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Explained: How will the ‘Big Six’ benefit from new substitution rule?

The rule change is lopsided because the 'Big Six' – Liverpool, City, Chelsea, United, Arsenal, and Spurs – have quality bench strength and can afford like-for-like replacements.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
June 8, 2020 11:55:38 pm
The IFAB approved the FIFA proposal last month. (Source: File Photo)

As the Premier League gets ready for a June 17 restart, the authorities have allowed five substitutions per match, instead of three, for the remaining nine rounds of fixtures. There’s a school of thought, though, that the change will work to the big boys’ advantage.

Is the mid-competition rule change legal?

Perfectly legal. Last month, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the FIFA proposal and allowed the temporary change for the remaining matches of the 2019-20 season. “The IFAB has agreed to make a temporary amendment to the Laws of the Game based on a proposal received from FIFA seeking to protect player welfare,” the IFAB had stated. Teams will have three opportunities to make those five substitutions and they are also allowed to have nine players on the bench instead of seven. Some Bundesliga clubs have used five substitutes following the restart.

Why did FIFA propose the change?

FIFA proposed it with an eye to workload management of the players during post-Covid football. A three-month layoff affects the match fitness of players. Also, a cramped schedule increases the risk of injury, and there’s a threat that players can be ruled out if they contract coronavirus. “One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload,” FIFA had said in a statement.

In Premier League’s context, why is the change lopsided?

Simply because the ‘Big Six’ – Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur – have quality bench strength and can afford like-for-like replacements. Lesser clubs – in terms of money – don’t have an excess of riches. As Telegraph Sport mentioned, Wolverhampton Wanderers have used only 20 players this term. Wolves are placed sixth in the table with 43 points and the change apparently gives a distinct advantage to their top-four rivals like United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs. Leicester City, placed third at the moment with 53 points, have used 21 players so far. United, on the other hand, have used 25 in the Premier League, while Chelsea have used 24.

READ | With five substitutions allowed, it’s all going United’s way

Did any club oppose the change?

Yes, according to reports, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, and West Ham United voted against the change. All of them are stuck in a relegation scrap. For example, on July 1, West Ham are scheduled to play Chelsea. Now, Frank Lampard, the Chelsea manager, has the option of turning to the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Ross Barkley, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Olivier Giroud if he wants to rotate his players. Hammers manager David Moyes, on the other hand, might have to turn to someone like Ben Johnson who is yet to play a minute in the Premier League this season.

How has the change worked in the Bundesliga?

The German league has benefited from it, with regards to workload management and maintaining intensity. “You could see in the first matches that, after 60 or 70 minutes, the players were really tired because there was no preparation before and no friendly games. It has been a really good thing; we have prevented injuries,” Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes was quoted as saying by Telegraph Sport.

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