Your Premier League club's saviour: Who is going to return and save the season?

Daniel Zeqiri
Which player will return to form and fitness and solve your club's problems? - getty images/reuters

Nothing enhances a player's reputation like being absent as his team struggle. While those on the pitch are guilty by association, players waiting in the wings become potential saviours - their positive attributes embellished and their flaws forgotten. We might call this dynamic the 'Abou Diaby Phenomenon', a player who will be eternally judged by what he might have become rather than what he was.

So who are the players ready to return and save your team's season?

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Arsenal 

Jack Wilshere 

A fully fit Santi Cazorla is the player Arsenal really need, but that looks a distant prospect given he now has part of his arm grafted to his ankle. Jack Wilshere has made five starts in the Europa League and Carabao Cup, but has played little more than 20 minutes in the Premier League. 'Super, super Jack' is sung by travelling Arsenal fans from the early stages of away matches, and he is a player who embodies the idealised absentee. When fans close their eyes and think of Wilshere the player, they see what he used to be rather than the player he now is.

Arsenal floundered against Manchester City's aggressive pressing, when they really could have used a player with Wilshere's ability to keep the ball in tight spaces and wriggle away from opposition pressure.

Wilshere's gametime has been severely limited this seasonCredit: Getty images

Bournemouth 

Callum Wilson

On the verge of an England call-up and subject to several, slightly lazy, Jermain Defoe comparisons, Wilson's career was shattered by a cruciate knee ligament injury in September 2015. The Bournemouth forward worked his way back from that serious injury, only to sustain ligament damage in his other knee this January. 

Eddie Howe is easing him back to action, with one Premier League start and one substitute appearance in October. Bournemouth's style of play means they will never be the league's tightest defence, so they need to outscore teams and Wilson can help them do that. He was a sharp, penalty-box striker before the injuries, adept at turning on a sixpence and getting shots off unexpectedly (hence the Defoe comparisons). Football fans of all stripes would love to see him back to that level. 

Wilson's goals could help Bournemouth secure safetyCredit: PA

Brighton and Hove Albion 

Sam Baldock 

Brighton have kept most of their key men fit, but Sam Baldock is one player who was a reliable squad member in the Championship and has yet to play in the top flight due to a calf strain. Missing a large chunk of pre-season invariably leads to a truncated campaign, but Brighton will hope Baldock can return to add welcome depth over the Christmas period. He signed a new three-year contract at the end of last season, so Chris Hughton clearly believes in him. 

Burnley 

Tom Heaton 

High-flying Burnley do not need saving after a fine start to the season, but although Nick Pope has deputised brilliantly they will be even stronger for having their No.1 back. With Joe Hart's stock falling and the rough edges in Jordan Pickford's game becoming more apparent at Goodison Park, Heaton could rival Jack Butland at England level.

There is always a question mark over goalkeepers at clubs such as Burnley, who play behind a packed defence and are heavily involved. How he copes behind a higher defensive line while having fewer saves to make will decide if he gets a big move. 

Chelsea 

N'Golo Kante

The ball-winning midfielder returned for Chelsea's victory over Manchester United and made an immediate difference. The champions will be stronger after the international break with Kante in their midfield, and his importance has only increased since the sale of Nemanja Matic. A central midfield of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas is exciting with the ball, but provides too little protection for Chelsea's back three without it. 

Kante returned to action last weekCredit: Getty images

That said, Kante's reputation has become slightly inflated. He is a very effective specialist, who brings vital balance, but has found himself exposed by high quality opponents such as Christian Eriksen and Mesut Ozil in big matches. 

Crystal Palace

Christian Benteke

He might not be the striker Palace fans want, but might be the one they need. Wilfried Zaha has looked impressive playing through the middle, but one injury and Roy Hodgson would be looking at Andros Townsend up front. Hodgson has favoured 4-4-2 in his previous club jobs, and Benteke and Zaha could prove a complementary partnership. 

