Time to cut the numbers in the Premier League?

If you take beauty from some of the smaller and perhaps fleetingly accepted Premier League details much like myself, you will be familiar with the fact that league regulations designate seven substitutes on a match day; a two person advance on the number of players retired after the culmination of the 2007/8 campaign. More spaces on team coaches have been filled in the years since with the aim of giving managers more of a choice to reactively call upon given the matches incidences.

However, the nation’s Football League put the ‘number of substitutes’ debate to a vote in the summer and the majority favoured a reversion back to naming five players on the bench and was the rationale agreed upon for this 2011/12 campaign. With a host of clubs in England’s next respective tiers struggling to fund large squads, and easily naming seven different subs a week, financial fair play reasons were also mooted in the reasons for opting for the reversion. Football League clubs still have to name seven subs for FA Cup and Carling Cup matches but are allowed five as devised by the Football League in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Nevertheless, the more asset-rich Premier League understandably maintains the seven substitute stance. More funds may be available for back-up talent, but you can’t help get the feeling that it is so much easier to get into a squad these days and that the modern-day ‘benchwarmer’ is a role fulfilled by many an unused player.

As we all know, the Premier League adopts the ‘home-grown’ talent ideology nowadays and in a 25-man squad, at the end of each transfer window there has to be at least eight players, foreign or not who have been affiliated to the FA for three seasons prior to their 21st birthday. Understandably, this was brought into operation to safeguard the passage of more youthful products into the first team selections of clubs to help the national team.

However, there are still a number of players who seem to be used simply ‘for show’ and there is not always a place on the bench for the clubs more youthful talent (the idea wasn’t it?). Take the two North London clubs. Tottenham fans are still baffled by the retention of Giovani Dos Santos who has failed to live up to the heights predicted for him since his move from Barcelona in 2008. This season he has made five unused substitutes appearances in the league and in the other five appearances he has entered the field of play, he has only reached a minute combined total of 66 minutes in playing time.

Similarly employed and fleetingly called upon despite full fitness is Arsenal’s summer signing Park Chu Young. The Korean international captain has even more league unused substitutes appearances totalling ten and has astonishingly just seven minutes playing time; against Manchester United, since his summer move from Monaco. Both players continue to be a firm fixture in their national team set up despite a distinct lack of playing time however.

We must comprehend that Arsenal and Tottenham have bigger and more competitive squads than most but doesn’t it make a mockery of the clubs initial PR speeches when they predict a good future for players whom they rarely go on to deploy?

Back in August last year, Arsene Wenger said of Park’s signature

‘We are delighted to have signed Ju. He will add true quality to our attacking forces and will be a valuable addition to our squad’.

If valuable means keeping the bench warm in the eyes of Wenger, the Korean is certainly doing his job, but in all seriousness highlights the modern pattern that there is a specific breed of ‘cup players’.

Other arguable examples in the league include Rafik Halliche, Romelu Lukaku, James McFadden, Sebastian Coates, Albert Crusat and Rob Hulse and these types do little but wear a high-vis and parade the touchline, whereby the league hoped many younger talents would gain these supposedly vacant extra two slots. Yes, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Cameron Lancaster and Sam Hutchinson may have been spotted on Premier League benches this season but it is still at far too infrequent intervals with the selection of more experienced ‘benchwarmers’ still taking precedence.

If The Premier League followed the Football League’s stance in reverting back to five substitutes, not only would clubs reduce their wage bill as fringe players would be fed up at an even lesser role, but it would be that much more competitive to get into a match day squad and questions of self-motivation and self-desire would be raised for the manager to reward good character, instead of simply selecting those players seemingly just ‘for show’.

What do you think, are seven substitutes a good thing? Who is your benchwarmer at your club? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989


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