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Mind Games - Best Team

By Mike Oates :  05/03/2010 :  Comments (13) :
With the midweek fixtures now gone... and with expectations now also gone (I can't see us even get into the Top 7 and Europe) with the way Spurs, City, Liverpool and Villa seem to be churning the results out, week-in, week-out, the mind turns to the perennial game of what is our best team if all players fit and available.

To start with the no-brainer – Howard is a straight shoe-in as goalkeeper.

Fullbacks – left back: again no brainer – Baines – right back? contenders... Hibbert, Neville and Coleman.

At this stage, it has to be Neville – if only because his distribution and link up is marginally better than Hibbert and Coleman hasn’t even got a full Premier League game under his belt. Neville (whatever we think) is also the present captain and Moyes’s message man on the pitch.

So... Neville and Baines.

Centre Halves – again we probably all feel that the Jagielka- Heitinga combination looks class and I suspect for most matches (particularly Europe as well) then they are first choice. But what happens when we play Stoke or Bolton or bloody Crouch, then you would to all intent and purposes want at least Distin and maybe even Yobo/Senderos to deal with the aerial barrage. So for now let's say Jags and Johnny.

Wide midfield – if Donovan was staying, I think he’s a must but he isn’t staying and I think we must persevere with Billy and Pienaar. Gosling could well keep Bily out but do feel that we will see the best of Bily next year, and I suspect he’ll be just as good as Pienaar in time.

Centre midfield – for me there is a perfect combination of Fellaini and Arteta, with Rodwell keeping Fellaini under pressure. What we probably need is another “footballing midfield maestro” to back up Arteta – Pienaar can play there at times but every so often, he like Osman seems to get completely out-muscled.

Forwards – would love to see the Saha / Yakubu combination actually working well. Two proven class goalscorers but also two “can't be interested” at times players. Cahill, whilst not a great scorer, actually is the best in the team at driving us forward, upsetting the opposition... and we “seem” to be a better team at the moment with him in there supporting Saha or Yakubu. Which of those two, at the moment? You have to go with Saha because of what he’s done this season but I personally have always seen Yakubu as a better all-round forward when he’s fit and raring to go. If contracts are honoured then we might see Beckford here next year and that could be interesting as it would give us pace up front — something we haven’t had for years.

So, all-in-all, my team would be:–

 Howard Neville, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar Cahill, Saha 

Or being adventurous in a 3-1-4-2 formation:

 Howard Jagielka, Distin, Heitinga Fellaini Coleman, Arteta, Pienaar, Baines Saha, Bily 

Dream over – back to reality... and can we beat Hull on Sunday... which Everton will turn up?

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
1   Posted 05/03/2010 at 11:40:49

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Not sure I understand the last formation, and how it is "adventurous" to effectively replace Cahill with Distin (Coleman for Neville, perhaps... according to currently perceived fan wisdom). But putting the fullbacks down on paper as wingers and expecting them to somehow change their game (be less defensive and more attacking?) does seem a little dreamy to me...

Still, it would be nice to see Bily transformed into a real attacking inside-forward... why is it every time I see him start, I keep hoping to witness the reincarnation of one Andrei Kanchelskis? He came mightily close with that excellent goal the other week...
Mike Oates
2   Posted 05/03/2010 at 12:04:07

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Michael

Both Coleman and Baines excel at pushing up . I would say Baines is far more effective overlaping than defending . We dont know enough about Coleman yet but we’ve seen a lad who loves to attack.

Both will be given more freedom to push forward with 3 behind them.
Mike Allison
3   Posted 05/03/2010 at 11:59:13

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We need a pacy right winger, to be honest, I want two. If we’re not signing Donovan then next season’s success will depend on finding someone else to be a genuine threat on that side, a debate for another thread possibly (my current realistic candidates are Donovan, Eagles, Pennant and Bentley). I’d play Fellaini, Arteta and Pienaar in the middle together if I could, at the moment that’s Bilyaletdinov and Donovan out wide (as against Man United) but that midfield five won’t play together any time soon with Fellaini out.

Definitely agree with Jagielka and Heitinga, a real class partnership, and to answer the question "what happens when we play Stoke or Bolton or bloody Crouch" there are three things. One, I fancy Heitinga and Jagielka to compete reasonably well anyway, certainly well enough to not worry about changing the team; two, Fellaini as a deep lying midfielder gets involved and challenges in the air; three, we make sure we win the second ball, which is actually the most important one anyway. The aerial trade off is one I’d accept to have centre backs who can both build from the back and play intelligently.

