Wiltooooooooooooooord! Arsenal have scored yet again, in the Premiership, and it might well be the most important one of the lot!
Nice times when the Frenchman, the first to react to a loose ball in the box after a shot from Freddie Ljungberg, hit the back of the net for what would prove to be the decisive goal to win the league.
It was Wednesday, 8th of May 2002, it sounds like a lifetime has passed but it’s still extremely enjoyable to watch our players celebrating the title on the turf at Old Trafford, home of our nemesis.
Those who have lived the moment surely have lots of precious memories of that day and might remember even the slightest detail. How many of you can name the players that were on the bench that famous night, though?
Let me help you out: Wright, Dixon, Stepanovs, Jeffers, Bergkamp.
Oh yes, back then a manager could only name five players on the bench and it stayed like that until the season 2008/09 – which feels like yesterday.
This lengthy preamble was needed to get to the main point, the decision made by the Premier League Clubs to increase the number of substitutions to five and allow managers to name nine players on the bench; managers will only have three calls to make their substitutions, though, a measure put in place to limit the interruptions during the games, especially in the final minutes.
These new rules, ratified by the Clubs yesterday, will be valid for the remainder of the season but we cannot write off the possibility that they will be made permanent, once the managers got used to the new opportunities and options linked to these changes: more fresh legs on the bench hence higher intensity from the players on the pitch; more tactical flexibility, due to a larger choice of players with different profiles and specific roles, on the bench; more freedom with the timing of the substitutions, with managers allowed to plan early changes without any worries about having none left in the closing stages of games.
Thanks to these new measures, the more innovative coaches could seize the chance and experiment new ultra-aggressive approaches in the opening minutes of games, with fatigue no longer an issue; also, coaches could design more offensive or defensive formations, to be used in short periods of games, before reverting to a more traditional system once the ultimate purpose is fulfilled.
These changes, implemented to ease the burden on players during what is going to be a very demanding period, could well be a game-changer and have a deep impact on how football is imagined and played; accidentally, English Clubs could have helped implementing the most revolutionary idea since the interdiction for goalkeepers to collect the ball with their hands, after a back-pass from a teammate.
Who will be the first coaches to make the most of these new scenarios? Who will be the avant-gardist in the Premier League?
Obviously, the hope is that Mikel Arteta will have a prominent role in this new wave and, considering his experience alongside Pep Guardiola, one of the most successful innovators of recent times, this hope definitely isn’t misplaced.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.