From super-sub to super-sub manager

From super-sub to super-sub manager,Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was well-known for coming off the bench and making a difference for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United during his time at the club

Together with Javier Hernandez (in 2010-11), Solskjaer scored five Premier League goals after coming on as a substitute in their treble winning season.

However, the Norwegian’s contributions may stand out more than the Mexicans’ because of the differences they made for the club that season – and not just in the Premier League.

Not only did he score THAT goal against Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League to seal the treble, he also came on as a substitute four months earlier in an FA cup tie against Liverpool where he scored the winner.

22 years after writing his name into Manchester United folklore, the current manager of the Old Trafford side seems to have used that experience to get his own players coming on to make an impact.

Substitutes making a difference

What clubs use subs the best

The average number of different players per club to be used as a substitute in the Premier League this season is 19.15 – where, again, on average, 4.25 players have made a contribution, being involved in 6 goals in the last 310 matches.

Manchester United have used 20 different players as substitutes this season – just above the Premier League average yet sit at the top in terms of players who have either scored or assisted (8) as well as the quantity that they have contributed (14 – nine goals, 5 assists).

Second are reigning champions Liverpool; Jurgen Klopp has brought on 22 different players – six of them have either scored or assisted (or both – only Mohamed Salah, two goals, one assist), contributing to 11 goals and assists.

West Brom have used 25 different substitutes, yet on only four occasions have three players contributed to a goal – Callum Robinson has scored two goals, and Mbaye Diagne and Matheus Pereira have each provided one assist.

Aston Villa on the other hand have called on 12 different players from the bench, where four have either scored or created an assist, contributing to five goals.

Table of teams that benefitted most

TeamSubs used# Subs to score/assistGoals + Assists
Manchester United20814
Newcastle United2379
Liverpool22611
Chelsea1969
West Ham United1469
Leicester City2357
Fulham1856
Crystal Palace1757

Southampton and Sheffield United meanwhile are the only two teams who have sent players on to the field who did not provide any assists – they only scored goals (Southampton (3), Sheffield United (4)).

Burnley are the only team thus far to have brought on substitutes that have yet to make a difference to a game; Sean Dyche has used 17 different players from the bench, but none have contributed to the ‘For’ column in the league table.

Efficiency of substitutes

In the table above, there are three London teams that fall below the 19.15 mark in terms of the average number of different substitutes brought on in the league.

One of those, David Moyes’ West Ham United, has only used 14 different players – six of those 14 players have made an impact.

TeamSubs used# Subs to score/assistDifference
West Ham United1468
Aston Villa1248
Leeds United15411
Manchester United20812
Crystal Palace17512
Chelsea19613
Fulham18513
Tottenham Hotspur17314
Wolverhampton Wanderers19415

Thus, of the players sent of for West Ham, only eight have failed to either score or assist, the same as Aston Villa.

However, while the Villains can only claim that 33% of their substitutes have made a difference to a game, West Ham boast the highest percentage of substitute influence on 42.9% – Solskjaer’s decisions show that 40% of his substitutes make a difference.

How substitutes have contributed

Of the 20 different substitutes that Solskjaer has thrown on, eight of them have come on to attempt to influence the game.

At the top of that list is their Uruguayan striker, Edinson Cavani – he has provided two assists and scored three goals.

Not only is he the most influential substitute at the club – he also holds that number one position in the Premier League – and he is only one of 13 players to replace a team-mate to have scored and provided at least one assist.

PlayerTeamAssistsGoalsA+G
Edinson CavaniManchester United235
Callum Hudson-OdoiChelsea123
Mohamed SalahLiverpool123
Fábio SilvaWolverhampton Wanderers123
Nicolas PépéArsenal112
Christian PulisicChelsea112
Gylfi SigurdssonEverton112
Hélder CostaLeeds United112
Phil FodenManchester City112
Mason GreenwoodManchester United112
Allan Saint-MaximinNewcastle United112
Gareth BaleTottenham Hotspur112
Manuel LanziniWest Ham United112

Cavani’s young(er) team-mate Mason Greenwood is on that list of 13 players as well (1 goal, 1 assist) – where Manchester United and Chelsea are the only two clubs to have two substitutes who have scored and assisted.

Although Cavani has been most involved in the getting and the giving of goals, it is Liverpool’s Diogo Jota who has scored the most goals when coming off the bench.

Most goals by a substitute this season

PlayerTeamAssistsGoalsA+G
Diogo JotaLiverpool044
Edinson CavaniManchester United235
TrézéguetAston Villa022
Callum Hudson-OdoiChelsea123
Michy BatshuayiCrystal Palace022
Mohamed SalahLiverpool123
Anthony MartialManchester United022
Billy SharpSheffield United022
Callum RobinsonWest Bromwich Albion022
Fábio SilvaWolverhampton Wanderers123
Nicolas PépéArsenal112

Jota and Mohamed Salah are, however, the only Liverpool players that have contributed to the goals for Liverpool.

Only Manchester City (Phil Foden) and WBA (Robinson) have had fewer players come on and score – apart from Burnley (0).

Wolves’ record signing Fabio Silva, who is not even 19-years-old yet, also makes the list, and is the youngest to do so, scoring two and assisting one as a substitute.

In the table above, Jota is one of six players who has scored, but not assisted a goal. In total, there are 39 substitutes who have come on and only scored a goal.

Of those 39 players to have only scored and not assisted, four belong to Manchester United – Burnley, Everton and Manchester City have not had any players come on to only score.

TeamPlayers who have only scoredTeamPlayers who have only scored
Manchester United4Brighton2
Crystal Palace3Chelsea2
Fulham3Tottenham2
Leicester City3Leeds1
Newcastle United3Liverpool1
Sheffield United3WBA1
Southampton3Wolves1
West Ham3Burnley0
Arsenal2Everton0
Aston Villa2Manchester City0

There are also players who have come onto the pitch and have only been able to make a difference or been involved in a goal by providing an assist.

Most assists by a substitute

PlayerTeamAssists
Saïd BenrahmaWest Ham United3
Jeffrey SchluppCrystal Palace2
Harrison ReedFulham2
Pablo HernándezLeeds United2
Marc AlbrightonLeicester City2
Cengiz ÜnderLeicester City2
Jacob MurphyNewcastle United2

West Ham’s Saïd Benrahma tops that list, having provided three assists when he’s come on, and Leicester City can boast that two of their players are in the top seven of players who have only contributed with assists.

Interestingly, when Bruno Fernandes has been brought on as a substitute, he too has not scored when he came on, but he has provided one assist.

Other notable and surprising names to find on that list are Roberto Firmino (who’s form has dropped this season), and Manchester City duo Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus – none of them have been able to add to their goal tallies when they have come off the bench.

Student becomes the master

Solskjaer’s knowledge and experience of being a player who was known as a super-sub has now translated into his ability to relay that to his players this season.

The Norwegian has used 20 different substitutes this season, eight of which have stepped on to the field and delivered.

And how – 40% of his substitutes have made a difference thus far. In total, 14 combined goals and assists; nine goals and five assists from substitutes, and the standout man has been Cavani.

The 34-year-old Uruguayan has been involved five times, providing two assists and scoring three goals.

We must now wait and see if the student takes over the record from the master in what might be his last season with the Red Devils.

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