As Europe's top football leagues are back in action, the Premier League has seen a change in its rules, implementing a crackdown on "wasted time" during matches.
The new regulations regarding stoppage time introduced by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) which was accepted by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) mean that added time at the end of top-flight matches could very well run into double digits, a trend that was observed in the FIFA World Cup matches last year.
As part of the change, referees will now add on the exact time that is wasted during substitutions, goal celebrations, injuries and so on, instead of taking the nominal duration like the previous seasons.
What are the players and managers saying?
With the matches potentially running up to more than 100 minutes, several players and managers have voiced their concerns over the effect longer matches have on the health of the players.
Four-time Champions League winner and Manchester United defender Raphael Varane was one of the first players to criticize the new rules.
Varane was part of a meeting with the Football Association (FA) where he raised concerns over the new rules and the lack of a proper break between fixtures.
He said that new rules are "damaging the game" as the decisions are made without paying heed to the voices of the players. After the meeting, Varane on X (formerly known as Twitter) said that highlighting players' issues is important as they want to protect the game they love and hence give the fans their best.
In the post, he said, " Despite our previous feedback, they have now recommended for next season: longer games, more intensity, and less emotions to be shown by players. We just want to be in good condition on the pitch to give 100 per cent to our club and fans. Why are our opinions not being heard?"
Regarding the number of matches that the teams are forced to play, Manchester City midfielder Rodri expressed his worries regarding players' health conditions. The Spaniard who was part of the historic treble-winning side last season, played 56 matches last season alone.
Regarding the lack of rest in between matches, he said, "You can do it for one season, but when it’s two or three in a row, it can be worse for the team because your physicality can drop. So I have to watch out. We have already spoken that it cannot always be like this."
Apart from the year-long competitions, teams are also scheduled to play pre-season friendlies in other countries as a part of their warm-up for the new season.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola also voiced his opinions on the number of matches his team are playing. He said, “The problem is here [mental]. They are exhausted. Look already how many players are injured in the pre-season in bad conditions: humidity, hot, and the pitches are not really good, especially in the States. But it is what it is. We have to adapt, adjust, but it’s not normal.”
Talking about the new rules of stoppage time, he said, “Wasting time, from my point of view, is not going to be solved by adding 10 more minutes. What happens if they continue to be slow? It’s more tiring for the players. It’s too much.”
Premier League players who are already out for a major part of the season
Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City talisman Kevin De Bruyne who was an important part of the treble-winning side last season came off during his side's opening match of the PL season with an existing knee injury.
The Belgian was left out of City's pre-season matches in the United States and only played against Arsenal in the Community Shield loss earlier this month, a match that went on for more than 100 minutes.
City's boss Guardiola confirmed that De Bruyne will be out for several months.
Chelsea's new signing Nkunku suffered an injury during a pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund in the United States. The club confirmed that Nkunku underwent surgery and will undergo a rehabilitation programme, ruling him out of action for at least a few months.
Brazilian Gabriel Jesus who plays for Arsenal, already missed out on the last four months of the Premier League last season after suffering ligament damage during a World Cup clash against Cameroon in 2022, is set to miss a few weeks of the current season as well.
Although he featured in pre-season matches, he once again faced problems with his knee during Arsenal's friendly against Monaco.
37-year-old goalkeeper Tom Heaton who plays for Manchester United suffered a calf injury during a training session at the club just before the start of the new season. He featured for United in their pre-season friendlies and was set to serve as the substitute keeper for the club, behind new signing Andre Onana. He is expected to be out until September.
Arsenal's new signing Jurrien Jurrien Timber who was signed from Ajax, featured for the club in their Community Shield win against Manchester City. However, the Dutchman only lasted 50 minutes in his Premier League debut match against Nottingham Forest, after suffering an ACL injury which has ruled him out for several months.
The new season awaits
With the new rules kicking in this season, it remains uncertain how the players and managers are going to adapt to the situation. Adding to it, the decision to increase the number of teams competing in international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and even European competitions means that teams will have more matches to play. Such decisions from tournament organizers to increase the revenue that comes in, could potentially negatively affect the careers of players and the impact they have on the pitch.