Focus is on money, not players' welfare: Pep
Man City boss says three-sub rule, packed calendar have to change for footballers’ sake
LONDON - The Premier League’s unique tradition of playing on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day should not change but it must allow five substitutions to protect players amid a gruelling schedule, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Thursday.
Top-flight leagues in Europe adopted the rule to increase the number of substitutions per game to five to ease the workload on players amid the Covid-19 pandemic but Premier League clubs voted against the motion.
While most leagues head for a winter break, English teams have been scheduled to play three times from tomorrow to Jan 2.
But with more games postponed due to Covid-19 outbreaks, Guardiola said it was time the league adapted to changing circumstances.
“The tradition from Boxing Day is massively important. It’s a characteristic of this league. Boxing Day is so nice for families to all go together to the stadium,” the City boss said ahead of Leicester City’s visit to the Etihad tomorrow.
“The problem is the fixtures, the calendar, 365 days a year, the international teams with huge competitions and a lot of games...
“The players have two to three weeks’ holiday in the summer, then the season (starts) again – it’s too much.
“The welfare of players should be the most important... This is the only country to not accept five substitutions, just three. Why?
“We want to protect the players, so bring five substitutions. It’s much better for the amount of games, but the Premier League decided ‘no’.”
Players and managers have said player welfare is not being taken seriously enough while Covid-19 exacerbates the situation and Guardiola said they should probably come together and go on strike, although he did not want it to come to that.
“Just words won’t solve anything. (For) Uefa, Fifa, the Premier League, the broadcasters, the business is more important than the welfare,” he added of football’s governing bodies.
“Maybe we need a strike for people to take attention... I’m not saying a reason to do a strike, but when people say World Cups, European Cups, Carabao Cup semi-finals (over) two legs, FA Cups and Premier League, it’s more teams, more games and less holidays.”
City, relatively untroubled by the surge in Covid-19 cases that caused the postponement of 12 league games this month, host Leicester on the back of an eight-match winning run in the league.
While title rivals Liverpool and Chelsea have seen key players ruled out for virus-related reasons and have dropped points in the run up to Christmas, Guardiola’s leaders looked unstoppable.
They have scored 11 times without reply in their last two games and their current form is reminiscent of last season when they began a 15-match winning sequence in December and galloped away with the title.
Kyle Walker could be sidelined again tomorrow, having missed the last two matches, while Ferran Torres – who is still recovering from a foot injury – remains out with the Spain forward close to completing his move to Barcelona.
Leicester have not been so fortunate in evading Covid-19, as Ayoze Perez, Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jannik Vestergaard have all recently tested positive, although they were back on the bench during the League Cup loss to Liverpool in midweek. Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana remain injured.
“We’ve got a couple of great games coming up, exciting games that we hope to pick up some big points in, so we look forward to them. We go again,” said winger Marc Albrighton. REUTERS
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