EPL's young guns to watch: Neil Humphreys
With the new English Premier League season rapidly approaching, our columnist picks the likely rising stars of 2020/21
YOUNG STAR TO REALLY BREAK THROUGH - ARSENAL'S BUKAYO SAKA
Gunners manager Mikel Arteta loves young players.
He loves them so much he fills as many positions as possible with the same young player.
Last season, Bukayo Saka popped up at left-back, central midfield and on the left and right wings as Arteta dealt with an injury crisis. Saka rarely disappointed.
Instead, the Englishman picked up four goals, 11 assists and a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
He only turned 19 last weekend. Saka is blessed with speed, vision and a remarkably cool head.
As the Gunners meandered from the sublime to the ridiculous in an erratic campaign, the teenager was a beacon of consistency.
Saka was thrown in at the deep end out of necessity.
He didn't sink. He flourished. So Arteta has no desire to pull him out now.
YOUNG STAR AT A CROSSROADS - MANCHESTER CITY'S PHIL FODEN
It's been a troubling week for Phil Foden to say the least. His England debut against Iceland was patchy.
Operating on the left of a midfield trio, he struggled to maintain possession and faded rapidly.
His lethargy was perhaps justified, considering his lack of football in the last month.
His reported decision to invite girls back to his hotel room after the game - along with Mason Greenwood - was harder to explain.
Apart from breaking strict coronavirus rules, the decision smacks of a lack of leadership that his club manager, Pep Guardiola, has hinted at before.
Foden can dominate games. At 20, the midfield tyro has dominated a few already.
But Guardiola clearly believes Foden possesses the midfield authority to dominate every game.
The Manchester City manager has expressed his hopes of Foden asserting himself more, both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
Guardiola knows that Foden has the embryonic talent of a young Yaya Toure.
This is the time for Foden to vindicate his manager's faith.
YOUNG STAR WHO WILL GET MOST IRRITATED - WEST HAM UNITED'S DECLAN RICE
At just 21, Declan Rice is already in distinguished company.
He joins the likes of Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Paolo Di Canio, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Carlos Tevez as players too good to play for the hapless Hammers.
A few of those legendary names excelled at West Ham United. Many more had to leave the east London incubator to fulfil their potential elsewhere.
Rice is likely to end up in the latter category.
As a centre-back or defensive midfielder, he boasts the assured qualities of both Ferdinand and Carrick.
Comfortable in possession, he builds from the back, making him the ideal midfielder in the age of quick pressing.
It also makes him a restless presence in West Ham's dressing room.
Lampard wants Rice at Chelsea. West Ham manager David Moyes has insisted that Rice belongs at the London Stadium, playing defensive, sterile football inside an empty, soulless venue.
His prodigious talent may get squandered, overlooked and forgotten before Euro 2020.
And the thought of leftover Rice is never palatable.
YOUNG STARS WHO WILL GET THE MOST COMPETITIVE - CHELSEA'S MASON MOUNT AND KAI HAVERTZ
It's always a bit embarrassing when daddy has to stick up for his kid, especially when the kid is a Chelsea midfielder and an England international.
But Mason Mount's father has publicly denied claims that his son is unhappy with the Blues' shiny new signing Kai Havertz. Clearly, it's a storm in a centre circle.
After all, Mount is a confident, 21-year-old midfielder playing regularly for his club and making a name for his country.
And Havertz is a confident, 21-year-old midfielder that was playing regularly for his club and making a name for his country.
The former Bayer Leverkusen star signed for £62 million (S$109.8m) and expects to start for a Blues side featuring Mount, who wants to build on his over 50 appearances last season.
Spot the dilemma? How Lampard accommodates a couple of rising starlets will be genuinely intriguing and necessary, if he wants to avoid those daddy issues.
YOUNG STAR TO REACH PANTHEON OF GREATS - LIVERPOOL'S TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
Arguably the most gifted footballer in a great Liverpool side, Trent Alexander-Arnold breaks records and wins everything.
The newly minted PFA Young Player of the Year collected 35 assists in 134 first-team appearances.
His 12 assists in the 2018/19 season was a record for an English Premier League defender, until he went one better last season.
He owns Champions League and EPL medals. He's just 21.
The right-back is the least surprising name on this list but will easily be the most fun to watch.
There has never been a right-back like Alexander-Arnold, certainly not in the EPL at least.
He's too accomplished for the position, too effective for the best defence in English football, which seems a ludicrous claim to make.
But then, Alexander-Arnold is a ludicrous footballer. Gary Lineker says the fullback has the passing range of a playmaker. Jamie Carragher says Alexander-Arnold makes right-backs look sexy.
Juergen Klopp must decide how to incorporate these happy problems. Being a natural playmaker, Alexander-Arnold is too sexy for a right-back.
As he matures, his attacking influence on the side bears comparison to Steven Gerrard in his pomp, which makes this season so much more than a young star continuing to shine.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in decline.
A vacancy exists at the pantheon. Alexander-Arnold has the boots to fill it.