Managers critical of decision to abandon five substitution rule this Premier League season

Chris Bascombe
·3 min read
Klopp has had to deal with a spate of injuries to his team - GETTY IMAGES
Klopp has had to deal with a spate of injuries to his team - GETTY IMAGES

Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, has accused the Premier League of “lacking leadership” by failing to enforce an allowance of five substitutes to protect players’ welfare in a congested season.

While other European leagues retained extra changes per match to deal with the added demands of a unique season, Premier League clubs did not vote in sufficient numbers to support the idea.

Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard united in their criticism of that, linking the decision to a rise in muscle injuries.

“I think we should think about it again,” Klopp said. “I don’t think it’s possible because of the system. I’m not sure. It doesn’t help, obviously, when Chelsea have injuries, and City and Liverpool and United and Tottenham and Arsenal and Leicester, because that is not enough votes for the rest. That is the system.”

Chris Bascombe's Liverpool briefing
Chris Bascombe's Liverpool briefing

Klopp went as far as to say the decision should have been imposed, or at least presented in a more thorough way.

“I thought it should have been put in place in the first place,” he said. “For me, it is a lack of leadership just to put the question on the table and say; ‘So, what do you want with that?’ It should have been sold differently – and with more information – showing more of what could happen by Richard Masters. We never asked for any advantage. None of the top seven clubs asked for any advantage. We just knew, because we knew our schedule, that it would be incredibly difficult.”

Guardiola echoed Klopp’s comments, saying the issue should “definitely” be revisited.

“It’s not about one club. There are statistics that they don’t deny – that in the Premier League players have 47 per cent more muscular injuries than the previous season,” said the Manchester City manager.

“All the leagues – Germany, Spain, everywhere – have five substitutions to protect the players, not to protect one team. Hopefully they can reconsider and do what the rest of the world does. Intelligent people adjust to the situation in the world.

“It’s time to take care of the main reason everybody is in this business, which is the football players. The last 15, 20, 25, 30 minutes of games are when players who are playing every three days start to suffer. The rule is to protect them, that’s all. At the end, who voted to make the decision?

“The sporting directors, the presidents, the chairmen. Who are they to decide this? Who are they? They have to protect the players. It has to be the managers or the association of the football players (the PFA). They are ones who have to decide whether it’s three or five substitutions when it’s acceptable for Uefa, Fifa and everywhere.”

After Lampard spoke out earlier this week, Solskjaer joined the chorus of disapproval.

James Ducker's Man Utd briefing
James Ducker's Man Utd briefing

“I don’t understand and cannot believe that the vote went against it because we have to look after the players and think about the players,” the United coach said.

“This season is the most demanding season of all. I can see the point why clubs voted against but if you take a step back and think about these professional footballers and their mental and physical health the only sensible solution would have been to give us the opportunity to rest a few more.

“We have already seen loads of injuries in the Premier League. Pep has been talking about it, other managers too, we as managers, as clubs, as medical staff, we have to look after them, that’s why we have to rest players at certain times. So, yeah, I would have liked to have had five subs.”