The temptation with a striker like Benteke is to play too long, too early. The Belgian is static - the issue that has stopped him succeeding at 'Big Six' level - and is not going to create his own chances. He needs to ball brought to him, and Zaha can certainly do that. The former Aston Villa man also has a habit of scoring goals in spring, which could prove the difference in a relegation battle. Like a modern-day John Stead, if you will. 

Everton 

Ross Barkley

Ostracised by Ronald Koeman and a transfer target for both Chelsea and Spurs, it could be too late for Barkley to revive his Everton career. But it need not be. If the new manager takes a shine to him, Barkley's return could be like a new signing for Everton. 

Not another Everton No.10, I hear you say. But Barkley possesses qualities not shared by Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klassen. He is more of a ball-carrier, capable of stepping past his man and disrupting the opponent's defensive shape. Too often, his decision-making has disappointed and he has a bad habit of taking too many touches rather than letting the ball do the work.

But he does bring a touch of 'fear factor' to Everton, who have looked slow and pedestrian this season. That only liberates teams to attack their fragile defence with abandon, because there now there is nothing to be scared of in the other direction. For all Barkley's faults, teams will worry about him because he is capable of driving straight through the heart of a team.

Huddersfield Town

Philip Billing

Not due back until the New Year, but Billing is a player with huge potential. A rangy central midfielder who impressed a wider audience in Huddersfield's FA Cup replay at Manchester City last season, the left-footed Billing would bring balance to David Wagner's team. Still only 21, he might not start every Premier League game but could prove a joker in the pack come the second half of the season - important because teams will start to work then out.

Philip Billing got injured against Swansea in mid-OctoberCredit: getty images

Leicester City

Vicente Iborra

Craig Shakespeare never had the chance to work with Leicester's big summer purchase from Sevilla as Iborra missed the first few months of the season through injury. He has worked his way back up to fitness though, scoring in a 2-2 draw at Stoke last time out. Claude Puel will need him to stay fit, and to form a true partnership with Wilfred Ndidi. Leicester are looking to rebuild their midfield following the departure of Kante and Danny Drinkwater over the past 18 months. 

Liverpool 

Adam Lallana 

The former Southampton midfielder was an acquired taste for a while, with critics accusing him of looking neat and silky without any threat to the opposition. That was dispelled last season when Lallana became one of the first names on the team sheet for club and country. His tireless energy fits Jurgen Klopp's co-ordinated press perfectly, but he also brings Liverpool welcome guile and creativity. 

At times, Liverpool can rely too much on speed of foot, and when teams sit deep and deny them space to gallop into they struggle. Jordan Henderson offers little cutting edge from deep, but Lallana is the ideal link between him and Liverpool's biggest strength - their front three. Even Philippe Coutinho can be a little bombastic and individualistic to fulfill this role, but Lallana is a real team player.

Manchester City 

Vincent Kompany 

Unlike Bonnie Tyler, City are not holding out for a hero as they sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola would welcome having the experience of Vincent Kompany available again. Despite his propensity to dive into challenges and wander out of position, City's captain does bring added assurance to their other defenders (though John Stones has been excellent of late).

The team is evolving away from Kompany, for too long they have relied on him to be a sticking plaster, but as they try to close out the title in the second half of the season they might need him.

Manchester United 

Paul Pogba

The most egregious case of a player's reputation sky-rocketing from the treatment table. Pogba is undoubtedly Man Utd's best central midfielder, but you do wonder if some fans are expecting a super hero to return to and turn Jose Mourinho's team into cavalier title challengers. No matter how much money you spend or how much squad depth a manager has, every elite team have three of four players who cannot be replaced  - and Pogba is one of United's. 

United are desperate to get Pogba backCredit: Getty images

Whether their football should have deteriorated quite as dramatically however, is debatable. Pogba's return will get United moving through the thirds more smoothly and provide better service into Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. 

Newcastle United 

Aleksandar Mitrovic 

There are good reasons not to play Aleksandar Mitrovic, not least his tendency to pick up at least three red cards a season. But Newcastle have looked toothless in front of goal of late, and there is no doubt Mitrovic is what is technically known as a 'handful'. Joselu has not been the upgrade Rafael Benitez was hoping for, while Dwight Gayle looks to be another David Nugent or Rob Hulse. Mitrovic provides more aerial threat, and with the right service from wide areas could be dangerous. 

