Premier League managers could try for a third time to re-introduce the use of up to five substitutes per game in a bid to ease the physical demands on players amid a congested fixture schedule.
Even though IFAB lawmakers extended the temporary increase in permitted substitutions to cover the 2020/21 campaign after initially introducing last season, it is at the discretion of individual competitions whether to make use of it.
But the Premier League is the only major competition that opted to revert to the usual three substitutions per game, much to the displeasure of several clubs.
The motion has already been put to a Premier League vote twice, but has never received enough support from the majority of clubs (14) that any proposal needs to come into effect.
There is hope that some clubs may be changing their minds after David Moyes hinted that West Ham are now willing to back increasing substitutions to five for the remainder of the season.
But Aston Villa boss Dean Smith suggested he doesn’t think it necessary after seeing his team beat Arsenal 3-0 on Sunday and making his only change in the 88th minute.
The argument from smaller clubs against five substitutions is that it would unfairly favour wealthier teams with deeper squads.
What that argument does not take into account is the demands on those larger squads because of other competitions in the squeezed calendar.
On top of Premier League games at weekends, the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Leicester are currently having to play every midweek to catch up with European commitments because the start of the season was delayed.
It is worse still for those who also remain in the Carabao Cup.
An angry Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Saturday that Manchester United’s 12.30pm kick-off time against Everton off the back of returning from a Champions League game in Istanbul on Thursday morning had ‘set us up to fail’.
The Norwegian also called it an ‘absolute shambles’.
Solskjaer had previously said last month that he ‘cannot believe’ the majority of Premier League didn’t vote in favour in favour of keeping the temporary increase to five.
“This is the most demanding season of all,” the United boss said. “We have already seen loads of injuries in the Premier League.
“We, as managers, clubs and medical staff, have to look after them. That’s why we have to rest players at certain times.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said in September: “When the argument is that it favours the top five or six, it is because the people don’t understand absolutely anything. [Big clubs] have games every three days, and there is a way just to protect the players.”
Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has been similarly in favour of allowing five substitutions.
“We have 38 Premier League games in a four-weeks shorter season. That says it all,” he has said.
Klopp stressed it is not about giving bigger clubs an advantage, but a way to simply ‘get through this season’ without suffering excessive or avoidable injuries.