Thursday, September 08, 2011


"But I'm a substitute for another guy,
I look pretty tall but my heels are high."
(The Who, 1966)

I'm starting to think that I might be the problem.

Whenever I get to watch the Addicks (whether live or on TV), we are usually mediocre, at least to my critical eye.  

I'm now in New York for a fortnight so we should be good for the next nine available points, but I regret to report I've just bought myself a ticket for MK Dons.

On Monday I was eagerly looking forward to seeing our unbeaten side again, but a highly promising start fizzled in the September rain and two points were deservedly lost.

Jose Semedo managed to look fairly stylish which tells you to what extent we lost the midfield battle, his partner David Prutton also looking the part alongside, at least in a football sense (the hairstyle of course is horrific).

Gary Megson will not win many charm awards, but management requires brave acknowledgment that Plan A isn't working.  

It is rare to see a tactical substitution inside the first quarter of a game, but credit to him for recognising the problem.

Chris Powell meanwhile took 78 minutes to make a switch, the type of like-for-like substitution that I like to utilise on Championship Manager.

The five-subs rule has been criticised, but I'm old enough to remember when there was one sub, let alone seven.

Keith Peacock remembers when there were none.  

Three from five is no hardship, and again offers the creative manager the prospect of gaining an 'edge'.

Why for example is a spare goalkeeper deemed by most managers to be essential?

The chances of a keeper being too injured during a game to continue must be about 1 in 30, whilst a red card for him is about 1 in 75.

Even if one took the extreme view that having an outfield player in goal for any meaningful amount of time effectively conceded the points, these odds must be weighed against the usefulness of a fifth outfield substitute.

This risk itself could be mitigated by nominating a couple of outfield squad players to be emergency keeper cover, spending say an hour per week on improving their abilities. Matt Taylor even began his career between the sticks.

The maths is simple.  Having 4 outfield subs offers a manager 14 substitute possibilities, whilst having 5 offers 25, almost double.

When managers had 7 subs to select from, the outfield possibilities (assuming a reserve keeper was on the bench ) were 41.

In other words, by persisting with a goalkeeping substitute under the new system, a manager is cutting his outfield options by almost two-thirds.

All of this despite the total number of substitutes still available falling by less than one third.

Incase you've ever wondered why bookmakers push 'combination' bets so aggressively (Yankees, Canadians etc.), there's your answer.

However if one persists with the cautious route of having a keeper on the bench, there is an understandable tendency to load up the rest of it with 'flexible' players.

However Cort, Mambo or Doherty must take one spot because no-one else in the side could adequately fill the breach if Morrison or Taylor were injured/dismissed (far more likely than a keeper being so).  

Last season Semedo could have dropped back for example, but no such option exists in the current favoured eleven.

Morever it gives the option of going 3-5-2 if a tactical change demands it.

However each of the other three benchwarmers on Monday might be deemed 'flexible' (Pritchard, Hughes, Euell).

For example Pritchard entered the fray against Bournemouth on the right wing, yet played a key central role against Reading in the Cup.  

The versatility of Hughes and Euell meanwhile is well-known.

This may seem like a logical way to offset the 'maths' conundrum above (fewer personnel options, but more tactical ones) but I'd argue it's a suboptimal halfway house evidenced by Powell's indecisiveness on Monday.

Knowing that his options on the bench would be adequate in several roles, but not 'impact' subs in any sense (defensively or offensively), it is perhaps hardly surprising that he acted so late and so unexcitedly.

In short they are the type of substitutes you throw on because you have to, not because you want to.

I don't believe any reasonable person would claim that our chances of winning were enhanced by replacing Hayes (the target man) with Euell, yet Powell probably felt he had to be seen to be doing something.

Megson meanwhile threw some caution to the wind with two out-and-out strikers on his bench, and it paid off with a useful away point.  

Time for some out of the box thinking here I think.


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Mike BARRY said...

To True NYA, if we listened to some we would have 9 subs and the game would be begin to look like American Football.
Of course, in the past we have had considerable strengths regarding outfield sub goalkeepers in John Hewie and Steve Brown; I recall seeing the latter make a tremendous save at Villa Park when we were hanging by threads in the top division.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Hungry Ted said...

Interesting point raised. The problem with proposing not to have a goalkeeper on the bench (I can see the logic) is that if, no matter how slight the odds, the keeper gets injured or sent off, we, the fans, would hammer Powell for not having back-up, especially if it was early on in the game.

The sheer volume of Managers that resist the temptation to add an outfield player instead of a keeper must say something.

In fact, from memeory, only Neil Warnock has 'taken the gamble' and regulary left out a reserve keeper when selecting his subs.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Ted, with 7 subs, selecting a keeper is a no-brainer. However with 5 (as my blog implies) it is less clear.

If Powell (or any other manager for that matter) wants a shot at being 'great' then making decisions whilst fearful of fans' reaction is not the way to go about it.

In this particular case the problem is that the 'points possibly lost' by not having a keeper on the bench are clearly visible, but the 'points possibly gained' from materially increasing outfield substitute options is not (even though they are both almost certainly relevant and a larger factor).

Ps - if Warnock is the benchmark then I will gladly take the results!

At 1:09 PM, Blogger ChicagoAddick said...

I would like to know what the split was on having a keeper on the bench during the days of 3 subs. Curbishley was notoriously conservative but he often went with 3 outfield players hence why Brownie played at Villa Park.

I have been halfway through writing a similiar post for ages and my point mirrors NYA's in that having 5 subs has meant that it has taken away (at least for Charlton) any creativity or surprise package from the bench, which is what we all hope a tactical substitution is as opposed to a replacement for injury.

By the way NY, weren't all three subs for Wednesday enforced by injury?

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Peter Liddell said...

It was a very disappointing display by two mediocre outfits. It was the first time I had seen many of the players live(on TV)and I was left wondering what Green has to do to oust Wagstaffe, who looked decidedly ordinary to me. How Wynn Grant saw his first half as outstanding is beyond me (which just goes to show how differently we all see things). He twice failed to get in a decent cross when well placed, once allowed the ball to run into touch when under no pressure and once failed to control the ball in three attempts when put away down the right wing. He doesn't look good enough at this level to me, despite his willingness to track back and defend.

It also struck me that we failed to win many aerial battles, and looked a bit lightweight when balls came into our box.

As for use of subs, I tend to agree that you must use them to try to change what's happening if things aren't going your way, and that was clearly the case after half an hour on Monday.

Unfortunately, the effects of playing in a sparsely filled stadium must be considerable as well. Let's hope that they can play better than they showed on Monday evening, or we will still be playing 3rd Div football next season for sure.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

CA,I don't think Sedgwick was injured.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Peter, I agree re: Wagstaff but I think Green was unwell.

Ironically Wagstaff would be an ideal 'impact' sub given his pace and energy. The last thing tired defenders want to face.

At 3:23 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Let's not forget Halesy. He took his turn in green on a number of occasions I recall and whilst he looked dwarfed by the goal, he had a decent record (someone will now reveal it to be rubbish).

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Floyd said...

So NYA - did you plagiarise Dr Kish (Ketts) or has he given you a tremendous accolade by plagiarising your goodself?

You have a strong point re tactical awareness and PLAN B.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger SmokedAddick said...

There is another issue to factor in.
If Sullivan (or any back-up goalie for that matter)finds themselves not only out of the first 11 but also absent from the bench, it could prove extremely demotivating

At 12:22 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Floyd, it must be a case of "great minds etc."

SmokedAddick, fair point though I can see two solutions: 1. Send him on loan with a call-back option; 2. Rotate the keepers to some extent.


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