The last couple of seasons have seen football managers in the EFL be able to make five substitutions in a match. From a selection of 10 on the bench, this has meant that if they so wish, a boss on the sidelines can change half his outfield team during a game.
The ability to do this is a useful tool for Sunderland, with us having a relatively strong and positional diverse selection on the bench. Yet on many occasions this season, Mowbray’s substitutions have reeked of panic and a sign of no plan B to try and turn the tide of a match our way again.
This stat puts this concern in cold, hard facts. In 13 of our 17 matches this season, Mowbray has made two or three changes in one go. This is then compiled by a more concerning stat that after these changes were made we’ve scored just four goals and picked up no extra points in the process.
The ability to make up to five changes a match is a very useful tool for a manager/head coach to have. Yet with Sunderland recently it feels as though it's a case of too much of a good thing as the changes have been made either for the sake of it, or the wrong players have been brought on or off.
Seelt, Dack and Ba were all brought on in the 66th minute of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Plymouth. They replaced Huggins, Bellingham and Ba. This flurry of subs came following the start of a half in which we’d looked good in and created chances, but failed to convert. Throwing players on with less than 25 minutes to go isn’t working for Mowbray, and the stats are backing that up. If anyone can confidently tell me what Bradley Dack offers from the bench, I’d be happy to attentively listen.
The first 17 games of this season have shown on the whole that Mogga’s subs have been pretty ineffective. Only on a few occasions does it seem like the introduction of fresh faces from the bench has had a positive impact on the game. QPR away is a stand out, when subs were gradually introduced and Mowbray could see we could punish a poor side which was down to 10 men.
At the other end of the spectrum, Mowbray’s lack of a plan B has been shown up in plenty of games. Away at Stoke and losing 2-1, he put on Rusyn, Burstow and Dack and none seemed to have much of a clue of how they were supposed to play. Dack looked lost, Burstow was ineffective and Rusyn was forced out of position on multiple occasions.
We all know we’ve got a young squad with a lot of heart and promise, and the project hasn’t been put in the bin because of a hit and miss start to the campaign. But the youth aspect means that our coaches need to give our subs a clear message of what they need to do when they are introduced. The ineffectiveness of our subs is becoming worrying to the point that after going 2-0 down at Plymouth, I feared the comeback wouldn’t be started from subs.
We could do with a reshuffle for the visit of Huddersfield, and whoever starts amongst the subs will hopefully be given a clearer indication of their job or have the ability to take on messages in a way that will make them have a genuine impact on the match.