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Season 2011-12
The Mail Bag

Switching Formation

 49 Comments: First  |  Last

There is always a lot of talk on ToffeeWeb about the merits (or otherwise!) of various players. However, apart from bemoaning Moyes playing 1 up front, we haven't had that much discussion about formations per se. So, let me start it off.

Moyes's preferred system seems to be the 4-5-1... Actually it is really a 4-4-1-1 with one up top and an advanced midfielder (eg, Cahill). IMHO, it's not working very well for us in terms of the number of goals or opportunities created. I also think that role behind the striker is a bit one-dimensional. I've seen quite a few forum comments saying that we should play with two up front - presumably a 4-4-2. However, I'm wondering if a 4-3-3 line up might be a better option for us?

There are a few ways to play 4-3-3. The 3 in the middle can be flat, 1 defensive or 2 defensive. The 3 up front comprise a central attacker and essentially 2 wingers.The wingers can cover back defensively to make a 4-5-1 system. 4-3-3 has been used by Barca, Chelsea, Ajax and is actually the new "mandated" coaching system here in Australia. It is meant to provide more opportunities for joined-up play all over the park.

So, how would it work at Everton? The back four would be as normal and in midfield I would have say Rodwell, Fellaini and maybe Osman as he has some creativity and is no winger. Up front Saha with Drenthe and Gueye/Barkley would be my thinking. This should provide us with the same defensive options but with more attacking options going forward. Open for comments.

Ciaran Duff, Sydney, Australia     Posted 31/10/2011 at 10:53:22

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John Daley
1   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:09:39

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Steve Round:

Dave and I spend hours every day fine-tuning our formation and tactics. Literally an hour, because we discuss it on our dinner break. Actually it's probably about 35 mins tops when you factor in food chewing, tea slurping and awkward silences.

Anyway, we usually end up with a row of 4 salt shakers behind a row of 5 vinegar bottles and the brown sauce up top. Sometimes though, Davy gets this little twinkle in his eye, and you think 'aye, aye, the gaffers on to something here'. Then he slowly drags that brown sauce bottle back, slap bang in the middle of the 5 vinegar bottles. Honestly, when that first happened, the atmosphere was electric. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up as I realised I was dining in the presence of a true tactical Titan. It's amazing to think we revolutionised the tactical handbook by fucking about with condiments over curry and chips."
Alan Feehely
2   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:00:38

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Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines
Cahill, Rodwell, Fellaini
Coleman. Saha, Drenthe
John Daley
3   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:25:30

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Nice idea, but I can't see it. We still have the perpetual problem that we lack the quality wide players to make such a system work.
Nick Entwistle
4   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:25:37

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Distin----- Jags---- Heitinga

Coleman-- Rodwell ---Baines

-------Drenthe--- Bily


Works on Football Manager!

Andy Morden
5   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:32:00

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John Daley - a worryingly likely scenario that you depict!

To my mind there is little wrong with the so called 4-5-1 so long as it is employed flexibly within games. Look at Man City, the can go from using it defensively to all out attack within the blink of an eye. That requires pace though. And the willingness to allow players to advance into attacking areas given the opportunity. It's not always the formation, but how it is used and which personell are used (and how they are asked to play) .

Frankly, I don't think Saha should be the fulcrum of a 4-5-1, he should play the second striker role off A.N. Other. Anyone else remember Bergkamp in that position? Louis has certain similar qualities and I think prefers trying to come in late and find space. Not as great a passing range as the great Dutchman though. So yes, Drenthe and Coleman on the wings, Rodwell / Fellaini / Osman in the middle (use players as appropriate and dependent upon opposition). Cahill as an impact sub - his most impact on a game this season was coming on against Blackburn, he was fresh and gave their tired defense more to think about.
Dave Wilson
6   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:33:47

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A good post Ciaran

Many people on here will call Moyes negative but he sets Everton up in just about the same way as 90% of the other managers.

Theres a prevailing theory in England about having to earn the right to play and for some reason everyone - with the possible exception of Wenger thinks the have to have a battle before they can play. Everyone goes man for man and the teams with the better players will win more games.

No Pep Guardiola`s in the prem Mate
Anthony Jones
7   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:46:09

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I wouldn't disappoint yourself dreaming of progressive football at Everton whilst Moyes is around.

Moyes plays 8-1-1 ffs. It has possibly helped keep him in the Premier League in his defence, but it is tragic to watch.

Holloway for Everton!
Alan McGuffog
8   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:51:04

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Talking of formations and the like. Seemingly Moyes is in the crowd at The Britannia this evening. Phil Neville is working for Radio 5 Live. He has, apparently, made the point that when Stoke get a corner, Newcastle leave two men up.
Is there the slightest chance that the two may have a chat on the way home ? Or is it essential that Osman or whoever has to be in our area when the opposition has a corner.
Silly me
Mark Scarratt
9   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:01:05

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4-4-2 in most home games, but 4-3-3 against really bad teams

4-5-1 away to hard teams
4-4-2 away to everybody else

Ben Jones
10   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:48:35

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I think the key difference between a 4-3-3 set up are the wingers. I think we cannot possibly play it because for two reasons, Moyes and the ability of our players.

