Mikel Arteta at a loss to explain why use of five substitutes was rejected again

Ian Parker, PA
·3-min read

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted he could not understand the decision to again reject the use of up to five substitutes in the Premier League following a vote by clubs 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 substitutes during each match remained.

Several managers 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.

The under-pressure Arteta said it was purely about player welfare.

“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.”

Jurgen Klopp has been one of the most outspoken proponents of using five substitutes but kept his answer short on Friday, having already made his views clear.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Anfield
Jurgen Klopp has spoken strongly in favour of reintroducing the five substitute rule (Clive Brunskill/PA)

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

“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.”

But Burnley’s Sean Dyche repeated his view that the move would only help the bigger clubs while giving a disadvantage to the likes of the Clarets.

“The five subs, for the big clubs who are in every competition and doing well in Europe it is a lot tougher but for us we don’t want five subs because we don’t have their squads so we can’t make their changes,” he said.

“For my club we would stick with three but if I was at a big club who were in every competition then I totally understand why they want five.”

Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder, who has previously clashed with Klopp on the issue, said he had “talked enough” about the topic, but said 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.”

But while there was debate over five substitutes, the move to trial replacements for head injuries was welcomed.

“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.

Dyche said: “Concussion subs for the health of the players is appropriate but as long as it is done quickly because we don’t want a constant stopping of the game and I am sure the medical teams will be able to do that.”