Forget the Premier League Young Player of the Year award – here’s how to fix it

The criteria for the Premier League Young Player of the Year (YPOTY) award is very lenient and a bit odd.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka, Conor Gallagher and Tyrick Mitchell have been nominated for this season’s accolade, which is decided by a combination of public and panel votes. of experts.

Every player on the eight-man shortlist has enjoyed a successful Premier League campaign, but the inclusion of some names has again sparked debate over whether eligibility rules allow for an accurate representation of rising stars in the division.

As it stands, “any player aged 23 or younger at the start of the season” can win the award. Marcus Rashford has continued to be a contender this season, despite this being his seventh league campaign as a senior player. Foden, born May 28, 2000, will be eligible through the 2024-25 season.

Foden was the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season for 2020-21 (Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The reason for the lenient age limit could be that everyone is maturing at different rates and we should be giving football’s latest a chance to win an individual prize early in their career.

But the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) recent rule change regarding the Young Player of the Year award lends a little less credence to that view. Since 2021, players must be 21 or younger by July 1 to be eligible for the campaign that follows. Under those rules, only one member of the Premier League shortlist – Arsenal’s Saka – will be able to win this season’s PFA award, which is decided by a vote among professional players.

Developing criteria for the Young Footballer of the Year awards is a difficult task. You’re trying to apply an objective framework to classify individuals in a team sport that allows for a lot of subjective interpretation. But Athleticism would like to try.

The ultimate goal – to celebrate the upcoming young players and the future of the Premier League – will remain the same. How we get there will be a little different.

Here is a proposal for the Premier League Rookie of the Year award. Also tell us who you will vote for in the end…

Replace age limit with time qualifier

As our understanding of when a footballer reaches his maximum age changes, our idea of ​​what makes someone a ‘young’ player should also change.

For example, here is the number of seasons of current YPOTY candidates in which they have made more than four Premier League appearances.

Player Team EPL seasons featured before 21-22



Manchester City


crystal palace


crystal palace






West Ham




A young player award should focus on the point where a player ceases to be a relative unknown in the Premier League and begins to become a cohesive entity. To do this, we first looked at all the players who received their first first-team minutes in the 2021-22 season. This created a shortlist of 127 players, which we have started to narrow down to a shortlist.

Then we created a qualifier for minutes played, to separate young academy graduates making a late appearance as a substitute at the end of the season from someone who has made a number of contributions to their team. A Premier League player can play up to 3,420 minutes each season (excluding stoppage time). There are 22 players who have played for at least half of that – 1,710 minutes.

However, to give a more accurate representation of a league that has undergone squad reshuffles in the January transfer window, has seen a number of game postponements due to COVID-19 and often sees younger players or less experienced substituted during matches, we have lowered our qualifying minutes played to 1,500. This gives us 31 players for 2021-22, while Burnley’s Nathan Collins (1,489 mins), Crystal Palace’s Odsonne Edouard (1,488) and Watford’s Imran Louza (1,419) could still squeeze in before the campaign ends on Sunday.

What about the age limit?

The oldest debutant in the 2021-22 season is Watford’s Juraj Kucka, who is 35 and has played 1,923 minutes. The youngest is Brighton’s Evan Ferguson, who turned 17 this season and played 22 minutes.

In our shortlist of 31 players who played over 1,500 minutes in their debut Premier League campaign, 12 of them were 23 or younger before the start of the season.

Decide on the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year

Dear readers, here are your candidates for Athleticism The 2021-22 Rookie of the Year award, which recognizes players aged 23 or younger in their first Premier League season logging at least 1,500 minutes.

The names presented are in descending order of minutes played. An asterisk indicates that a player qualifies for local Premier League status (any player, regardless of age or nationality, who was registered with a club in England or Wales for three seasons before his 21st birthday ).

Marc Guehi*

(Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Club: crystal palace

Position: Central defender

Premier League minutes played: 3,133

The former Chelsea academy graduate has now become the bedrock of Patrick Vieira’s culture reset at Crystal Palace. Guehi’s progressive runs from deep have been key to Palace’s game and this season has also seen the 21-year-old become a senior England international.

