Eight Man City players set to benefit most from Premier League rule change Pep Guardiola supports

Pep Guardiola could be about to get what he’s been wanting for two years as reports suggest Premier League clubs will vote to allow five substitutions in the top flight.

Manchester City, and their other Premier League rivals, were able to use five substitutions during the ‘Project Restart’ fixtures in the summer of 2020 after the season was postponed due to the lockdown. When the delayed 2020/21 season got underway later that season, however, clubs couldn’t agree to keep the five substitutions rule, so it reverted to three despite a congested fixture list.

Guardiola has regularly called for the use of those two extra substitution options in the last two seasons, with the option available to him in the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup. Now, with other clubs seemingly persuaded to the idea, the notion is reportedly set to pass a vote among Premier League clubs to be introduced from next season. With that will come opportunities for eight City players.

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With just three changes available to Guardiola this season, the manager tends to turn his senior players off the bench to freshen things up, or keep those players happy. Riyad Mahrez has been used most as a substitute in the Premier League this season with 10 appearances, followed by Fernandinho on seven, Raheem Sterling on six, and then five introductions each for Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus.

Guardiola hasn’t always used the five substitutions available to him in the cups when he’s had the chance, but he could give more game time to fringe players lower down the pecking order than the names he prefers this season.

For example, Nathan Akke could get more cameos to impress in defense if a game was won, increasing competition among the centre-backs. Only three players have been included in more matchday squads than Ake this season, but 16 have more appearances. With 19 outings, Ake has been an unused substitute 21 times – more than any other City player.

Fernandinho follows Ake with 19 games left on the bench, even though he has been brought on seven times. If he was to sign a new contract next season, the chance to come on and help see games out could be invaluable to City and enough to persuade him to stay for one final year.

Next on the unused substitute list is Alex Zinchenko , who is in the unenviable position of being third-choice at full-back with Joao Cancelo capable of playing on both sides. When Guardiola has a chance to change things, there are often more pressing areas to rotate than full-back – especially with Cancelo and Kyle Walker being fairly reliable defensively. Another substitute or two could see Guardiola start to consider that area and give Zinchenko more exposure.

Perhaps an odd name on this list given he is a key player, but Ilkay Gundogan has found himself third-choice behind Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva in midfield. If Guardiola knew he had the luxury of five substitutions, he could rotate the trio more within games and from the start – with Gundogan the one to benefit most as a result.

Down to the academy players who could be given more minutes as one of the fourth or fifth changes, and you would expect Cole Palmer , James McAtee and Liam Delap to continue their involvements next season if they don’t head out on loan. As they all look to step up more to the first team, this rule change could come at the perfect time. Palmer has been an unused substitute 16 times, with McAtee left on the bench 12 times. Delap, after recovering from injury, has also been a semi-regular feature on the bench.

Finally, new signing Julian Alvarez may be hoping for the rule to be implemented as he will look to get off to a good start at City. Guardiola has warned that Alvarez may need time to adapt to his new surroundings, and the possible arrival of a new striker may limit the games he will get. Instead, starting his City career as back-up from the bench could be the perfect compromise.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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