Phil Foden, Reece James and Bukayo Saka among those leading Young Player of the Year chase

There's a particularly strong batch of youngsters in the Premier League this season, which makes the battle for the PFA Young Player of the Year a tough one to call.

While Mohammed Salah is an overwhelming favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year this season, there is a little more depth and intrigue to the Young Player of the Year.

Phil Foden will be fancying his chances of winning a second successive award, but there are a number of other names from around the Premier League who would make worthy winners.

We take a look at the players who look set to contest the PFA Young Player of the Year voting.

Phil Foden (Manchester City)

Phil Foden won this last year and is favourite to become the first player since Dele Alli to claim consecutive Young Player of the Year awards.

If you are talking about Premier League numbers alone (six goals, three assists), Foden is lagging behind his product from last season, but you'd fancy him to bridge that gap between now and May.

However, there is no question that he has grown as a player in the last 12 months and now has a bigger influence on a quite brilliant Man City team than he did in 2020/21.

Those are ridiculously high standards to top, so the fact he has makes him a justifiable frontrunner to win the award.

Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace)

Conor Gallagher, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Premier League, fantasy football

If you had to pick one player who has made the biggest obvious improvement since this time last season, you would have to pinpoint Conor Gallagher.

The midfielder got his first taste of Premier League football last season with West Brom and he looked a handy player.

This season, though, he has looked like an absolute world-beater while on loan at Crystal Palace. Of course, he is playing in a better team, but he has also improved them.

Gallagher has caught the eye with his goalscoring more than anything, with his seven goals eclipsing the two he scored in the whole of 2020/21. He has also contributed three assists - again an improvement on his previous campaign.

He has been so good it would be a genuine surprise not to see him in Chelsea's midfield next season.

Reece James (Chelsea)

Chelsea's Reece James (right) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game with team-mate Mason Mount during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London.

If Reece James had not done his hamstring at the start of the year, there is every chance he would already have had this award sewn up.

James was electric for Chelsea in the early part of the season and appeared to have found another level to his game since returning from Euro 2020.

Injury has restricted James to just 14 Premier League starts this season, but he certainly made them count with five assists and four goals - pretty sensational stats for a defender.

James has been impressive defensively too, contributing to five clean sheets and boasting a colossal 84% tackle success

Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)

Emile Smith Rowe, Arsenal, England

There was some talk of Emile Smith Rowe leaving Arsenal last summer after growing frustrated with limited opportunities, but what a mistake that would have been.

Instead of cashing in, the Gunners put their faith in Smith Rowe, handing him the number 10 shirt and making him the fulcrum of their attack.

He has repaid them with a hugely impressive season, scoring eight goals in just 14 starts and six substitute appearances.

He also has six assists and on top of that he made a goalscoring full debut for England - all achieved without picking up a single yellow card.

There would be few complaints if he were to win the award.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka during The Mind Series match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday August 8, 2021.

Bukayo Saka was one of the brightest stars of the summer for England at Euro 2020 and he has continued in that vein for Arsenal this season.

He has probably done it a little more quietly, although that is likely down to increased expectations on him than anything else.

Indeed, he has more goals (6) and assists (4) this season than he registered in 2020/21 and has done it in 10 fewer appearances, so there can be little doubt he has progressed his game.

Whether that's enough to win the Young Player of the Year award is another matter, though. After all, he probably won't even win Arsenal's Young Player of the Year.

That shouldn't detract from a fine season, though.

Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa)

Jacob Ramsey celebrates scoring for Aston Villa vs Norwich

Jacob Ramsey has been around the Aston Villa first team for a couple of years now, but he has made the step-up this season to become a key player in their midfield.

More than half of his Premier League career starts came in the first half of this season alone, and he is currently topping the Aston Villa goalscoring charts with Ollie Watkins.

Despite that, he remains unpolished, particularly when compared to the bigger names in contention for this award.

Still, continue his progression and you could easily see him being a front-runner this time next season.

Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)

Callum Hudson Odoi Chelsea Jan22

It feels like we have been waiting for Callum Hudson-Odoi to make his breakthrough for a while now, yet he always seems to be on the periphery at Chelsea.

He has been a little more involved for Chelsea this season, making more starts (10) in the Premier League than any of his previous campaigns.

In terms of product, that has translated to two assists and one goal, which is a little underwhelming given the players around him.

Hudson-Odoi is by no means a frontrunner for Young Player of the Year, and nor should he be, but at the same time he is regularly involved for one of the best teams in the country, so he deserves to be in the discussion.

Valentino Livramento (Southampton)

Tino Livramento, Southampton, England

Few people had heard of Valentino Livramento when Southampton paid Chelsea £5million for the youngster last summer.

The 19-year-old full-back was Chelsea's academy player of the year in 2020/21, which is no mean feat given the quality they possess in their ranks.

However, seeing his path to the first team blocked at Stamford Bridge and not wanting to spend the next five years moving around Europe on loan, he opted to find a new permanent home.

It has been a good decision too, with him making 18 starts in the Premier League for Southampton before a knee injury halted his momentum.

Livramento has contributed to four clean sheets and one goal this season.

Jadon Sancho (Manchester United)

Jadon Sancho of Manchester United

Asked to pick the Young Player of the Year ahead of the season, the majority would have plumped for Sancho

However, there is no getting away from the fact that he has disappointed for Manchester United.

There are plenty of reasons behind that. You could point at Man Utd's poor form, a mid-season change of manager, and the sheer weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Thirteen starts and two goals from an attacking player who cost £73million and plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world is just not good enough, is it?

He's shown signs of improvement recently, but there are no awards for that.

READ MORE: Where will Erling Haaland end up in the summer - and what do the leading contenders have to say?

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