8 Young Players to Follow During the 2021-22 A-League Season

By Ben Morris in Sports
| September 16, 2021 5:08 am PDT

With the new Australian soccer season set to kick off on October 30, it’s time to check out the best young A-League players to watch in 2021-22.

We saw tons of exciting young players in the A-League last term, with guys like Angus Thurgate, Tate Russell, and Kusini Yengi making their mark. But as the new campaign approaches, it’s time for a fresh batch of rising stars to shine.

For the purpose of this post, I have chosen to only feature players aged 21 or under. I have also included a couple of highly-rated teenagers, underlining the quality of the league’s up-and-coming whizz-kids.

Join me as I discuss eight young A-League players to watch in the 2021-22 season.

Conor Metcalfe – Melbourne City

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Defensive Midfield

At just 21, Conor Metcalfe has already established himself as one of the best young players in the A-League.

The gifted defensive midfielder played a key role in Melbourne City’s memorable double last season, bagging five goals and three assists as Patrick Kisnorbo’s side clinched both the Premiership and Championship.

Having starred throughout the previous campaign, it is hardly surprising that Metcalfe was also named in the 2020-21 A-League Team of the Season for his troubles.

The Newcastle native clocked up a whopping 2,088 A-League minutes last term; only goalkeeper Tom Glover saw more game-time for City. I wouldn’t be surprised if Metcalfe improved on that record in 2021-22.

Dylan Pierias – Western United

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Right-Back

It is no secret that Western United endured a campaign to forget last season. The second-year side dropped from fifth in their debut season to tenth last term, finishing 2020-21 with the second-worst defensive record in the league.

That said, Dylan Pierias remained a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy campaign for the Green & Black.

Only four Western United players amassed more A-League minutes than Pierias last season – and the marauding right-back featured in every single game.

On top of that, he contributed six goals and an assist. Just two players – Besart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti – notched more goal involvement last term. Let’s not forget that Pierias is technically a defender!

Expect to see Pierias bombing up and down the right flank again throughout the upcoming campaign.

Ben Waine – Wellington Phoenix

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Striker

The fact that Ben is attracting the attention of clubs in England is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that he was merely a teenager a few months ago.

When you look at his career trajectory, though, it is easy to see why he is among the most highly-rated young A-League players in 2021-22.

BEN WAINE’S A-LEAGUE RECORD
Season Games Goals
2020-21 22 7
2019-20 15 1
2018-19 3

The Wellington Phoenix striker made his senior debut back in 2018-19 before becoming a first-team regular the following season. Last term, however, he truly made his mark on Australia soccer – netting seven goals in 22 A-League outings.

After featuring in all but four of the Wellington’s 26 matches during the previous campaign, Waine is definitely one to watch this year.

Louis D’Arrigo – Adelaide United

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Defensive Midfield

Very few young A-League players can say they have featured in 50 first-team games for their club. But at just 19, Louis D’Arrigo has already chalked up a half-century of appearances for Adelaide United.

The talented teenager even has an FFA Cup medal in his silverware cabinet, having helped the Reds lift the trophy in 2019.

Best known for his relentless work-rate and tough tackling, D’Arrigo invariably covers every blade of grass on the pitch. Not only does he protect Adelaide’s backline, but he also instigates attacks.

D’Arrigo finished the previous campaign in the top ten for both tackles won and interceptions, underlining his importance to his team.

As a result, he found himself brushing shoulders with 2020-21 A-League stat leaders.

Player Stats From the 2020/21 A-League Season

After clinching their first-ever Premier’s Plate, Melbourne City went on to win the 2020/21 A-League Grand Final – dispatching Sydney FC 3-1 in the showpiece. It was a memorable season for Patrick Kisnorbo and his players. Jamie Maclaren broke all...

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Patrick Wood – Sydney FC

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Striker

With guys likes Bobô, Adam Le Fondre, and Kosta Barbarouses at the club, Patrick Wood has found playing time hard to come by at Sydney FC. After all, Bobô is one of the best overseas players in A-League history, while Le Fondre and Barbarouses are both top forwards.

