Coquelin, Powell and five young Premier League players looking to break into the first team

With the start of the 2012-13 season a month away we look at some of the young stars who will be looking to use pre-season to force their way into the first team picture
By Joe Doyle

It is easy to be cynical about pre-season as Premier League teams value jetting off around the world to play friendlies and boost their coffers as much as they do preparing for the new season.

For young players, however, it's a chance to make a name for themselves and push for a role in the first team. Cesc Fabregas, for example, shot from obscurity to being a key component of an Arsenal side that had gone the previous campaign unbeaten, following a series of pre-season displays that culminated in a man of the match display in the 2004 Community Shield.

With that in mind, takes a look at some of the players who could push for a place in the starting XI with strong displays over the coming weeks.


Having made his Premier League debut in the 8-2 drubbing Arsenal received at Old Trafford last August, it could be argued that there was only one way the versatile Frenchman's career could have gone after that soul destroying experience.

The French midfielder has been deployed in a number of different positions over the course of his fledgling Gunners career and has performed commendably, even when he was fielded as an emergency full-back during a customary Arsenal injury crisis last season.

His ability to win silverware might be in question, but Arsene Wenger's eye for young talent has never been in doubt and Coquelin was rewarded with a new long-term contract in January. Now he must kick on and try to prove his worth as Arsenal continue their high-profile search for a new defensive midfielder.

With Wenger's track record, there's every chance he could abandon his long-term interest in Yann M'Vila, should Coquelin grab his opportunity on Arsenal's upcoming tour of Malaysia and China.


Frei made his first team debut for Fulham a little over a year ago at the beginning of their mammoth Europa League qualifying campaign. Since then, his appearances have been fleeting as Martin Jol understandably attempts to gradually develop a burgeoning talent.

The Turkey international scored his only goal so far for the club in a 2-2 draw against Odense which resulted in the Cottagers' European exit. The tricky midfielder's performance, however, was a source of encouragement on an otherwise dark evening.

With the touted departure of Clint Dempsey and rumoured interest of several big hitters in Moussa Dembele, along with Danny Murphy's exit, spaces are opening in the positions that Frei can genuinely stake a claim for.


The Liverpool defender has excelled mainly at right-back, though he is capable of playing centrally too. Kelly benefited from an unsettled back-line in the past, but with the acquisitions of the experienced Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson, he was relegated to the sidelines for long stretches.

However, Kelly's promise was recognised by Roy Hodgson, who named him in his Euro 2012 squad following an injury to Gary Cahill. Still just 22 years of age, the experience in Poland and Ukraine will undoubtedly help his development.

The changing managerial landscape at Anfield may not have helped him secure a regular place in the first XI, but with Brendan Rodgers taking charge and a 'clean slate' to impress, he can now show what he has to offer and try to nail down a starting role.


Any signing by Manchester United is likely to turn heads, but the acquisition of Powell from formerly League Two side Crewe certainly raised some eyebrows.

Powell played a staring role as 'The Alex' went on a long unbeaten run in the second half of the season, culminating in a play-off final victory at Wembley in which he scored a fantastic half-volley on the turn.

As good as that goal was, though, it wasn't even his best of the season. United have signed a serious talent, and while they possess an undoubtedly excellent midfield, a good pre-season for the 18-year-old could see him convince Sir Alex Ferguson that he is ready to challenge for a starting role.

The competition at Old Trafford, as ever, will be fierce. But if Powell is given the chance, he has the talent to justify his multi-million pound transfer fee.


The midfielder joined the club last summer in a move worth a shade under £4 million, and made some good strides in the early part of the season, claiming a first-team place.

The 20-year-old lost his place as Andre Villas-Boas' short lived empire began to crumble, and was barely even considered under Roberto Di Matteo as he sought solidity from his midfield with Frank Lampard partnering John Obi-Mikel in a deep-lying role.

As Di Matteo's first full season approaches, Romeu will get the chance in pre-season to display some of the attributes that were earning him rave reviews. His passing, both over short and long distance, is exceptional. But with rumours rife that he could be set for a return to Barcelona, or move elsewhere for first team football, Chelsea's tour of America could prove pivotal for the youngster.

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