Five subs still an option as pressure grows to protect Prem players

Neil Foster

Reports claim the five-substitute rule could still be introduced in the Premier League this season, despite initial opposition.

The Premier League opted to allow five replacements last term when the season restarted following the pandemic shutdown. However, it reverted to the usual three at the start of the current campaign.

Views differ on the proposal, which has twice failed to secure the 14-club majority needed to be adopted for 2020-21. Every other major Euroepan football league has sanctioned five subs and calls are growing for England’s top division to follow suit.

Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have recently complained about their players’ workload.

One solution would be to increase the permitted replacements and it is understood the proposal could be brought back at any time. The Champions League allows five substitutes per game and it may be that the Premier League soon does the same.

Managers against the proposal include Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder. He feels it will give those with bigger squads more of an advantage. Aston Villa manager Dean Smith also argues that the authorities should not tamper with the current situation.

“I only made one change in the 88th minute today. For me the intensity was there from our players,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live after the Villans’ 3-0 win at Arsenal. “We haven’t got the biggest squad in the world and we have to manage our players.

“I can sympathise with the teams that are in Europe but there are some big squads out there.”

Tide set to turn?

There may be a groundswell of enthusiasm for English football to fall in line with Europe. West Ham boss David Moyes, who was initially against it, is now in favour of the increase.

“I recommended that we would vote for three substitutes but I have looked at it again due to the player welfare issue,” he told BBC Sport. “I really didn’t expect so many injuries. No parties have been willing to give anything up in terms of competitions or matches.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is at a loss as to why the Premier League sits alone in its decision making on the subject.

“We don’t protect the players, and that’s why it’s a disaster,” said the Spaniard. “In this calendar, especially. I will demand, if the people allow, we have to come back to five substitutions. If not, it’s difficult to sustain it.”

Complaints over fixture congestion are nothing new but the powers that be might now be more sympathetic.


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