A few years back the popular British football (s0ccer) magazine Four Four Two published a well written, informative and intriguing article related to the art of making substitutions on the part of coaches. While some coaches had no rhyme or reason in why they would make a certain substitution, other coaches made substitutions after careful analysis and reading of how the game was being played.
In Sunday’s latest edition of the Derby Della Madonnina played between Inter and AC Milan, one coach made a substitution based off intelligently reading the game, which was Walter Mazzarri, while the other coach made a substitution which had no rhyme or reason to it, which was done by Massimiliano Allegri. The result of their respective substitution decisions played a big role in Inter winning 1-0 thanks to a sensationally taken backheel goal by Rodrigo Palacio.
With the game approaching 57 minutes played in a contest that saw Milan control and dictate tempo of the game, the score line was still 0-0 despite Milan having some control. After having essentially employed a philosophy of playing nine players back and leaving Palacio all alone upfront, Mazzarri realized that he had a chance to seize control of the game and possibly steal points.
As a result, he brought on talented playmaking midfielder Mateo Kovacic for the largely ineffective Saphir Taider. This substitution saw Inter begin to create several scoring chances and at the same time, take control of the game all thanks to Mazzarri realizing this is what his team needed in order to win.
Milan, on the other hand, made no such substitution and the substitution Allegri made at the 76th minute highlights the lack of clarity in his decision making. Having surprisingly decided to start 22-year-old forward Ricardo Saponara upfront with Mario Balotelli, Allegri decided that he would take off Saponara in favor of the ineffective Alessandro Matri. While Saponara did nothing to dazzle, he was playing well and playing better than what Matri or Giampaolo Pazzini would have or have done at any point this season.
This subsequent substitution by Allegri led to Milan looking disjointed in attack and when it truly needed to chase the game, especially after Palacio gave Inter the lead, they were unable to do so as Allegri had decided on taking out a player who had given his team some semblance of attacking cohesion. In the end, the effect that a substitution(s) can have on a game shows that there is an art form to them and in Sunday’s Derby Della Madonnina, Walter Mazzarri showed why a coach must put some thought into making one.