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Adapting the 4-5-1

By Peter Griffin :  18/10/2009 :  Comments (16) :

On the opening day of the season, Arsenal stuffed us playing a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 depending which way you look at it. They had Song, Denilson and Fabregas with Arshavin and Bendtner supporting Robert van Persie from wide areas. For large spells of the game, Song sat in the middle of the park, breaking up the play, and Denilson was busy closing people down, playing short passes to feet.

Fabregas was the link-up man, receiving the ball from deep and running with it, picking out through-balls and creating chances. Arshavin and Bendtner where usually at least 20 yards in front of these three on either flank, wanting the ball then cutting inside and shooting, or getting to the by-line and putting a cross in. When not in possession, they dropped back and closed people down. We don't need reminding of the result that day!

My point is this: Why don't we adopt a similar approach? Particularly at home against opponents like Stoke and Wolves... Rodwell can do the holding role [Song]. Fellaini can win the ball and keep the game flowing [Denilson]. Arteta can be our Fabregas. Pienaar and Bily can do the jobs of Arshavin and Bendtner, with Saha or Yak upfront a la RVP.

I know Arteta is injured and Pienaar was missing the weekend but, if they were fit, would we adopt such a positive approach? Probably not. Our system is all about shape and getting men behind the ball, which was fine when David Moyes took over. Yet, now with the quality of the squad he has at his disposal, we still go out not to lose.

Credit to Pienaar for the work he puts in helping Bainsey out, but he seems to do more work in these areas than at the other end. Let the lad express himself. Bily may not be the quickest but he's good on the ball and will grow with confidence. Quick players are good in deep positions where they have room to run into behind defenders.

If Bily hasn't got that pace, push him further up where his delivery and shooting can be effective, instead of being 15 yards in front of the full back on the half-way line. Rodwell tends to play a lot of sideways passes, but that's fine if he's giving it to players in positions who can hurt the opposition.

We need to look at the strengths of the players we have and try and utilise them. Playing Osman right midfield does him no favours. Cahill in the midfield isn't where he belongs. Heitinga looks a better defender than midfielder.

Another transfer window has been and gone and still no pace has been added to the squad. All the top teams have it, but we don't. Pace gives you options with the way you set the team up to play, and we're sorely lacking it. Defenders are terrified of quick players running at them, especially in and around the box.

Howard can quickly turn defence into attack with a throw to a player who can run with the ball at pace. It would add a whole new dimension to our style of play, which is laboured and slow... and the reason there is no urgency in our team until we're behind. A quick player would up the tempo from the off and get the fans on their feet which would boost the rest of the players.

I know we have injuries to key players so IMO we should adapt the system to suit the strengths of the players available rather than play players out of position. I went a bit wayward but I'm sure there's a valid point in there somewhere...

Reader Comments

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Martin Mason
1   Posted 18/10/2009 at 18:51:05

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This is a fair point. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all sometimes play a flexible 4-5-1/4-3-3 which is probably the most attacking formation that there is. The wonderful 1970 championship side also regularly played 4-5-1 with Royle as the lone forward but, to pull the positive 4-5-1 off, you need 2 good wide players who can pull back into midfield and Morrisey and Husband were the tops for a few years.

Everton’s current 4-5-1 is the ultimate negativity but it may just be that we don't have constructive central midfielders and, without Pienaar and A N Other, we don’t have the wide players to pull it off.

Timmy will never be a Premier League midfield player as long as he plays... him, Fellaini and Neville in the same side in any combination makes us unbalanced — and balance, not always absolute skill, is what it’s all about. It may be that Pienaar and Bily can be it but, from what I hear, Bily may not have the pace?

I believe that at the moment Moyes knows what he wants but he doesn’t have the players to produce the goods. This may also be why our defenders resort to by-passing the midfield because it basically isn’t good enough to contribute positively.

Arteta returning may help but why is it that we actually played reasonably well in his absence last year? Far better than the dross we are producing at the moment. We live in hope.

