Five subs rule should be tweaked and kept next season

The English Premier League returns on the 17th of June, with Manchester City taking on Arsenal. The season has to be finished in a rush to reduce the impact on the next season’s calendar. On top of that, clubs like Manchester United and City for example are also involved in cup competitions. To dampen the risk of injury, the EPL has announced that up to five substitutions will be allowed in games until the end of the season.

This decision will allow managers to use more of their squad and also give chances to players who might otherwise be reduced to peripheral roles. Young, promising players can also benefit massively from the two added substitutions. One problem which clubs with good academies have is retaining the burgeoning talents long enough for them to be mature enough to play regularly for the first team.

While the loan system has been used and abused to achieve that, they can be disruptive and do not always work out. Instead of waiting for their time to come, plenty of young players decide to sign permanently for teams which tend to field younger players instead.

The added substitutions rule can provide a good alternative to the loan system. The only change I would bring is that the two additional substitutes have to be under-23 players. To prevent abuse of the rule, where first team players under the age of 23, like Marcus Rashford or Kylian Mbappe for example, are used instead of emerging players, a maximum limit on the number of games played for first team can be applied.

The final rule would be something like this: If a player was developed in a club’s academy, is under the age of 23 and has played less than 38 games for the first team in all official competitions, the player would be eligible for one of the two under-23 substitute places on the bench. Then, during any game a manager has the right to five substitutions, as long as the players used in two of these substitutions fit the aforedescribed criteria.

This allows for younger players to integrate the first team better. Instead of risking the unknowns of a loan move, they train everyday with the first team they hope to be part of and are steeped in their manager’s footballing philosophy earlier. Clubs will also save money in the long term since their best young players will be more inclined to stay at the club, saving the club money on transfers and getting them a return for their investment in their own academy.

One example we can use are the two Manchester clubs. If this rule was in place when Paul Pogba was emerging out of United’s academy, it would have been easier for Sir Alex Ferguson to fast-track him to the first team and it would have saved teh club millions of dollars.

Similarly, Jadon Sancho might have stayed at Manchester City had he known that he would be on the bench in every single game, ready to be used as an extra sub. Instead, Guardiola was unable to convince him he would get enough games and City fans now watch him marvel the Bundesliga crowds for Dortmund instead.

Rule changes move slowly in the game of football so this could be tried gradually in lesser competitions like the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League with one extra under-23 sub instead of two. Then the system could be brought to all major competitions and finally, extended to two extra substitutes.

Imagine how top clubs would be able to keep promising youngsters in their squads, knowing that they can be used if needed and not at the detriment of a first team player. The loan system can then be used in parallel for young players who do not make the cut for the sub role.


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