Pep Guardiola claims the Premier League club chiefs who voted against allowing five substitutions this season were not thinking in the players’ best interests.
Manchester City boss Guardiola believes the competition made a mistake by reverting to allowing only three changes per game, after permitting five in the closing stages of last season following lockdown.
World governing body FIFA had made allowances for up to five substitutions to continue in the 2020-21 season, for player welfare reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Premier League clubs voted against continuing with it.
It was reported at the time that a number of clubs felt the rule gave the stronger clubs with bigger squads an unfair advantage.
Yet Guardiola feels the ones who now have to suffer are the players. He is in no doubt the high number of injuries being experienced by clubs this season is a result of the shortened summer break and intensity of the condensed calendar.
He said: “All the leagues – Germany, Spain, everywhere – (allow) five substitutions to protect the players, not to protect one team.
“Why all around the world is it happening but here, which is the more demanding for many reasons, we cannot protect the players?
“It’s not about protecting Man City. It’s about protecting all Premier League players and the statistics speak for themselves – almost 50 per cent more muscular injuries than last season.
“Why? Because the players play and recover from the previous game but maybe not from the previous season. Why should we not do it (five substitutions)? It makes no sense, honestly, no sense.
“At the end, (those) who voted to make the decision – the sporting directors, the presidents, the chairmen – who are they to decide this? Who are they? They have to protect the players.
“It has to be the managers or the association of the football players (the PFA). They are ones who have to decide whether it’s three or five substitutions when it’s acceptable for UEFA, FIFA and everywhere.”
City have had a lengthy injury list this season and are again likely to be without a number of players for Saturday’s trip to Sheffield United, including strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
Yet Guardiola is keen to point out his gripe is not about City’s problems, but about players in general.
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“I don’t want to see players injured,” he said. “If people believe it’s because I’m defending City’s position, erase my statement because it’s far away from what I want to say.”
City face a Blades side at Bramall Lane that are yet to win this term. Guardiola is puzzled by their poor start after last season’s impressive first campaign back in the top flight under Chris Wilder.
Guardiola said: “Sheffield (United) are one of the strongest teams in the Premier League. Their position in the table is another example of how strange our world is right now.
“Their football is incredible, much better than their points right now. I am a big, big fan of Bill Wilder (sic), what he has done with this team.”