Coming To Terms With The Championship - B
As Huddersfield Town continue to bob along the lower end of the playoff picture in the Championship, it allows me to think about the different ways they've come to terms with the new challenge. Today I will be investigating the use of substitutes in Town's games this season.
Substitutes are an important part of the modern game; only this week we've seen the papers full of the lights of Manchester, with Hernandez and Dzeko bringing the points in for both of those clubs, and, indeed, Wilfried Zaha making his England debut off the bench last night.
There are, I hasten to add (and indeed, within a season, the data may be skewed by this) a number of reasons to replace a player, ranging from injury, to tactical switching to necessity when a key member of the defensive staff is dismissed. Town have done all three this season already. What I was interested to see, however, is how Simon Grayson has been using his substitutes in comparison to his opposite numbers - to see whether what he does in certain situations mirrors that which happens against him. In other words, is he pro-active, or reactive, in terms of changing his personnel.
The figures you'll see used here are average playing time for a starter (incorporating substitutes, that means we have a minimum -(11 x 90 = 990) - (3 x 90 = 270) = 65.45 and obviously, a maximum of 90 minutes) so expect figures to be up above 80, as very few managers make all three changes early unless their hand is forced.
Town's starters play, on average 85:31 minutes, whereas their opponents tend to play a little longer at 86:05. That's not a massive amount of different (though, over the course of the season so far it equates to Town's starters having played 1:45 minutes - or just over a game between them - less than they've faced).
So, are there any patterns in all of this? Well, yes, there is. Defined ones, set pretty much by rote I would say. In the games Town have won, their opponents have tended to (though not always) change their team sooner than Town have - no doubt that is reacting to try to get back on terms and when Town have lost, they've tried to change things round earlier than their opponents, too. In fact, if you allow for the fact that Sean Scannell left the Burnley game early (23 minutes) and Joel Lynch departed from Sheffield Wednesday early too (which knocked onto Lee Novak's departure) then the lowest six figures are games that were either drawn or lost. Strangely, the highest figure is also a lost game (the only other) at Cardiff. Of course, that decisive goal came late, by which point there was little chance, or point, to change things up.
A couple of other things to mention. Ipswich and Millwall's high bars suggest, to me, that their managers don't have the faith in the depth of their squad, while Birmingham's low one suggests a willingness to tinker (funny, that). Blackpool were probably motivated by Town having taken such a stranglehold on the game so early. Oh, and I let the bar run up to 92 despite the maximum figure being 90 just so I could fit the title in.
Simon Grayson, then, is fitting in pretty well to the Championship in terms of how he alters his team, I would say. Look out for the time of the substitutions against Brighton on Saturday - see if they fit the pattern.