Football games are not just won by the 11 men on the pitch from the start of the game. What can decide a game is the options that you give yourself on the bench. Substitution can allow you to make changes throughout the game, giving you flexibility and different options throughout a match. Playing these wildcards could really help you win games, keep hold of points or plan for a season games ahead. No one should be on the bench without a reason for being there.
Inspired by a thread started at FM Britain I thought substitutions is an area that seems very simple on the surface, but vital as part of your game strategy, as important as your formation and player roles. How do you use your substitutions?
As a tinkerer, forever messing around with the tactical options throughout a match making decisions as you would do on a chess board, searching for every advantage possible. The players on the bench can be used to give you a variety of different options, which means that you can flexibly change your tactics when you see fit to. Thinking about your moves way into advanced of starting a game.
As demonstrated from Millie’s experience at Real Madrid, just because your tactics will beat Barcelona one week, that does not automatically mean that those same tactics are going to beat Almeria the next. Different situation will call for different solutions and even throughout the game, you should expect the opposition to forever be changing too.
Remember changes should be made when you feel they can best be utilised, even if that is in the 3rd minute of the game.
Your transfer policy should be bringing players in that not only can be utilised in your favoured tactics, but those players that can fit elsewhere. It would be dangerous for a you, even if you don’t play wingers, not to have any in your side at all could serious hamper changes ability to change direction.
The trick is to bring in players that can play a variety of positions so that they can easily be moved around allowing you to change. You will want to have players on the bench that can change a game and not just like for like swaps to replace tiring legs.
Different players can offer different options at different parts of the game. You may be 1-0 in the FA Cup final with 10 minutes to go. Changes here could be vital. You need to hold out, but the talented youngster that you have in the heart of defence could be a liability if put under too much pressure. Bringing in an experienced player with the ability to stay calm and composed, especially in a high pressure game could prove the difference between seeing the game out or seeing your team concede in the final minutes or allow you to bring on the best penalty takers if that looks to be your destiny.
Beckham himself may find himself a play warming the bench in the twilight of his career, but his ability to cross and hit a set piece might see him as an important part of anyone’s strategy. Even with a limited amount of ability this player could be great when coming off the bench to exploit the opposition.
Plan for the future
I have already demonstrated how my Liverpool side have become so much of a league side with an inability to win in cup competitions. But what makes us such a strong force over 38 games is the ability to plan. The congested fixture list may cause problems if you don’t plan your strategy accordingly. Many manager may say they take their decisions on a match-by-match basis. But the best will consider their strategies as soon as the fixtures list is produced.
Having quality on the bench will allow you to swap those you have opted to start with. I have Torres as my main striker in a lone forward, but with Dzeko on the bench I can afford to bring him on resting Torres, a player with huge ability but lacking in natural fitness and stamina. Injury prone players will find themselves hobbling off the more tired they are and could miss a further amount of games, having a chance to change can be a real benefit.
Giving young players a chance
Throwing young players into a team straight away can be a big risk for you when you will want to have the best players on the pitch, obviously to win each and every game. Relying on established players might make it hard for a young lad to break into the side and they can easily get forgotten about in the reserve side.
But having at least one young player on the bench ready to make his début, or to gain valuable game time can have real benefits in the long-term. Leaving a spot available on the bench, especially when you have 7 space to choose from can ease your young player development into the team as game time will help them get gelled into the team quicker as well as develop into a starter in years to come.
Bringing them on when your winning can take a lot of pressure off them already allowing them to play with freedom and putting in better performances.
How do you use your substitutions?
All the guys on the bench should be there for a reason, don’t just have them in to make up numbers as they could potentially hold the key to a good long-term strategy. Be that to do a specific job, allow you to change the way you or playing or gain game time when your winning. Substitutes should be used as chess pieces on the board planned moves in advanced to gain a tactical advantage.
Do you use your substitutes in any innovative or strange way? How to you build up your side to incorporate the players that will be stuck to the bench?