There was plenty that went into selecting these 11 players. There are tons of great young attackers, but few top-tier defenders that have broken into their respective first-team squads.
Although I do not suggest any manager take this lineup into a real competitive game, it sure would be a dangerous attacking team. There isn’t a formation here, so don’t get caught up on that either. Another note: a U-21 can be 21 years old, so many of those players will be included as well.
Goalkeeper: Illan Meslier, Leeds United, 21
At 21 years old, Meslier has already made north of 50 appearances for his club. He was sent on loan to Leeds by French club Lorient, and Leeds never looked back, signing him on a permanent deal for the 2020-21 season.
The French national is 6’4” and is one of the best ‘keepers in the Premier League. Meslier once recorded eight straight PL clean sheets, becoming the youngest to do so. He doesn’t yet have any caps for his country, but with longtime starter Hugo Lloris aging, Meslier could be the future between the sticks for the current World champions.
Defender: Tino Livramento, Southampton, 19
The youngest player on this team is Livramento, who was recently sold by Chelsea for a low fee, but with a buy-back clause for the Blues set at just 25 million pounds. He mainly plays as a right-back in a four-back system and has made now 20 appearances in the Premier League.
Tino made some appearances for England’s youth teams, as well as many for Chelsea’s academy team, but could never fully break into the first team of either. Now, playing the best football of his life, Livramento had cemented himself as a physical, pacey defender who is one of the best in the league. He’ll be on Chelsea’s radar for years to come with a potential buy-back in serious play.
Defender: Marc Guehi, Crystal Palace, 21
Another Cobham graduate of Chelsea’s is Marc Guehi, a central defender. Guehi signed with Chelsea as a seven-year-old and was with the club until just this year when he was sold to Palace for a reported fee of 18 million pounds despite never having made a first-team appearance for the Blues.
Guehi performed very well in his year on loan at Championship’s Swansea City, where he started almost every game in defense for the Swans. He is maybe the best young center-back in the entire Premier League right now and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Defender: Tariq Lamptey, Brighton, 21
Frank Lampard gave debuts to a number of Chelsea academy graduates, including Tariq Lamptey. He made his debut when he was subbed on for Fikayo Tomori, now of AC Milan, in an eventual comeback win against Arsenal which he aided in inspiring. Later in the 2019-20 season, he made two appearances, both in the FA cup.
His sudden rise was so quick, and Chelsea acted fast by selling the 5’5” defender to fellow Premier League club Brighton and Hove. Lamptey has since been a staple in Graham Potter’s team selection and is regarded as possibly the quickest player in all of England.
He’s one of the best attacking backs in the league and he thrives in wing-back positions. Lamptey causes a headache for fullbacks trying to guard him, and he’s probably Brighton’s best piece of business they’ve ever done.
Midfielder: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea, 21
A fourth Cobham player in a row for the U-21 XI, but this one still rocks the Chelsea blue uniform. The 21-year-old made his first-team debut all the way back in August of 2018 in Chelsea’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City.
CHO has made over 70 league appearances, and 125 appearances in total for the club, netting more than 15 goals. He’s quick, a fantastic dribbler, and flexible.
He has played as a wing-back in a number of instances this year for manager Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea deals with injury problems to their first choices at that position. Hudson-Odoi has had some massive ups and some horrid downs in his career, but no matter his form, he’s a class winger.
Midfielder: Jacob Ramsey, Aston Villa, 20
Villa through and through, that’s Jacob Ramsey. Signing for the club at just six years old, Ramsey has made just about 50 appearances for his boyhood club.
After a short loan spell at Doncaster Rovers, a third division side, Ramsey became an integral part of Villa’s squad for the 2020-21 campaign. He plays as a controlled central midfielder who pivots possession for Villa.
He’s growing in confidence and in experience and this Villa team has a lot of young talent. Ramsey will be one of their key pieces as they not only try to maintain Premier League status but challenge for European positions.
Midfielder: Curtis Jones, Liverpool, 21
Jones has been with Liverpool since the age of nine and broke into the first team in the 2019-2020 season. Since he has become one of Liverpool’s go-to men to have in the midfield to support their superstar attackers.
He’s made over 60 appearances for the Reds and scored eight goals. He currently wears number 17, previously worn by club legend Steven Gerrard. Liverpool has full faith in his ability and his importance to this team not only in the future but in the present as well.
Midfielder: Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal, 20
The Brazilian has made his name known over the last couple of years in Premier League circles and figures to be a part of the Brazil National Team very soon. At just 20, Martinelli has made 70 appearances for his club including 16 spectacular goals.
Martinelli made his breakthrough as a futsal player in Brazil. He made appearances in the lower levels of the Brazilian football pyramid until Arsenal spotted him and snatched him away for just six million pounds. He’s risen through the ranks very quickly, and Arsenal hopes that if he can fix his consistency, he can become a Gunner great.
Forward: Bukayo Saka, Arsenal, 20
Saka is one of the most accomplished players on this team, At just 20, he’s already made more than 10 appearances for England’s national team, and has played in some of the biggest games in the world including the UEFA European Championship, where his missed penalty was one of the causes for England’s final game defeat versus Italy.
Saka has racked up over 100 caps for Arsenal as he has been one of their main attacking threats for now three seasons. He’s also scored almost 20 goals for the club he signed for as a youth when he was seventeen.
Once he was given his contract by Arsenal after leaving the Watford youth academy, Saka quickly became a phenomenon when he finished a Europa League game with a cracker of a goal and two assists to his name in a 3-0 win. He also helped his club make a run, and then win the FA Cup. Saka will be one of the greatest English wingers of the next decade if he can keep this up and steadily continue to improve.
Forward: Phil Foden, Manchester City, 21
Foden, similarly to Saka, has been a key contributor to England’s recent victories around the world. He’s been with Manchester City since the age of nine and broke into City’s first team as a seventeen-year-old.
Foden made his debut in the Champions League as a substitute, and then became the youngest English player to ever start a Champions League match. He’s been lucky to play for one of the best managers in the world for his career at City, so goals have been aplenty.
He’s now made a total of 150 appearances for his club and scored 40 goals. He’s arguably the best U-21 player in the world right now, and he will be a key piece in England’s starting XI for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Forward: Emile Smith Rowe, Arsenal, 21
ESR has been with Arsenal since he was 10, but he had a different path to breaking through into the first team than his fellow Arsenal counterparts on this team sheet. He went on loan to Germany and played for RB Leipzig for a year, and was then sent to the Championship to play for Huddersfield Town, where he became a slightly more consistent name in their team for the 2019-2020 campaign.
Smith Rowe struggled with injuries, but was surprisingly given the number 10 shirt by his manager, Mikell Arteta, despite having made very few appearances for the side, and never having scored a goal. He played fantastic on his first appearance in the 2020-21 season and helped Arsenal to beat rivals, Chelsea, in the midst of a horrid spell of form for the Gunners.
Since that day he has now made 70 appearances for his club and scored over 15 goals. He even got a call-up to the England squad recently, suggesting that England manager Gareth Southgate trusts the young winger to provide goals and creativity. Arsenal surely has a bright future intact up top if they can keep their young stars happy.
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