Monday, June 26, 2023

U21 Euros A Chance To Shine For Premier League Youngsters

The U21 Euros currently being played in Romania and Georgia provides some opportunities for young Premier League players to make a statement. Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe is wasting no time as he tallied in each of England’s first two group stage matches, identical 2-0 scorelines over Czechoslovakia and Israel. Smith Rowe was a forgotten man for the Gunners last season. Injured early on, Smith Rowe lost his place on a squad which led the Premier League for much of the season. Arsenal ultimately lost out to Manchester City and is looking to bolster the squad in this transfer window to set up another title challenge next season. That could mean even more competition for Smith Rowe who continues to profess a desire to fight for his place. The young forward can help put himself back on Manager Mikel Arteta’s radar with a strong U21 Euros performance.

Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey scored England’s opening goal against Czechoslovakia after an exchange of passes with Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon. Ramsey had a solid season for Unai Emery and an improved Villa side in the Premier League last season and this summer can only further burnish his reputation. Gordon, like Smith Rowe, is trying to re-establish his standing with a strong Euros. The former Everton academy player left on bad terms with the Toffees and their fans last season and proceeded to underwhelm in his time at Newcastle. Perhaps the most vivid memory of his brief time with the Magpies was the sight of him arguing with Manager Eddie Howe on the sidelines. Gordon’s vocalizations at each of his two Premier League stops have outpaced his on-pitch production. Once highly regarded, Gordon wants to recapture that status with a strong performance for England. After having a goal called back against Czechoslovakia, Gordon broke through against Israel, finding the scoresheet from an unaccustomed striker position. Gordon’s demonstrated versatility could give Newcastle Manger Eddie Howe some additional options next season in deploying the young Englishman.

Morgan Gibbs-White was instrumental in Nottingham Forest’s Premier League survival last season after his transfer from Wolves. Like Gordon, the midfielder was positioned up top in England’s dual striker formation and assisted on both goals in the win over Israel. Gibbs-White is further building his case for a future spot on Gareth Southgate’s senior England team.

Noni Madueke, however, will need further development before Southgate looks his way. Madueke was one of the few Chelsea players to look interested in the Premier League’s final weeks and his energy was again on display against Czechoslovakia, though flagging a bit versus Israel. Most notably, however, the young winger exhibits the all too familiar and seemingly endemic habit of Chelsea attackers who fail to convert their chances. Madueke missed on three chances versus Czechoslovakia, once clipping the crossbar, before egregiously firing wide on a chance which would have given Gibbs-White a third assist versus Israel.

Madueke, England teammate Levi Colwill, and Ukrainian Mykhailo Mudryk are all trying to use the tournament to make a good first impression on new Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino. Colwill is coming off a strong season on loan at Brighton and the Seagulls are reportedly still anxious to lock down his services for the long term, submitting two unsuccessful bids so far on a permanent transfer. Colwill, however, is expected to be a building block at the back of Pochettino’s defense, his importance even greater with the departure of center back Kalidou Koulibaly to Saudi Arabia this summer. The young defender has played well in England’s opening two clean sheets.

Mudryk, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten off the bench in Ukraine’s two matches and is reportedly nursing a calf injury. It could be a lost opportunity for the young winger who made little impact for Chelsea in limited minutes under managers Graham Potter and Frank Lampard. Early returns are making Mudryk look like the poster boy for Chelsea’ owner Todd Boehly’s misguided spending to date. Boehly overpaid to steal Mudryk out from under an Arsenal bid and Mudryk’s subsequent lack of production makes it seem the Gunners may have dodged a bullet.

Another injury has derailed the U21 Euro participation of Crystal Place’s Michael Olise. Shortly after scoring the winning goal for France versus Norway, Olise pulled a hamstring and is out for the tournament and likely a good piece of the Eagles’ preseason preparations. Olise, who has rumored interest from Chelsea and PSG, could see an expanded role at Place should Wilfried Zaha leave the club this summer.

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