Paolo’s First 10: Sub-Frenzy Does The Business

Paolo Di Canio has now been in charge of Swindon Town for ten League Two games and throughout this week we’ll be reviewing his successes in three key areas.

Today Andrew Steele Davis looks back on an area that has played a major part in Di Canio’s time in charge so far; substitutes. Has Paolo’s subs been inspired? How much of an impact, positive or negative has his substitutes made? 

Let’s start off with the frequency of the substitutes used this season.

Raffaele De Vita has become an unlikely automatic starter and only one of four to have started all 10 games with Caddis, Kennedy and Ritchie. The Italian has seemingly now made the left wing position his own, however he’s been subbed off on 7 occasions. The Town no.23 has only been allowed the full 90 minutes in the League against Crewe, Cheltenham and Southend, making his 7 substitutions off the most of any player.

This was also the case on Saturday against Barnet when his replacement by Lukas Magera saw Mehdi Kerrouche repositioned onto the left wing, and out of his natural position. This change looked purely tactical with Magera offering a more physical presence in attack, and with the game won, it offered Di Canio the perfect opportunity to hand Magera some game time following the striker’s return from injury.

Another reason for this change is the rather obvious fact that Di Canio does not have a winger on the bench, perhaps due to the home-grown rule and more likely because Di Canio has lost faith with Gabilondo, Atiku and Esajas. With Ahmed Abdulla the only midfielder on the bench recently and not suited to holding the wide positions, taking De Vita off for a another striker has been the best option with Miles Storey making an impact in the Crawley game with his pace and direct running from the left wing.

At the other end of the spectrum. Alan Connell has been subbed on the most times with a largely positive impact in those 5 games. Connell has had, as the stats tell us, a 40% positive impact on the games he has been brought on, the Rotherham United game being the most notable. Within seconds of entering the field of play, the former Grimsby man grabbed his first goal before notching his second later in the game. He has had a 40% neutral effect when coming on and a 20% negative effect. Having witnessed Connell’s positive impact in his first 5 League games and 5 substitution appearances, Di Canio has had the confidence to believe in him as part of his starting XI.

So far only one player has a 100% positive impact in all their games when coming on, albeit from just one sub appearance. Jonathan Smith’s early replacement of the injured Oliver Risser against Southend was instrumental in the victory seeing that the young midfielder scored the opener and was assured throughout. Of the remainder, Allessandro Cibocchi has the second best positive impact when coming on on 2 of his 3 substitute appearances against Rotherham and Crawley.

Nathan Thompson has the unwanted stat of being the only player so far this season to have a 100% negative impact when coming on as a sub, this being against Dagenham and Redbridge. Decisions to bring on Esajas, Magera and McCormack have had a 50% negative impact on the match.

It’s at this point I should point out we’ve base these impact of substitutions percentages on the outcome of the match in terms of changes in the scoreline and final result, so we recognise these can only be broad measures of the decision on the overall team performance. As the season progresses hopefully these will tell a better story.

Now let’s switch our attention to the timing of the substitutes this season.

There have only been two subs made at or before half-time so far, Oliver Risser was replaced due to injury and Alan Connell sacrificed for a change in tactics and youth at the halfway stage against Burton.

However, the majority of subs, at 17 of the 30 made by Di Canio, have come in the period of the 61-75 minute mark, 8 between 46-60 and a surprisingly low three coming in the last fifteen minutes of the game. This is a welcome and refreshing change from Danny Wilson and Paul Hart, who at times last year made desperate changes when the game was already beyond their team, with 33.3% then being made late-on compared to Paolo’s 10% this season. Di Canio must be praised for biting the bullet, making quick and sometimes unpopular decisions – in the case of the replacement of Connell – to make changes as he sees fit, which ultimately have yielded in results.

Another comparison from last year’s shambolic campaign is the over impact of substitutions.

So far Di Canio’s first ten games have seen 50% of replacements making a neutral impact, 33.3% being positive and a small 16.7% negative impact on the outcome of the game. Compare this to last season when the 46 games and 115 substitutions are horrific reading. Given the apparent strength of our bench then, an alarmingly high 66.10% of last season’s impact subs were neutral and absolutely pointless, a measly 11.30% being positive and surprisingly low 22.60% being negative.