Hard not to look ahead but I’ll come back to the present, Saturday is again another chance to give Coleman a go at right back, we’re at home to a struggling team, and in fact, we haven’t got a right lot to lose for the rest of the season, so he should be given a run. Jagielka and Heitinga will be more than adequate replacements with the armband.
Mike Allison
4   Posted 05/03/2010 at 12:13:37

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I rarely agree with Michael but I don’t think a wing backs formation is ’more adventurous’ either. Its what everyone tried during the 90s and you don’t end up with much width up front, the wing backs get there and they’re on their own instead of linking up with someone.
Christopher McCullough
5   Posted 05/03/2010 at 12:10:51

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Mike: I posted a very similar team just recently, except Donavon was in instead of Bily. Great minds... eh?

Intersting that Moyes is quoted on Sky to be persuading Galaxy to extend the loan.

I still think the majority of creative passing, interplay and, ultimately, goals will come from the left in that team.

The next piece of the jigsaw must be our recent nemesis — Mountinho.
Keith Glazzard
6   Posted 05/03/2010 at 15:51:51

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The England game - I saw the last 60 minutes when I realised Leighton was playing - showed how ’right-sided’ English players are. Baines is a gem - and we need to find LB mark2 sometime very soon. Our left flank is solid enough, but a great attacking force when Steven plays there. Bily has yet to learn, but he will.

Neville, Cap’n Pip, is printed on the teamsheet until injury or senility. And Coleman - who has masses of potential - will suffer. Pip will only be sent up into midfield in dire emergency.

And it looks like the boss is thinking of putting Johnny come lately (close to hero status already?) in front of a back 4 already. He can do that job, and has sussed out the PL very quickly. But John and The Jag look like a match made in heaven for me.

Which is where The Big Fella comes into the picture. In front of those two, no pasaran!, allcomers, Crouch nor the 7Up Snow White. The Shite no-mark Greek hitman knew that when he broke his ankle.

And San Mikel will find/create acres of space to set free who? - we already have a few. The Yak, King Louis, Tiger Tim, Sunshine Superman, Steven and the Russian guy. Rodwell fancies his chances and the Little Goose can score now and then. As can Osman.

The local lads? I sincerely wish for Hibbo many years as a local hero, possibly in Oldham or Sheffield, where he will prosper. Leon, on the other hand, has skills whch will come in useful against lower opposition in Europe next season.

How’s that for optimism?
Rob Hollis
7   Posted 05/03/2010 at 20:01:55

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Would not have said this two years ago but give me Hibbert over Neville at right back any day of the week.

Think Hibbert has really improved but injuries really disrupt him now.
Mike Elbey
8   Posted 06/03/2010 at 06:24:58

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I think your first team is pretty much our best line-up. I agree that Cahill is more to the team than his actual ability and we seem to be better with him in it despite his technical short-comings.

The biggest debate is likely to be over Neville / Coleman at RB. I agree with thise that say Neville offers the team something to the team as captain but at some point we have to move on from this — after all he wont still be playing in 5 years surely?

I also agree with those that say Coleman is untested but surely now is the time to give the lad some playing time in order that we can find out.

In my opinion we should use the rest of this season to (1) get Arteta and Jagielka fit and ready for net season; (2) play Heitinga and Jags together as often as possible to get them used to eachother for next season; (3) give Coleman some games in order that we can see if he is the real deal at RB.

Moyes could do this by putting Neville back in midfield at the expense of Osman, who whilst I agree has played well recently is still not fit to lace Arteta’s boots when fit. However, Moyes will be able to get him back in the team when Jasons loan spell expires.
James Stewart
9   Posted 06/03/2010 at 08:37:31

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Decent team apart from the entire right side being terrible. Neville and Bily! I mean c’mon Those two should count themselves lucky to make the bench!
James Stewart
10   Posted 06/03/2010 at 08:38:56

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Furthermore Neville offers nothing to the team as captain. I am sick of that myth! Where the fuck was he vs Sporting when we were crying out for leadership?! He is an embarrassment and a liability.
Dan Brierley
11   Posted 07/03/2010 at 09:10:11

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James, just out of interest, how do you measure how good a captain Pip is? I am guessing you have never played football with him, nor trained with, and probably never even met him.

I accept the comments of his limited ability of playing football, that is there for all to see. But I am wondering how anyone can assess ’he offers nothing as captain’. Or is it when we lose, it means the captain must have been shite?
James Stewart
12   Posted 07/03/2010 at 09:31:31

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The game was crying out for leadership in a vocal way in Lisbon. Jagielka does it. So does Heitinga. Neville was silent. How can you lead by example in a team of footballers who are miles better in ability than you?!
Dan Brierley
13   Posted 07/03/2010 at 10:08:53

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Thats what I am getting at James, How can you say Neville wasn’t vocal enough in Lisbon? Were you at the game watching him?

But I have to disagree with your last statement completely. Just because you are a good footballer, it doesn’t mean you are a good leader. Somebody recently posted stats of how we fare with Neville compared to when he was injured. I think the general consensus was that we are a better team with him playing.

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