Keith Glazzard
2   Posted 18/10/2009 at 19:31:07

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Peter, the idea that Steven Pienaar is ’helping Bainsey out’ overlooks the fact that they provide a superb left-flank attack. You regret our lack of pace, but you ignore Leighton’s. "Defenders are terrified of quick players running at them, especially in and around the box," you say, and quite right too. I’ll bet there aren’t too many who enjoy Baines coming forward, usually fed by Pienaar.
Brian Waring
3   Posted 18/10/2009 at 20:07:05

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Martin, after the length of time Moyes has been with us, you would have thought that he would have had ample time to have assembled the players to play the way he wants.
Matthew Lovekin
4   Posted 18/10/2009 at 22:16:12

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The two wingers are the key players in the 4-5-1 formation. They need to track back and be defensive when the opposition have the ball but out and out old fashioned wingers when we do have the ball and more ’forwards’.

Moyes seems to prefer 5 central midfielders all along the midfield with two defensive midfielders! This isolates the lone striker and results in no creativity. In support of Moyes, we didn’t have that many options with Arteta and Pienaar out injured, but why hasn’t he bought more creative players in 7 years?

Ideally in a 4-5-1, Bily and Pienaar would play as wide forwards supporting Saha or Yakubu, with Cahill or Fellaini the attacking midfielder and Arteta the playmaker with Rodwell the defensive midfielder. However, injuries are not ideal, and Moyes prefers ultra-defensive.
Nick Dommett
5   Posted 19/10/2009 at 00:37:04

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Personally I think Moyes wants to play an almost 3-5-2 or 3-5-1-1 but panics over the creativity in the team... and compensates by being even more conservative.

Essentially you have your two centre backs (Distin + Yobo/ Jags) and a deep lying centre midfielder (Rodwell/ Neville). Then a centre midfield ’spine’ of Arteta/ Fellaini and Cahill and two up front (Saha and the Yak).

Crucial to this is the two ’wide’ players — Bily and Peanuts — who cut inside making space for the full-backs who will be encouraged to get forward as much as possible (Heitinga and Baines). This means that Bily doesn’t have to be pacy, but is rather in the Joe Cole or Beckham mold, but needs a RB willing to overlap constantly. It of course remains to be seen if Heitinga is that guy but he does like getting forward more than Hibbert! Piennar adds the ’zip’ on the other wing, ably supported by Baines. Therefore you end up with a lot of pace on one wing and some pace but great vision on the other (Beckham and Giggs anyone?).

I do like the look of this team but I would be even more adventurous with Fellaini and Arteta in the same team at the expense of Rodwell/ Neville.... or if one of those play then replace Cahill or the Yak...

It does show how the loss of Pienaar is devastating right now as we don’t have a replacement for him. We can ask (yet again) for Gosling to be given a go but he hasn’t ever really impressed on either flank. And Osman should work but he hasn’t the discipline or strength to do what Pienaar does on the left flank.
Derek Thomas
6   Posted 19/10/2009 at 05:44:53

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Peter Griffin, fair enough but your piece should be called FORGET 4-5-1, because that is what’s required.

Too many times, too many people get sucked in with the numbers game.

Even the very poor very basic imitation of a system we play (4-5-1) we end up, when attacking (when we actually do) with only 2 or maybe 3 at the back.

So, when done right, ie actual joined-up footy is played, the numbers of 4-5-1 flip around like a demented airport flight board, FLUID, thats how it should be done, not our (Moyes's not mine) set in concrete, we shall not be moved, version of keep it tight and pinch one.

All Moyes's and Kenwright's good points (and there are some) got us to where we are today (make of that what you will) ... and thus.

All their bad points stop us from going any further.

Nick Drommett, spot on.
Peter Griffin
7   Posted 19/10/2009 at 07:25:32

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Keith, I agree Bainsey is good going forward but he’s our left back first and foremost.

