Mikel Arteta is the latest Premier League manager to voice concern over the increase in player injuries and said he’d support a return to the use of five substitutes per game.
While Fifa backed the continued use of two extra substitutes in all competitions until August 2021, a majority of Premier League clubs, in contrast to their peers in Germany, Spain and Italy, voted against continuing the policy, arguing it favoured the bigger clubs.
In the absence of an official league-wide injury audit, unofficial reports have since suggested that muscular injuries, in particular, have been on the rise in England. There’s also the underlying risk of a Covid-19 outbreak causing havoc to squads at any given time.
It has sparked anger from the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Steve Bruce and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who are all concerned that players aren’t able to cope with the burden of playing so many games in a compressed timeframe.
Arteta shares their worries. Asked if he’d advocate a rethink on the substitute issue, he said: “I would strongly support that. We are here to give the best possible show.
“At the end of the day, in order to do that we need the players; they are the most important part of that.
“We have to be conscious that we have to protect them and we are constantly exposing them, we’ve had no holidays, they are going to play international football every time there’s an international break, there’s a competition [the Euros] this summer and it goes on and on and on.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to have some really bad news with players that we are not respecting. We can change some things, even if it’s not ideal, but having the context that we are in at the moment, it would be really helpful [to have five subs] in my opinion.”
Asked whether he expects next summer’s European Championships to suffer if players are shattered by the end of their domestic season, he added: “We can see, it’s no coincidence, that the percentage rate of muscular injuries already in the Premier League has already increased dramatically.
“It’s not a coincidence and it’s only going to go that way unless you do something about it. The intensity is not going to go down. The level of demands, the quality we have in this league is superb and every match will be so competitive. When that’s the case you cannot drop that [level], so players will get injured.”
Arteta has previously mentioned that a return to bigger matchday squads would help him keep more of his swollen senior squad happy. Lots of big names and promising youngsters have had to sit out Premier League games this season and that, over the course of a season, could well lead to players wanting to look elsewhere for chances. Hardly ideal.