Football

Who's been the best young Premier League player this season?

Sterling was voted the best young player (©Getty Images)
Sterling was voted the best young player (©Getty Images).

Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling has been voted the best young player in the Premier League by a new Premier League poll.

The vote canvassed opinion from the 20 Premier League bosses, and Sterling came out on top with a whopping 52 per cent of the vote.

The former-QPR youngster has enjoyed a breakout season this term, working his way into the Liverpool first-team under Brendan Rodgers before going on to win England recognition in Roy Hodgson's squad last year.

But has the Anfield flyer really been the best young player in the Premier League this campaign? 

Firstly, let's look at the four other candidates considered by the Premier Leauge managers in the Daily Mail poll.

There's Southampton's Adam Lallana, who received 18 per cent of the vote, Chelsea's Oscar, Tottenham defender Steven Caulker and Stoke City's Steven N'Zonzi.

Lallana has adapted to the Premier League with ease, despite never having played in the division. A Southampton academy graduate, he grew up playing alongside the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But as they moved on for multimillion pound fees, Lallana stayed put, helping Southampton to rise from League One to Premier League in the space of two seasons.

And while the Saints have battled, Lallana has flourished, with two goals and five assists so far this term - he even won a call up to the England squad against Ukraine last year.

The 24-year-old deserves the recognition for a superb debut Premier League campaign, but injury probably curtails his candidacy for the top prize - he's battled knee problems since the New Year and his form has suffered.

Brazil international Oscar has the pedigree, and the price tag. A £25m summer signing, many questioned the playmaker's ability to adapt to the English game.

His sleight frame conceals an iron will and a formidable technique. A Champions League wonder-strike against Juventus announced his arrival, and amid the turmoil of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans have at least enjoyed the  Brazilian's flair.

Still just 21, consistency remains an issue. He's in the top three for dispossessions(1.9 per game) and turnovers (1.6 per game), but he's also among Chelsea's best dribblers (1.2 successful per game) and key passers (1.8 completed per game). Really, there's no doubt he's destined for the top.

Steven Caulker is an odd choice, not because he doesn't deserve it, but because Spurs have other, better young players.

The criteria for the Daily Mail article is shrouded in mystery, but if Lallana makes the cut at 24, surely Gareth Bale is eligible at 23?

Kyle Walker may not have reached the heights of last season, but he also makes a more consistent contribution to the Spurs team than Caulker.

In his favour, Caulker looks perfect for Andre Villas-Boas's high line. Despite far fewer appearances, the Englishman has caught opponents offside 15 times - the third highest total in the Spurs squad. He's conceded just four fouls this season, and makes the most clearances on average per game, 10.9. He makes a decent case, but ultimately it doesn't matter too much, the Spurs centre-back received just 6 per cent of the vote.

The same percentage as Stoke City midfielder Steven N'Zonzi. A key part of Blackburn's relegated team last season, N'Zonzi was always likely to be one of the players poached by Premier League teams.

The rangy Frenchman is tall enough, strong enough and competitive enough to fit right in at Stoke, and he's been quietly impressive for Tony Pulis. In an otherwise uncompromising first-team XI, N'Zonzi is the club's most assured passer - completing on average 81.7 per cent.

But Sterling was the standout choice - with more than half the vote.

A blistering first five months at Anfield has since tailed off - Rodgers admits Sterling needs a rest - but his rise can definitely be described as meteoric. Two goals and two assists may not be prolific, but adds a different dimension to the Reds midfield. He's in the top 10 most successful dribblers (2 per game) in the Premier League, and is one of the league's most fouled players (2.3 fouls per game).

The teenage winger is direct, skilful, composed and trusted. Rodgers had no problems throwing him in against Manchester United or Manchester City, and he didn't let him down in either. 

Any other contenders? Danny Welbeck at Manchester United has endured a barren patch in front of goal, but this season he's established himself as a bona fide United first-team star.

That might seem paradoxical, but Sir Alex Ferguson clearly rates the England forward - even with the absence of goals. Starting berths in both Champions League matches against Real Madrid is testament to Ferguson's trust.

Manchester City's Matija Nastasic can also count himself a little unlucky to be overlooked by the Premier League managers. He came of age at the Bernabeu in the Champions League group stages, and surprisingly few people have called for the reintroduction of Joleon Lescott. 

Jack Wilshere at Arsenal? He's only established himself as his side's most important player. Romelu Lukaku has been Chelsea's most impressive striker this season and he's been on loan at West Brom.

Ben Davies at Swansea - still just 19 - has slotted into Michael Laudrup's team with ease. Southampton defender Luke Shaw, at just 17 years old, has been tipped for an England under-21 call-up, and he's been hugely impressive on the south coast.

Towards the bottom of the table, how about 21-year-old Christian Benteke? He surely deserves a spot in the top five on account of his performances in a struggling team.

What do you think? Who's your best young player of the season so far - do you agree with the Premier League managers' choice, or maybe you have another pick?

Join the debate by leaving your choice below...

Topics:
Football
Southampton
Premier League
Adam Lallana
Liverpool

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