Jurgen Klopp has offered his solution to the Premier League’s growing amount of injuries and has revealed six Premier League managers ‘changed their mind’ over the five substitute rule at a midweek meeting.
Liverpool have been amongst the worst affected clubs in the division having seen a whole host of players ruled out with injuries in recent weeks, Joe Gomez now expected to join centre-back partner Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines for the majority of the season after sustaining a serious knee injury in England training last week.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson have also picked up problems amid an intense fixture schedule this season and Klopp has discussed the difficulties of a pandemic-disrupted campaign, the congested nature of the calendar leading to an increase in injuries across the division.
“We fought hard for a winter break in the normal season,” Klopp said in an interview with the Mail. “One week after the season’s most intense period. One week where you don’t have to think about football, don’t have to train, don’t have to get up in the morning and think, ‘How will I play tonight?’ We fought so hard for one week less.
“But this now is not a normal season. This now is a season which is four weeks shorter but with the same amount of games. This is a very special time, not only for football but for the whole world. All of us have to dig in and fight hard to get through it. In football, it’s like this. It looks like the whole world changed but the two things which stayed were the fixture list of the Premier League and three subs.
“These are the two things we have to talk about. We have to talk to the broadcasters. People need to understand football players. People say: ‘Oh, but they earn this much.’ It’s not about that. They earn that much because they are so special.
November 8: Alexander-Arnold calf injury
November 11: Gomez knee injury
November 12: Robertson hamstring injury
November 13: Salah tests positive for coronavirus
November 15: Henderson muscle injury
van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago & Oxlade-Chamberlain are all injured, too 😳 pic.twitter.com/3CbsdOhQxH
— Goal (@goal) November 16, 2020
“There are actors who are brilliant but will never be James Bond. But as a James Bond, you earn more than others. With football, it’s the same. So many people play football and the best of them earn more. But that doesn’t make them more robust for everything in life. On Wednesday we had a meeting between all of the managers and it was so important.”
One point of discussion in recent weeks has been the possibility of a return to the five substitute ruling, with additional replacements having been introduced following the Premier League’s return from a three-month hiatus in June to help clubs and players deal with the demands of Project Restart.
Despite European football’s major leagues – alongside the Champions League and Europa League – having kept the five-sub rule in place for the current campaign, Premier League sides voted in favour of a return to using just three substitutes, with clubs believing additional replacements handed an advantage to the bigger sides with deeper squads.
However, there has been a widespread consensus that increased substitutions can help clubs cope with the demands of an unprecedented season of congestion, with talks having taken place about a u-turn on the decision.
Asked about the meeting, Klopp revealed a number of managers have changed their stance.
“Yes [the meeting went well]. Before the season, some people thought it would be an advantage for us, the people who said we should stick to five substitutions. But it was never — and I can promise you this, I’m a Christian — it was not for one second about having an advantage. All the other countries did it. Italy — Juventus, Inter Milan, they have the biggest squads, but still the other clubs said, ‘We need five subs.’
“Yesterday six managers changed their minds. We need it. For the players, not the clubs. December and January in a normal season is brutal. We know that. But this year, for the Champions League and Europa League clubs, October is like December. November is like December. December is still December, then January, then February.
🗣 "Everyone looks after themselves hence why England had a joke of a friendly against Ireland, the players are being treated like meat"@Carra23 speaking about how the number of fixtures this season has affected the players pic.twitter.com/xP9KWmjwzd
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 18, 2020
“We all agree we want to play, 100 per cent. But it’s little adjustments. We have to vote this afternoon, pretty much. Let’s bring us all together and vote. We need to get the broadcasters round the table. Sky, BT, whoever — they have to talk to us.
“Whatever happened before, whatever contracts were signed before, they were signed for a non-Covid period. Wednesday night and Saturday 12.30pm, this should not be possible.
“Sports science says you need at least 72 hours to recover. We play before breakfast pretty much when the mind is coming back from whichever country in the world we have been in.”