When EPL football got back underway in May, after the coronavirus pandemic ground the 2019/20 season to halt back in March, the Football Association ruled that teams would be allowed to use up to 5 subs for the remainder of the season, as players could struggle for fitness after a lengthy period without game time and high-intensity training.
Is It Time For 5 substitutes in the Premier League?
However, with every other major league in Europe, including the Champions League and Europa League, sticking with the five-substitute rule for the remainder of the current season, the Premier League clubs opted to go back to the original three changes rule.
The option to reinstate the five-substitute rule has already been rejected twice by the clubs in England’s top tier this season, but it is believed that several managers are now swaying towards the concept, as they claim it is leading to injury problems within their ranks – a worry which saw the rule instated in the first place.
Liverpool and Manchester City gaffers Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, whose sides are at the forefront of the 2020/21 outright Premier League winner bet exchange, are two of the most high-profile managers to have raised concerns about only having three substitutes at their disposal, despite the fact they made just three changes between them in their recent Premier League clash at the Etihad.
Klopp, who only made two changes against Man City – one of which was enforced, due to Trent Alexander-Arnold picking up a muscular strain – believes that the use of five subs in the league is ‘a necessity’.
“It’s not an advantage [to be able to use five substitutes], it’s a necessity. It happens in other countries, it was sold completely wrong and now you have this situation,” the German manager said. “Trent will be out for England, [he] will not be the last or only one Gareth will have to deal with either.”
Guardiola also revealed after the game that he had a conversation with Klopp about having to ‘fight’ for the five-substitute rule to be reinstated.
“We did not speak about the result. We spoke about how we have to fight again about five substitutions,” the Spaniard said. “Look, an international England player – Trent Alexander-Arnold – is injured. All around the world, five substitutions. Here, we believe we are more special and have only three.”
Whilst other managers who originally opposed the ruling, like West Ham’s David Moyes, for example, would now favour five substitutes, it’s still not for everyone, with Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder and Aston Villa gaffer Dean Smith claiming it only benefits the bigger teams, who have much more talent at their disposal. “It favours the powerful clubs. We don’t think that is the right way to go about it,” Wilder said.
You can see why the so called ‘smaller club’ managers are concerned by the ruling. When up against the ‘Big Six’, they are often made to work hard for results, and with the bigger sides often having very talented players on their bench, this can have a massive impact in the dying embers of the game.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, you can understand why Klopp and Guardiola are left frustrated by only being able to make three changes. With the season starting later than usual, the European competitions are being fast-tracked, with Champions League and Europa League group stage encounters taking place weekly.
The vast amount of games is a concern for managers whose clubs are in Europe, and with Klopp already losing four crucial players, in the form of Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomes and Fabinho, maybe the change does need to be reinstated. Not everyone will agree, but if the vote was to be put forward to clubs in the top tier for a third time, it seems the majority would now favour the rule change.