When does benching a quality player work?

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By Football Tripper
Last Updated: December 16, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo can’t seem to stay out of the headlines, even when he isn’t being an absolute goal machine.

When the Manchester United – Everton team sheet came out last weekend, pundits and fans were always going to question why Ronaldo wasn’t in the starting XI. After all, he’s scored 674 goals at the time of writing this article, and we think he’s going to win the Golden Boot this season, even though he isn’t the favourite, behind Salah and Lukaku. There are a lot of betting sites that provide great odds on the Portuguese striker. Some of them even say that he is going to be the top premier league scorer for the 2021/2022 season.

In truth it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer omitted him. Ronaldo has had plenty of game time recently and he’s got a packed international schedule this October.

Resting your biggest player isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Well, until the game plan doesn’t work out. Everton managed to salvage a draw on Saturday, despite Ronaldo’s best efforts after coming on as a substitute. A story that’s been made even tastier by an unlikely character, MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, after he posted a video of himself and Sir Alex Ferguson. In it Ferguson can be heard saying “You should always start with your best players”.

It’s a familiar debate, one England fans had during Euro 2020 when Grealish wasn’t making the starting lineup. It didn’t work for Ole with Ronaldo at the weekend, and the jury is still out if Southgate played it right with Grealish during the summer.

But there have been times when leaving a quality player on the bench has worked superbly. Something we have affectionately come to call the super-sub. Here’s our top 5 to prove it…

5) Olivier Giroud

What we love about Giroud is that he’s definitely not a bench warmer. He wants to start games and score goals. But when he has been resigned to the bench, he plays the role perfectly. He first became familiar with it at Arsenal when Alexis Sanchez was on fire and was starting most games up front for the Gunners. A cool stat is that Giroud has scored more goals off the bench for Arsenal in the Premier League than any other player. 19 goals. Check out our favourite against Manchester United.

4) David Trezeguet

Trezeguet had minor success at Juventus as a super-sub, but in truth he worked much better in the starting lineup. What earns him his prestigious place on this list is his memorable goal against Italy in Euro 2000. He came on in the 76th minute and scored this stupendous goal in extra time to win the match. Pure drama.

3) Javier Hernandez

Hernandez, affectionately known as Chicharito, made a name for himself at Manchester United coming off the bench, netting 16 times for the Red Devils. It wasn’t a surprise he didn’t start most games for United since he was up against Berbatov, Rooney and later Robin Van Persie. His lightning pace and positioning made him a potent player to bring on, as Chelsea found out in 2011 when he bagged an equaliser.

2) Peter Crouch

When you’re trailing a game and can’t find a way back in it, there’s only one course of action… STICK IT IN THE MIXER. Something Peter Crouch thrives on. He netted 16 times in the Premier League as a substitute. AND has made the most appearances as a substitute in the Premier League. Cool huh? It would be rude not to include him on this list. Here’s the poacher at work against West Ham.

1) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Could it be anyone else? Super-sub wasn’t even a term before he broke onto the scene. Probably… He made 84 appearances for Manchester United as a substitute in the Premier League, which equated to 17 goals. Four of those he bagged in 10 minutes against Nottingham Forest! But his most memorable is the winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. Truly spine tingling.

We have to mention…

Jermaine Defore. He’s scored more goals off the bench in the premier league than any other player! 24 goals. But despite that crazy stat, we didn’t want to include him on the list because we didn’t want to pigeon-hole him as a ‘super-sub’. He’s just a quality forward. (Ahem… Sorry Olivier…) Here’s a trademark Defoe goal, which he scored coming off the bench against the Netherlands in a 2009 friendly.

Football Tripper Logo

By Football Tripper
Last Updated: December 16, 2021