Southampton

Mario Lemina

The former Juventus midfielder has only been out injured for a few weeks, but that is enough to remind Southampton fans of his quality. A couple of the big clubs might regret not taking a chance on this genuine all-rounder, who was controlling games for Mauricio Pellegrino in the early weeks of the season - and went toe-to-toe with Nemanja Matic and Pogba at St Mary's. He might not solve their goalscoring problems, but Southampton need Lemina back.

Stoke City

Bruno Martins Indi

Missed most of September and October with groin and pelvis injuries, and versatile defender Martins Indi would give Stoke's backline a better balance. Mark Hughes has favoured a back three this season, which suits the Dutch defender who is comfortable in one-against-one scenarios and can play as either of the outside centre backs. Mame Biram Diouf still looks a liability at right-wing back, and Martins Indi's presence might allow a more senior defender to slot into the role Diouf currently occupies. 

Swansea

Renato Sanches

One of the most exciting acquisitions of the transfer window, Renato Sanches has not quite scaled the heights of Euro 2016 during his time at Swansea. He arrived lacking first-team minutes, looked extremely rusty and has since picked up a thigh problem. However, if Paul Clement can harness his abundant talent then he could prove the difference between Premier League survival and relegation. 

The signing of Renato Sanches was billed has a huge coup for SwanseaCredit: Getty images

Under Clement, Swansea are a team comfortable without possession. They have conceded only three away goals this season, and picked up away draws against Man Utd, Spurs and a victory at Anfield during his tenure. They tend to fall short in games when they are asked to take the initiative - losing at home to Watford, Leicester and Brighton already this season. Sanches is the type of player who can take the ball and drive them forward at the Liberty Stadium 

Tottenham Hotspur

Mousa Dembele 

Everything is going swimmingly for Mauricio Pochettino, but if he could choose an early Christmas present it might be a fully-fit Mousa Dembele. Eric Dier has covered well for Victor Wanyama, Harry Winks has kept things ticking while even Moussa Sissoko has been halfway component. But Dembele in full flow is a cut above the rest. 

Pochettino once remarked that Spurs 'don't exist' without him, and it is to the Tottenham manager's immense credit that he has found solutions that negate his absence. But it is no coincidence that Dele Alli has struggled for form (until his two goals against Real Madrid) while Dembele has sat on the bench. Alli does all of his best work without the ball, arriving into the picture late-on in moves and adding the final shot, pass or deft flick. 

This means he has to be surrounded by teammates who can get the ball to him - which is why England are unlikely to see the best of him. Christian Eriksen's clipped crosses and incisive passing are one route, but Dembele's dribbles are another and they cannot be replicated. He can also take the ball on the back foot under pressure, and the attention his runs attract leaves space for Alli. 

Watford 

Roberto Pereyra

A player who can be as much of a match-winner for Watford as Richarlison, but he keeps picking up injuries. The former Juventus midfielder adds quality to Marco Silva's side - though he would do little to make sure they stop throwing away leads. You also fancy Pereyra would have scored the penalty Tom Cleverly missed with the game on the line at Everton. 

Pereyra scored at Chelsea recentlyCredit: Getty images

West Brom

James Morison

Will he save West Brom's season? No. But Morison is a reliable player they have had to do without, and one of their only midfielders capable of scoring the odd goal (if Tony Pulis doesn't tether him 10 yards in front of the centre backs). Has a good shot on him from outside of the box, and times his runs into the penalty area well. 

West Ham

James Collins 

No team has conceded more goals than David Moyes's new charges, and despite their apparent lack of pace the steadying presence of James Collins could prove beneficial. The 'Ginger Pele' - as West Ham fans affectionately refer to him - would allow Winston Reid to move to the right side a back three and stop Cheikhou Kouyate playing in that role. Nothing special or transformative, but you can be sure David Moyes will use him. Unless he signs Phil Jagielka and Paddy McNair. 

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