Klopp accuses Premier League chiefs of ‘ignoring player welfare’ over subs rule

LONDON (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp has accused Premier League executives of “ignoring player welfare” after they did not consider allowing clubs to increase the number of substitutes from three to five at a meeting this week.

Coaches were allowed to make five substitutions when the Premier League returned following the coronavirus shutdown last season and all the other major European leagues continue to allow five changes.

But the top teams in the English top-flight lost a vote for the rule to remain for the 2020/21 season. Opponents said it benefits clubs with bigger squads. Despite strong support from Klopp and a number of other managers, there was no vote at a meeting of the clubs on Thursday.

“I’m not surprised,” Klopp said at his press conference on Friday. “I told you that in the managers’ meeting (in November) if we would have voted that day, which we were not allowed to, it would have been through 100 per cent with 15 or 16 votes.

“That it didn’t happen since then is a sign some shareholders and CEOs and sporting directors see differently from their managers.

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. PHOTO: AP

“That is not a good sign, really. These people now really ignore players’ welfare.”

He said the issue of substitutions could become a major problem for England manager Gareth Southgate.

“Most of the players Gareth wants to pick play (European) football, pretty much all,” he said.

“Gareth will get what we give him if we stick with three subs. If we stick with three subs, he has a problem then, so it is an FA (Football Association) problem.”

There are signs for Klopp that Liverpool’s injury crisis could be easing.

Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has missed four matches with a calf strain, and Naby Keita, out for three with a hamstring problem, could be back for early tomorrow’s (3.15am Brunei time) visit of Wolves to Anfield.

“Trent and Naby will make their first steps in team training today,” said Klopp.

“There’s a chance that Naby and Trent could be in the squad I would say. Whether they can start or play 90 minutes I do not know.”

Klopp said Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has not played since a knee injury in pre-season, was not far away from a return and he has to make a decision on his goalkeeper, with Alisson Becker still out with a thigh problem.