Substitutions: Why Timing is so Important

When it comes to substitutions, the advice is mixed; each manager seems to have a different philosophy. Some believe that substituting late in the game can double a teams chances of drawing or winning if they weren’t already in the lead, others believe that early game substitutions are a surprising tactic, some say that each game is different and so substitution tactics depend, and others use substitutions sparingly. With so many strategies, it can be difficult to know whose example to follow, so the Orlando Pride experts, QueensCast, are sharing the trends that a majority of managers and studies would agree upon.

Managers vary in how many substitutions they make and when they make them. Jose Mourinho, manager of Manchester United, always uses his substitutions and times them based off of instinct, yet Sean Dyche, manager of Burnley, only uses about 30% of his available substitutions. There have also been studies done on the effect substitutions have on how the game turns out. Opta did some research and found that if your team is losing by one goal at half-time, then a substitution will increase your chances from 24% to 40% of getting a win or draw. Meanwhile Professor Brett Myers found that chances of a win or draw are increased by 50% when substitutes are made at 58 minutes, 73 minutes, and 79 minutes, and Daniel Altman and Colin Trainor found that substitutions in Premier League score at a significantly higher rate than a player who has been in the full 90 minutes; fresh players often have an advantage over tired players. These findings don’t agree on the timing of substitutions, but they do agree that substitutions are an advantage.

Timing is conditional as it depends on the manager, the score, and the team to decide when it’s time to make a substitute. However, research finds that if a team is winning, then they hold off on making a change; but, across the board, if a team is losing, then the change comes quicker. Although, some players like Joe Cole are offended if they are subbed out within the first 30 minutes as it may be taken as a manager making a mistake on the starting-up line.

It’s difficult to say what times are best for substitutions, but research shows that certain conditions call for a substitute that can change the game. Keep these opinions in mind, and form your own through substitution how-to’s and experience because you might just make a new strategic discovery. For more soccer advice, listen to our Orlando Pride soccer podcast!