It was back in October when Thomas Tuchel first suggested he was unhappy with the Premier League’s choice of limiting clubs to just three in-game substitutions. The spectators want the top players on the pitch, they want them healthy and they want them to be fit and in shape, hungry,” said the Chelsea head coach.
“You can’t always offer it when you play so many games in so many different leagues. And given that we’ve only allowed three changes in the Premier League – and not five like the other leagues – it’s a great thing that we have to deal with.”
Fast forward two months and Tuchel’s protests turned violent against Chelsea amid a selection crisis brought on by injuries and a spate of positive Covid cases. “I absolutely do not understand, zero percent, why we are the only league to play through the winter and why we are the only league with three substitutes in a period of heavy, severe Covid threat and situations,” the German said in December.
READ MORE: The £42m savings Chelsea could make this summer with the evolution of Thomas Tuchel’s squad already underway
“It really doesn’t make sense. It is the situation and that is worrying. The schedule is not the problem. We like the schedule. Five changes were invented in the UK when Covid first started. Now that we are in the middle of it, I get the feeling that everyone is refusing or refusing to think about it.”
It has taken much longer than Tuchel would have liked, but clubs in the Premier League seem to have finally reached the same conclusion as the Chelsea head coach. According to The Times, top clubs will agree in a meeting tomorrow with the rule of five substitutions that will be allowed from next season.
Will that be hugely beneficial for Tuchel and the Blues? Almost certainly. There have been 21 games played in five different competitions this season – the UEFA Super Cup, Champions League, EFL Cup, FA Cup and Club World Cup – in which the Chelsea head coach had the opportunity to use more than three substitutes. He often seized that opportunity.
On 16 occasions, Tuchel made at least four changes. While many of these are late in the games Chelsea are leading, they should not be seen as symbolic performances. It’s more insurance policies. For example, in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho were the fourth and fifth substitutes to help the Blues cross the line.
Of course, there have been times when Tuchel has used his two additional changes to hand over rare minutes to fringe players. Saul Niguez took advantage of this more than once in the Champions League group stage, while Kenedy and Harvey Vale were late introductions as Chelsea took home the FA Cup against Middlesbrough ahead of the international break.
It’s impossible to know whether the five-substitution option would have impacted Tuchel’s Premier League title race this season, especially given that both Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp also regularly play four or four. used more substitutes when they got the chance.
Guardiola has jumped deep into his bench in 66.6% of City games where five substitutions have been allowed. For Liverpool and Klopp, that figure is 88.8%. For the record, Tuchel is in the middle of both with the Chelsea head coach opting to make at least four changes in 76.1% of possible games.
What is clear is that next season Chelsea will benefit greatly from a strong squad in the Premier League. Tuchel has the means to change matches in an instant and will be able to use most of them. But just as importantly, he will be able to eliminate key players when games are won and hopefully prevent a recurrence of the injury issues that impacted the Blues so much this season.