Chelsea’s substitutes have had less attacking impact than those of any other Premier League side this season, so maybe Mauricio Pochettino is right when he said he needs more players to arrive in January?

We’re now 16 games into the 2023-24 Premier League campaign and Chelsea’s substitutes have provided just one goal involvement all season. Nicolas Jackson’s strike completed the scoring in Chelsea’s 4-1 away win over Burnley on 7 October, but none of Mauricio Pochettino’s other 59 substitutions in league action have provided a single goal or assist.

Across the Premier League this season, that single goal involvement is fewer than any other side in the competition. Granted, Armando Broja did win the penalty that was converted by Cole Palmer in the 4-4 home draw with Manchester City on 12 November, but that doesn’t go down as an assist.

Eighteen different players have appeared as a substitute this season for Chelsea (17 outfielders), accumulating 1,530 minutes on the pitch to produce just one goal involvement.

Compare that to Arsenal’s substitutes, who have contributed 11 goal involvements (eight goals, three assists) in just 60 cumulative minutes more than Chelsea’s subs, and you can see where criticism of Chelsea’s squad-building and recruitment is potentially valid.

Roberto De Zerbi’s use of substitutions this season has arguably been one of the best. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering his squad’s involvement in the UEFA Europa League this season, he’s rotated heavily and used the most substitutes (76). His subs have also tallied the most minutes of all Premier League sides’ this season (2,461), but he’s had payback from his replacements. They’ve contributed 13 goal involvements (10 goals and three assists), with summer signing from Watford and newly capped Brazilian international João Pedro contributing more goals (four) and goal involvements (five) than any other Premier League sub this season.

Most Mins as a Sub in 2023-24 Premier League

Even with all the injury woes Pochettino has suffered since taking the Chelsea job in the summer, his infamous £1 billion squad should have enough beyond the starting XI. Also, of the longer-term absentees in his squad, only two of those are players you’d expect to be contribute in any meaningful way with goals and assists: Christopher Nkunku and Carney Chukwuemeka.

A fair proportion of that £1bn was taken up by the fee paid to Shakhtar Donetsk for Ukrainian winger Mykhailo Mudryk. The £62 million man has played more minutes from the bench (including added time) than any other Chelsea player in the Premier League this season but is yet to score or assist as a substitute in 2023-24. Overall, in his league career at Chelsea, whether starting or appearing as a sub, Mudryk has been a huge disappointment. He’s scored just twice and assisted three goals in 1,464 minutes of action (incl. added time), which means he’s been involved in a goal every 292 minutes.

Mins as a Sub in Premier League 2023-24

When asked earlier this week about the club bringing in even more players in the January transfer window, Pochettino suggested he would be hoping for more financial backing to improve the squad.

“There’s a massive assessment from the beginning of the season, from day one until today,” he remarked. “When the transfer window opens, we will see what we can do. I will not say I need to ask for more players or less players but it’s to see if the perception matches the reality.”

Having numbers is one thing. Having quality in depth is another. Chelsea don’t seem to have the latter.

Looking at all teams’ substitute benches this season; Chelsea have relied on younger players to fill the spots in the dugout more than any other side. Ian Maatsen (21 years old) has been on the bench for every Premier League match, with Noni Madueke (21) and Lesley Ugochukwu (19) appearing on it 11 times followed by Deivid Washington (18) and Alex Matos (19) the next most often among outfield players, with nine games each on the bench.

In fact, the average age of Chelsea’s subs bench this season has been just 21 years and 237 days old. That’s around two and a half years younger than any other side and over four years younger than both Man City and Arsenal.

Average Age of Subs Bench in 2023-24 Premier League

The lack of top-flight experience on Chelsea’s bench is a real concern. Of course, it can be great to have youthful ignorance in pressure-filled moments, but other big clubs in the Premier League like City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs all have experienced heads to also call upon in times of need.

The outfielders to appear most often on the bench for Arsenal this season are Reiss Nelson (16 games), Jakub Kiwior (13), Jorginho (12), Leandro Trossard (10), Fábio Vieira (9), Mohamed Elneny (9), Emile Smith Rowe (9) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (8). The list of at least moderate outfield experience to be on Tottenham’s bench in a minimum of seven Premier League games – despite their well-publicised injury crisis – is also decent: Oliver Skipp (15), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (13), Emerson Royal (12), Giovani Lo Celso (9), Ben Davies (8), Eric Dier (7) and Bryan Gil (7). The same can be said for Liverpool, too, with Harvey Elliott (15), Wataru Endo (11), Kostas Tsimikas (10), Joe Gomez (9), Cody Gakpo (7), Ibrahima Konaté (7) and Darwin Núñez (7) among the subs.

Even teams like Crystal Palace and West Ham – who have made the joint-fewest substitutions in the Premier League this season (46) – have seen more impact off the bench, proving it’s not the number of subs you make, but having two or three options that can change games. Roy Hodgson has had experienced players like Nathaniel Clyne (15 games on the bench), Jairo Riedewald (13), Jean-Philippe Mateta (12) and Rob Holding (9) to call upon this season, while Everton had had Ben Godfrey (16), Arnaut Danjuma (13), Michael Keane (11), Nathan Paterson (11) and Beto (8). Last weekend saw one of Everton’s substitutes seal a win over Chelsea at Goodison Park, with Lewis Dobbin slamming home the second goal in a 2-0 win after coming off the bench.

Premier League Time Spent in Game States 2023-24

That experience is much needed for a Chelsea side that requires points and have only been in a winning position for 25% of Premier League minutes in 2023-24 so far. Pochettino requires substitutes who can change games in their favour, not only fresh legs to replace those who have become tired. Quality, not numbers. Pochettino very much wants that in January, but will he get it?

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