The Premier League returns in just a few short weeks, but not as we know it. Empty stadiums with artificial crowd noises pumping through them will ultimately be the stage upon which Jürgen Klopp’s Reds lift their first league title in three decades.
As we’ve seen in the Bundesliga, a lack of supporters in stadia is a big change, another being a change to the rules allowing more substitutions in a game to help with fixture congestion.
It is a ruling that may just help a few players kick on in ways they may not have prior to the coronavirus outbreak, with fringe players set to be handed more playing time.
In an effort to reduce the physical and mental wear and tear on footballers over the course of the looming fixture list, Premier League shareholders have voted to allow clubs to make up to five substitutions per match as opposed to three, as well as allowing managers to name nine players on the bench rather than the usual seven for the remainder of this season.
This makeshift rule will be a boost for fringe players and young talents at every club — including those employed by Liverpool — who will be licking their lips at the prospect of more time on the pitch than they might otherwise have been afforded.
Let’s take a look at some of the Reds’ players who might benefit from this temporary rule change:
The Japanese is possibly the player who stands to gain the most from an additional substitution allowance. Signed from Red Bull Salzburg this past winter, the 25-year-old has not yet been able to replicate the form that wowed the Anfield crowd in the Champions League in December.
Truthfully though, the Japanese star hasn’t received anywhere near enough playing time to prove his worth, having only made three appearances in the league since joining the Reds.
With time he could prove to be a bargain costing just over £7million. Although the fee paid to bring him to Merseyside was modest, Minamino has drawn some of the highest praise from his peers hinting at big things in the future.
Hopefully this signals a favourable restart for his Anfield career.
Another Liverpool player likely to get a good amount of appearances is their ever-smiling Guinean midfielder. So long as he continues to battle recurring injuries and fails to establish himself in the first team, he will perennially be on lists like this one.
Keïta showed glimpses of match sharpness in the intra-squad scrimmage at Anfield this past week as he flaunted a burst of pace we were worried he might have lost while on the treatment table, while also displaying that familiar creative spark in linking up with others.
We’ve said so many times in the past that ‘now is Keïta’s time to shine’, but this truly could be his moment. With the league essentially wrapped up and no pressure coming from the stands, the No.8 has a great opportunity to prove why Liverpool invested so much in him.
The Swiss could well be on his way out of Liverpool this summer but, given the current circumstances in the transfer market, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see the the diminutive attacker stay at Anfield beyond the current campaign.
Shaqiri’s future, however, will likely be contingent on him being in Klopp’s long-term plans. Given that Liverpool look unlikely to sign any attacking reinforcements this summer, it may be wise to have the 28-year-old stick around.
He is perhaps Liverpool’s most ready-made attacking threat on the bench, when he can get there — the Swiss has been battling calf injuries for most of the season, and his inability to stay fit has proven to be a great source of frustration for the manager.
The remainder of this season may be his final chance to prove that he is still useful to Klopp, and that he is willing to fight for contention in every match.
The aforementioned three, in my opinion, are likely to feature most given this temporary rule change. Some honourable mentions include the likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, and Neco Williams — perhaps the three young talents best placed to fight for a place in the first team.
This new rule surrounding substitutions will certainly benefit those three teenagers, but in terms of first-team readiness I’d argue Minamino, Keïta, and Shaqiri are the most apt candidates to take their chances and show that they are worth a place in the Liverpool team.
With reports emerging this past week indicating Liverpool’s intention to stay quiet in the transfer market, it seems this squad is one we’re going to have to rely on to win the league not just this year, but in following years too as we look to challenge again on all fronts.
This side is elite, possibly the best Liverpool team we’ll see in a long time, and if we aren’t looking to strengthen further in the market this summer then we’ll need young talents and fringe players to step up.
With more substitutions allowed than usual, the remainder of the 2019/20 Premier League season is a prime opportunity for these players to build momentum and start to do exactly that.
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