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Manchester City use fewer substitutes than any other Premier League team

Pep Guardiola did not make a single substitution in four Premier League matches last season (Adam Davy/PA)
Pep Guardiola did not make a single substitution in four Premier League matches last season (Adam Davy/PA)

Manchester City used their substitutes’ bench less often than any team in the Premier League or the English Football League last season, PA news agency analysis reveals.

Substitutes accounted for only 4.5 per cent of Man City’s Premier League playing time in 2021-22, the lowest share of minutes in England’s top four tiers.

Apart from City, West Ham were the next-most reluctant to use their bench, awarding just 4.9 per cent of minutes to substitutes.

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

Leeds, on the other hand, relied heavily on replacements, with subs accumulating 8.9 per cent of league minutes across last season.

Managers in the Premier League and the EFL are allowed to make five substitutions per match this season, rather than the usual three.

Leading managers including City’s Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have consistently been in favour of the change, while Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders told PA he believes its introduction has “saved football”.

Guardiola sticks with his starting XI

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (centre) speaks to Jack Grealish
Pep Guardiola resisted using substitutes during some matches last season (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Despite his support for five substitutes, Guardiola made fewer in-game changes than any other Premier League manager in 2021-22.

City’s total of 79 substitutions in 38 matches, at an average of just over two per game, was well below the next-lowest (95 by West Ham).

Guardiola decided against using his full allocation of subs in half of matches last season, including four games in which he did not make a single change.

The four matches in question were all away from home. City came out on top in two of them – against Manchester United and Brentford – but could only muster a point in the other two (at Crystal Palace and West Ham).

No other Premier League side went unchanged for an entire game more than once, with League One Shrewsbury the only EFL side to do so four times.

Tuchel the tinkerman

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel made more changes to his starting line-up than anyone else in the Premier League in 2021-22 (Nick Potts/PA)

Guardiola partly compensated for his lack of substitutions by rotating his starting line-up more often than the majority of managers.

City named an unchanged team on just four occasions, with Guardiola making a minimum of three changes in 24 matches.

However, the City boss was outdone in the tinkering stakes by rival managers Thomas Tuchel and Klopp.

Tuchel made at least one change to his Chelsea 11 in every Premier League game, while Klopp only twice picked an unchanged team for Liverpool.

West Ham’s David Moyes was the most consistent in his team selection among top-flight bosses, naming the same 11 back-to-back on nine occasions.

Leeds most likely to make an early sub

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

Leeds made the highest percentage of early substitutions among Premier League and EFL teams in 2021-22.

The Yorkshire side introduced their first sub in the 48th minute on average, with one-third of their changes (33 per cent) made at half-time or before.

Former manager Marcelo Bielsa – sacked in February – was renowned for his energetic teams and high-intensity training, which could partly explain the need for fresh legs earlier in matches.

Across the top four divisions, clubs made their first change in the 59th minute, with just over one in 10 substitutions (11 per cent) coming before the start of the second half.

Man City had the smallest gap between his first and last substitutions, with Guardiola making his first change later than most managers, waiting until the 64th minute on average.

However, his remaining changes came in quick succession, with the final one occurring in the 78th minute.