Jurgen Klopp & Pep Guardiola Are on the Right Side of the Five Subs Debate - It's Time to Accept That

Robbie Copeland
Klopp and Guardiola don't agree on much - but they have been a unified voice on one issue
Klopp and Guardiola don't agree on much - but they have been a unified voice on one issue / Pool/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are chancing their arm.

The managers of England's richest clubs have no real concerns for the welfare of their players. They're simply using a mask of faux compassion as a tool to force through a competitive advantage over the teams with fewer resources. It's a sham.

This was essentially what Andros Townsend had to say for himself on a UK radio show recently. The Crystal Palace winger is one of the last bastions of defence against the nefarious five-substitution rule that he feels would widen the divide between the Premier League's 'big six' and all the rest.

Townsend has made his views clear
Townsend has made his views clear / Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Townsend's words perhaps speak to what Klopp said recently; that players are not the most reliable voice when it comes to player welfare. That sounds strange, but the point is solid. Players, naturally, just want to play, and don't always know what is best for themselves in the heat of the moment.

It's down to their managers to make tough judgement calls. It speaks volumes, then, that Roy Hodgson, Townsend's manager, is said to be among six Premier League bosses to have changed their tune on the debate since the summer.

While only nine managers voted in favour of carrying the five-subs rule into the 2020/21 season, The Times now say that there is a 15-5 majority in favour. Klopp, Guardiola, and the rest of the coaches who have long stood in favour have been vindicated by their peers.

Managers in England are beginning to realise that there is a reason clubs in Germany, France, Spain and Italy all backed the rule from the start. Across the continent, we're yet to see any proof of a competitive advantage - it just hasn't happened in practice.

We probably could have predicted that. As per Sky Sports' data, when five substitutes were allowed in the Premier League last season, Brighton and Norwich used the most subs per game; Liverpool were third, and Manchester City were eighth.

Since it has been withdrawn, on the other hand, we've seen definite proof of an impact on player fitness. Liverpool's injury list this term reads like a Hollywood credits roll, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has piled onto the league for better player protection, and Gareth Southgate has seen enough heavy legs in the England squad to chime in with his two cents.

Who still stands against the change? Sean Dyche and Dean Smith have been the most vocal opponents, and while David Moyes, a previous critic, has owned up to a U-turn, we're yet to hear Chris Wilder or Steve Bruce do the same.

You will be amazed to hear that none of those four have managed outside of English football.

This is fast becoming yet another Britain vs the rest of the world issue, but this time, progress, appears to be on the winning side.

Dyche, in fact, managed to dismantle his own argument before he'd finished making it.

“The last few games a number of the top managers have come out and said it but haven’t used five subs," he said recently. "They‘ve used maybe one in the 89th minute, so go figure. "

'They could use it to gain an advantage against us. I mean, they haven't been....but they could do!'

Amazingly, he then went on to say that if the shoe was on the other foot, he would be voting in favour of five subs. Go figure indeed, Sean.

If Klopp, Guardiola and the other top managers want to use the depth of their squads, it's because they have to. If we doubted that before, we know it now. We're gearing up towards a festive period that will be even more chaotic than usual, and it comes off the back of a six-month period that has already taken its' toll on player fitness.

It's time to stop holding onto the way things were, and let progress take the reins.