Man Utd target one of 10 potential international debutants to watch this week
Posted on March 25, 2022
The first international break of the year is upon us and it officially kickstarts the countdown to the 2022 World Cup in December. International managers will get even less time to fine-tune their preparations this time around with the World Cup moved to mid-season so these international breaks are vital.
Ahead of the March fixtures we have scoured the elite international football nations and picked out 10 potential debutants to keep on eye on over the next week or so.
William Saliba (Marseille, France)
After a pretty miserable start to life at Arsenal, William Saliba has rebuilt his career back in France on loan at Marseille. The 21-year-old has started 28 of Marseille's 29 league matches this season and is their second top rated player behind Dimitri Payet. Saliba has shown he can certainly time a tackle, having succeeded with 45 of the 56 he has attempted in Ligue 1 this season.
Aaron Hickey (Bologna, Scotland)
Aaron Hickey made the unusual decision to leave Scottish side Heart of Midlothian for Italian outfit Bologna at the age of 18 back in 2020 but it has paid dividends for his career. There was even talk of a January move to the Premier League, such his impressive displays in Italy this season. Hickey, who is a left-back or wing-back, has impressively scored twice as many goals as any other teenager (4) in Serie A this season. With Andy Robertson and Kierney to call on, Scotland's left side just keeps getting stronger.
David Raya (Brentford, Spain)
The big news out of Spain is Luis Enrique's decision to drop Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. Despite showing his best form in a number of years, De Gea has been axed and now faces a fight to get back in for the 2022 World Cup. While a tremendous shot-stopper, De Gea is not comfortable playing out from the back and that is ultimately why Enrique has called up Brentford's David Raya. The 26-year-old has enjoyed a solid maiden Premier League campaign. Brentford concede just over a goal-per-game with Raya between the sticks (1.13 from 16 apps) compared to more than 2-a-game without him (2.07 in 14 apps).
Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton, England)
Drafted in as an injury replacement for both Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker-Peters could find himself making a full England debut right away on Saturday. Southampton's style of play places a lot of impetus on their full-backs and Walker-Peters has benefitted from that. Walker-Peters has the best dribble success rate (70.1%) of any defender in the Premier League this season (25+ attempted).
Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal, Brazil)
Gabriel Martinelli has been one of the main beneficiaries of Mikel Arteta's decision to offload Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and push Nicolas Pepe to the fringes. Martinelli has drawn plenty of praise in recent months, helping Arsenal move into pole position for fourth place. The 20-year-old has played a direct hand in eight goals in 19 league appearances for the Gunners this season.
Nico Schlotterbeck (Freiburg, Germany)
Surely the next young German defender to make a high profile move, Nico Schlotterbeck has enjoyed a stunning season for one of this season's surprise packages in the Bundesliga. Freiburg have the second best defensive record in the Bundesliga this season, with just one more goal conceded than runaway leaders Bayern Munich and Schlotterbeck has played an integral role in that. The 22-year-old is happy to throw his body on the line, having blocked the most shots in division (28). Moreover, he is a threat from set-pieces with four league goals this term.
Anthony Elanga (Manchester United, Sweden)
Anthony Elanga's emergence at Manchester United under Ralf Rangnick has culminated in a senior call-up for the Sweden national team this month. Elanga has been a breathe of fresh air at United in a time when not a long has gone well for the Red Devils. The 19-year-old has scored twice in the Premier League and gave Rangnick's side some belief in their Champions League knock-out tie with Atletico Madrid with a well-taken goal in Spain.
Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio, Italy)
Mattia Zaccagni has left frustrations get the better of him more than not of late, with four bookings in his last five, but the 26-year-old is still having a very good season for Lazio. Signed from Verona in the summer, Zaccagni has played a direct hand in nine goals in 21 league appearances despite only starting 13 times in that run.
Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig, France)
Christopher Nkunku is surely destined for big things after an outstanding campaign for RB Leipzig. The former Paris Saint-Germain academy graduate has remarkably scored 15 goals and provided nine assists across 27 league appearances for the Bundesliga outfit this season. Moreover, he also scored seven times in six Champions League group games before RB Leipzig were eliminated. France have now added another exciting attacker to their ranks.
Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace, England)
Crystal Palace have three players in the England squad after Tyrick Mitchell was promoted from the U21s earlier this week but Marc Guehi is arguably the most interesting of the three. Gareth Southgate selected Guehi over his former Chelsea team-mate Fikayo Tomori despite his success in Italy with AC Milan. Guehi enters the break full of confidence after scoring in the FA Cup last weekend. The 21-year-old has impressively completed 31 of his 36 attempted tackles in the Premier League this season, with only one attacker successfully dribbling past him.
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