Injuries have tied Jurgen Klopp’s hands to some extent but the Liverpool manager is using subs more than any other Premier League manager this season.
Liverpool’s injury situation – consistently the worst in the Premier League over the early weeks of 2022/23 – can perhaps be best summed up by their substitute options for their recent Champions League matches. Jurgen Klopp was entitled to name 12 players on his bench yet was only able to select 10 each time.
Even then, there were two reserve goalkeepers in the group, as well as a 17-year-old with 20 minutes of first-team football to his name. Despite this relative paucity of talent, Klopp still deployed five substitutes in Naples to try to shake things up on the pitch.
So poor was the Reds’ performance in match week one that switching all 11 players probably wouldn’t have made much difference to the outcome. Nonetheless, the changes had a mildly positive impact and hinted at what Klopp may be able to achieve when his injured charges return to first team action.
England was notoriously slow to implement the five substitutes rule, with the Premier League only allowing a quintet of in-game changes from the start of the 2022/23 season. It’s too early in the campaign for any data to prove anything, but the early evidence shows many managers have yet to take full advantage of their increased options to any significant extent.
Everton and Leicester City have yet to use a fifth sub once this season, and the latter have only deployed their fourth on one occasion. At the other end of the scale, Brentford’s Thomas Frank is just one change shy of using the full 30 he was permitted across the Bees’ opening six games. Overall, though, the Premier League is making less use of subs than the other big leagues in Europe. The five-sub revolution is not yet fully underway in this country.
Klopp has used a fourth substitute in four of Liverpool’s six league games, and a fifth just twice. Again, a lack of options probably lies at why he has not used his increased complement more frequently and this is not to say that his changes have not had an impact.
Although Liverpool have had a disappointing start to 2022/23, it could easily have been worse. Darwin Nunez scored and assisted goals after coming off the bench in the Reds’ 2-2 draw at Fulham, before Fabio Carvalho snatched a dramatic late winner against Newcastle United having not been in the starting XI.
In neither game did Klopp use his potential fifth sub but it’s easy to imagine how beneficial it could be in future. Though they were unable to prove decisive against Everton and Napoli, having the quality of Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota and Nunez (among others) on hand inevitably made the outlook a little brighter for the Liverpool boss.
He has been unafraid to make early changes. Some would argue that poor performances from his team have forced his hand, and there is some truth in that. Only five teams in the Premier League have made their first change earlier on average this season, and Klopp has made a personnel switch no later than the 51st minute in half of the matches so far, with only one of the three games won.
But whatever the motive for the substitutions, the Reds have had more minutes from their bench than any other team so far this season (per Transfermarkt). Liverpool are ranked third in the division for average minutes given to sub number four, and second for the final change.
Klopp has seen the potential which being able to use a 15th and 16th man can bring, and his record early in 2022/23 suggests he will employ them more frequently once the injury problems at the club subside. The Reds’ opponents who think they’ve successfully weathered an early storm in games will likely have to think again after the international break.