Marc Cucurella


(Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Club: Brighton and Hove Albion

Position: Leaving behind

Premier League minutes played: 3,002

Winner of Brighton’s Player of the Season award, Cucurella has always been excellent for Graham Potter’s side. A former Barcelona B player as well as a silver medalist with Spain at the Tokyo Olympics last year, the 23-year-old has played at left-back, left-back and left-centre back in a defensive line for Brighton. Club fans have taken it to heart, but Cucurella is more than just a haircut.

Bryan Mbeumo


(Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Club: Brentford

Position: Right winger

Premier League minutes played: 2,825

A ‘flamboyant talent’ within Thomas Frank’s side, Mbeumo’s debut season saw him serve as a foil to striker Ivan Toney. A player of great offensive variety and unpredictable.

Vitaly Janelt


(Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Club: Brentford

Position: defensive midfielder

Premier League minutes played: 2,217

The German Under-21 player is Brentford’s pressing machine, according to Athleticism Jay Harris.

“When you’re not playing him, you find out what you’re missing. You can more or less trust him instantly. He always plays at a certain level,” was Frank’s diagnosis of his defensive shield in midfield.

Emerson Royal

Tottenham Hotspur

(Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Position: Back right

Premier League minutes played: 2,216

One of two Tottenham players on this list, right-back/right-back Emerson Royal has impressed since the arrival of Antonio Conte. The Brazilian’s mobility and one-on-one aggression have been a key part of one of the nastiest defenses in the league.

Valentino Delivery*


(Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

Club: Southampton

Position: Back right

Premier League minutes played: 2203 (before Tuesday’s game against Liverpool)

Another Chelsea academy graduate, Livramento was the Premier League’s third-most-fouled player in November 2021, such was the frequency and chaos his forward runs caused. An anterior cruciate ligament injury has cruelly interrupted an impressive season for the young full-back who has been one of the best transfers of the season.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall*


(Photo: Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Club: Leicester city

Position: Central midfielder

Premier League minutes played: 1,952

“The future of Leicester” according to club correspondent Rob Tanner, Dewsbury-Hall has been with the club since he was eight years old, progressing through his Under-18 and Under-23 teams. Brendan Rodgers looked to the young, left-footed, box-to-box midfielder to provide energy and industry to his changing central midfield.

Kristoffer Ajer


(Photo: Federico Maranesi/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Club: Brentford

Position: Central defender

Premier League minutes played: 1,911

Aged 23 at the start of the season, Ajer is the relatively old man on this shortlist. He is a strong and sensible defender who is also not afraid to carry the ball out of defense and launch his team’s attacks.

Jadon Sancho*

Jadon SanchoManchester United

(Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Club: Manchester United

Position: Winger

Premier League minutes played: 1,902

Much was expected of Sancho this season, but the 22-year-old could only offer a glimpse of the skills that regularly dismantled Bundesliga defences. A goal in the Manchester derby was proof that his talents were still there, but he might need a more consistent full-back behind him to improve his output next season.

Christian Romero


(Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Position: Central defender

Premier League minutes played: 1,846

“I’ve always had this spirit, this desire and this aggressiveness. And I think if I ever lost that, I would have a problem,” Romero said in an interview with Athleticism in April. The Argentine has brought physicality and focus to Spurs’ backline since arriving on loan from Atalanta last summer. The future permanent fee of £42.5m already looks like a bargain.

Takehiro Tomiyasu


(Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Club: Arsenal

Position: Back right

Premier League minutes played: 1,682

Tomiyasu is a full-back of the old-school orthodox variety, prioritizing his defensive duties over attacking effort and overlapping his winger in front. This selflessness allows Mikel Arteta to play with an ambitious asymmetrical system, directing Arsenal’s attacks to the left safely, knowing that Tomiyasu can cover the right.

Joshua Sargent

City of Norwich

Club: City of Norwich

Position: Before

Premier League minutes played: 1,578

Nicknamed “Napolean Dynamite” by his teammates, US men’s national team striker Sargent took an unconventional route to the Premier League. In what has been a difficult season for Norwich, Sargent has remained a hardworking and committed striker.

Who are you going to vote for?

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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