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Change the formation?

By Paul Hornby :  25/07/2009 :  Comments (17) :
As usual, the silly season is well under way with Everton being linked with everyone and signing no-one. Without getting into the ins and outs of who’s said what, what money will be available, or if indeed we will sign any players who will go straight into our first 11 (which, judging by DM comments seems unlikely), let’s start to think of using what we have… let me explain.

There was an interesting piece in the Daily Mail today about how Gus Hiddink utilised his players in the Chelsea first 11. I think most would agree that, had Chelsea utilised this style of play from the start of last season, Man U would have been given a closer run for the title.

Moysie has done some good moves formation-wise in the last few seasons, one was to play five across the middle and secondly, last season, moving Arteta from the right to central midfield. Now I’m not advocating that changing the way of play and we’ll be challenging for the title but, by re-inventing ourselves, it could give a new lease of life.

I’ve felt for some time that the five in the middle has been well analysed on MotD, etc and we are if anything predictable. If you look at someone like Fergie, he adapts the formation to what players he has, whereas we slot players into the same formation.

What I want to put forward is Neville (or Rodwell) playing the holding midfielder in front of the back four. Two central midfield playmakers in front of him – Pienaar and Arteta (or Fellaini). With three strikers from Vaughan, The Yak (or Jo) and Cahill (or Saha). Cahill is much more effective as an attacking force than holding in midfield and I feel this formation would give us adaptability, strength in the centre and solves to an extent the

Arteta and Pienaar could move out to the flanks and Cahill drop back into midfield if we wanted a more traditional shape. However, when attacking, Vaughan could move between the flanks and a striking role and utilise his pace. Man U have used a similar style in recent years with Ronaldo moving between left, right and central striker and Rooney often utilised on the left.

I think now Everton need to move on to next base, we need to get away from the tags 'best we can achieve', 'punching above our weight' etc. We need to believe we are a top 5 side and go into big games not only believing we can win but putting out a formation that says we are going for win.

I know there has been lots of talk about Man City etc but seriously who else has been signing players who can make them a top 5 side…? Fergie certainly isn’t worried about City and Hughes faces a big challenge gelling all those players and personalities into his best team.

What Everton have is a fantastic team spirit, consistency and players who know and trust each other — not a bunch of mercenaries. Can this be a year we end the wait for success...?

Reader Comments

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Colin McBain
1   Posted 25/07/2009 at 22:19:38

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Some good points there mate but as fans we expect to see the team getting better additions each year. I really feel with the likes of Hull paying better wages we are really getting left behind and with no hope of catch up. If this trend continues and all the teams around us continue to improve we will be back where we started. One other point Man U can adapt there players around because they are real quality players. I know Vaughan is fast but he’s yet to prove consistant over a season.
Ste Norbury
2   Posted 25/07/2009 at 22:36:03

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Careful! Your comment has just injured James Vaughan, he’ll be out until January now!
Martin Cutler
3   Posted 25/07/2009 at 22:39:15

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Should EFC ever have a bit of luck then who knows ... this could be our season. We’re not a million miles away from challenging for the top four (and I include 3rd, 2nd and 1st in that). Last season’s start was awful ... there were other games we should have won that we didn’t. The injury situation was an absolute nightmare. We have some brilliant players, well at least three, returning from injury ... plus if Vaughn can stay healthy then he has a point to prove. Anichebe also.
I still think we need a replacement for Hibbert (he should only be cover), I still think Osman is a weak link too ... but if we could add a Baines type player on the right, one or two other players (pacy winger, midfield etc) and if we could stay consistent ... if Jo/Saha/Yak can start banging goals in regular ... well, if if if I know but with just a bit of luck who knows!
Derek Thomas
4   Posted 26/07/2009 at 06:45:47

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All the old (more or less) saying still apply (more or less). The basics, the sort of stuff you hear in the parks of a Sunday and in the after match inquest in the pub, be it Aintree Villa or Aston Villa ie;

Don’t let it bounce.

Defend from the front.

Play the way you’re facing.

The 3 G’s, get it, give it, go.

Play the game in their half.

The game is won and lost in the midfield.

Horses for courses, aka sq pegs in sq holes (Pip is not a proper central MFer... ever) and what goes with the square peg one is that you should play a formation that complements and maximises the strengths of your players. Make your formation suit what you have (or don’t in our case).