At the weekend, City had SWP, Villa had Young, Spurs had Lennon, Utd had Valencia..... we had Baines?

Why don’t we have a similar player in our squad who can do what they do? And if we did, would he start?
Ajay Gopal
8   Posted 19/10/2009 at 08:03:39

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Peter, in response to your original posting: exactly right! I was mulling along similar lines.

OK, granted we have many injuries (in fact, the worst injured players list in the League), but given the players we had available against Wolves, the 4-5-1/4-3-3 could have been:
Jo (on the left), Saha, Bily (on the right)
Rodwell (in the defensive MF role), Osman (the link-up man — OK, he is not the best, but given what we had, and seeing he is not very good on the right), Fella (the box-to-box player).

This would have been much more attacking and shown clear intent to win.

OK, I accept that the reason that Fella did not start was the recent operation on his wisdom teeth. In that case, I can understand why Heitinga started in midfield. A midfield of Rodwell, Osman and Gosling would have been too lightweight.

With Pienaar and Fella available, it would be nice to see:

Jo, Saha, Bily
Rodwell, Fella and Pienaar (in the playmaker central role)
Cahill and the Yak to come on as impact subs. Also, Gosling to replace a tiring Bily towards the end.

In the end, I think we need to give the benefit of doubt to Moyes, given the number of injuries that he has had to cope with.

Michael Brien
9   Posted 19/10/2009 at 13:22:41

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Martin — I am afraid I have to agree with your opinion of Tim Cahill. I think that, over the last few seasons, we have got so used to his goalscoring that we have come to see him as being a goalscorer and nothing else. I think that is a rather unfair assessment of him. Even when not scoring, or getting into goalscoring positions Cahill is a fine midfield player, who gets through a lot of work for the team.

I well remember the 1970 Championship team and I think your view of them playing a variation of 4-5-1 is wide of the mark. I saw an interview with Harry Catterick reproduced in an Everton fanzine, which I believe is called "Blue Blood". In this he referred to his team having a back 4 and 6 forwards!!!

4-5-1 is essentially a defensive formation, I can understand DM using this formation when we play away from home and also against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal — but at home against Wolves!! Why not play Yakubu from the start? Okay, he may be short of match fitness — but the only way to give him match practice is to play him ??!

I see similarities between the approach of Everton and The Republic of Ireland — both teams are hard to beat. But if you are to challenge for trophies/qualify for World Cups etc, you have to be a bit more adventurous. Sunderland played two strikers at Old Trafford and their boldness very nearly brought them a win. Can you see DM doing the same?
Michael Brien
10   Posted 19/10/2009 at 13:35:19

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Sorry Martin that should be disagree — I am writing this against the clock ticking away my lunch hour!!! Yes some of our play may not be as good as last season... but sooner or later injuries do have an effect. Fellaini was unwell in the summer and Rodwell played a fair number of games — it may not be unreasonable to expect both of these players to be a bit inconsistent. Anyway, I hear the bells ringing (telephone that is) — a Civil Servant’s lot and all that!!
Mike Green
11   Posted 19/10/2009 at 15:34:55

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All comes down to the same problem — our midfield’s a mess.

For his goals and commitment to the cause, I think Cahill is a shoo-in as an Everton great. I love the bloke but over the past year or so it’s dawned on me that he isn,t really a very good footballer at all — his approach seems to be that he’s in a fight rather than a football match. This is no bad thing but if the goals dry up I don't think he has much left to offer other than make a nusiance of himself, which isn't enough.
Chris Briddon
12   Posted 19/10/2009 at 16:10:20

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For those with short memories, I will remind you of the team we played against AEK Athens when we had more players fit (other than long term injuries + Hibbert & Saha)
Howard

Gosling, Yobo, Distin, Baines
Pienaar, Rodwell, Cahill, Fellaini, Bily
Jo

Now for those of you who say DM won’t paly an attacking 4-5-1 with 2 wide player — point proven that he will just they aren’t always available!

