Everton winger Andros Townsend has slammed Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for “moaning” and getting his way “again” with the five substitutes rule.
Klopp has been a vocal critic of the physical and mental demands consistently put on top-level players. Last term, his side played 63 games in all competitions as they came closer to a quadruple than any team before them. While they are the demands of a top team, further factors have aggravated his concerns.
For Liverpool in particular, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also played at the Africa Cup of Nations last season.
And the coronavirus pandemic meant there was a shorter gap between the 2019/20 season and the 2020/21 campaign. Euro 2020 followed shortly after that, with the World Cup scheduled for Qatar this winter. Players have also just featured in Nations League matches.
Klopp has also had his issues with international breaks and broadcasting selections from the TV companies, especially Saturday 12.30pm kick-offs.
All these factors have led Klopp to continually call for the Premier League to allow five substitutes. League shareholders have consistently voted against it – until last season. Speaking to talkSPORT, though, Townsend insisted that the move benefits the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City more than it does the teams lower down the table like Everton.
“I love how Jurgen Klopp has found a way to get his way again,” former Crystal Palace man Townsend said.
“He’s been moaning for years. They have been pushing back and finally they have given in and given him his five subs. And he will probably still use two or three in the biggest games.
“But, hey, who are we to argue with him.
“I think in the biggest games Liverpool and City, they use one or two subs. They don’t use the full three subs. I think it’s the games against Crystal Palace or Brentford, where they can’t break teams down, it’s 0-0, they have 11 behind the ball.
“Right, can we bring on five world-class internationals who are fresh who can change the game. Can we bring them on to break down this stubborn defence? And that’s where I think it becomes a bit unfair.”
Towsend backs Everton with five subs
Townsend added that he hopes Everton, led by Frank Lampard, can turn the tables on Liverpool and City by using five substitutes to improve their squad by giving younger players – as opposed to senior internationals – chances.
“I don’t think it makes it less competitive,” he said. “It’s still going to be the most competitive league in the world. I just think it gives those top sides an extra advantage.
“Hopefully my side is one of those teams that will have the advantage with the squad that we’re looking to build.
“And, on a personal level coming back from an ACL injury, five subs will probably suit me. But I just think, on the whole, it suits your Jurgen Klopps and your Pep Guardiolas who have 30 world-class internationals.”
No easy solution to Klopp concerns
The five substitutes rule is one that has caused widespread controversy and debate throughout the Premier League.
Ultimately, there is no single option that pleases all parties. A compromise therefore had to be found somewhere to benefit the players.
The extra substitutes undoubtedly means those with greater funds and more expensive players can benefit.
Teams with smaller squads and fewer funds may well complain. However, it is not an option to cut the traditional ‘Big Six’ off from the option of five subs while others get the chance because of their smaller squads.
Townsend’s theory is right – the five subs rule can work for the lower teams. They can offer more opportunities to younger players, which can enhance the reputation of their clubs, the Premier League and English football as a whole.