It’s the Premier League, but not as we know it.
After 99 days, football in the UK will finally resume on June 17. But there will be a very different look and feel to proceedings.
The pause has provided clubs with the chance to hit reset. Managers have been able to drill their players – initially in small groups and without contact – and the break could help those who had been struggling.
But that’s not the only benefit. Some teams will have welcomed back players who were injured, or been able to integrate new signings and returning loanees.
So, ahead of June 17, we’ve looked at nine players who could change their club’s fortunes in the remaining games.
The Tottenham Hotspur captain has not kicked a ball in anger since January after suffering his now customary ankle injury.
Bafflingly, there are those who feel the North Londoners are better without their totemic captain. The suggestion is they’re over-reliant on Kane and the likes of Son Heung-min flourish in his absence.
Yet with nine Premier League games to close the four-point gap to fifth, you can bet José Mourinho will be relieved to have his most reliable goalscorer fit and raring to go.
The enigmatic Frenchman has had a 2019/20 to forget. Limited to just eight appearances in all competitions – the last of which came on Boxing Day – Pogba has been a peripheral figure.
Now fully recovered from the ankle problem which plagued the first half of his season, the FIFA World Cup winner has plenty to prove. This could be his final few months as a Manchester United player – if the papers are right.
Real Madrid and Juventus are his biggest admirers with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona also linked. It’s hard to envisage any of those clubs spending the money required to spring Pogba from United’s clutches based on recent form.
But we’ve seen Pogba at his best. In the games which followed Mourinho’s sacking in 2018 he was electrifying, running games and racking up goals and assists. A repeat would benefit all parties.
Plenty was expected when Arsenal paid Celtic £25million for their highly-rated left-back last summer. Tierney had a big reputation north of the border and it was expected his qualities would translate to the Premier League.
He arrived following a double hernia operation, meaning the Scottish international didn’t make his Premier League debut until late October. A shoulder injury suffered against West Ham United on December 9 forced him back into the treatment room.
In his absence, converted winger Bukayo Saka has thrilled and could perhaps be considered Arsenal’s first-choice left-back now. There’s even been talk the Gunners will cut their losses and sell Tierney to Leicester City as a replacement for Chelsea-bound Ben Chilwell.
The next ten games will be huge for Tierney and for the Gunners, as they bid to avoid the ignominy of missing out on European football altogether.
Frank Lampard’s appointment as Chelsea manager was always expected to be good news for the club’s plethora of homegrown talent. Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all benefitted.
Loftus-Cheek would have been among those hoping to ride the crest of that wave too, were it not for a long-term Achilles issue.
However, the England midfielder made his long-awaited return from a 13-month lay-off in an intra-squad friendly in the week, scoring as Chelsea stepped up their preparations for the resumption of Premier League football.
Something of a forgotten man, Wilshere has made just 16 appearances for West Ham since signing from Arsenal 2018. But having worked his way back to fitness, his return could be a huge boost for manager David Moyes.
Speaking to West Ham’s website, Wilshere said: “I’ve said it before and I don’t want to keep saying it, but I’m still as hungry now as I was then and I’m in a position now where I just have to play games.
“I can’t miss any more for the sake of nobody other than myself, physically and mentally, because it’s a long way back when you get that little bit older.”
The 34-cap England international made his last Premier League appearance against Everton on October 19. With the Hammers mired in relegation trouble, his return could not have come at a better time.
Unlike everyone else on this list, the Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder has been fit all along. The only difference being Mac Allister has been shining in Argentina, rather than the Premier League.
The 21-year-old has been an Albion player since switching from Argentinos Juniors in January 2019. However, Mac Allister has remained on loan in South America ever since.
Recalled by Graham Potter in January, the creative central midfielder made his Premier League debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in March – just before lockdown. Already a full Argentina international, Mac Allister could provide the spark the Seagulls need to claim their first win of 2020.
And the name? Mac Allister was born in La Pampa to Carlos Mac Allister, a former pro. His family is of Scottish and Irish descent, though, explaining the name.
The Hornets confirmed the £2million forward’s signature in October 2018 but waited patiently until January 2020, when Pedro turned 18, for their new arrival.
Pedro earned a big reputation while playing for Flu, scoring ten times in 37 appearances in all competitions before making the switch to Europe. He made his Hornets debut in an FA Cup draw with Tranmere Rovers but has yet to feature in the Premier League.
With the coronavirus-enforced break enabling coach Nigel Pearson to embed the talented forward into his way of playing, could we be about to see Pedro shine in the Premier League?
One of Eddie Howe’s best signings at Bournemouth in recent years, the loss of the Welsh international has been keenly felt. Particularly with Ryan Fraser being some way short of his best form and Callum Wilson failing to fire.
An ankle injury suffered in pre-season has ruled Brooks out for the entire 2019/20 campaign so far. But he has returned to training ahead of the league’s return.
The Cherries are in real danger of being relegated from the Premier League, something they’ve not had to seriously consider since promotion in 2015. With Brooks back in full training, though, things are looking up.
The Scottish midfielder was one of the few bright spots for Aston Villa before a broken ankle in late December ruled McGinn out for three months. His form had even led to suggestions Manchester United could be keen.
Having narrowly missed out on a return in the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City, the all-action midfielder is now back in training and will be available to Dean Smith.
Without McGinn, it’s been down to Jack Grealish to be goalscorer and creator. It’s touch-and-go whether striker Wesley will be fit to return before the season is out, meaning McGinn’s return couldn’t be more timely.
If Villa are to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, the Scot must hit the ground running.