Football

Premier League: Best under-20 XI

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Luke Shaw has been in inspired form this season (©GettyImages)
Luke Shaw has been in inspired form this season (©GettyImages).

In modern day football, great emphasis is placed on the promotion of youth. With future fortunes in mind, a lot of clubs are increasingly giving chances to their young guns to prove their quality.

As the Premier League season gains momentum, these players gain more prominence. Here's a starting XI comprised exclusively of players who were born on or after January 1, 1993. (Note: Only performances during the current season have been considered)

Goalkeeper | Jack Butland (Stoke City): A surprise inclusion in the Euro 2012 England squad, Jack Butland finds a place in the lineup despite his dearth of matches due to the lack of any other quality options in goal.

That said, Butland remains a hot prospect, and has also impressed while on loan at Barnsley for three months earlier in the season. However, with first choice goalkeeper Asmir Begovic now regaining fitness, Butland could find it hard to get playing time again in the Premier League, and could be farmed out on loan.

Left Back | Luke Shaw (Southampton): One of the hottest properties in the transfer market, The Saints' youth product Shaw continues to get better and better with each passing game.

A great attacking wing back with good positional skills as well as crossing ability, Shaw's terrific form has seen him become a transfer target for Manchester United and Chelsea, among others.

If the youngster continues improving at the same rate he has been up until now, we could well be witnessing the birth of a legend of the game.

Centre Back | Matija Nastasic (Manchester City): Even though the Serb has not been as prominent a figure at the Etihad this season as compared to the last, Nastasic still remains a class act.

Apart from a formidable physical presence, the defender also possesses a reading of the game way beyond his tender years and is sure to become a top class defender in the years to come.

Right Back | Jon Flanagan (Liverpool): When the season started, not many would have thought that Flanagan would get much playing time this season. However, a combination of injury to Jose Enrique and the woeful form of Aly Cissokho prompted Brendan Rodgers to give the youngster a chance, albeit in an unfamiliar position at left back.

However, Flanagan impressed greatly and has now come to be considered as one of the hottest defensive prospects in the league.

Holding Midfield | James Ward-Prowse (Southampton): Ward-Prowse is a player who has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of this season. The England U-21 international was instrumental in The Saints impressive run at the beginning of the season where they surprisingly found themselves near the top four for a considerable stretch of time.

Intelligent in possession and with considerable ability at set pieces, Ward-Prowse has been a much under-appreciated player in the Southampton lineup.

Central Midfield | Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal): Even though the youngster spent majority of the first half of the season on the sidelines due to injury, the Englishman's form after returning sees him grab a spot in the list.

Considered a Theo Walcott-esque pacy winger by most fans, Chamberlain proved his pedigree for a role in the centre with a brace in the match against Crystal Palace. His performance even prompted Arsene Wenger to compare him favorably to Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

Attacking Midfield - Center | Ross Barkley (Everton): Everton prodigy Barkley is probably the most improved player in the league this season.

With the arrival of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy to cover the defensive aspect of Everton's game, Barkley has been given a free role in front of the midfield two - to devastating effect. The youngster's form has also seen him become a regular in the recent England squads as well.

Left Wing | Adnan Janujaz (Manchester United): Even though United's season have been pretty poor so far, Janujaz has been one player to impress greatly throughout the current campaign.

His electric displays, combined with the poor form of United's other options on the wing have seen him become a regular fixture in the starting lineup for the Red Devils this season. His form also prompted a national call-up from Belgium, but the youngster is still undecided as to where his international future lies.

Right Wing | Raheem Sterling (Liverpool): After breaking into the first team last season, England international Sterling has again impressed this season - nailing the right wing spot as his own.

He has been one of the key clogs in the Liverpool attack which has impressed everyone with their fluid passing and swift counterattacking football. Sterling's pace has been one of the main reasons for the success of Rodgers' game plans. And right now, with Theo Walcott injured Sterling looks set for a starting role for England at the World Cup in six months time.

Striker | Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion): When West Brom signed Nicolas Anelka, Matej Vydra and Victor Anichebe for striking cover at the beginning of the season, few expected youth team product Saido Berahino to get a decent look-in.

However, the Englishman has been the Baggies' most consistent frontman. The striker has also impressed in the colours of England U-21 as well, with six goals from just four matches. 

Striker | Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea): With Chelsea's well documented striker crisis continuing this season (with Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba all failing to impress this season) one just has to imagine how different things could have been had they retained Lukaku rather than send him away on loan.

The young Belgian has followed up his 17 goals for West Brom last season with a further nine already for the Toffees this season - and has easily been one of the most impressive strikers in the division. Capable of scoring with both feet, and also being a formidable threat in the air, the Belgian looks more and more like the complete package with every passing game.

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Topics:
Luke Shaw
Saido Berahino
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex
Premier League
Romelu Lukaku
Football
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