West Brom manager Slaven Bilic is in favour of the Premier League increasing the number of substitutes allowed in matches for the rest of the season.
Speaking ahead of Albion’s trip to Manchester United this weekend, Bilic was quoted by BBC Sport as saying that there was enough of a gap between seasons and that the fitness of the players has to be taken into consideration.
“It would benefit every club in sense of player welfare given the schedule, especially for clubs in Europe. It is hard and difficult,” Bilic said in his pre-match press conference.
“We spoke about it yesterday for two or three hours. The break wasn’t long enough and welfare is the most important thing. The Premier League has to decide.”
However, BBC Sport’s live blog reports that “Bilic does not agree with” Aston Villa manager Dean Smith on the major debate that has emerged in recent weeks.
Smith said: “We had a meeting yesterday and we spoke at length about each manager’s individual feelings. I can only go from my football club, and if player welfare becomes an issue then it’s a no-brainer and you have to increase substitutions or look at the fixture scheduling.
“At the moment, I’m not seeing any trends from my players that suggest player welfare is an issue.
“I speak to my players all the time – I want the best for them and I want to look after them. That’s what we’re doing.”
We can’t believe we’re about to say this but we agree with Smith and not Bilic.
Why does Bilic want five substitutes to be re-introduced into matches?
West Brom’s squad depth is one of the most appalling in the league after a transfer window that saw the club struggle to add players in vital areas.
In Albion’s last match before the international break against Tottenham, Bilic’s bench was made up of David Button, Lee Peltier, Kieran Gibbs, Romaine Sawyers, Kyle Edwards, Grady Diangana and Matt Phillips.
Edwards, Diangana and Phillips came off the bench in the 1-0 defeat to Spurs. Who else would Bilic have wanted to throw into the game if he had two more substitutes available? Under-performing Sawyers or one of the two full-backs? We doubt it.
Bilic has used all 24 substitutions he’s been allowed to make this season while it’s worth noting that Smith has used just 12 out of the 21 he’s been permitted to make [WyScout].
The managers of the two West Midlands rivals clearly have different views on this but we just see the five-sub rule giving more of an advantage to teams with a better strength in depth among their squad.
West Brom only have a handful of players who we firmly believe are Premier League quality.
Bilic likes to make substitutions and that was abundantly clear last season when Charlie Austin scored six goals off the bench – the joint-most in the Championship – and Grady Diangana scored three goals and supplied two assists as a sub.
But this is the Premier League.
West Brom had one of the best squads in the Championship last season so the substitutes benefitted them but in the Premier League, they have one of the worst.
In other West Brom news, this Albion player was torn to shreds for his international performance last week.