All these comments over the last few days on negatvitiy, well with a midfield missing Pienaar, Arteta, Fellaini (not up to 90 mins), Neville who else are we supposed to play there!
Chris Briddon
13   Posted 19/10/2009 at 16:14:34

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Oh and just to add for those who want to know...

Osman, Saha & Yak all came on as subs in that game, showing the excellent array of options we would have if all are available.
Peter Griffin
14   Posted 19/10/2009 at 16:30:41

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Chris, I’m talking about the shape and allowing Bily, Pienaar to play further up the field with the emphasis more on attack than defence. They should be deployed further forward, especially against the weaker teams.

When the midfield is a flat 5 the ball gets hoofed to the striker. If they had 2 wide players further forward off the striker we could pass it wide. Instead we have one or two central and the high ball gets hoofed up looking for scraps.

United and Chelsea last year, Barca, City loads of teams play the system I’m talking about. Ours is different, and too negative for a team with aspirations of finishing in the European places.
Connor Rohrer
15   Posted 19/10/2009 at 21:10:20

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I don’t have a problem with the formation when the likes of Pienaar, Arteta and Bilyaletdinov are all in midfield, it actually works quite well. There’s creativity in every area and a lot of interchanging.

But when we don’t keep the ball and control possession, then the role Fellaini and Cahill occupy is a waste of time, they just look lost. They're either too close to the main striker and we get overrun in midfield or they're too far away from the main striker which leaves him isolated.

At the moment we don’t have players like Arteta and Pienaar so you have to adapt and try something else. We have a lot of firepower and where playing Wolves, I don’t see why it’s going to be a problem going 4-4-2 at home.

At the moment we need something to play off, the midfield needs someone who can hold the ball up and bring them into the game. I’d like to see Yakubu and Saha leading the line, two powerful forwards who are also capable with the ball at their feet, most the time.

Yakubu came on and showed Cahill-Fellaini how it’s done, he dropped deep and made things happen. Or he kept hold of it and brought midfielders into play. A very promising performance from the Yak.
Michael Brien
16   Posted 20/10/2009 at 07:23:40

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Mike Green - I think you’re talking rubbish in your opinion of Tim Cahill. His goalscoring exploits and his performance as an "emergency striker" have rebounded on him. When he isn’t scoring fans start to have a go- there is more to his game than scoring goals. He usually puts in a "good shift" as the commentators like to say these days. He is one of the hardest working midfielders in the PL.
Watching the Stoke v Blues match on Sky last season - the commentators came out with the fact that in 2007-08 season when Cahill was in the team Everton won approx 40 or so points ( he played in 19 matches I believe it was) when he wasn’t in the team we gained about 19/20 points.
As Joni Mitchell once said "Don’t it always seem to be that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone" - It never ceases to amaze me how shallow some Evertonians can be. Instead of emphasizing a players strengths let’s slag them off for what they can’t do.
I wonder how many of the people who sent in messgaes criticisng Arteta back in 2007-08 are now bemoaning his absence ? Neville another player who has come in for far too much criticism - much of it unjustified imo - I think now we all realise we are far better with him in the team than without him.
I remember the 1970 Champions - I wonder if they would have escaped Evertonian "wrath" - after all Colin Harvey wasn’t renowned for scoring great goals, no doubt had TW existed then there would have been article bemoaning the lack of goals from a player who had previously been a forward or striker as they are now called. I still recall his brilliant goal in the 2-0 win at Goodison that clinched the title.
Players can’t do everything - even Pele would’ve been rubbish in goal and so would Alex Young. Instead of berating players for what they can’t do, for their weak points lets appreciate their strengths.
And Mike Green - if DM decided to sell Cahill, their would be a stampede of clubs wanting to sign him. He didn’t look out of place in the 2006 World Cup and will do well in 2010 I am sure. Perhaps you should remember the saying - " Form is temporary - class is permanent"

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