PREMIER LEAGUE 20-21: Brewster, Gordon can be breakout stars

Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood, Manchester City forward Phil Foden and Arsenal midfielder Bukayo Saka were the breakout stars in the Premier League last season.

Here’s a look at who could follow them in the 2020-21 campaign, when clubs might give young players more of a chance while budgets are tight because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic:

RHIAN BREWSTER (Liverpool striker, 20)

Brewster has long been tipped as a future England striker — he played on the country’s Under-17 World Cup-winning team in 2017 — and there’s no doubt he is a natural goalscorer. “In the decisive moments, he’s 100% there,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said after a preseason friendly in Austria when Brewster scored two goals. Klopp demands more from his lone striker, however, and Brewster’s willingness to scrap for the ball and pressurize defenders like first-choice striker Roberto Firmino could be key in whether the youngster becomes the permanent back-up this season ahead of Divock Origi. If Klopp still thinks Brewster needs to develop his all-round game, the young striker might go out on loan again but this time to a Premier League club. For the second half of last season, he played at second-tier Swansea and scored 11 goals in 22 games. He won’t be short of takers.

ANTHONY GORDON (Everton winger, 19)

Two years after making his senior debut for Everton in a Europa League match, Gordon finally got a taste of the Premier League when Carlo Ancelotti selected him against West Ham in January. The locally born winger stayed in and around the squad for the remainder of the season — starting four of nine games after the restart, including a Merseyside derby — and is now pushing to be a regular in Everton’s midfield. Gordon is a left winger equally at home in a central position behind the striker, and he provided Everton with some much-needed creativity in the few games he played last season. There are few shrewder judges than Ancelotti, who has praised Gordon’s “technical skills” and versatility. The Italian manager has noted the success he had as a player at AC Milan in the late 1980s when they relied on academy players. Gordon, it seems, will get his chance and was handed a new five-year deal just last week.

EBERECHI EZE (Crystal Palace playmaker, 22)

One of the stars of the second-tier Championship last season, Eze was always likely to be leaving Queens Park Rangers in the offseason. It was just a matter of which club from a number of mostly London-based suitors would sign the winger whose turn of pace, quick feet and ball-carrying ability helped him get 14 goals and eight assists in the 2019-20 season. Crystal Palace has taken the plunge and in some ways now has a younger version of the team’s current star, Wilfried Zaha. The question is if Eze — born in south London to parents from Nigeria — can thrive under Roy Hodgson at Palace, whose style of play can often be clunky and over-reliant on counterattacks typically led by the enigmatic Zaha.

LUKE THOMAS (Leicester left back, 19)

The sale of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea for 50 million pounds ($65 million) gives Thomas a chance to make the left-back position his own at Leicester — and he has already shown he is good enough to take it, even at the age of 19. Handed his debut near the end of last season while Chilwell was injured, Thomas showed maturity beyond his years as well as an attacking threat to mirror the man he is replacing. Like Chilwell, Thomas has graduated through the youth ranks at Leicester — where he was born and raised — and will already be on the radar of England coach Gareth Southgate. It’s quite the rise for a player who didn’t have a Wikipedia page when he made his debut against Sheffield United in July. “He has a wonderful view of the game — he understands football,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said.

ANTONEE ROBINSON (Fulham left back, 23)

The English-born U.S. international could easily have been playing at AC Milan this season, only for a deal to collapse when his medical examination at the Italian team detected an irregular heart rhythm — an issue later addressed with an ablation. Instead, half a year later, the 23-year-old finds himself back in the Premier League with promoted Fulham, this time with an aim of being a first-team starter. He came through the academy at Everton but, despite being highly rated and a regular in the youth teams, never played for the senior team in the top division and eventually moved to second-tier Wigan last year. He is an attack-minded left back who firstly needs to displace Joe Bryan — Fulham’s two-goal star in the Championship playoff final — in the starting lineup.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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