A quick look at substitute impact

Marouane Fellaini’s “opposite of a super sub” performance for Man Utd this evening – in which he came on and conceded a penalty that turned a win into a draw – coincided neatly with some code I wrote a few days ago to work out which players have seen their teams gain and lose the most points after coming on as a substitute. The way this works is by recording the scoreline at the point each substitution is made and again at the end of the match and comparing the difference in the number of points that each scoreline would have yielded.

Obviously we can’t often give the credit – or lay the blame – on just one player, but it’s still interesting to see who has seen their club’s fortunes change most dramatically after entering the fray.

Here are the biggest substitute “impacts” – for good and ill – across the top four English divisions so far this season:


So Barnet striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro has seen more points gained after stepping onto the pitch than anyone else across England’s top four divisions this season: the Bees have ended up 10 points better off across all the games in which he’s joined the fray from the bench.

There are seven other players whose entrance has has triggered a gain of more than five points and five who have seen five or more points knocked off their team’s collective total in games that they’ve joined as a substitute. Fellaini is not among them – the two points that slipped from United’s hands after he conceded a late penalty today were the first that he’s seen dropped in three substitute appearances – and we should instead be feeling sorry for Hartlepool’s Jordan Richards, who has come on three times only to see his team’s total reduced

However all of this is obviously skewed by the number of matches that each player has played. Let’s have a look at it on a “per game” basis and set the bar at five substitute appearances:sub-ppg-2016-12-04

So there are five players whose appearance from the bench has coincided with a gain of at least one point per game. Both Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Sheffield United’s Leon Clarke have left the pitch with their team 1.2 points per match better off than when they came off the bench. What’s strange about Moses’ record is that he’s been a regular starter for a while now – the last of those six points was gained back in September.

Wimbledon’s Tom Elliott the only other player in the top four divisions to have seen his side’s haul increased by more than one point for each time he’s been introduced in the league this season.

At the luckless end nobody has seen their side drop more than a point per game, but both West Brom’s Craig Gardner and Fleetwood’s Martyn Woolford have come on to see their respective teams drop five points across six appearances so far this season.