The 10 top-scoring substitutes in Prem history: Defoe, Giroud, Solskjaer…
There is something hard to fathom about goalscoring substitutes. After all, if a player keeps on scoring after coming off the bench, why not play him from the start?
Some of the players on this list were indeed starters most of the time, but there is also a unique band of strikers who for whatever reason seem to be more effective when introduced later on…
10. Darren Bent – 13 goals, 107.8 mins-per-goal
“My missus could have scored that one.”
Everybody remembers Harry Redknapp’s infamous quip after Bent missed a sitter for Tottenham, but he was a much more reliable goalscorer than the former Spurs boss would have you believe, scoring more than 100 Premier League goals.
Even at Spurs, where he failed to really establish himself amid competition from the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Bent he still finished as the club’s top scorer in 2008-09.
He made 60 appearances in the Premier League as a substitute, scoring 13 times, and his ratio of one every 107.8 minutes puts him ahead of Andy Cole, Tore Andre-Flo and Michael Owen, who also scored 13 goals as subs.
9. Edin Dzeko – 13 goals, 89.1 mins-per-goal
Several players on this list were underrated and written off as ‘merely goalscorers’ as if that’s such a bad thing.
Dzeko was once described as “rubbish at football but brilliant at goal scoring” by Manchester City superfan Noel Gallagher – and the Bosnian will always be cherished for coming off the bench to really take the biscuit with two late goals in City’s 6-1 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
8. Victor Anichebe – 14 goals, 147.4 mins-per-goal
The surprise name on this list. Anichebe only scored 27 Premier League goals as his career, but more than half of those came after he had entered the fray as a substitute.
In total, in 107 appearances as a substitute for Everton, West Brom and Sunderland, Anichebe contributed 14 goals and seven assists.
7. Peter Crouch – 16 goals, 178.1 min-per-goal
Crouch has never been a prolific goalscorer, never managing 15 in a single Premier League season, but he’s a player that managers have always loved to introduce from the bench as a Plan B.
There are certainly plenty of people who believe England should have kept him in the picture for longer for that same reason – and we believe they should have done it just on the off chance he might have done the robot again and kept someone hanging for a high five like he did Joe Cole…
6. Nwankwo Kanu – 17 goals, 159.1 mins-per-goal
One of the Premier League’s ultimate cult heroes, you can understand Kanu had to settle for life on the bench given he had Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry ahead of him in the Arsenal pecking order.
But what a player he was.
5. Daniel Sturridge – 17 goals, 106.7 mins-per-goal
After never really establishing himself in the starting XIs of Manchester City or Chelsea, Sturridge enjoyed an all-too-brief spell as one of Liverpool’s main men before finding himself having to make do with life on the bench once more.
Ironically, were it not for his injury problems Sturridge probably wouldn’t be on this list; he’d be starting every week and no doubt banging them in, too.
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 17 goals, 92.9 mins-per-goal
The definitive super sub and hero of Manchester United’s Champions League triumph in 1999, both Solskjaer’s first and final appearances for the club saw him come off the bench to put the ball in the back of the net.
We can’t do the Baby-Faced Assassin justice in this short paragraph. Thankfully Steven Chicken has here.
3. Javier Hernandez – 19 goals, 93.4 mins-per-goal
The heir to Solskjaer’s throne at Old Trafford, Hernandez joined Manchester United three years after the original super-sub had retired and relished in the role before doing exactly the same at Real Madrid.
In fairness to Mexico’s top scorer of all time, his two years at Bayer Leverkusen produced a record better than a goal every other game, proving that he can be just as effective leading the line from the start. West Ham, however, came to a similar conclusion as United previously.
2. Olivier Giroud – 20 goals, 94.6 mins-per-goal
Giroud wasn’t always a super-sub but took to the role like a duck to water, albeit a duck who eventually got fed up and flew away to Chelsea.
With Arsene Wenger opting for Alexis Sanchez to lead the line for Arsenal, 18 of Giroud’s 29 Premier League appearances for the Gunners in his final season at Emirates Stadium came from the bench, yielding five goals.
He’s often been used as an impact substitute at Chelsea, too, but contrary to his reputation, all 11 of his Premier League goals since the beginning of the 2019-20 season have been as a starter. He’s not scored off the bench in 11 appearances as a substitute since the beginning of last season.
1. Jermain Defoe – 24 goals, 128.8 mins-per-goal
Defoe possibly doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever goalscorers, but only seven players in history have scored more in the competition.
Whether it be at West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Sunderland or now Bournemouth, Defoe has always been relied upon to grab goals, and he has rarely failed to live up to the billing.
And there are few players you’d rather bring on when looking for a late goal…