Which side will benefit most from the five sub rule?

With the reintroduction of the five sub rule this week, I took a look at what prompted the change for EFL clubs and which teams in the Championship look most likely to benefit from the rule change.

To work this out, I have analysed the substitutes and their performances for each second tier team. Here is what I concluded:

Who has made the most substitutions?

Watford, Norwich, Bristol, Stoke, Millwall, Brentford, Blackburn, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday.

All of the above teams have made the maximum three substitutions per game in each of their 11 games thus far in the season. The reasons as to why vary though:

Firstly, it will be no surprise to see two of the three newly-relegated sides in this list, it is often the case with these sides. Used to battling to compete in the Premier League, the players are usually unprepared for the intensity and frequency of games in the Championship and so require more rest during matches.

On top of this, the squads are usually much closer in terms of individual quality and so it is harder to discern a clear Starting XI. This ensures more substitutions in order to guarantee relatively consistent game time for all of those within the first team fold.

Another sub-group maxing out their substitute allowance in every game this season are those who seem to be underperforming their objectives.

Brentford were right at the top of the league for much of last season an

d will have been expecting to at least match that this season, yet they find themselves barely in the top half. Blackburn are another, they started the season off very strongly with dynamic, free-flowing performances against Wycombe, Derby and Coventry catching the eye but much like previous seasons, their inconsistency is becoming an issue.

For both of these clubs there will be panic to arrest the fall down the table and push themselves up to where they can be. Sheffield Wednesday can be put in this bracket as well, they are a team desperate for results, and results were dropping off as the Garry Monk reign neared its conclusion.

The final group that is easy to define is the one which speaks to the style of football. Barnsley in particular play one of the most aggressive, high intensity forms of football in the Championship and their substitutions are vital for keeping that intensity up during games.

Millwall’s defensive system is also extremely exhausting for its players and requires changes in personnel throughout the game to maintain.

All of these teams will benefit from the rule changes, but none more so than Barnsley, the intensity of their play is so overwhelming that it is near-impossible to handle for their opposition, but as the games go on, Barnsley’s players get more and more leggy and sluggish. Allowing two extra pairs of fresh legs into a squad so well-drilled will make the world of difference and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yorkshire club move up the table as a result of this change.

Who has the best depth?

This is a relatively obvious one to answer, there are some strong, experienced sides in the Championship this season.

Neil Warnock has loaded his Middlesbrough squad with some impressive young talent along with a solid core. Brentford’s strategy of picking up young, little-known players from far-off leagues in search of marginal gains is consistently impressive to me and Norwich have made some very smart signings in this window.

Bournemouth have kept hold of their quality as well, Dominic Solanke seems well-suited to the championship and the quality they have, particularly in midfield, is exceptional. Watford though have the best squad, and the most strength-in-depth.

A team with a perfect balance of Premier League quality, experience, youth and battle. Their dominance in this group is shown by the fact that they have brought on 18 different substitutes so far this season, which is a league-high.

In this metric, for sure, Watford will gain the most advantage from being allowed extra substitutes. The opportunity to bring on Glenn Murray, Troy Deeney and James Garner, as well as Andre Gray and Nathaniel Chalobah is enough in itself to improve any team.

Who has made the most effective substitutions?

Points - Norwich (11)

Goals - Norwich (4)

Assists - Bristol, Blackburn, Huddersfield (2)

Norwich have been the frontrunners so far this season in terms of the effectiveness of their substitutions, winning a huge eleven points as a direct result of the changes they have made during games. That’s seven points more than any other team and is mainly down to the individual brilliance of Adam Idah (more on him later).

He is also the main contributor to Norwich’s goal tally from the bench. Assists are a much less cut-and-dry metric, with Bristol City, Blackburn and Huddersfield all tied on two, and many other teams close behind on one.

Another thing that should be factored into this is the range of substitutes who have made a direct goal scoring/creating contribution to their team from the bench. This again falls to Norwich, with four players fulfilling this criteria.

Young Adam Idah has been the most impressive, with a winning goal against Huddersfield and the assist for the winner against Birmingham. New signing Przemyslaw Placheta also joined Norwich old-boys Kenny McLean and Mario Vrancic in getting on the scoresheet from the bench.

All of this suggests that Norwich will be well-suited to having an extra few options allowed off the bench at each time.

So, who will benefit the most?

It’s very difficult to judge which of these metrics is the most important in terms of determining which team will have the most to gain with the option of two extra substitutes. Before researching this, I immediately thought of Watford.

The strength that they have has labelled them favourites from before a ball was kicked and indeed, it would be somewhat embarrassing if they fail to gain promotion with the quality that they have. The fact remains however that we are 12 games into the season, they have made the maximum number of substitutions available to them, with just under half of these being with an attacking focus, and there hasn’t been a single direct goal involvement.

With that in mind, as much as I do see them benefitting from this in the long-term, with the evidence available to me, I cannot label Watford as victors in this category.

Norwich was another team that I immediately thought of when I started on this article, but again, I’m inclined to say that the impact will not be as big as expected. Daniel Farke clearly has favourites to bring off the bench and is a manager who values the chemistry on the pitch.

Changing a lot of players during a game can have a really negative impact on the passing style that Farke likes to promote, and so I can see him generally staying below the new threshold rather than risking his style.

So, I’ve come to a decision that I wasn’t particularly expecting to come to, Barnsley’s intense pressing style, first under Stuber and now under Valerian Ismael, has caused them to lead the league for all sorts of intensity metrics.

The squad are supremely well-drilled and it is the inexperience of the team, particularly near the end of games, that has led to them struggling so far this season, allowing extra substitutions into the mix, keeping legs fresh might really see them impress.

By Theo Hewson-Betts | @thewsonbetts


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