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Opinion

Super sub Kuol shows why five sub rule should stick

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Roar Guru
5th April, 2021
3

There have been plenty of things to celebrate so far as we reach the midpoint of the 2020-21 A-League season. It’s bloody good to have crowds back.

The cowbells at Campbelltown Stadium are not to everyone’s taste, but add something new that makes Macarathur’s atmosphere unique to the league. Switching to cooler months while due to the circumstances has been a masterstroke.

But the thing that is most exciting is the influx of local players due to adding more substitutes, and there’s one player in particular using this to their advantage.

When we first started seeing Alou Kuol on our screens the entertainment he provided was mostly in post match interviews with Fox Sports. His confidence and charisma stood out in a world of monotonic media trained athletes.

It wasn’t until this season he started to produce form so good he is now reportedly Bundesliga bound with Stuttgart chasing the Sudan-born striker’s signature. He netted the winner in Central Coast’s season opener against their rivals up the F3 and he’s not looked back.

Kuol netted his seventh goal of the campaign to help the Mariners come from behind to beat Adelaide 2-1, ending their three match winless run and stretching their lead at the top of the table. Goals are something the Gosford based club have lacked in recent years.

You have to go back to the 2016-17 season to find the last time a Mariners played has scored more than seven goals. So it must be refreshing for Mariners faithful to have a talisman they can get behind.

Alou Kuol of the Mariners reacts during the A-League

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Five of those goals have come in games he’s been introduced to make an impact on the game, helping his side to win six points from losing positions.

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At the time of writing, 23 substitutes have found the back of the net this season, totalling 37 goals (closing in on a league high), Kuol tops the lot with five. Only Sydney FC’s Patrick Wood and Perth Glory’s Carlo Armiento (three goals) come close.

Chances are always limited when you’re breaking into the first grade in salary cap leagues especially with a high number of foreign players, but the 19-year-old is the personification of maximising your minutes. Kuol has a goal every 71.1 minutes.

This is not only better than Golden Boot leader Jamie Maclaren (96.6) granted he has played fewer minutes. This is also better than everyone in the league (except teammate Matt Hatch who has one goal from 10 minutes played).

It has been interesting to see how managers use the five allowed subs at their disposal. While we haven’t seen anyone make five subs at once which Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made famous, we have seen a lot of triple changes, predominantly Steve Corica who has done this six times.

Of course it’s one thing to make substitutions, it’s another to make effective changes, and Corica has done just that, his subs have resulted directly in seven goals, only Alen Stajcic can match that. Carl Robinson’s Western Sydney have six goals, closely followed by Perth Glory on five, and Adelaide on four.

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The Sky Blues and the Wanderers have the most goalscorers with four. Kuol’s teammates Jordan Smylie and Matt Hatch have also scored after coming on.

It seems as if Kuol’s not long for the A-League so Henrique’s all-time record of most goals off the bench will remain in tact for the time being, The Slippery Fish scored 20, but he is closing in on the season record of seven which Pablo Sanchez accomplished in Adelaide’s title winning season in 2015-16.

Expanding the number of maximum subs was of course brought in due to the months long break caused by COVID-19. All the top leagues around the world, bar the Premier League, exercise this, but in the 2021-22 season when we (hopefully) won’t have Australian teams catching up to football’s calendar it might be worth looking into extending it beyond this season.

Now who knows the hurdles the A-League will have to jump over with IFAB to arrange this but judging off the above evidence it might be worth a look. Clubs have at least used the extension to the full benefit and it has paid dividends for most A-League teams.

Kuol has been the greatest beneficiary of this, he was on the Mariners’ books before the pandemic but it wasn’t until this season that he’s broken out as a star player.

Who knows what an alternative universe looks like? Without having the option of five substitutions, he may not have been given as many opportunities and made as big of an impact as he is this season.