Rafa Benitez disagrees with Jurgen Klopp and has hit out at the Premier League’s five subs in a game proposal.
Football’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board, announced in July that the five replacements rule would extend into 2020-21. However, it was up to individual competitions whether they adopted it.
The Premier League is the only major European top-flight division which does not allow five changes per match this season. The Champions League, Europa League and international fixtures also permit five substitutes.
The proposal has twice failed to secure the 14-club majority needed to be adopted for the new season. Last year, a vote to use five subs during the final two months of the delayed 2019-20 campaign was supported.
Teams in the EFL will also be able to make five substitutions per match this weekend. And the Premier League is coming under increasing pressure to allow clubs to use up to five subs per match due to a hectic fixture schedule.
Liverpool boss Klopp is a big advocate of the idea. “It’s not an advantage [to be able to use five substitutes], it’s a necessity,” the German said recently.
But former Reds boss Benitez, 60, who is in charge of Chinese side Dalian Professional, is not a fan.
Benitez told his blog: “In the Chinese Super League, we’ve seen a season with five substitutions, and in every game, this has been used to waste time. That’s not the point of a substitution.
“We have to manage our squad, our bench, to solve our problems on the pitch as well as managing the situation off the pitch. To reduce the number of injuries and the tiredness, we have to reduce the number of international games, the amount of travelling done; that could be one solution.
“Some fans might not know how many people are involved in a professional football team and what they do. We’ve been training in China, but the commitment from my coaching staff and the way to do things is similar to what’s done in the Premier League, La Liga or Serie A.”
Benitez, who left Newcastle last summer, also says his coaching staff’s methods and lack of injuries are proof that managers do not need five subs in order to prevent injuries.
He added: “Paco de Miguel is my friend, assistant and our fitness coach since 2007. After the initial medical exam, he tests players throughout the season in body composition, stamina and strength.
Rafa points to coaching methods
“He has great experience in controlling the load of the training sessions and preventing injuries, although some of these will happen anyway depending on the intensity of the competition, the habits of the players and sometimes, it is true, out of bad luck.
“However, we do have a good record of not having too many injuries in our different teams, so that means something is right about this hard work.
“Playing two games a week is demanding, so, rotating your squad and knowing exactly how your team works is crucial. Previously, we never made five substitutions and still we managed to compete until the end of every season.
“In the past we had our knowledge and experience, plus the control of factors such as heart rate as the only way to control the load of the training sessions.
“Now, we have GPS units. Expressed in a simple way, we measure the training effort (quantity) and the accelerations and decelerations (intensity).
“Another parameter: body fat. At the end of this season, we’ve reduced the average body fat of the squad by one per cent and increased the average strength (with both general and specific work in the gym) and stamina, with specific plans for each player. We still think we can improve their stamina even more.”