Premier League preseason prospects: Casadei, Doak, Mainoo, more

The 2022-23 Premier League season is over, but before you know it another one will be on the horizon as it begins again on Aug. 11.

After the fixtures for the new campaign were released on Thursday, clubs will be looking to use their summer tours to prepare. And that will include some teenage players you may not be aware of. Here is a selection of those to watch from the big clubs in England.

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Amario Cozier-Duberry, 18, winger

On the back of an encouraging season at academy level, with five goals and four assists from 22 games, the right winger could be the next Hale End graduate in line for a place in the Arsenal first team next season.

At Premier League 2 level, Cozier-Duberry has featured in a similar role to the one Bukayo Saka fills in the first team and there’s evidence that the 18-year-old has picked up a thing or two from the England international.

As well as his penchant for a curled, back-post finish with his left foot there’s also his neat ball control, crossfield switch passes and clever movement that sees him receive the ball in space behind the opposing full-back. Cozier-Duberry doesn’t shun his defensive work either.

Cesare Casadei, 20, central midfielder

New manager Mauricio Pochettino faces a number of tough calls ahead of preseason and has to decide what squad status should be given to two of the world’s most talented young central midfielders.

While 18-year-old Brazilian Andrey Santos may already be ready for first-team football once he returns from his loan at Vasco da Gama and gets his U.K. work permit, Casadei also staked his claim with some outstanding performances for Italy at the recent FIFA Under-20 World Cup (winning the Golden Ball award, after scoring seven goals, and also the MVP of the tournament.)

Italy lost in the final to Uruguay, but the 6-foot-1 midfielder was a standout. Elegant, practical and efficient in his choices, Casadei is able to play any role in the centre of midfield, though No. 8 might suit him best as he’s excellent at timing his forward runs. He resembles a young Michael Ballack in style, which isn’t a bad model to copy.

Ben Doak, 17, winger

With several Liverpool attackers ruled out of the first week of the club’s preseason campaign due to international commitments, Doak pulled out of the Scotland U21 side in order to give himself a chance to add to the 60 first-team minutes across five games that manager Jurgen Klopp gave him in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Premier League last season.

In those brief cameos Doak — who made his league debut for Celtic at 15 — displayed a fearless attitude, which is rare for a teenager, along with a talent for receiving and carrying the ball at high speed, instinctive dribbling capabilities and a low centre of gravity.

The winger loves to take on defenders from the right flank, but it is hard to establish which foot is stronger as he carries the ball exceptionally well with either. His ambidexterity naturally makes him hard to read and allows him multiple options as he advances forward.

Oscar Bobb, 19, attacking midfielder/forward

Arguably the pick of the Manchester City side that clinched the Premier League 2 title — Carlos Borges (who sources told ESPN has been linked with Nottingham Forest) and Adedire Mebude also deserve mentions — the Norway U21 international stands out for his extraordinary technical abilities and advanced football brain, which helped him net six goals and 16 assists in the league.

Cutting in from the right side of attack, or tucked in behind the striker, Bobb’s smooth first touch and remarkable command of his body allow him to deceive opponents with a jink. Despite being a flair player who averages three successful take-ons per 90 minutes, he also knows when to release the ball and his ability to pick the right pass in behind the defence is a strength.

While he has an overreliance on his left foot which might need to be balanced out, City manage Pep Guardiola faces an interesting to decision whether to integrate the 19-year-old into the first team or let him continue his development elsewhere on loan.

Kobbie Mainoo, 18, central midfielder

Erik ten Hag’s faith in the Stockport-born midfielder was plain to see as he gave the then 17-year-old a taste of first-team football in all the domestic competitions over the course of five winter weeks. Mainoo, in turn, repaid the boss’s belief with assured substitute appearances that suggested he could have a big future at Old Trafford.

Though his dribbling skills and driving runs are often singled out for praise, his composure and maturity are even more impressive. Whether he’ll end up as a No. 6 or No. 8 — or more likely a hybrid of the two — is up for debate, but he can dictate the midfield as well as regain possession in central areas and his long-range passing is of a high standard already.

Alfie Devine, 20, central midfielder

One of the most influential members of the England team that won the U19 European Championship in 2022, the midfielder still only had one FA Cup minute at first-team level for his club last season.

Back in January 2021, in an FA Cup tie at non-league side Marine, he became Tottenham’s youngest player and then goal scorer, aged 16 years and 163 days, under Jose Mourinho. And though he earned accolades from manager Antonio Conte last year, he never kicked on. This summer, however, with Ange Postecoglou running his fresh eyes over the Spurs squad, Devine might fancy his chances.

At youth level, Devine has proven to be a modern, multi-faceted, box-to-box midfielder who could have a bright future. He receives, keeps and passes the ball well with purpose and directness, is always active as a passing option, presses eagerly and works hard defensively. But his No. 1 quality might be his knack of making incisive runs into the box.

While a loan remains a possibility next season, it’s equally reasonable that Postecoglou may see enough in the midfielder to give him a chance.

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