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Managers ready to move on after five substitutes rule was again rejected

Everton v Leicester City – Premier League – Goodison Park
(Image credit: Clive Brunskill/NMC Pool)

Premier League managers stuck to their guns on the issue of five substitutes on Friday but most sounded keen to move on after the proposal was this week rejected for a third time.

Following votes on Thursday, the league approved trials of concussion substitutes and also increased the number of players who could be named on the bench from seven to nine, but the rule limiting teams to three substitutions during each match remained.

Several bosses have argued strongly in favour of reintroducing the rule allowing five substitutes to help players cope with the busy schedule, but others have said it unfairly provides an advantage to those with bigger squads.

As managers were asked for their reaction on Friday there was no movement in opinion but with the issue debated and voted on repeatedly, many said there was little point in continuing the argument.

Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder, an opponent of change who has previously clashed with Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp on the issue, said he had “talked enough” about the topic, but players and managers should just “get on with it” when it came to the hectic festive schedule.

“That’s how it is, that’s what the fixture list is,” he said. “It’s been like that for 40, 50, 60 years and yes, of course, the intensity of the games, but squads are bigger. I don’t really want to go into all that nonsense again. But we get on with it.”

For his part, Klopp said he had no interest in creating further headlines on the topic.

“I cannot do you a favour again and create headlines – everyone knows the 10 clubs who voted against it,” he said.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has spoken strongly in favour of reintroducing the five substitute rule (Clive Brunskill/PA)

“It was not about advantages, only about player welfare. Pretty much only them in Europe, the world, voted against it. I don’t know what percentage of leagues now have five subs. There must be a good reason for it.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard argued again that it was an issue of player welfare but, though he disagreed with the outcome, he was willing to accept it.

“I think it would have been really beneficial for player welfare,” he said.

“Normally the modern-day player welfare comes out on top, I don’t think it quite has this time. But the decision’s been made, and we carry on.”

Under-pressure Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he was at a loss to explain why player welfare had not been taken more seriously.

“I think the most important thing at the moment is the welfare of the players and the best way to protect them and have options to protect them is to have the option to extend the substitutes,” he said.

“So it’s like, yes, we’ll give you a little bit of this so that you can have an extra two on the bench but not the option to change.

“We are the only ones doing that and for me that doesn’t make a lot of sense but obviously it’s not up to us.”

Newcastle United Training Ground

Newcastle’s training ground was closed recently due to a Covid-19 outbreak (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Having dealt with a recent outbreak of Covid-19 within the club, Newcastle boss Steve Bruce admitted having five substitutes would certainly have helped his side recently, but said he was not in favour of changing the rules mid-season.

“I particularly at this moment would go for five because of the problems we’ve had,” he said.

“But we started the season with the rule and I’m all for sticking with the rules unless there is something blatant that we can change that helps.”

But while there was debate over five substitutes, the move to trial replacements for head injuries was welcomed after Jan Vertonghen’s admission that he suffered with the long-term effects of a concussion for several months highlighted the seriousness of the issue in the lead-up to the vote.

“I think it is great progress considering the Premier League has opened up that window to explore what we can do and if there is something we can do better,” Arteta said.