‘Super sub’ … The more they seemingly pop up from the bench to score, the more the term is bandied about.
The ‘super sub’ is the scourge of the opposing teams, the player who can be introduced and turn the game on its head with a swipe of his boot or a twist of the neck, the hero of every team who possesses one. To be a ‘super sub’ is to achieve ultimate cult status at your club, whilst being feared by every other team in the league: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, for example, or Edin Dzeko.
The phrase is a concrete part of footballing life today and accepted by everyone as a natural phenomenon which occurs in sport, but is the ‘super sub’ something which really exists or just a myth which we have accepted as truth?
Super Subs: Do they Really Exist?
Already Dzeko is being branded a ‘super sub’ for his performances this year and there is some truth behind in this, as the statistics show. Dzeko has scored six goals this season, five coming from the bench, only one coming from a start (against QPR). Incredibly, then, this season 83 per cent of his goals have come from from the bench, which would seem to validate the ‘super sub’ tag. However, when compared to last season, the stats begin to differ. Ten out of 14 of Dzeko’s goals were scored from starts during the 2011/12 season; only four were scored from the bench. For that season, then, 71 per cent of Dzeko’s goals came from starts.
The same can be shown for almost every other perceived ‘super sub’. Take Javier Hernandez, who has four goals this season with three of them coming from the subs’ bench, a majority 75 per cent of his goals this term. Even the vast majority of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goals were scored when he started the game; Solskjaer scored 126 goals, 97 of which came from starts.
When put into perspective it can clearly be shown that strikers who are seen as ‘super subs’ because they come off the bench and score, or seem to score the majority of their goals from the bench, actually score the majority of their goals when they start games.
Starter or Sub
Although the latter facts show that the perception of ‘super subs’ can be somewhat warped, it cannot be denied this season that the likes of Hernandez and Dzeko are scoring more when they start than when they appear as substitutes. As shown above, Hernandez averages 75 per cent for goals scored as a substitute this season with Dzeko averaging 83 per cent.
However, the reason for this can be seen quite clearly as both strikers have spent the majority of the time on the bench this season. Take Dzeko, for example, who has this season only started four games out of a total 11 that he has taken part in. With a starting percentage of less than 37 per, it is the law of averages that Dzeko would score the majority of his goals from coming off the bench. The season before, however, when Dzeko made more starts than sub appearances, only 29 per cent of his goals were scored from the bench. This can also be said for Hernandez. When looking at the statistics for 2010/11, the season which Hernandez spent more time as a starter than as a substitute, the pattern is very similar. For that season, Hernandez started 15 games out of 27 and scored 13 goals, 8 of these goals coming from starts, totalling an overall percentage of 61 per cent.
Opportunity has also played a major role in Dzeko and Hernandez’s ‘super sub’ role this season. Fundamentally, one of the main reasons for their quite incredible scoring statistics from the bench this season can be put down to the lack of opportunity and luck they have had when they started games.
For example, these diagrams show that when Dzeko has started this season he has only had one clear-cut chance in four starts compared to five clear-cut chances in seven sub games. On average Dzeko gets 68 per cent more clear-cut chances when he comes on as a substitute than when he starts a game. 16 per cent of his chances have come when started, and 84 per cent have come when he has been introduced from the bench.
The same can be also shown for Hernandez. Hernandez on average this season has had 60 per cent of his chances when he came on as a sub, compared to 40 per cent from starts, meaning 20 per cent more chances are created when he comes off the bench.
These stats also allude to something else which allows strikers like Dzeko and Hernandez to be prolific from the bench. They are world-class players being introduced when the opposing team is tired, offering a different aspect to the game which other players cannot. For example, Dzeko is tall and rangy and offers Man City an aerial presence which Aguero and Tevez don’t, while Hernandez is a constant threat in behind the last defender, whereas Rooney likes to drop deep to influence the play.
It is only with certain qualifications that one could claim that Hernandez, Dzeko, and even Solskjaer, are super subs. As the facts show, the overwhelming majority of the goals they have scored in their careers in England have come from starts with, with only a minority of their goals being scored from the bench. When they do score from the subs’ bench, like the majority of Hernandez and Dzeko’s goals this season, it is down to the law of averages and opportunity, the fact they have been introduced from the bench more times than not this season and the chances created for them are higher in quantity than when they start games, rather than some innate ability they have.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.