Save Our Squads with five subs, EPL: Neil Humphreys
EPL must listen to the SOS call from the likes of Klopp and avoid tired, dull games
In a weekend of relentless rain, English Premier League footballers were at risk of drowning in lactic acid.
The world's wealthiest sports competition seems determined to be miserly with its substitutes rule.
As other prominent leagues yield to common sense, EPL powerbrokers are ignoring exhausted players and angry managers in insisting on only three substitutes.
Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Trent Alexander-Arnold are just the latest to fall like flies in a sandstorm because of the one-sided relationship between employees and league organisers.
It's as idiotic as it is unfair, turning multi-millionaires into martyrs and succeeding only in uniting Juergen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They have all made a reasonable request. If the game's stakeholders insist on sending out their cash cows three times a week, then at least allow the clubs to make full use of their livestock.
Europe's major leagues currently permit five subs per game, but the EPL seems to be adopting an isolationist stance in these strange post-Brexit times, going its own way.
Footballers are paying a price for bizarre decisions taken elsewhere.
When the global pandemic took hold, they quickly became an easy target for those seeking a distraction. National and international grievances were soon directed towards wealthy, working-class blokes who kicked a ball for a living.
With many people losing incomes during Covid-19, why won't rich footballers take a pay cut? (They did).
With many countries enduring lockdowns, why can't footballers provide some home entertainment and play behind closed doors? (They did).
Any why can't they kick off a new season with inadequate preparation to cram every fixture into a reduced schedule without any concessions, whilst still fulfilling international commitments, including fluff like the Nations League?
They did. They still are and without complaint, too. In fact, many footballers have spent much of this wretched year providing distracting morsels of comfort for us, whilst donating millions to worthy causes and feeding a nation of vulnerable kids, in Rashford's case.
And the rising saint of Old Trafford gets rewarded with an injury.
Something had to give. In this case, it's the weary limbs of jaded footballers.
At the Etihad - where Manchester City drew 1-1 with Liverpool yesterday morning (Singapore time) - the lactic acid practically oozed onto the rain-soaked turf as an effervescent first-half gave way to a turgid second. The boys looked battered. Their midweek Champions League exertions finally consumed them.
SET UP TO FAIL
Earlier, Solskjaer had insisted that Manchester United had been "set up to fail" against Everton, with Saturday's 12.30pm kick-off coming after their visit to Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday night.
The Red Devils beat Everton, but lost Rashford, Shaw and Lindelof to various knocks, which seems an unreasonable trade-off.
And both England and Liverpool have lost Europe's finest right-back. Inside the empty Etihad, Alexander-Arnold could be heard screaming "calf" as soon as he hit the deck. Klopp was probably screaming other four-letter words.
The Liverpool manager has called for the reinstatement of the five-substitute rule, which was introduced as a temporary measure during Project Restart. He has the public backing of Guardiola and probably Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard, based on previous comments.
Ah, but isn't this just another example of entitled managers seeking to extend their entrenched advantages in the rich-poor divide?
The game between Chelsea and Sheffield United, for instance, was very much a tale of two benches. Two extra substitutions will only further accentuate the gap between the haves and the have-even-mores.
But when was this not the case? The rules on one sub, two subs, three subs and even no subs have typically favoured those with superior resources.
When it comes to the game's longstanding income divide, there are bigger issues than the number of bodies on a bench.
But in terms of the quality of football, the subs' rule is an immediate concern.
The schizophrenic contest between City and Liverpool felt like a microcosm for the season. The first half offered an exhibition of what the game should be. The second felt like a harbinger of what's to come.
And that's got to be the message conveyed to those determined to complete every fixture and satisfy every TV contract in record time.
Empty stadiums can be tolerated, barely, but players running on empty through the bleak mid-winter seem a less palatable proposition.
Yes, they provide a titillating distraction during a global pandemic, but so does Netflix. There is competition for eyeballs.
At the very least, two extra substitutes gives managers the chance to put on a decent show three times a week.
Otherwise, things can only get flatter.