The official Nike Premier League match ball with a protective mask. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. on April 3, 2020 in Manchester, Eng
The Premier League prepares to restart the season, Pep Guardiola decides on a defensive solution and there's panic for Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson. It's Monday's Paper Round...
'Project Restart' for the Premier League
The Premier League are confident that the league's restart will take place "sooner rather than later" and have started informing clubs about the specific measures which could be taken to finish the season. According to a report from the Mirror, there is a "proposed hotel lockdown plan" which is viewed as the most likely solution to the Premier League returning during the coronavirus crisis. The proposal involves squads staying in nominated hotels for the entire period while the season is finished. Home sides would be staying in one half of the hotel, while the visiting team would only check in before their matches and their section of the building would be professionally deep-cleaned following their departure.
Paper Round's view: The plan for Premier League clubs to return to training is said to be on May 9 and officials believe that a "mini pre-season" of three weeks would be sufficient for the players - so realistically, we could be seeing England's top tier return as early as May 30. It will be interesting to see if the "hotel lockdown plan" goes ahead. It would need hotel staff and cleaners involved (with all the correct protective equipment) and also tests for players and staff. However, if it does go ahead as planned, it's looking likely that the behind-closed-doors matches will all be broadcasted on television which would certainly appease football fans.
Real have 'clear path' to sign Camavinga as three giants pull out - Euro Papers
New rule prepped for Premier League return
Staying in the Premier League, the Sun report a potential rule change for the remainder of the season. Clubs are usually only allowed to make three substitutes during a match, but a new FIFA proposal could increase this number to five changes as English sides worry about injuries and burn-out if the conclusion to the current season is crammed into just five weeks. The new-rule proposal has to be approved by all four Home Nations, then the 20 Premier League clubs will be able to decide whether they wish to adopt the change. Managers would be allowed to make up to five substitutions but officials will still only allow "three exchange windows per match".
Paper Round's view: This is smart thinking from above. Premier League players are probably pushed to the limit at the best of times due to cup competitions, but the benefit of somewhat inflated squads these days allows rotation for managers. Players will be keeping fit at home but it's not the same as playing matches week in, week out. Fitness levels always drop in the off-season and you can really see the struggle during pre-season and even sometimes at the start of the campaigns, so it's expected to happen once the league restarts too. Increasing the number of substitutes allowed by two will mean the quality of matches stays high and also reduce the risk of injuries.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has reportedly decided on the signing to solve his centre-back crisis, according to the Sun. The Catalan coach views Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci as an ideal addition to his "leaky defence" due to his passing ability and experience. Guardiola believes that the 32-year-old would be the "perfect" replacement for ex-club captain Vincent Kompany, who left the club last summer. However, Juventus are said to have zero interest in selling the Italian, who signed a new contract with the Serie A side back in November which runs until 2024.
Paper Round's view: City are in desperate need of at least one new centre-back. Aymeric Laporte is the only centre-half in the squad who is good enough to win the Champions League, with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones regressing in recent years. Guardiola paid the price when he failed to sign a Kompany replacement last summer. Fernandinho ended up having to fill in at centre-back alongside either Stones or Otamendi after Laporte was ruled out with a long-term injury early in the 2019-20 season and it clearly impacted their form. Bonucci would be a great addition to their squad, but it's unlikely that the club would pay a big fee for a 32-year-old... and then there's the problem of City's unresolved two-year Champions League ban for FFP breaches.
Crystal Palace could be set for a strange return once football resumes following the coronavirus pandemic as the Sun reports manager Roy Hodgson could miss the remainder of the season due to government restrictions. The Eagles boss is 72 years old and the government's current coronavirus guidelines view over-70s as "high risk", which would result in Hodgson being restricted from attending matches or even taking training sessions. The former England manager has previously stated that he would observe any government rules regarding over-70s, but the club are currently unclear on whether Hogdson would be given special dispensation when the Premier League restarts.
Paper Round's view: Hodgson receives plenty of praise for continuing his successful managerial career into his 70s, but he could be in some trouble here. If the Premier League were to resume, precautionary measures would definitely be in place to make sure that all locations would be 'secure' environments - so theoretically Hogdson (or anybody else) shouldn't be at risk. However, it's easy to say that now - but there could always be a breach due to human error. It puts Palace and their manager in a tough situation. Hodgson will want to return to work but he has also accepted he will abide by government laws. We could see a situation where assistant manager Ray Lewington is forced to take charge for the foreseeable future.