The life of a super-sub can be a hard one – just ask Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi.
The Belgian striker scored the title-winning goal for the Blues in a 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion after coming on in the 76th minute.
He also managed to score a brace in a 5-1 thumping of Sunderland on the final of the season despite only appearing on the pitch for 28 minutes, making it four goals from the bench this season.
Despite his end-of-season flurry however, the 23-year-old recently told the Telegraph he wouldn’t spend another season on the bench.
Of Batshuayi’s 20 appearances, 19 came off the bench; his only start coming against Watford (where he almost scored).
Despite playing score of games in 2016/17, the Belgian only managed 239 minutes as he was firmly second-choice to Diego Costa.
Even though the Spaniard has been told by Conte he isn’t in his plans, Batshuayi would be unlikely to take up the reins as Chelsea’s main striker as they reportedly close in on Everton’s Romelu Lukaku – and his countryman’s arrival would most likely signal the 23-year-old’s exit.
Conte would probably love to keep Batshuayi around though, as having someone with the ability to come onto the pitch and bag important goals or even pitch in when a star gets injured is almost as important as the first XI.
The Premier League has seen a number of heroes from the bench over the years, from the days of the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to more recent examples like Javier Hernandez, Edin Dzeko and Loic Remy.
Even in Leicester City’s title campaign, Leo Ulloa chipped in with three invaluable goals from the bench as well as a brace against Swansea City when Jamie Vardy was injured.
Titles are won and lost based on these players – something we arguably saw this season.
While Chelsea were able to rely on Batshuayi when it counted, Tottenham Hotspur didn’t have quite the same luxury as they finished second – something which many will put down to losing top scorer Harry Kane to injury for nine games.
While Son Heung-Min did an admirable job of stepping up in his absence, Spurs drew three games in a row in October as the goals dried up and ultimately suffered from drawing too many in comparison with the Blues. The question must be asked: what affect would it have had to have somebody more used to the league than Vincent Janssen to call upon?
Only Olivier Giroud (6) scored more goals from the bench than Batshuayi as Alexis Sanchez was preferred up front. Funnily enough, having the Frenchman coming off the bench coincided with the Arsenal’s best run of the season as they were unbeaten for 19 games in all competitions at the end of 2016.
While many people put their struggles down to losing Santi Cazorla to injury and shifting Sanchez back to the left to accommodate Giroud or Danny Welbeck up front, it is just as likely that losing their super-sub option from the bench is what put them out of the title race.
A striker of Giroud’s quality won’t want to sit on the bench, but having players like him and Batshuayi on the bench are what wins teams the title.
Even if it is a hard life.