While every top-flight European league voted to keep the five substitutions rule going in this 2020-21 season, the English Premier League went in the opposite direction. 

More than 14 Premier League clubs voted to restore the usual amount of allowed subs, as normality seemed to be right on the horizon.

However, what club boards and managers didn’t expect was the injury crisis that has been rocking lots of PL sides at the moment. Almost every PL club has multiple players injured right now, with Arsenal and Liverpool being the most hit.

The controversy over the current Premier League’s substitute rule dispute has been growing day by day. As December begins–with its busy Premier League fixtures–managers fear their clubs will be devastated by injuries.

Alongside the pandemic, injuries can end a club’s season, and especially in the Premier League–which naturally has the tightest schedule in Europe–five subs would come in handy.

But why have clubs voted for three subs over five? What about managers’ positions on the current situation? In this article, we’ll give you a brief explanation of what’s going on in the Premier League in December.

Why have the majority of PL clubs voted to drop down the five-substitutions rule?

First and foremost, it is important to get to know how the current voting system works in such Premier League clubs’ reunions. For a new rule to be approved and thus introduced into actual PL games, at least 14 clubs need to agree to the proposed change. 

Following Project Restart at the end of last season, the five-substitution rule was temporarily proposed, and it secured the 14-club majority. Here’s a sad mention that games were back with five subs allowed, but fans weren’t there to push their teams anymore.

On paper, the five-sub rule sounded perfect. What really happened, though, was that clubs outside of the big-six came to the realisation that their squads weren’t deep enough to rotate players without losing quality. It definitely wasn’t the case with the likes of Manchester City, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and so on. 

Early this season, the subject came back to the Premier League clubs meeting, but this time, the vast majority of clubs refused to extend the rule for the 2020-21 season. They couldn’t predict what was about to come, though.

The Players Welfare Situation

There are currently 96 injured players in the Premier League. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United top the list with ten, eight, and seven players out, respectively. This is a mad number of players who cannot be fielded.

It is just like almost every PL club, having at least five players each on average out of action. Surely, some clubs are in better condition than others. 

Man City, Chelsea, and Tottenham have one, one, and two players out, and thus, they could capitalise on the injury crisis that’s been affecting other clubs. The “don’t hate the player, hate the game” idea is real here.

Some managers and clubs are fuming over the current situation.

Managers’ positions on that

Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are the Premier League managers who were the first to complain over the five-sub rule controversy.

Liverpool’s Klopp has been using his pre- and post-match press conferences to slam the Premier League chief as well as the league’s official broadcasters. 

The German thinks that it is a “crime” to keep on playing at this rhythm. He likes to compare the PL to other European leagues that kept the five-substitution rule and naturally have a less busy schedule.

Some think that Klopp is just feeling harmed since the Reds of Merseyside are currently playing with eight senior absences to injuries. However, the German has actually been for the new rule since Project Restart. Player welfare is important for him, and other managers should take Liverpool’s current injury crisis as an example, and not as a “once in a blue moon” thing. 

Man United’s Solskjaer has also complained following losing defender Luke Shaw to injury. The Norwegian also used his time in front of the cameras to attack the congested PL fixture list, indicating that this is the main reason for the current deepening injury crisis amongst Premier League players. 

Whether Klopp & Solskjaer are right or not, it is another discussion. However, numbers indeed highlight their complaints, and there should be a reconsideration over the reintroduction of the five substitution rule as soon as this month. While every other league in Europe will have a December break for New Year’s celebrations, the Premier League will have the famous Boxing Day, which could make things even worse. 

It is good for fans’ entertainment in such a difficult year, and obviously, for financial reasons, as well. But the current Premier League’s Injury Table is expected to grow, especially with clubs having to split themselves into different competitions. Besides the PL, there are European games, and also Carabao and FA Cups fixtures.