By Andrew McSteen
When the Premier League restarted on Thursday following the 100-day pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a new law allowing five substitutes to be used instead of the usual three, to protect the welfare of the players was in place, albeit temporarily until the end of this season.
Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Southampton and Norwich City all took the opportunity to use their maximum allowance in their games this week, and as Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson prepares to go up against Bournemouth later tonight, he told the South London Press how this could affect his thoughts as the Eagles get back to league action – and even the possibility of bringing on players for a period and then taking them off again.
“I’m not 100% certain with players coming on and coming off, although we had that with David Luiz who came on then got sent off (for Arsenal on Thursday),” said the Croydon-born Hodgson. “I don’t think too many players are going to be too keen to be brought on and then taken off again for tactical reasons so I think we will be limited with that because we’ve got to be certain we keep our players in a good frame of mind.
“But there are going to be situations now where because you’ve got more players at your disposal, the more you can use,” added the former England manager. “It does give you that option to make substitutes when the game is going in a certain direction, which, maybe, you wouldn’t have been able to in the pre-COVID world that we lived in because you’d be frightened leaving yourself playing with only 10 men for a good period of the game at the end.”
With all games being played behind-closed-doors, without fans and just 300 people allowed in stadiums, it has also made the experienced Hodgson think about how he delivers his messaging to his players through himself and his coaching staff, in what will be a new, quiet, experience for most people involved.
“There will be moments in the game where in a big stadium you wouldn’t be able to make your voice heard whereas now, we can and I think that is obviously an advantage,” explained Hodgson to the South London Press.
“The disadvantage is that it forces us to be very, very careful about what we’re saying because when you’re in a big stadium, basically only the person standing next to you can hear you whereas now our voices are going to be blasted out into millions of viewers’ homes (on television). So, I think it puts a burden on us, if you like, to be very careful of what you say, how you say it and what language we choose.
“We’ll certainly get more contact [with the players during the match],” he added. “The information and the coaching we do that on a daily basis here and have been doing that for a period of years now so it’s not a question of getting messages out to players and telling them things that they don’t understand or haven’t already worked on or put into practice.
“But, of course, It’s going to take some time for us, this being our first game, to get used to this behind-closed-doors effect and I think it’s the same for everybody; the media, people watching in front of their TV screens.
“It’s not going to be quite the same as it was before all of this happened, but the good thing is, that it is happening; football is being played and they’ll be a lot of good quality football being played.
“The things that we have to get used to and come to terms with are things which don’t necessarily affect the product on the field of play because it’s still 11 v 11, it’s still going to be played at a high level of intensity, in front of top-class referees so in that respect we can’t really seek any excuses because that is what the game always is.”
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