As the curtain has come down on another enthralling Premier League season, now is the time to look back at the new superstars it gave to the world of football. Many debutants, or lesser-established player got their chance this season and they absolutely ran away with it. Be it with a maverick defensive season, or coming out of nowhere to decide games with their goals, these five players are set to become a part of the spine of their respective teams in the coming seasons. When that happens, the 2022/23 season will be remembered as the launchpad which started it all –
A list of breakout stars of the season can’t really begin with anyone else. Alejandro Garnacho was winning the FA Youth Cup with Manchester United U18s last season. At the end of the current season, he is an Argentina international, signed a new contract till 2028, became a regular part of the senior team, and is arguably United’s third-most important attacker after Rashford and Antony.
If that’s not a breakout, then the definition of the word needs to be altered. Garnacho made 37 appearances across all competitions this season and scored six goals with six assists to his name as well. More than the raw numbers, it is his playing style that has the fans excited. Just like when Cristiano Ronaldo broke through at Manchester United, there is a fearlessness to Garnacho.
The crowd is at the edge of their seat whenever he picks up the ball and drives forward. His pace, dribbling, and increasingly improving eye for the pass shows the sky is the limit for the youngster. In Erik ten Hag, he has the ideal coach for his development. If everything breaks right, Garnacho could be the next great No 7 for Red Devils.
When a team wins just 25 points in a PL season and gets relegated, it is hard to find any winners from the squad. However, the Southampton team of this season was an exception. In players like Gavin Bazunu, Romeo Lavia, Kyle Walker-Peters, and more, they had a young core of players who will probably be playing PL football soon, regardless of Southampton’s fate.
Romeo Lavia, especially, took to senior football this season like a duck to water. Coming from Manchester City’s academy straight into Southampton’s team, the hurdles were many. Firstly, Lavia plays the position which is the most difficult in transition to the senior team- Defensive midfield.
This position requires a multi-faceted skill set, ranging from tackling, intercepting, and blocking to passing, creating, and sometimes scoring. A simple lapse of concentration can prove costly. However, Lavia stepped into the first team and ran the show like he was born to play in the Premier League.
He broke up play, drove forward with the ball, regularly played line-breaking passes, and screened his defence expertly throughout the season. So impressive were his performances that Southampton will have a fight on their hands to keep him next season. Premier League’s top six have been credited with an interest and if early signs are any indication, he will make that step up just as easily.
If Romeo Lavia aced the transition to the senior team in the toughest position, Rico Lewis did the impossible in the most difficult role, under the most meticulous manager in Pep Guardiola.
Coming into the team as an inverted full-back, Rico Lewis drew rave reviews for his calm and composed performances. This season was an introduction to the senior team for Lewis but he still made 27 appearances. To play 1,786 minutes for a team on its way to the treble aged just 18 is a remarkable achievement.
To do so while playing a tailored role to perfection, getting praised by Pep Guardiola for his execution shows the potential of Rico Lewis. As a right-footed player, he regularly came into the midfield during possession and helped City create numerical superiority in the middle. There was a maiden goal in the Champions League as well. With the trust Guardiola showed in the 18-year-old this season, don’t rule out him following Phil Foden as the next great City Academy graduate.
Roberto de Zerbi has engineered an attacking revolution at Brighton, and the 18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of it.
Ferguson was playing for the U23s at the start of the season. Such was his domination at that level (five goals and an assist in six games), that when De Zerbi came, he felt no doubt in fast-tracking Ferguson.
The Irish international repaid his faith and then some. Including his stats at the U23 level, Ferguson had a goal or assist every 131 minutes of football. He showed maturity beyond his years. His hold-up play, link-up play, and clinical ability immediately made him a nightmare to deal with for opposition defenders. A new contract was signed soon after as Premier League’s elites had already begun circling around him.
However, with the progress he has shown, don’t count on him seeing out that contract till 2028. Ferguson will be a member of the next batch of great strikers and this season will be the launchpad to superstardom.
William Saliba is the biggest name on the list, but that doesn’t mean he was an established entity at the start of the season. In fact, there were doubts over Saliba’s future as he had spent all 3-4 years on loan at various clubs in Ligue 1.
Nobody could have foreseen a 21-year-old Saliba coming into the Arsenal backline, and immediately having the same transformative impact that Virgil Van Dijk had on Liverpool. But that’s exactly what he did.
A measure of his impact on Gunners can be seen from the fact that their title challenge immediately fell apart after a back injury ruled Saliba out for the season.
The French CB is a perfect modern defender, as good with his feet as he is on the traditional defensive side. In addition, his leadership skills at such a young age give him cornerstone potential. Arsenal are in talks to extend his contract now at a huge payrise, reflecting his breakout season.