The Impact Of Substitutes In Football

football substitution illustrationWhen betting on the beautiful game, we know there are plenty of variables that can affect the outcome of our wagers. Some of these can be pre-match while others, such as substitutions, can happen in play.

Although we don’t always know when they will occur during a match, we can say for almost certain that there will, at some point, be a substitution in the game, likely multiple.

While managers often get twitchy around the 60 minute mark when it comes to making changes, injuries, tactical tweaks or the enforced reaction to a red card, can all lead to them needing to act as well.

History Of Subs

football player lying injuredThere are plenty of reasons why a manager might make a substitution, but the reason they were introduced in the first place was purely to allow managers to swap in a replacement for an injured player.

Substitutions were not intended initially as a luxury for a manager to exploit which is why some managers back in the day were known to encourage their players to fake injuries which would then allow for their substitution.

Now, while Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp argue the case for five substitutions to be allowed in a game, tactics, including time wasting in the dying minutes, are the most commonplace reasons for making a switch in today’s game.

How Substitutions Affect The Game

mo salah being substituted in a liverpool gameWhen they enter the pitch, substitutes can have an immediate impact on the game in a number of ways. This can either be in something that they do or, because of a tactical switch, what they have allowed others to do.

Over the years some players have developed a reputation for changing a game when they come on as a sub. There are even players referred to as supersubs that were known to score almost every time they came off the bench.

Historically, Liverpool’s David Fairclough was the original but in the Premier League era players such as Nwanko Kanu (17 goals), Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer (17 goals) and Javier Hernández (14 goals) all regularly found the back of the net when coming on as a substitute. The highest scoring sub in Premier League history though is Jermain Defoe with 23 goals.

Starters Vs Substitutes

football substitution iconSubs, it seems, score more goals per 90 minutes than starters do. One of the reasons for this is that a greater number of goals tend to be scored in the last stages of the game and that is when there are more subs on the pitch. The majority of substitutions are made in the last 15 minutes of matches, but the vast majority are made in the second half.

Unsurprisingly, only around 14% of subs are made within 15 minutes of the restart, with managers prepared to wait until the 60 minute mark before being tempted to bring on fresh legs. Also unsurprisingly, goals scored by subs that were introduced in the 46th minute appears to be more common than for players brought on later – by virtue of the fact they have a longer time on the pitch to score.

Attacking players are the players subbed most often. This then is another reason that they generally score more than starters. Only around 5% of substitutions made directly result in a goal, however.

The most likely time for substitutes to score is within 5 minutes of coming on. This is not to say that players will hit the net within five minutes, simply that more than 29% of goals are scored inside the sub’s first five minutes of action.

Of course, the quality of a team’s bench has a big impact on these stats. It is far easier for Chelsea and Manchester City to influence the game from the bench than it is Norwich for example.

Essentially, the best teams with the best range of substitutes will ultimately fare better when it comes to impacting a game. Which is not very surprising.