Javier Hernandez was rewarded for his super-sub heroics with a start away at Norwich, but he failed to replicate this form from the start, being substituted after 70 minutes. Dzeko on the other hand was left on the bench for City, despite scoring the winner against Spurs last weekend. Both of these strikers appear to be far more effective as substitutes, which is probably where their managers would prefer them to be, an option off the bench, not a regular starter.
Hernandez’s and Dzeko’s form this season
Hernandez has four goals from just two starts, Dzeko six from three, which would make you think that they’d get more playing time. Domestically only one of Hernandez’s four goals have come from the start, earlier this season against Wigan, his other goals were away at Chelsea and away at Villa off the bench.
Dzeko’s form tells a similar story. Four of his goals have come off the bench, with just two from the start. Although, to be fair to Dzeko he has scored in two of his three starts, so probably rightly feels aggrieved about a lack of game time. But what is the reason for them being used from the bench, more than from the start? Hernandez in particular can look somewhat inept when playing 90 minutes.
One factor is that both of these forwards are less inclined to be involved in build-up play. Like Darren Bent at Villa, they want to play on the shoulder of the last defender and feed on scraps, looking to get into the box at any given opportunity. Playing 90 minutes this style is not particularly suitable as the strikers need to contribute to build-up play in order to stretch the play and help their side control the game.
In the 90 minutes Hernandez played against Wigan he only had 33 touches of the ball, completing just 25 passes. In the same game his striker partner Wellbeck had 51 touches of the ball. Hernandez just doesn’t really get involved in the build up at all. His main instinct is to get into scoring opportunities and play facing goal, not with his back to it. Below is his heat map from the Norwich game:
He spends most of his time around the centre-circle, like a goal poacher, waiting to get in behind. Rooney’s heat-maps often show a huge amount of activity in his own half as well as out wide. Hernandez’s movement is more central and less spread out, with just sporadic dots wide. He, as stated is solely in the side to score goals.
The same is true of Dzeko to a lesser extent. Dzeko is probably a more effective all round player than Hernandez but his build is also not brilliant. Dzeko saw a good amount of the ball against West Ham (his last 90 minutes) but of his 35 passes he had a pass completion rate of just 63%, demonstrating that he is perhaps not technical enough for Man City’s style of play. Tevez and Balotelli both had vastly superior completion rates of 85%+ in that game.
Why are they better as subs?
The reason they are not effective from the start is why they are so effective as subs. Both players have a proven ability to score goals in high pressure situations. When their sides are chasing the game they can be thrown on and allowed to play their natural game; to exclusively get into goal scoring areas whilst their side pump balls forward. When United or City are losing the opposition will sit back, very, very deep, meaning that the midfield and defence of the Manchester clubs can push forward and apply pressure. This in turn means that Hernandez or Dzeko can enter the fray and push forward, looking to get in behind the opposition defence without having to drop back and assist the midfield to help link play.
This is Dzeko’s heat map from the game against Spurs were he made a great cameo appearance scoring the winning goal to give his side the three points. His movement, like Hernandez’s is in those centre forward roles around the centre-circle. This is how he scored his goal, playing off the shoulder of the last defender, getting in behind the back four to score his volley. As noted, playing a full 90 minutes is less suited for both forwards, who have to get involved in build-up play when the score is level or their sides are leading. Against a side they are losing to, defending deep, they represent a great threat off the bench to change a game with their goal scoring knack.
This sort of player, the goal-poacher, looked out of vogue at one stage. Darren Bent has become peripheral at Villa, whilst these two forwards are struggling for starts at their respective clubs. However, Mancini and Ferguson both clearly understand how useful these two players can be coming off the bench. Their goal scoring ability makes them a serious threat. In Dzeko’s case City can also pump long balls up to him due to his ability in the air. These two forwards may actually decide the title as they are serious game-changers. Chelsea on the other hand are so short on strikers, how they would love an option like Dzeko or Hernandez off the bench. If playing time does not increase, both players might look for a long term move, but for now, they will continue to score goals, primarily from the bench.
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