Super sub Santalab should stay benched

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Having scored a winning brace off the bench against Adelaide United last week, Western Sydney Wanderers striker, Brendon Santalab once again lived up to his super sub status.

It’s a role he should be allowed to fulfil despite the inevitable calls from Wanderers fans for him to start.

On his toes to squeeze in the equaliser against United, Santalab was lucky to still be on the pitch after a horrific tackle on James Holland minutes before coolly curling in the injury time winner.

With fresh legs off the bench, the super sub was in the right places at the right times and it’s a skill he has made his own in recent seasons to cement his status as one of the A-League’s most successful substitutes.

With the inevitable calls for him to become a starter imminent, the 34-year-old is best suited to the bench.

In the twilight of his career, Santalab simply can’t match the sheer energy and pace of Kerem Bulut up front. Although Bulut is yet to fire for the Wanderers this season, his work load against Adelaide opened the door for Santalab to make an impact late on and if they continue teaming up like that, Santa’s super sub powers could be taken to a whole new level.

While the original super sub Henrique also netting ‪on Friday night, the attacker is now a starter at the Reds meaning the affectionately known Santa is primed to take the reigns as the A-League’s premium impact player.

Averaging just 33 minutes per game in his 23 appearances last season, Santalab made every minute count. Scoring 11 goals, managing 28 shots and grabbing two assists, Santalab sealed his super sub status emphatically.

The extent of Santalab’s success off the bench last term saw him indeed surpass Henrique as the A-League’s most super sub. Despite playing more games and minutes than Santa, Henrique, who made 24 appearances and averaged 43 minutes a game for the Roar, was well short of Santalab in a few key areas. Netting eight times, shooting 26 times and managing a hat-trick of assists, Henrique was outdone by the Wanderers’ man.

A clinical finisher, give Santalab a chance late in the match and he’ll more than likely finish it. Last season, 11 of his 16 shots on target resulted in goals which says quite a lot about his ability to finish not only chances, but games too.

His goals as a substitute played a major part in the Wanderers picking up 13 points last season. Switching to a starter towards the end of the season, Santalab was no slouch either netting on five occasions but ultimately failing to have the same impact.

In the tail-end of his career, Santalab’s best role for the Wanderer’s this season is as a substitute.

Unable to match Bulut’s athletically, Santalab is a strike weapon much more suited to a late deployment to ensure no dangerous misfires. If his reckless challenge on Holland against Adelaide is any indication, Santalab may struggle in more ways than one to stay on the pitch for a full 90 minutes.

But give him a 15-minute period and more likely than not he’ll find the back of the net.

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Joshua Thomas
Joshua Thomas
A football fanatic and journalism student who won't leave you wondering about any Wanderers news this season as I cover all things Red and Black for The Football Sack.

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