That's why we play 5 coz we haven’t got 4 good enough to do the job, 5 x 80 % = 4 x 100%
Alan Clarke
5   Posted 26/07/2009 at 10:09:23

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If the 4-5-1 formation is so predictable how come we still managed 5th? It’s like saying we know Man U’s formation so we should have them sussed but they still beat us most of the time. Other teams may know our formation and style of play but we are still very effective playing it.

I think it’s one of the reasons Lescott looks very good at Everton, because he has so much defensive midfield cover. When Moyes tinkered with the formation at the beginning of last season our defence was a lot more exposed and Lescott looked very poor. I think this is the main reason he should seriously consider a move to Man City in world cup year. With their 7 forwards on the pitch he would not get anywhere near that amount of cover infront of him. There would also be a hell of a lot of pressure on him with £25 million hanging over his head. I think a move would jeopardise hiw world cup place.

But back to the main point, Moyes should stick to what he knows best even though it makes for some drab 0-0s or 1-0s. Whenever he’s tried something different we’ve looked complete garbage. Also keeping to the same formation means Moyes buys (or attempts to buy) players that fit rather than a Spurs’ situation where they end up with a mish mash of players and no real direction.
Timmy Mongiat
6   Posted 26/07/2009 at 10:27:50

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If we start the season with a 4-4-2, I will start the season crying. We are far better playing a 4-5-1 formation, just because it’s a 4-5-1 doesn’t mean its ineffective or unambitious. Dare I say it, Liverpool played the 4-5-1 formation and finished the season as top scorers in the league.

Our midfielders are simply not set up for the 4-4-2 style, Cahill and Fellaini are not the same players if their attacking movement is restriced as it is in a 4-4-2. And to allow one to attack (whomever is playing alongside Neville) would be tactical suicide in a 4-4-2.

With respect to Chelsea, their start of the season was untouchable. Their problem occured later, when teams parked the bus because they had no wide men to open teams up. So I don't agree with 4-4-2 statement regarding Chelsea. (They also done pretty well under Mourinho with a 4-5-1.)

Two more things! I don't like the title ’Change the formation?’. If we had struggled over these past few seasons then it would be acceptable. The title suggests we need a change when in fact we have out-performed our rivals with a fraction of their money.

And James Vaughan! Whilst I like the lad, the problem is that his technical development is very very poor due to his injuries and he should be considered as only fourth choice striker at this club or fifth in the event of Anichebe getting fit.

However, the primary point of this argument was about ’using what we have’. And what we have is a fantastic midfield, with two attacking midfielders in Cahill and Fellaini (when given the freedom of the hole) who can score goals. To restrain these in a 4-4-2 formation would take away one of our biggest strengths. It would also inhibit the movement of our full backs in the same way without an extra mid to cover, which would certainly be a negative on the left-hand side of midfield considering how impressive Baines and Pienaar are getting forward.

Geoff Edwards
7   Posted 26/07/2009 at 14:25:09

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We haven’t been able to play 4-4-2 properly since we had Manny unfortunately. We need a quality player like him in there to do 4-4-2.

I think our 4-5-1 could be developed into a more attacking 4-3-3 with maybe Vic and Peanuts supporting Jo or Yak or Timmy up front, then a central midfield of Rodwell/Neville, Arteta and Fellaini.

If we don’t manage to sign a winger, Victor coming back from injury will be like a new signing
Ciarán McGlone
8   Posted 26/07/2009 at 15:57:06

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We don’t have the quality required in midfield (or up front) to play a 4-4-2... nevermind a 4-3-3.
Graeme Bradman
9   Posted 26/07/2009 at 15:45:50

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The top sides all seem to be playing with one upfront, without wingers and filling the centre of midfield. The key to this working is to have two attacking fullbacks; we have one on the left and many of us agree that our priority is to find a player of this type on the right.

The reason five in the middle works is that there is great flexibility and the opposition struggle to pick players up. All the top sides have a holding midfielder; we have Neville or Rodwell.

Next they have two playmaking passing midfielders; we have Arteta but perhaps none of the others are perfect for the role. I think Moyes thought Fellaini was but he has turned out to be more like Cahill...

Then two attacking midfielders supporting the lone striker; here we are very strong with Cahill, Fellaini, Pienaar, Osman, and possibly Gosling all suited to this role.

Finally the lone striker who has to be strong, good with his back to goal, yet mobile and able to run on the shoulder of defenders... Which one of our 5 strikers is most like Drogba?

