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Liverpool has used rule change to score seven goals but Jürgen Klopp’guarantee’proven wrong



Liverpool has used rule change to score seven goals but Jürgen Klopp’guarantee’proven wrong

On Saturday, Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino came off the bench to score a late equalizer against Aston Villa on his final Anfield appearance for the club.

Firmino came on as part of a triple change in the 72nd minute, replacing Luis Díaz as James Milner and Kostas Tsimikas entered the fray too.

Last season, this move would not have been possible, because Jürgen Klopp had already made one substitution, swapping out Curtis Jones for Diogo Jota just after the hour mark.

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But Klopp had long been a proponent of a move to five substitutes in the Premier League, calling it an ‘essential’ step in March 2022. He believed it was one way for the competition to ‘save’ its ‘top-class players’ from excess fatigue, enabling greater rotation in and around matches.

“You keep the players in a better place, you would get much less injuries, definitely, over the years — we will see that if we finally introduce it,” Klopp guaranteed (via This is Anfield).

Klopp got his wish as the league permanently implemented the rule for the 2022/23 campaign, bringing it in line with the Champions League. But how much has the move benefitted Liverpool this season?

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp hasn’t seen the anticipated benefits of five subs

(Image: Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Well, first things first, it certainly hasn’t improved the injury outlook for the Reds. As of April 25, their players had missed a combined total of 151 games, the highest figure in the league. In that sense, Klopp has been proven wrong, but perhaps there will be vindication over a longer period as players feel cumulative benefits.

The problem isn’t that Klopp has been reserved in use of his bench. In fact, he’s made use of the new rule in 45 of Liverpool’s 50 matches (90 per cent) by going beyond three substitutions.

He’s made four on 17 occasions (34 per cent), and used the full allocation of five 28 times (56 per cent).

In the initial debate over the merits of five subs, one concern raised by some of the weaker sides in the division was that it would only play further into the hands of the elite teams, widening the disparity. The logic was that they possessed greater strength in depth, so could make better use of their bench.

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However, the competitive advantage has proved to be minimal for Liverpool this season.

Fourth and fifth substitutes have scored seven goals and provided six assists for the Reds across all competitions, but there has been a net loss of two points (looking at the Premier League and Champions League group stage) after their introductions.

A big part of the reason is that many of the contributions have come in routs. Mohamed Salah scored the fastest hat-trick in Champions League history in a 7-1 demolition of Rangers, while Firmino added a seventh goal for Liverpool against Manchester United and Darwin Núñez netted a late sixth away to Leeds United.

As for the assists, Tsimikas set up two goals in the 9-0 win over Bournemouth, Jota created three in the aforementioned Rangers game and Firmino also turned provider at home to United.

Firmino’s equalizer against Villa and Stefan Bajčetić’s goal to settle the reverse fixture in December (it put Liverpool 3-1 up) were both anomalous in their impact.

Klopp certainly won’t have any regrets over pushing for five subs, but it’s fair to say that, so far, the results probably haven’t met his expectations.

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