No footballer likes to be left out of the eleven, but expanding the number of substitutions allowed in games, from three to five, has increased the hopes of playing for those who start 90 minutes on the bench. Before a final and decisive day of LaLiga Santander that promises excitement until the last breath and almost a year after a modification that sought to alleviate the condensation of the calendar caused by the pandemic, the possibilities of entering the second half have multiplied: the Average changes per game has gone from 2.9 to 4.2 players, comparing the first 27 days of the previous year with the present, according to the study that Mediacoach, LaLiga’s data and video analysis team, has carried out in collaboration with a group of researchers from the Rey Juan Carlos University led by Juan del Coso and Alejandro López.
Sevilla FC, Levante UD and Cádiz CF are the teams that have moved the bench the most, with an average of 4.8 substitutions per game, which is equivalent to practically spending the substitution quota in each game. However, according to the Mediacoach team, it has been Manuel Pellegrini, Real Betis coach, who has best exploited this new option of the game: the entry of refreshment men has translated into 15 goals that have allowed the Betis, mathematically classified at this point for European positions, add a total of 19 points. Whether they go directly to the Europa League or the new Conference League is one of the great unknowns to solve this weekend.
“This speaks of the great ability of the Chilean as an experienced coach to know how to read the matches and intervene during the course of these,” says Fabio Nevado, Mediacoach analyst, who points out the fundamental role of forward Borja Iglesias, capable of scoring five goals starting as a substitute that, in addition, have resulted in twelve points in favor of the Betics.
Despite the greater versatility it offers to technical bodies, there are dynamics that the new regulations have not altered. For example, LaLiga Santander teams made their first substitution on average in the 56th minute, while in the 2019/20 season they did so on average in the 57th minute, according to figures from Mediacoach and the Rey Juan Carlos University. Likewise, after the introduction of the first change, the number of goals conceded has hardly changed compared to previous campaigns and, even, the number of goals scored has decreased slightly.
Be that as it may, the teams have always relied on the talent of their benches to decant the results in the second half and this will be a resource that will have an impact on a final day in which the title will still be in dispute, the European positions and the decline. In recent seasons, true specialists have emerged in doing a lot with fewer minutes. This is the case of Ángel, a forward for Getafe CF, who last year scored eight of his ten goals after coming in for a teammate.
Next, we highlight eight of the most relevant cases of substitutes turned into key pieces of their respective teams in the highest category.
The 39-year-old veteran Jorge Molina is giving this course a double lesson to the world of football: the sense of smell does not fade with age, nor is the status of a scorer lost as a substitute. “Based on matchday 37 data, he is the Nasrid with the highest percentage of shots that end in a goal,” says Nevado, who points out a fantastic statistic that places the striker as the most effective in LaLiga Santander ahead of Messi or Benzema: he has scored eight goals with only 13 shots on goal.
Molina has been the footballer most used from the bench by Granada CF coach Diego Martínez. And your response has been excellent. He has scored three of his eight goals entering the second half and all of them have been decisive, since they represented a total of seven points for his team, including the header that sealed the extraordinary comeback at the Camp Nou on matchday 34.
The competition for attacking positions is sometimes a highly contested battle between top-level candidates. This is the case of Sevilla FC, where Ocampos, De Jong, Suso, En-Nesyri, Papu Gómez and Munir coexist.
Although En-Nesyri has become by far the league’s top scorer, with 18 goals in domestic competition that are far from the five for Sevilla’s second scorer, the case of Munir also stands out. Participating on the right, on the left and behind the striker, the Spanish-Moroccan has scored 75% of his goals this season (three out of four) entering the second half. The best percentage among the substitutes of LaLiga Santander.
Spark, imbalance, work and speed. These are the virtues of a type of player that many coaches often resort to assiduously to change the dynamics of the matches: the wingers or wingers with a strong presence in the opposite field.
In this section, the name of Adnan Januzaj stands out. The Belgian international, eternal number 12 since his arrival at Real Sociedad in 2017, is one of the favorite plungers of Mr. Imanol Alguacil as he has that magic to overcome rivals and create dangerous situations: he is the one who has completed the most dribbles in his team , with less than 30% of the minutes played, and the one that averaged the most successful dribbles until the penultimate date of LaLiga Santander, only behind a whole Leo Messi.
“In addition, thanks to his good hitting from set pieces, he is a key player in the final minutes against tight defenses where imbalance is the best way to generate an advantage,” warns Nevado.
With a different profile to that of the Donostiarra, faster and more hard-working but perhaps less inventive in the attack plays, Jairo Izquierdo has been an important man in Cádiz CF, entering many times from the bench. Both winger and lane, whenever the Tenerife has started, he has put one more gear that many games need in the final stretch. Proof of this is that he is the cadista that averages the most meters per game traveled at more than 21 km / h of the squad and one of the ten in the competition among high participation players (more than 30 minutes on average). An important asset for a team that in the last day plays its best classification in the elite in history.
Jorge de Frutos arrived this summer at Levante UD as a promise and a few months later it was confirmed as an absolute reality. The case of this extreme from the Real Madrid subsidiary is perhaps the most relevant of a professional who in the same course goes from replacement to essential: from being a starter six times in the first round, the coach has only left him in the bank of game four times in the second round.
In a team based on dynamism and transition —it is the third elite club that travels the longest distance at more than 24 km / h—, the Segovian has become essential thanks to his physical display: he is the fastest granota, with a maximum speed of 34.7 km / h, and the player who more distance to more than 21 km / h averages the team. Something to which we must add nine goal passes that have made him one of the top assistants of the competition.
Samu Chukwueze’s case is different. He started out as a permanent fixture in Villarreal CF’s eleven, but the coach’s decisions and an injury put him on the back burner until last April. From matchdays 31 to 34, he started and responded with stratospheric numbers: the team’s top finisher, top scorer (three goals), the player who completed the most passes in the attack zone and the player who completed the most high-impact offensive actions. Only another injury in European competition has slowed his progression and will prevent him from participating in a matchday 38 in which the yellow team will play against Real Madrid, who also have options for the title, their direct entry into the Europa League.
Substitutions are not only useful to add more gasoline to the attack. There are final stages of the match in which it is necessary to know how to retreat, narrow lines and resist in the trench to maintain the result. A facet in which Nemanja Gudelj and Fran Beltrán stand out.
The Serbian midfielder, son of Nebojša Gudelj, an old acquaintance of Spanish football who passed through CD Logroñés and CD Leganés in the nineties, the Mediacoach team defines him as “the quintessential lock of LaLiga Santander”. 85% of the times he has started from the bench has been with a score ahead and his team has managed to maintain 44 points of the 51 that were in dispute after his entry. In addition, the team only conceded six goals after their appearances in the second half.
Also noteworthy in this section is Fran Beltrán from Madrid, the RC Celta footballer who travels the most distance per game on average with 11.9 kilometers. In seven of the 19 times it has participated as a substitute, the team was already winning and on all these occasions it has contributed to ensuring the favorable result. All life insurance.