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In The Mixer: Experts pick their 2022 breakthrough stars
Gareth Freeman
Gareth Freeman
December 29, 2021
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Sports Journalist at FST, Gareth qualified as a journalist after graduating from university and spent over a decade as a freelance broadcast journalist, commentator and tipster before joining FST. Now living in Manchester, he is a long suffering Bolton Wanderers fan who also enjoys boxing, the NBA, tennis and rugby league.

In The Mixer is FST’s weekly column where we catch up with seven experts in football betting and get their opinion on the hot topic of the week.

With a World Cup to look forward to at the end of 2022, it could be a massive year for a few rising stars across Europe and beyond and we’ve asked our experts who they think could be a breakthrough star in the year ahead.

Two experts go for Arsenal youngster

Henry Hardwicke

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Gabriel Martinelli has been threatening to break through for the last couple of seasons and 2022 could be the year for the Brazilian. Martinelli was signed for just £6m from Brazilian Serie C side Ituano in 2019 and he scored ten times in his debut season in north London.

The 20-year-old enjoyed a memorable goal against Chelsea in the 2019/20 campaign, but last term was not as successful as he would have hoped. However, Arsenal were barely firing last term and Martinelli has played a big part in the Gunners’ improved form this season.

The Brazilian has four Premier League goals to his name this term and his pace, skill and all-round play has been superb. Martinelli has mainly been operating from the left-hand side of Arsenal’s attack, but with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s time at the club looking up, the 20-year-old could get more opportunities through the middle.

Whatever the position, Martinelli looks sure to play a big part in any success that comes Arsenal’s way.

Tom Hill

Sports journalist at ICS

Having watched Gabriel Martinelli in the flesh recently, it is hard to not expect big things from him next year.

The Arsenal forward is still only 20, but he has been part of the Gunners’ squad since 2019 and that slow introduction into the English game seems to have worked wonders.

He has netted nine goals in that time, but several injury problems have slowed down his progress, allowing others to leap ahead of him in the pecking order.

Martinelli has backed three in two games recently, and he seems the perfect candidate to fill the void of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Martinelli is quick, hard-working and has a natural eye for goal, and he could prove he is the real deal as Arsenal try to get themselves back into the Champions League.

A few starlets from further afield

Alex Wrigley

Sports editor and journalist at FST

RB Salzburg have an accomplished track-record of plucking youngsters from the obscure depths of European football and developing them into some of the most sought after players in the world and Karim Adeyemi is the latest in that prestigious line of talent.

A deft dribbler and possessor of a lethal left foot, comparisons with Lionel Messi are inevitable and while it’s premature to be comparing him to the greatest player of all time the 19-year-old certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

He scored on his Germany debut earlier this season and, following his hat-trick in his last outing for Salzburg earlier this month, Adeyemi now has 17 goals in 23 appearances for his club this season. He’s due a big move in the summer and is set to become Europe’s next hot property after catching the eye in the Champions League this season.

Gareth Freeman

Sports journalist at FST

Giacomo Raspadori had a big 2021 but could be in line for a huge 2022. The Sassuolo forward forced his way into the Italy squad ahead of Euro 2020 but only played in one game, a late cameo in their final group stage match against North Macedonia,

If the 21-year-old continues on his current trajectory he is likely to be a regular starter for the Azzurri by the time the World Cup rolls around at the end of the year.

Raspadori is a diminutive, two-footed, all-round forward who can operate in a variety of attacking positions, having played as a second striker, centre forward, winger and attacking midfielder for the Neroverdi. The youngster is capable of setting up his team-mates as well as scoring himself, and has the ability to drop deep too. Inter Milan continue to be linked with Raspadori, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a big move at the end of the season.

More Premier League contenders

Aaron Ashley

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey is a player of immense talent and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard looks like being the perfect man to bring out the best in him.

Ramsey has started 11 Premier League matches so far this season, which includes five of Gerrard’s six games in charge, and has already chipped in with two spectacular strikes against Arsenal and Norwich.

The 20-year-old should continue to develop with more minutes under his belt and playing alongside the likes of John McGinn and Emi Buendia can only be a positive as he attempts to go that next level.

Gerrard insists he is keen to promote academy talent with Carney Chukwuemeka, Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Tim Iroegbunam also recently involved with the first-team squad, but it is Ramsey who is the flagbearer and looks set for big 2022.

Tom McGarry

Sports journalist at ICS

Michael Olise has been carefully managed since arriving at Crystal Palace from Reading over the summer, with the winger having started just twice in the Premier League.

That could prove a masterstroke by Palace boss Patrick Vieira, as he has allowed Olise, who was a star performer in the Championship last season, time to acclimatise to life in the top flight.

We have seen snippets of what Olise can do, as he has been directly involved in three Palace goals already this season, and at just 20 there is certainly room for him to improve – who knows Palace could have another Wilfried Zaha on their hands.

Dan Childs

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Demarai Gray has been one of the few bright sparks during a tough season for Everton, but his progression is far from finished and he could be pushing for a place in England’s World Cup squad at Qatar 2022.

England are not short of attacking options but players like Gray, who have match-winning ability and the flexibility to play across the front line are always under consideration.

After years of over-spending, Everton had to be careful in the summer and their capture of Gray from Bayer Leverkusen, for a reported £1.7 million, was an inspired move..

The 25-year-old tops Everton scoring charts with five goals, including an absolute screamer which sealed a crucial 2-1 success at home to Arsenal earlier this month.

Gray was a regular with the England under-21s – scoring eight goals in 26 appearances – and his long-awaited graduation to the seniors could be just around the corner.

Liam Flin

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Jamie Vardy turns 35 in January and Leicester City could already have his replacement in their ranks in Zambian marksman Patson Daka.

Signed from Salzburg in the summer, Daka has made an immediate impression in the Foxes attack, bagging all four goals in their 4-3 win over Spartak Moscow in the Europa League back in October.

He spent four key years at Sazlburg, who are also renowned for developing Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane and Dayot Upamecano among others, and 2022 could be the year when he marks himself out as Leicester’s first-choice forward.

His pace and positioning are among his greatest strengths, much like Vardy, and he has already shown he has the physical attributes to cut it in the Premier League.

With Leicester also involved in the Europa Conference League in the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign, he should get plenty of game time to keep impressing manager Brendan Rodgers.

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