PRE-SEASON is merely the appetiser before the main course for football fans but for players and managers it is vital; a chance to try out new things and prove a point before the campaign gets under way.
As Premier League teams return to training and embark on tours across the globe the slate is wiped clean – for most – and everyone is trying to work their way into the boss’ plans for the new season.
And it’s the same for the young players on the cusp of the first team.
Our friends at Football Whispers have come up with seven players hoping to force their way into their manager’s thinking.
Charly Musonda (Chelsea)
Last week the 20-year-old Belgian midfielder had looked set to join Scottish Premiership champions Celtic on loan for the season.
But talks over a move appear to have stalled and Musonda has been given Eden Hazard’s old No 17 jersey at Stamford Bridge, suggesting he is very much part of Antonio Conte’s plans.
Musonda spent the first first half of last season on loan at La Liga side Real Betis. But he made just one start under former Blues midfielder Gus Poyet before being recalled.
Conte elected to keep the Belgian Under-21 international at Chelsea for the rest of the season, instead of sending him out on loan again, and appears keen to keep hold of him again.
Ademola Lookman (Everton)
Much was expected of the 19-year-old when Everton splashed £11m on the former Charlton Athletic wonderkid in January, beating off competition from numerous other Premier League clubs for his signature.
A debut goal for the Toffees, the fourth in a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City at Goodison Park, heightened expectations on Merseyside.
But Ronald Koeman, perhaps wary of the effect of too much football on a previous Everton hero, eased the young forward into the Premier League with a number of substitute outings.
After helping England’s Under-20s win the World Cup this summer and with Romelu Lukaku gone, it may be time for Lookman to taking a central role.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
The 18-year-old full-back managed seven Premier League appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side last season – two of them starts – but was an unused substitute on a further 21 occasions.
With Nathaniel Clyne still the only senior right-back at Anfield there is scope for Alexander-Arnold to break into the first team on a regular basis and establish himself as genuine back-up to Clyne.
What will aid the teenager’s cause is his versatility. Alexander-Arnold is every bit as comfortable playing at right-back or right midfield. His pace and delivery means he’s a threat going forward.
Aleix Garcia (Manchester City)
At 20 years of age the stylish Spanish midfielder is running out of time to make an impression at the Etihad Stadium.
But last season suggested he could finally be about to do just that after moving from Villarreal in 2015.
Pep Guardiola handed Garcia his first Premier League start in a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough and eight appearances in all competitions.
Guardiola is known for promoting youth – often at the expense of more expense and established stars – so if Garcia can prove his worth to the Catalan he could find himself more heavily involved this term.
Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United)
Jose Mourinho came in for plenty of criticism after electing to treat the Premier League as a secondary competition in the final weeks of the campaign and instead focusing on the Europa League.
The Portuguese was justified as United beat Ajax 2-0 to secure silverware and Champions League qualification. But he also gave debuts to several very promising youngsters along the way.
Tuanzebe, capable of playing right-back, right wing-back or centre-back, was one of those to benefit and made four starts before the season was out, catching the eye for the Red Devils. He has been taken to the USA for United’s pre-season tour.
Sam Gallagher (Southampton)
Another for whom the 2017/18 campaign is make-or-break is Saints striker Gallagher.
Luckily, the club clearly see the 21-year-old’s future at St Mary’s after giving him a four-year deal this summer.
The South Coast outfit have given youth a chance since returning to the Premier League with success stories such as Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse justifying their belief in their own.
Gallagher spent last season on loan at Championship side Blackburn and was a rare bright spot as Rovers were relegated, scoring 11 goals in 35 starts.
Josh Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur)
Long tipped for a bright future at Spurs, Onomah clearly has the faith of Mauricio Pochettino who gave the 20-year-old midfielder five substitute outings last season.
Onomah, who helped England’s Under-20s to glory in South Korea, was an unused sub on 15 further occasions in the Premier League and picked up his first start for the club in an FA Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers.
An England international from Under-16 level all the way through to the Under-21s, further first-team involvement beckons at Wembley Stadium this season.
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