youth ranks at Barcelona back in 2011, after spells at Atlético Madrid and Rayo Majadahonda (on-loan) in the season before that. Already starred for the Barcelona first-team, flourished in the Spanish youth national teams and earned himself a senior cap… if that’s not potential, I’m not sure what is!

BACKGROUND:

He is a Muslim and grew up as a Real Madrid fan, living 30 miles away from Madrid itself with his mother, father and three siblings.

CHANCE TO SHINE:

He scored 30 goals in 29 matches whilst playing for Rayo Majadahonda’s team on-loan, after an impressive trial four years ago. UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid and defending EPL champions Manchester City were just two of the teams in Europe interested in the youngster, but he signed for La Masia the following summer and has not looked back since.

Then, he made his UEFA Youth League debut against the Ajax U-19 team, scoring two goals in the same match. Two goals against AC Milan and Copenhagen‘s youth sides aswell as Benfica in the final itself, helped him to establish himself as a player with a big future amongst the stars currently flourishing at Barca. He signed a contract extension a few months ago back in March, meaning that his future with the club is settled until June of 2017.

munir2

FIRST-TEAM OPPORTUNITIES

He made his professional debut for the Barcelona B side back in March of 2014, and ever since then has been heavily tipped to make his official debut in La Liga itself. Well, on the 24th of August[same year], he did just that! He started and SCORED on his debut against Elche at the Nou Camp, before being subbed off for Pedro with 20 minutes to play.

He was called up to the Spanish U-21 side for the first time the week afterwards despite reports suggestting that Qatar had offered him a financial deal to take Qatari nationality and play for them, but national team manager Vicente del Bosque called Munir up to the senior squad for the first time as Chelsea striker Diego Costa was injured and he replaced him in the team! He made his debut against Macedonia in a 15 minute cameo appearance, and he’ll be hoping for many more caps to come in future..

Munir is already becoming a household name in the side, and is good friends with his senior team-mates. As a result of his development in such a short space of time, as well as his recent showings for both the youth team and the first-team, he was been nominated for the 2014 Golden Boy award, a prestigious honour in itself.

Strengths: 

Pace: His pace is electric, which helps him to beat defenders cooly and get in-behind the opposition effectively especially with a defence-splitting pass from the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Rakitic alongside him in the first-team.

Dribbling: His silky dribbling skills are just one of his qualities, as he can weave past markers with ease and create chances out of nothing in a tricky situation.

Passing: His vision is good, as he always looks up to find team-mates in space or in better positions than him – will slot in like a glove to the Barca first-team, for sure.

Link-up play: His link-up play is one of his most impressive strengths, he is eager to get team-mates involved in the play with sly give-and-go passes and overlapping runs spin defenders out of the way.

Weaknesses: 

Holding onto the ball: Often, although he is eager to get himself into good positions, Munir struggles to hold onto the ball in tricky areas. For example, he could be on the wing with the ball at his feet, and suddenly become swamped with markers all over him – he’ll try and get out of the danger and run into trouble, before losing the ball eventually. His vision is good, but could be improved to work on his final ball.

Defensive contribution: Although this is not a must, you could argue that Munir could work on his defensive contribution nonetheless. Tracking back, not bad – but he’ll be hoping he can get stuck into tackles without the risk of getting injured.

Certainly one to watch, at the right club to flourish for many years to come.