Why Premier League clubs changed back to five subs - and how it actually works

by 24britishtvAug. 5, 2022, 10 p.m. 17
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The new Premier League season kicks off this weekend, with an earlier than usual starting date due to the winter running of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

While the major title contenders are likely to remain the same, and of course the promoted clubs will be the ones must worried about relegation, some changes are afoot regarding some matchday rules.

The most prominent alteration concerns substitutions, with managers of all 20 sides able to make five changes to their team during matches from this season onwards, an increase from three.

Everything you need to know about the rule change is below.

Where has the five substitutions rule change come from?

Premier League clubs were previously allowed to make five substitutions in the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season, when intense fixture congestion and positive Covid-19 tests meant that squads were stretched more than ever before.

While competitions including the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga maintained the five changes protocol, some Premier League clubs were concerned that the change favoured teams higher up the division, and so the English top flight reverted to three substitutions.

But at a shareholder meeting in March this year, clubs voted on the concept once again and decided that five substitutions should be brought in full-time from the new season onwards.

How will five substitutions work in the Premier League?

Premier League clubs are allowed to name nine players on their substitutes bench, and five can be brought onto the pitch to replace team-mates throughout the 90 minutes.

However, in order to avoid too many delays during play, the five changes can only be made at three separate points. Switches can also be freely made at half-time.

That means managers will need to make double or triple changes if they want to use all five substitutions.

Why is the rule change being brought in?

The chief executive of the PFA players’ union Maheta Molango explained that the five substitutions rule has been implemented on player welfare grounds.

“When meeting our members, the most common issue they want to discuss is the impact of fixture congestion,” Molango said. “It’s clear to me that the number of games being played is directly affecting players’ health and wellbeing.

“The adoption of this rule is a welcome step forward in what needs to be an ongoing effort to address issues with player fatigue, making sure they have the opportunity to perform at their best and to maintain the competitive edge that makes English football the best in the world.”

Why have some people been against five substitutions?

Some fans and managers have been against the reintroduction of extra substitutions due to a fear that it would favour big clubs who possess the most expensive squads.

The theory went that Manchester City would benefit more from bringing on Julian Alvarez for Erling Haaland as a fifth substitute, for example, than Southampton would by replacing Adam Armstrong with Che Adams.

But with the money washing around the division meaning that every Premier League squad is now filled with players of international quality, who are playing more and more matches as the number of fixtures in football competitions increases, clubs have now agreed that they will all stand to gain from the player welfare advantages.

What have managers been saying?

Premier League bosses including Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have been strong advocates of five substitutions since it was temporarily implemented two seasons ago.

“All around the world it’s five substitutions, but here we believe we are more special people,” Guardiola said at the end of 2020. “We don’t protect the players, and that’s why it’s a disaster. 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.”

Others, including ex-Burnley boss Sean Dyche, have held reservations about the change. “For the smaller clubs like ourselves it’s a bigger challenge, because there’s a clutch of teams who could change five players at any given time and wouldn’t look much weaker,” Dyche said earlier this year. “So it gives them more leeway.”

But it’s not just bosses high up the table who are in favour. “For us it’s a gamechanger with the intense way we play,” said Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl after the change was made, while Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City believes “five allows us to take players off who are maybe suffering.”

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