There’s definitely an art to making the best use of football substitutes: six of the Premier League goals scored by Arsenal – including four from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – during their recent unbeaten run have come from the bench.
We were curious to find out which managers are the best at changing games using their substitutes and which players are best – and worst – when introduced from the bench, so we’ve analysed the data from the last five seasons for every Premier League and EFL club.
Which managers use their bench most effectively?
It will surprise few to learn that the Premier League’s master of making tactical changes is Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, with his intense focus on tactics and access to deep squads seeing his team gain the equivalent of over 16 additional points per season after his first substitute enters the fray. Across the EFL, however, there is one manager whose tactical changes have yielded more points per season – even when you correct for the additional number of matches played. Tranmere’s Micky Mellon has seen his substitutes make more of a difference than Guardiola’s.
Which players are the most effective football substitutes?
Olivier Giroud has increasingly been used from the bench as he approaches the twilight of his career, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this is his most effective role. The French striker’s introduction has seen almost a point gained per match on average since joining Chelsea: the most of any player with at least 10 substitute appearances in their current league and for their current club. The only EFL player who can hold a candle to this record is Doncaster midfielder Alfie Beestin, whose appearance on the touchline has heralded a similar uplift in fortunes.
Which players have better scoring rates from the bench?
Anthony Martial and Daniel Sturridge have both struggled to command a place in their respective clubs’ starting line-ups but the data shows why they’re so often kept on the bench. Along with Burnley’s Chris Wood, they’re the only three top-flight players to have netted an average of more than a goal every 90 minutes from the bench: far more frequently than when they’ve been on the pitch from kick-off. Across the EFL, Brentford’s Neal Maupay and Sammie Szmodics of Colchester stand out as being even more prolific as substitutes.
When do managers make their substitutions?
A manager’s strategy for making mid-match personnel changes will have a huge bearing on how much of an uplift those changes provide, and an examination of when substitutions have been made this season reveals some striking differences. While Arsenal’s new manager Unai Emery and Chris Hughton of Brighton tend to have made their first change by the 50th minute, the likes of Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace only turn to their bench when there are around 15 minutes left to play.
Daniel Farke of Norwich and Colchester’s John McGreal have also left it late to make their changes, while Middlesbrough’s Tony Pulis and Kenny Jackett at Portsmouth have been the most predictable, introducing fresh players in a narrow window of time around the 70-minute mark.
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