Premier League managers call for return to five substitutes

A number of Premier League managers are calling for a return to five substitutes amid the current coronavirus situation.

By Chris Boden
Monday, 27th December 2021, 12:09 pm
Updated Monday, 27th December 2021, 12:10 pm
Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel

The league allowed five substitutions to be made upon Project Restart in June 2020, after the season was put on hold for three months, but reverted back to three at the start of the 2020/21 season.

However, with Covid cases rising at present, leading to a string of postponements, several managers feel the workload of players needs to be easing.

Despite some clubs struggling to raise 14 players to fulfil a fixture, there is a growing clamour for five substitutes, as Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said on Sunday: "For us it's the same situation as for anyone else.

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"We have concerns, because we are not only football players and coaches, we are also fathers and have family members so we are also concerned and have doubts and fears.

"Still we are privileged to do our jobs and do what we love the most so it's kind of in between. I'm very impressed with how the team takes it.

"You know very well that the situation was very different when we arrived in Wolverhampton and had seven positive tests in three days.

"We had the feeling that we had an outbreak and wanted some time to deal with it mentally and to settle the team down.

"That was not the case and we lived with it. We tried to be as supportive as possible.

"I just can say on this occasion I would love to push for five substitutions because five substitutions were made to protect the players when coronavirus popped up and made life difficult.

"I think the situation is very serious and very challenging so if we decided to keep on playing at least we should have five changes to control the load."

Ralf Rangnick, interim manager of Burnley's oppoents on Thursday night, Manchester United, agrees with his compatriot: "The five subs were implemented when Covid started, and I think it was the right decision to do that to save energy for players, especially if they have just recovered from Covid.

"The same is true right now - we are in a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago, therefore I don't see why it shouldn't be as it was one-and-a-half years ago. As far as I know, in Europe England is the only country where they only allow three subs.

"You're still allowed eight field players on the team sheet, you should be able to replace five, you will always have five players on the bench who cannot be substituted on and cannot play."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola have also been long-term advocates of five substitutions.

Guardiola said: "This is the only country to not accept five substitutions, just three. Why?

"We want to protect the players, so bring five substitutions. It's much better for the amount of games, but the Premier League and clubs decide no".

Just over a year ago, Burnley boss Sean Dyche spoke on the subject, and while he understands the concerns of the elite clubs, with their game schedules taking in European competition and often extended cup runs, he said: “For the big clubs who play lots of games, of course it’s useful.

”It gives them the ability to use players who are fresher and more ready, but of course it does favour the big clubs because if you are one of the superpowers they probably carry 20-plus international footballers, so they can use them more regularly.

”It will, in my opinion, help them over a season.

“For smaller clubs like ourselves, it’s detrimental slightly as if teams opposite us have 20-plus players who they can use, then it’s a positive for them and not so useful for us.

”As we’ve seen, we carry a small squad, we can’t afford the same quality as the big teams, and if you get injuries it becomes very difficult.

”I’d totally understand if I was on the other side of the fence.

”If I was the manager of one of the superpower clubs, of course I’d want five subs. Of course.

”If they are having a successful season, they play a lot more games, they play internationals more.

”I’m just speaking as a Burnley manager, our club with our resources.

”We run a tight squad and if we get the injuries – with all due respect to our young players, we can’t always throw five players on the pitch.

”If you’re throwing on five internationals, it’s fair to say it will benefit them.”