Even so, the 18-year-old striker has taken every opportunity that has come his way so far. He made four starts and 15 substitute appearances last season – his maiden A-League campaign – notching four goals and an assist.

Wood possesses all the right attributes to become a top-class goalscorer, boasting pace, clever movement, and pin-point finishing.

Despite being one of the top young players in the A-League, Wood will have to bide his time at Sydney FC. But if he continues to make the most of his opportunities, it will only be a matter of time before he nails down a spot in Steve Corica’s starting XI.

Marco Tilio – Melbourne City

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Right Winger

Marco Tilio is another hero from Melbourne City’s double-winning campaign. It’s only right that I include him alongside Metcalfe as one of my young A-League players to watch in 2021-22.

The speedy winger started last term in and out of the team, featuring in six of City’s opening 13 games. However, he appeared in the club’s final 13 regular-season matches and went on to shine in the Finals Series – bagging a goal and an assist against Mcarthur in the semi-finals.

Tilio finished the previous campaign with two goals and five assists to his name, emphasizing his undeniable talent.

I’m excited to see the youngster grow under the guidance of Kisnorbo. The City manager has clearly had a big impact on the up-and-coming players at the club, so Tilio is bound to get even better in the coming years.

James Delianov – Adelaide United

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Goalkeeper

It’s fair to say that the A-League isn’t exactly blessed with a lot of promising young goalkeepers at the moment. Many of the top shot-stoppers in the league are veterans, with guys like Andrew Redmayne, Jamie Young, and Adam Federici all over the age of 30.

James Delianov, on the other hand, bucks the trend. At just 21, the Adelaide gloveman has a big future ahead of him.

BEST SHUTOUT % – 2020-21 SEASON
Player Games Shutouts Shutout %
Andrew Redmayne 25 9 36.0
James Delianov 16 5 31.3
Mark Birighitti 26 8 30.8
Joe Gauci 10 3 30.0
Oliver Sail 20 6 30.0

As the table above details, Delianov finished the previous campaign with the second-best shutout percentage in the league. Although he only made 16 appearances, he still managed to keep five clean sheets.

If Adelaide boss Carl Veart makes Delianov his number one between the sticks, I can see the 21-year-old enjoying another hugely successful season.

Joel King – Sydney FC

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Left-Back

It is easy to forget that Joel King is still only 20. I mean, the left-back has already made well over 50 first-team appearances – winning both the Premiership and Championship with the Sky Blues along the way.

Having been named the A-League Young Footballer of the Year for 2020-21, I couldn’t possibly leave King out of my list of young A-League players to watch in 2021-22.

Since breaking into Sydney FC’s first team in 2019, King has been one of the club’s most consistent performers. In fact, he started every single one of his side’s 28 A-League games last term – helping the Sky Blues to achieve the best defensive record in the league for a second year running.

If king continues to develop at his current rate, he will surely gain admirers in Europe and beyond.

More Young A-League Players to Track in 2021-22

  • Taras Gomulka – Melbourne City (19)
  • Daniel Wilmering – Western Sydney Wanderers (20)
  • Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio – Melbourne Victory (19)
  • Kai Trewin – Brisbane Roar (20)
  • Joshua Rawlins – Perth Glory (17)
  • Mohamed Toure – Adelaide United (17)
  • Maximilien Balard – Central Coast Mariners (20)
  • Sam Silvera – Newcastle Jets (20)
  • Michael Ruhs – Macarthur FC (19)

That concludes my look at the top young players to watch during the 2021-22 A-League season. But before I sign off, I want to share some more rising stars to keep an eye on.

While the eight players above deserve a special mention, there are plenty of other young A-League players to following throughout the upcoming campaign.

I have put together a list of a few more A-League youngsters to track this year.

Make sure you keep up to date with all the latest soccer developments in our sports news section.

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