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Does Eddie Nketiah cut it as a sub?
Looking at some questions about Nketiah's performance as a starter and a substitute
I was listening to the Arsenal Vision podcast this morning and something thought-provoking came up. The guest Jacob Hawley said a couple of things about Eddie Nketiah that made my ears perk up and wonder if that was true. The one I want to look at further here is the difference between his performance as a starter and a sub.
I get a lot of ideas for things to write about by listening to other people’s discussions on podcasts or seeing the different things being talked about online. I think it is a good way to get a sense of what the discourse is and if what we are seeing and feeling is backed up by the numbers. I think these are both really good candidates for testing that out.
During an international break, it is certainly something that needs ideas like this to help create content. Let’s dig into it.
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Eddie as a starter vs substitute
For this analysis, I am going to use the last 3 seasons of data. One of the always complicating factors with Nketiah is that he is always up against small sample sizes and it is no different with this. I am also going to use data from the Premier League, Europa League, and Champions League for this.
First as a starter.
Nketiah has started 40 matches over this period playing 2,826 minutes. In that time he has looked solidly above average. He generates a good volume of shots, from very good locations but has had a cold finishing run. He runs around a lot (I am still not sure if he’s much better than average to slightly above as a presser) and has improved as a player in the buildup but is still a bit below the starter standard.
Overall I think this looks like a strong profile for a homegrown academy player to back up a starter. Maybe the team would want to improve on him but it would not be cheap or necessarily easy to replace him.
Now let’s look at what he has done as a substitute.
The overall profile is not massively different than what he has done as a starter. The minutes are significantly less with just 828 over 51 substitute appearances (an average of just 16 minutes per appearance) and it leaves us with still a sample smaller than ideal.
As a substitute, there is a bit less on the scoring front, with more on the creative side and defensive side of the ball. Here is the per 90 data in a list format that makes it a bit easier to
I think the thing that absolutely drives the idea of him not making an impact as a substitute is that he has just 3 goals coming off the bench. He had ZERO goals as a sub in the 21/22 and 22/23 seasons. It’s not exactly fair to him because the minutes and chances to score are minimal, he also spent a lot of time last season coming on with Arsenal looking to see out a lead (14 of his 21 sub appearances were with the team ahead) and more than other players game state is a major factor for a substitute.
I am reluctant to cut down the sample further filtering by game state given we are already below my comfort level but it would not be surprising if there was something to this.
The complication of substitution effects is something that has been looked at for a while and Nketiah’s numbers follow a similar type pattern, when he is forced to play a full 90 his numbers are the worst (0.2 goals, 0.45 xG), he is at his best starting but only playing that 60-75 minute type outing (0.7 goals, 0.7 xG) and a bit better as a sub (0.4 goals, 0.55 xG).