While Premier League clubs are shaping up their transfer plans for the summer, they will also be considering whether players on their long-term injury list can return to make an impact next season.
Fans never enjoying hearing the cliche that the return of an injured player is “like a new signing”, but in some cases it can at least negate the need to dip into the transfer market.
We’ve taken a look at six players who missed large chunks of the 2018-19 season but could be crucial for their club come the start of 2019-20.
“At times it’s been a little bit frustrating because you feel you are back and to then keep up with these boys after the long season they’ve had and the intensity they train at, it’s not so easy,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Liverpool’s official website about his chances of appearing in the Champions League final against Tottenham.
“It’s been another little journey for me the last part, but it’s been really exciting to be in and around the team and in contention to maybe have some part in the final. After ‘crutching’ my way around the pitch last year, it’s nice to be in this situation!”
The England international may still have a part to play in Liverpool’s current season, having made his return from a serious knee injury with two cameos as a substitute towards the end of the Premier League campaign, but his real challenge is to rediscover the form which saw him cement a place in Jurgen Klopp’s side midway through his debut campaign at Anfield.
While Bellerin has kept yer da wound up this season by appearing at the Emirates in brilliantly eye-catching outfits, Arsenal have had to make do with makeshift right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles and old right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner since the Spaniard ruptured his anterior crucial ligament in January.
Maitland-Niles, primarily viewed as a midfielder, may not be a natural fit at right-back, but the 21-year-old has shown plenty of potential in his first-team outings under Unai Emery and may provide healthy competition which inspires Bellerin to return fit and firing.
“When Hector comes back maybe it’ll be a good challenge for me and him,” Maitland-Niles told football.london in March.
“It all depends on how he comes back. Hector is a fantastic player and I wouldn’t want to force anybody out of the team, it’s more about healthy competition with him.”
Another Arsenal defender whose presence has been missed, Holding appeared to be coming of age in central defence at the start of the season, only to be ruled out for nine months due to a serious knee injury suffered in December.
Given the problems Arsenal have faced in that position, if Holding can find the type of form which he showed before his injury, there is a chance for the 23-year-old to cement himself in Emery’s XI.
Yarmolenko was one of a number of exciting signings West Ham made ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, joining in a £17.5million deal from Borussia Dortmund, and fired the Hammers to their first league win of the season at Everton before impressing in the victory over Manchester United.
But the 29-year-old’s season was over by October due to a ruptured Achilles, and he will no doubt be itching to return to action next season.
“The atmosphere at London Stadium has been really good,” he told the Hammers’ official website. “When I come to the matches you can really feel the noise from the fans getting behind the team. I can’t wait to be back and to feel this again.”
"He looks like old man but he knows how to joke every day." Andriy Yarmolenko on Mark Noble is one of the most glowing character references I've ever heard.
— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) September 23, 2018
Cook is highly regarded within the England set-up, having led the Three Lions’ Under-20s side to World Cup glory and then claimed his first senior cap in 2018.
The Bournemouth midfielder was expected to push on in 2018-19 amid reported interest from Liverpool and Tottenham, but a knee injury ended his campaign in December.
His return would allow Eddie Howe to add a touch of class next to Jefferson Lerma’s destructive capabilities in the middle of the park.
Francis was sidelined with a similar injury to team-mate Cook more or less at the same time in what was a big blow for Bournemouth.
The defender is one of the stalwarts who has stayed with the Cherries throughout their ascent from the lower divisions, and his experience could help steady Howe’s porous defence next season.