Of course, it’s about substitutions – and the current plan could be set to continue.
Much has been made of the IFAB’s decision to allow five changes from an extend bench of nine players during the current return of football during the worldwide coronavirus – a decision made to benefit players who had experienced a jolting delay in proceedings.
The thinking behind such a rule change was that it’d ensure managers had more choice from the bench – and more options – should players pick up injuries on the basis that issues, injuries and problems would be more likely to occur after such a break.
Villa, Bournemouth, West Ham and Sheffield United are four teams who reportedly voted against the rule change and the relaxation of the substitution rule – which passed, of course.
What’s Smith’s issue, though? Well, much like how drinks breaks have now become tactical coaching sessions, the Villa gaffer believes smaller squads won’t benefit and while that may be a shadowed observation of the quality of his squad, or a simple reflection of the reality that Villa face when playing Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – it’s something he has spoken out on quite a lot.
“I wasn’t for it. I just believe we started the season with certain rules and now we have changed it. I suppose it helps the clubs with the bigger squads,” said the Villa head coach before the Sheffield United game.
“There was talk to change it because there is more risk of injury but having more subs doesn’t help that. I just wanted it to stay as it was. I think Sheffield United were the same.
“Having five subs gives us the chance to rotate the squad during the game. It is like being away in a World Cup camp and playing a mini-tournament.”
His views haven’t mellowed since – especially so after playing the champions of England, Liverool.
“I feel we don’t need rule changes in a season,” said the Villa boss after the 2-0 loss. “To make it five subs it was always going to benefit the clubs with the bigger and healthier squads.
“I don’t really thank Jurgen (Klopp) for sending the big guns on! He made a triple substitution with three players that would normally be starting the majority of the games for Liverpool and that’s going to up the quality they have.”
That headache could be set to continue – with the IFAB now laying the groundwork for the ‘five subs’ rule to continue into next season, according to a new report by The Athletic who believe an extension to the rule change will be announced shortly.
This would allow the Premier League to add the rule change once more to their next meeting & vote ahead of the 20/21 season, with the IFAB backing the idea that a shortened pre-season could lead to more injuries following the delay of the prior season.
Smith isn’t alone in his thoughts, and there is a worry that some of the one-off fixes implemented during the run-in could be deployed over and over again in both the Premier League and the Championship.