Andros Townsend has countered the argument from Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola for the reintroduction of the five substitute ruling.
Liverpool manager Klopp and Manchester City counterpart Guardiola united in calling for the reintroduction of five substitutes in Premier League fixtures last weekend, following the 1-1 draw between the two title rivals at the Etihad.
Premier League sides were permitted an additional two substitutes following the division’s restart in June, over concerns over player welfare following a three-month hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, a majority of clubs voted in favour of returning to three substitutes ahead of the 2020/21 season, a decision which has been criticised by the likes of Klopp and Guardiola given the congested nature of the fixture schedule.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City are amongst the seven English sides to play in continental competition this season and whilst European football has long increased the fixture load, the unprecedented circumstances of the season – including a delayed start to the campaign – meaning there are no gaps in the calendar for rest.
Pep Guardiola on five subs rule:
"All the leagues around the world [there are five substitutions] expect this league maybe because it likes to be different…"
— Man City Report (@cityreport_) November 9, 2020
The decision of Premier League clubs also came despite each of Europe’s major leagues – alongside the Champions League and Europa League – continuing with five substitutes for the current campaign.
However, Townsend believes allowing additional changes favours the bigger clubs with deeper squads and has questioned why Klopp and Guardiola – advocates of additional subs – failed to use their full allocation this weekend.
“I watched that [Man City v Liverpool] game the other day and obviously Pep and Klopp were speaking at the end of the game [about the three sub rule], and it’s interesting, you look and Pep made one sub, Klopp made two subs and one was enforced,” Townsend said on TalkSport.
“So you desperately want five subs to protect their players, but when it comes to it, they don’t even use the three that you are given. So, not for me.
“I think it kind of unevens the playing field. It’s an advantage to the sides with the bigger squads.
“They say they don’t want it when they are playing each other, but when they are playing the smaller clubs and maybe it’s harder to break them down, they want to be able to bring on five world-class international forward players to help break down the mid-table sides.
“So, not for me. I think it’s fine the way it was. Three subs worked for many many years, and I don’t see a reason to change it.”