Reporters debate whether the Premier League should return to five substitutes

The argument for the reintroduction of five substitutes reared its head once again following the weekend’s Premier League action.

Pep Guardiola was vocal in his belief that the English top flight should follow rival leagues across Europe in allowing five changes to be made by each side per game given the congested nature of the fixture list.

The Manchester City boss revealed he had held a conversation with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the subject following their draw at the Etihad on Sunday.

Klopp has also spoken of his disappointment that Premier League sides can only use three substitutions per match, despite being able to use five in European fixtures.

Klopp and Guardiola are in agreement

Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered a calf injury during the clash between last season’s top two and Guardiola hinted it came as a result of the reduced number of subs permitted.

But would a return to five – as seen in the latter stages of last season – make the playing field even more uneven in favour of the big clubs?

We asked our reporters…

Should the Premier League revert to five substitutions?

Stan Collymore – No

I’m not having Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola moaning that clubs should be allowed five substitutes in the Premier League rather than three.

Part of the test of being a professional footballer is not being at your 100 per cent optimum every week, physically or mentally.

And besides, Guardiola only used one sub against Liverpool on Sunday — the blooming cheek of it.

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John Cross – No

I think they should go with what the clubs want.

And the beauty of the Premier League is it’s a democracy and they all get a say.

At the last vote in September, 13 clubs voted in favour of reinstating three subs compared to 7 who voted for five.

That’s nearly two thirds who believe it should be three subs.

Does it seem fair on clubs with more games? No.

But clubs not in Europe don’t want to vote for games where the opposition can bring on five subs to win a game.

Jake Murtagh – Yes

It’s crazy that five subs are permitted in La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga but not in the Premier League.

There have been a number of injuries caused as a result of this punishing schedule and players need to be better protected.

Ultimately, the standard will slip as a result as those that are left will be out on their feet.

Neil McLeman – No

Leicester are once again rubbing shoulders with the elite

It would only favour the big clubs.

Seeing Southampton, Tottenham and Leicester on top of the Premier League is great for the game – like the Foxes winning the title in 2016. It is one of the few pleasures of this year.

The only people not enjoying the current unpredictable results and table are the big teams. Allowing more subs will only give them an advantage by allowing them to use their bigger squads.

Darren Wells – Yes

The thought of more than three subs didn’t seem necessary at the start of the season, but the longer it goes on the more it makes sense.

Injuries are mounting up and the congested schedule is beginning to put players at risk.

Liverpool looked out on their feet in the second half against Man City and we’re in danger of the Premier League becoming a survival of the fittest.

While that may sound fun for the neutral, is that what we really want? The quality of that clash at The Etihad diminished the longer it went on.

This week a number of players will be featuring in three internationals, next month there’s the heavy festive fixture schedule, and there’s still Euro 2021 to think about next summer.

Five subs would help to at least alleviate some of the burden.

Mike Walters – No

An increase in the number of substitutions would only serve to suit the big clubs

The loudest, and most tedious, whinges are coming from managers with the biggest and most expensively assembled squads.

Football is not a game run exclusively for the benefit of the six or seven richest clubs, so they can put a sock in it.

Before we know it, five subs will become six, seven, eight – and all continuity in the game will be lost in the constant blur of chopping and changing.

If you want rolling subs, with players coming and going every couple of minutes, take up basketball.

Andy Dunn – No

Even before joining, Jurgen Klopp was up to speed with his Liverpool FC history so would have known Bill Shankly won the title in 1965-66.

He might not know Shankly used only 14 players… not in one game but in the ENTIRE season – and that includes a European Cup Winners Cup campaign that ended with Liverpool in the final.

Yes, times have changed and demands are different but, even without the five-sub rule, Klopp should have enough resources to cope.

Even with fatigue seeming to kick in during yesterday’s match at the Etihad, Klopp made only two of his permitted three changes and Pep Guardiola one.

Only nine of the 20 Premier League managers used three substitutes at the weekend.

I am opposed to a five sub rule on every level, apart from one.

It is in place in Europe’s other major leagues and football regulations should be across the board.

The Premier League should stick with its three sub rule for now but there should be uniformity across the major leagues next season.

Joe Cooper – Yes

You may have heard that these are ‘unprecedented times.’ Well, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

Nobody likes to hear managers with multi-million pound squads moan about the supposed hardships they face in fielding eleven players on a weekend – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a point.

Players are still human beings, and it is clear that the intense schedule is taking its toll judging by the amount of injuries we’re seeing.

All of Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga are allowing five substitutions, so why not the Premier League?

For this season only it seems a sensible decision to make, before reverting back to three when the world returns to normal.

David Anderson – No

The debate over allowing five substitutes in the Premier League reflects the split in the clubs between the big sides and the smaller ones.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola want to be able to use two more substitutes to help them cope with the intense demands of playing every three days at home and in Europe.

They argue that being able to use up to 16 players in each Premier League game would lessen the strain on their squads.

They can both point to lengthy injury lists and Klopp is being hindered by the worst crock list of his Anfield reign with Trent Alexander-Arnold joining the likes of Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines.

Having five substitutes would also make them stronger in Europe and they could represent the Premier League better by going deeper in the Champions League.

They can point to the less-intense demands on the clubs not competing in Europe and they have plenty of time to recover because they only play once a week.

Wilder’s Blades are struggling after a stellar first term in the top flight

However permitting two extra subs would tilt the balance domestically even further in their favour.

Clubs like Burnley and Sheffield United opposed the permanent introduction of five subs because they know it would benefit the likes of Liverpool and City more.

Burnley could barely fill their bench when they were allowed five subs at the back end of last season and he extra options would be of little use to Sean Dyche with his small squad.

It is soul destroying for them to battle to compete with a superpower club, only for them to be able to bring on five internationals worth at least £20million each.

Basically, if you believe the bigger clubs should be allowed to rotate more to avoid injury and therefore boost their chances of silverware and indirectly England’s hopes ahead of the Euros, then five subs are a good idea.

But if you believe in equality and trying to stop the playing field becoming even more unlevelled, then you will oppose the idea.

Tom Hopkinson – No

It’s up to managers to rotate their squads to keep players out of the red zone and, with squads of 25, they have enough at their disposal to do that.

The bigger teams especially have enough depth to cope with injuries so, while I’d have more sympathy with a Sean Dyche or Scott Parker, I don’t think Guardiola and Klopp should be groaning about it.

Freddie Keighley – Yes

Given the expanding injury lists across the Premier League and the fixture schedule as hectic as any in recent memory, the decision to revert back to five substitutions per match would be a sensible one.

On Sunday alone we saw two of the divisions biggest stars – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thomas Partey – substituted off with potential muscle injuries.

And a two-week international break packed with three fixtures for many nations provides little hope of respite for tired legs.

With the Euros looming in seven months’ time and the World Cup the following summer, there is no respite in sight for players involved in domestic, European and international football.

Five substitutions must be reintroduced to help protect the Premier League’s main attractions. 

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