These interesting collections of stats just show how much of an improvement this season already is compared to last year’s season to forget and it also proves to the footballing world that Di Canio has made a decent start to managerial life. The key to Di Canio’s improvement over the comparable statistics from last season has to be making his decisions to bring on replacements earlier in each game, which is an entirely logical outcome.

Overall 1 in 3 of the substitutions Di Canio has made have been largely positive, with Alan Connell being a prime example of this. Taking into consideration the restrictions through the home-grown rule and a reduced presence of five subs being allowed this season, Di Canio has very little to play with when naming his subs with summer recruits Etienne Esajas, Ibrahim Atiku and Lander Gabilondo being forced to watch from the sidelines.

If Di Canio is brave enough, would you support him going without a goalkeeper on the bench and instead include a winger who could then be used as an impact sub?

ps. Wasn’t it nice to see a new working and visible subs board against Barnet at the weekend…

More analysis of Di Canio’s first 10 League games in charge:

Paolo’s First 10: Sub-Frenzy Does the Business – VIEW

Paolo’s First 10: Falling to Pieces at Ste-Pieces – VIEW

Paolo’s First 10: We’re Going to Score in Approximately 53 Minutes – VIEW



  • Your article rightly points out that there are a number of players who arrived to great fanfare at the start of the season who, already, look like being frozen out. Now I accept that PDC can’t win here. Up until very recently, he was being accused of chopping & changing, and not being sure of his first XI. And now, just as things appear to be settling down, fans (like me) start questioning the selection.

    So I accept that I’m being inconsistent. And I also accept:

    * that PDC spends every day with these players (and I don’t);
    * that we have won 4 of our last 5 games; and
    * that PDC gets criticised for publicly criticising players.

    BUT – I still want to know why Gabilondo isn’t getting a game, even as a sub? Like everyone else, I came away from the Oxford game bitterly disappointed – but also thinking to myself ‘we have a star on our hands here’. In the 20 minutes he was on the pitch, he scared the **** out of Oxford’s defence and came very, very close to earning us draw. Those 20 minutes and the full 90 minutes vs Shrewsbury represent the sum total of his appearances for us this season.

    And he doesn’t have the opportunity to show what he can do in reserve fixtures this season.

    Broadly supportive of what Paolo is doing. But after the Clarke debacle, I suppose I’m just a little nervous that we have other players on our books that are not going to be given a proper chance to show us what they can do.


    • Saturday was the perfect example something isn’t right between PDC and Gabilondo, Atiku and Esajas and I also want to know the real reason why at least 1 of these 3 can’t make the matchday squad of 16.

      Against Barnet PDC had two strikers on the bench in Storey and Magera when he plays a striker out of his natural / favoured position on the left wing and no winger back up on the bench.

      Seems to me that PDC would happily fill his squad with strikers and would play one in goal if given the chance…


  • Edit:

    ‘Those 20 minutes and the full 90 minutes vs Shrewsbury represent the sum total of his LEAGUE appearances for us this season.’


  • Good article but I would like to correct the Da Vita substitution on Saturday. Shortly before he came off he indicated a problem to the bench and as a result Paulo was forced into the change and Kerrouche probably was the best candidate to fill in.


  • Pingback: Paolo’s First 10: Falling to Pieces at Set-Pieces « The Washbag

  • Pingback: Paolo’s First 10: We’re Going to Score in Approximately 53 Minutes « The Washbag

  • Once again fascinating comments. Yes it’s true that PDC that does tinker a lot, but it seems to be working now. He tinkers because he studies the opposition and believes he can make a difference by changing tack.

    Danny Wilson on the other hand tinkered when he didn’t know what to do. Having said that I felt sorry for Danny because he couldn’t lay down the law, which is clearly becoming harder these days with wealthy players and all their advisers. Don’t think PDC has any problems there!


  • Pingback: Vic Morgan Blog: Paolo’s First 10 « The Washbag

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