After a tormenting summer of transfer rumours, rumblings and sagas, the Premier League returns later today to give the game’s purists a respite from gossip and access to some actual football.
Although the off-season has been dominated by names such as Raheem Sterling, Petr Čech, Christian Benteke and Bastian Schweinsteiger, all 20 English top-flight teams have bolstered their squads with additions of some description.
Despite the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on new players by Premier League clubs, it is promising to see that the loan system is still being used to effect by some of the participants.
Radamel Falcao aside, it is uncommon to see the top teams bring in new players on a temporary basis; but it is actually an opportunity that more sides should take advantage of in my opinion.
Looking back over the years, teams such as Everton and Southampton have capitalised on the system to add the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu and Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand to their ranks.
Marco van Ginkel – Chelsea to Stoke
Chelsea have become renowned for accumulating and then subsequently farming out talent over recent years, with this off-season no exception.
Notable deals of players temporarily departing Stamford Bridge on a short-term basis this summer include Patrick Bamford heading to Crystal Palace, Mohamed Salah heading off to Roma and Tomáš Kalas to Middlesbrough.
However, arguably the switch that can have the most impact is Marco van Ginkel’s move to Stoke, where the Netherlands international midfielder will look to get his career back on track.
A gifted and versatile playmaker, the Dutch star started his time at Stamford Bridge in exciting fashion, with Van Ginkel being a contender to replace club legend Frank Lampard in West London.
However, a serious cruciate ligament injury has blighted Van Ginkel’s career, with a modest loan stint at AC Milan last season giving him a chance to play some football.
With Stoke looking to change their tact under Mark Hughes from a direct side to a more footballing focussed team, Van Ginkel could be the creative fulcrum to continue the evolution.
Steven Caulker – QPR to Southampton
Southampton solved their central defensive problems last season by bringing Alderweireld to St Mary’s, offsetting the lose of Dejan Lovren to Liverpool.
However, with the Belgian signing for Spurs and Florin Gardoș suffering a long-term injury, the addition of Caulker from relegated QPR makes a lot of sense.
The former Tottenham youth product is still only 23 but has been something of a journeyman in his career to date.
Despite another club on a temporary basis not solving this, his addition has the potential to be the answer for Ronald Koeman’s men at the back.
The once-capped England international is a colossus of a defender and someone who has proven that he is more than good enough to play Premier League football.
With a physical presence, good reading of the game and leadership in spades, the Saints look to have landed another shrewd loan addition this summer.
Yann M’Vila – Rubin Kazan to Sunderland
France has produced some superlative central midfielders over the last generation, with the likes of Patrick Vieira, Didier Deschamps, Zinedine Zidane and now Paul Pogba proving themselves amongst the world’s best.
A dynamic and all-action star that was being touted to follow in the afore-mentioned list was Yann M’Vila after emerging from the Rennes youth academy.
Talk of move to a major European club was everywhere for consecutive transfer windows, but in the end the midfielder’s controversial streak may well have played a role in it just not happening.
A switch to Russian side Rubin Kazan in 2013 was somewhat strange and marked the stagnation of the 25-year-old’s career.
A loan stint at Inter last season gave him the chance to play in a different environment, but he was not given adequate time to find his feet.
Under the stewardship of the experienced Dick Advocaat and the chance to play regularly, M’Vila has the potential to get back to the tough-tackling, box-to-box star that won 22 Les Bleus caps over the space of two years between 2010 and 2012.
A midfield that contains M’Vila and Lee Cattermole shows that Sunderland will not be a soft touch for anyone this term.