Karl Masters
10   Posted 26/07/2009 at 18:44:40

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Agree with some of this, but I think you are missing something.

Everton the Team under Moyes is always Greater than the Sum .of its Parts.

Moyesie isalready getting 95% plus out of these players. And what was very pleasing to see last season was that when we finally got going we started to play some very attractive stuff consistently. Every year that side of it has improved as gradually better and better playersare being added.

Moyes has tactics sussed in the main, bar substitutions I think. What has to change is how we approach games against the Sky 4. Win more of them and we’ll be pushing them much harder. Personally, I think we need to find one explosive matchwinner from somewhere who can finish off the sound base we already have, but thats the hard part isn’t it? There are not may Torres’, Ronaldos, Drogbas or Van Persies out there......
Derek Thomas
11   Posted 27/07/2009 at 06:26:17

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Find a right-sided Baines. We say, correctly, that the sum is better than the parts. This goes for Baines and Pienaar; they feed and compliment each other. But on the other side the reverse is true, Osman and Hibbert detract from each other, Hibbert by trying to be what he isn’t ie Baines and Osman trying to be a defensive wingback to cover.

Many people over the years have bigged up Osman, quickest feet, lots of natural skill etc etc Up to a point, put a set of dreds on him and he is remarkable similar to Pienaar, height and build. He has scored some very good goals, mostly playing one two’s through the middle. Get him a Baines to do it with on the right and he will then improve.

4-5-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 are only convenient labels, a generalisation, a gist. At least 2 of the 4 at the back don’t stay there when attacking at that point we are maybe 2-3-5. on all out attack we may even be 1-1-3-5 just as when defending ALL 10 defend.

Moyeses 4-6-0 with Tim as the fronter of the midfield was still flexible and on the right sort of day very effective.

So on any given period of any game the permutations are endless, a moveable feast if ever ther was one.

Kevy Quinn
12   Posted 27/07/2009 at 11:30:15

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Ciaran Mcglone, How do we not have quality in midfield or up front? When fit Arteta is up with the best midfielders in the league. Pienaar and Cahill are quality players. Up-front, before his injury, the Yak had the best goalscoring average in the Premier League since he has been playing in England. Only Henry had a better record than him. So to say we don't have quality is wrong! Granted we don't have vast amounts of quality in numbers but still we do have quality.
Malcolm Evans
13   Posted 27/07/2009 at 12:07:00

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Barcelona use the 4-3-3 formation with one holding mid, two playmakers then the three up top. It seems to work for them and you can't tell me Messi, Henry, Xavi, Iniesta, Toure etc are better than any of our boys!?!?!
Connor Rohrer
14   Posted 27/07/2009 at 12:33:16

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4-5-1 (4-4-1-1) suits us and it’s interchangable, it changes throughout games and we don’t get dominated in midfield.

If we want to play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 then we really need some pace in midfield, outwide especially. Teams like Manchester Utd and Barcelona use wing forwards, advanced wingers so to speak. Players who have pace and can go either way.

Pienaar could probably do a job in that role (he did at times for Ajax) but other than him we don’t really have anyone. Moving Arteta back outwide would be a disaster, he’s the one quality central midfielder we have.

I think our formation is fine, we just need to add more pace and creativity to the side.
Ciarán McGlone
15   Posted 27/07/2009 at 12:44:53

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Kev, For a 4-3-3, you need strikers who can do more than put the ball in the net... Saha has this is spades, the Yak or any of our other strikers don’t.

Cahill is not a player who possesses midfield creativity — or at least enough to acquit himself well in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3.

So I’ll repeat... in my opinion, we do not have the quality for such formations.
Dennis Stevens
16   Posted 27/07/2009 at 16:07:48

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I don’t think we need to be too precious about this. We do seem to have a number of players, particularly in midfield, that suit the 451 system. The key to the way it’s been successful for us is in there being a high degree of fluidity during the course of the game with a great deal of flexibility & interchangeability making life difficult for the opposition. All we need is to steadily improve the quality of the squad of players available for Moyes to select from & the effectiveness of the team should improve further. The system works, let’s just do it even better.
Jamie Crowley
17   Posted 29/07/2009 at 04:00:27

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Hilarious Malcolm!

I agree with Ciaran and others - we don’t have the quality to play a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. That does not mean we won’t be pushing the Top 4 as our method of play in the 4-5-1 is superb when it clicks.
And especially when we’re healthy...

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