One of the biggest gripe or complaint about Gernot Rohr’s management of the Nigerian national team is that he makes substitutions too late and is perhaps overwhelmed by the flow of the game. This is a remarkable claim that warrants investigation and that is what I decided to do in order to verify if this claim is fact or fiction.
Data used for this analysis goes back slightly over a decade beginning with Berti Vogts’ tenure in 2007. Not included, however, is Augustine Eguavoen’s brief tenure as caretaker. First, I only collected data from competitive games, which did not include WAFU or CHAN games.
Furthermore, I also took into consideration only the first two substitutions considering that third substitutions are often held back until late in order to account for injuries and, thus, data from such substitutions could considerably distort results.
Importantly, one data set was missing which is the timing for substitutions made by Manager Samson Siasia in an AFCON qualifier that ended 2-2 against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa back in 2011. Thus, that game was not included in this analysis. Additionally, the data sets for Siasia, Sunday Oliseh, and Lars Lagerback were five or less games each.
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The exploration of data for this article provides some surprising findings that are not associated with Gernot Rohr. For instance, it seems that Lagerback leaned towards making quick and early substitutions after the first half. Perhaps, it demonstrated his frustration with the team that he had at the 2010 World Cup. In our data set, he made his first two substitutions all within the hour, statistics not common with the rest of Nigerian managers.
On the other hand, Oliseh and Shuaibu Amodu made remarkable first half substitutions that had nothing to do with injury to substituted players. Oliseh’s quick decision on Lukman Haruna after just 35 minutes in an AFCON qualifier against Tanzania and Amodu’s replacement of Victor Anichebe in an AFCON qualifier with five minutes to the end of the half against Equatorial Guinea in 2008.
In any case, back to Gernot Rohr. Tables 1 and 2 show the results. On Table 1 it shows that Coach Rohr’s first substitutions are not always late in comparison with Nigeria’s previous managers. In fact, his first substitutions are earlier than Vogts’. Thus, the claim of late timing here is fiction rather than fact.
Moreover, Rohr’s substitution decisions are not that different from the timing of Amodu or Stephen Keshi’s first substitutions, barring forced injury substitutions in the first half. Table 2 shows that Rohr’s latest first substitution, which came in the 75th minute against Libya last October, matches a similar timing under both Amodu and Oliseh’s latest first substitutions.
In fact, Keshi holds the record here for the latest first substitution, which came just three minutes to the end of an AFCON game against Ivory Coast, which Nigeria won 2-1 in 2013.
Where the case against Rohr is factual is how long it takes him to make his second substitution. He made the latest of second substitutions of all managers under consideration in the last decade. It takes him 76 minutes to make his second substitution on the average. His fastest second substitution is at the 66-minute mark, much later than any other coach.
The point of these statistics is to show that criticism of Rohr’s substitution timing is only factual when nuanced. His timing of his first substitutions is not unusual. It is the timing of his second that comes later than usual when compared against other Nigerian managers in the last decade.
Table 1: Average Minutes for first and second substitutions
|MANAGER||Ave. First Substitution*||Ave. Second Substitution|
*In parenthesis is calculation when injury-induced early substitution is taken out of data.
Table 2: Earliest and Latest Times for First & Second substitutions in a Game
|MANAGER||Earliest First Sub.*||Latest First Sub||Earliest Second Sub||Latest Second Sub.|
* Non-injury induced.
+His first sub in this game was an injury first half sub.
$Without a second sub in competitive game.