"Like a new signing" is one of the hoariest of sports cliches. But as we go into the new Premier League season, there may be value in the players returning from long-term injury or loan.
Arsenal - Joel Campbell did well enough with Olympiakos, and with Costa Rica in the World Cup, to spark some level of excitement among Arsenal fans. But it is Theo Walcott, out since the New Year, and just now back in training, who will bring the pace and finishing that Arsenal lacked at times last season.
Aston Villa - It seems like the large majority of the Villa squad were absent through injury last season. Charles Nzogbia, Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak… even Gabriel Agbonlahor missed time. But center back Jores Okore will be a welcome "addition" to the squad. Indeed, he’s quoted on Aston Villa’s website as saying that, "I am enjoying every second of it. I feel like a new signing actually." How cliche!
Chelsea - Romelu Lukaku is likely to head out on loan yet again, but Thibault Courtois may finally be returning to his parent club after years in the "wilderness" at Atleico Madrid. Mario Marco van Ginkel, may move from Frank Lampard’s understudy to Cesc Fabregas’ understudy, but his return from season-ending injury will be welcome, even in Chelsea’s crowded midfield.
Crystal Palace - Glenn Murray led Palace to the Premier League by scoring 30 goals in the Championship, but serious injury means he only played 14 matches for the Eagles last season, starting only three. This season, he’ll have the chance to help Palace kick on from their surprising survival under Tony Pulis.
Everton - Everton will welcome back Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone, and Darron Gibson from long-term injury. None may be starters, but they’ll offer the depth that Everton lacked at times last season.
Hull City - Robbie Brady wins the Mario Stanic "Due to Return This Week" Award for never overcoming groin and hernia injuries, despite being tipped for a return week after week.
Liverpool - Luis Jose Enrique returns to challenge for Liverpool’s poisoned chalice position of left-back, while Fabio Borini proved, on loan at Sunderland, that he can contribute in the Premier League.
Manchester City - City’s strike-force almost failed the club down the stretch, with Edin Dzeko being the only consistent goal-scorer. Wile Sergio Aguero’s World Cup was blighted by the same injury troubles, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic should be fit, and ready to share the striking burden with the Bosnian ace.
Manchester United - With Michael Carrick out for several months, and their midfield cabinet not very full to begin with, Darren Fletcher’s return from ulcerative colitis could be even more important for the Red Devils.
Newcastle United - Papiss Cisse is still a ways away from returning, but Newcastle are purchasing attacking options. Ryan Taylor has suffered an interminable string of knee injuries, but if he can return, he can provide depth - and the occasional stunning free-kick - to the team. At the least, his return will be a feel-good story for the Magpie faithful.
Queens Park Rangers - Loic Remy and Adel Taarabt have Premier League pedigree, but sadly for the entertainment value of the league, and fantasy managers, neither seems likely to be with Rangers when the season starts.
Southampton - Jay Rodriguez was a revaluation last season, and his late-season injury was a blow for club and country. With Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana leaving, the Saints will need his goals as soon as possible. They may even need to make peace with want-away striker, Dani Osvaldo, who spent the last half of last season with Juventus. However, it seems unlikely that the striker and the club will ever make peace.
Stoke City - Robert Huth is back to marshall Stoke’s notorious tough defense. He’ll be a major upgrade from Marc Wilson.
Sunderland - Steven Fletcher could return to a team that needs goals, especially if last-season’s hero, Connor Wickham, forces a transfer out of the club. Emanuele Giaccherini could also contribute, with Fabio Borini returning to Liverpool.
Swansea City - Ki Sung-yueng is another player who earned plaudits on loan at Sunderland last season. He returns to Swansea, and could become a vital midfield cog if the Swans can’t get Jonathan de Guzman back from Villareal for a third season.
Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs will be hoping that any of their signings from last season (Christian Eriksen excluded) make a positive impact in their sophomore campaigns. The highest expectations are on Erik Lamela, he of the record transfer fee. Sandro and Andros Townsend return from injury, while Lewis Holtby proved his worth on loan with Fulham.
West Bromwich Albion - George Thorne… oops. He just signed for Derby County permanently.
West Ham United - Winston Reid missed too much of the season with an ankle injury. At the other end of the pitch, Andy Carroll was just starting to find his feet (literally?) after a 2013/2014 season that didn’t start until 2014 due to injury.