Moyes is cautious, he is more concerned about the wingers tracking back to mark the full back rather than to attack. Which is fair enough I guess. If we did to play a 4-3-3, we would sacrifice a lot of space, so would naturally concede more goals. But hopefully we would score more goals.

In terms of players, in my eyes, only Gueye and Drenthe can play this attacking winger role. Maybe Coleman at a stretch, but because he began as a defender, I do not think he has the attacking instincts similar to those two.

Ive been saying for ages how I would love for us to play this kind of system. Our central midfield is very suited for it, because either Osman, Billy or Barkley could play that creative role alongside Rodwell and Fellaini.

But it's amazing how based on Cahill this formation is. When Cahill first came, it was Carsley holding and Gravesen and Cahill bombing forward. Now Cahill doesnt have the legs, he plays as the first 1 in the 4-4-1-1 formation and our attacks are far too predictable.

I believe to progress, as good as Tim Cahill can be, and how world class he is with things like heading and timing in the box, we need to drop him and work the team around our wingers and central midfield.
David Bridge
11   Posted 31/10/2011 at 20:59:26

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My set up would be -

...... Jags Distin Neville.........
...Coleman Feillani Drenthe.......
.............Velios Gueye...........

Could see Moyes opting for -

Neville Hibbert Jags Heitinga Baines..
Coleman McFadden Rods' Feillani Osman
Trevor Mackie
12   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:13:56

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Moyes's idea of football is to have the troops plod up to the half-way line pointlessly knock the ball sideways a few times (ooh sorry, it improves the opta stats for the apologists) then everyone gets together on the "D" of the penalty box, including the opponents.

Like so many statues everyone stands looking at the clouds, because there will be no incisive through ball, wall pass or any of that creative shite ..... HOOF.... the ball is launched on the diagonal in the hope the ensuing bunfight will get a corner, free kick, throw in or if the gods are with us ? a scrappy goal.

Chalk board formations matter not a jot, that is the Moyes formula. (sorry FM graduates)

It's the easiest ball in football to defend and bar "Donovan" the only evolution has been ? we used to lump it before the half way line.

As an aside, if I didn't know better after hearing SAF's comments about negating chances and seeing Rooney in midfield I swear he used the everton game as practice for his centre backs ? so predictable is this pitiful excuse for football.

Still it keeps us in the division......doesn't it????
John Daley
13   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:25:38

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David Bridge,

I like the way that, for extra realism, you've depicted Saha going "fuck this for a game of soldiers" and storming off the pitch in a strop. "That's it, I've had enough. This is ze final straw. It is coz I is not confident in James Mcfaddens ability as a midfield general that I is so gutted."
John Ford
14   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:31:15

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Tony I agree with your second paragraph, at the moment we do go sideways and backwards! The problem is we dont have the players to provide the quality you are talking about. The best brains on a football pitch are elsewhere.

Piennar in cahoots with Arteta and Baines gave us that option, as did Donovan. Cahill in his own way used to cause mayhem and crearted goals as a result of being exceptional in the air, but he's basically finished now too.

What can ya do with sod all creative players? Coleman has bags of energy, tries like a trooper but has nil guile or vision. Drenthe shows some promise but we'll reserve judgement. Rodwell is the spawn of Wilkins and cant see a forward pass if it lands on his head. Osman , who actually can play, has forgotten how. Fellaini is a rough diamond in my eyes but spends most of the time covering for Rodwell. Even Baines is suffering cos hes limited in who he can play off (post Arteta. Piennar). Osman on his day works well with Baines but as I say not this season

Basically weve never been able to replace our ageing and sold creative players.
Tony Marsh
15   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:40:38

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4-6-0 is what Moyes favours above all else. Moyes hates strikers or flair players, he would gladly field 11 defenders if he could get away with it. The reason why we suck so much is because of the systems we employ.

We could sign the best eleven players in Europe hand them over to Moyes for a few weeks and they would turn out like all the rest Moyes has ruined.
Dick Fearon
16   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:21:47

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We were very successful with a flat back four. That tactic is can only succeed if the back four are exceptionally quick.
With Mountfield, Ratcliff Stevens et al we had that type of player.
Our current back four of Hibbert, Jags, Distin and Baines are very quick over the ground and would be suited to that system.
Occasionally Distin will use his speed to push forward. If Jags could only control his inclination to hoof then he could use his speed to provide another attacking option through the middle.
I am not proposing that all of them race forward at the same time but they should be encouraged to use their exceptional speed as a regular attacking option.

The one drawback is it requires the keeper to look upon the whole of the penalty area as his zone and not just the six yard box.
David Mathieson
17   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:08:53

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Pardew for Everton...
Dave Wilson
18   Posted 31/10/2011 at 21:29:26

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Trevor Mackie

You posts every day to say you are one of the "old school" you wont "accept mediocricy". "NSNO" . .what utter bollocks.
You accept it every day, every single day of your life

You might try to make yourself feel better by trying to act all superior by calling good Evertonians names, but it has the opposite effect, you merely come across as Childish and rather stupid.

These are dark times for our club, but most Evertonians still like being Evertonians. not you, it would be difficult to find a post from you that says anything good about our club.

The reason you so resent the "apologist" is that they seem to enjoy certain aspects of being an Evertonian, for you its torture. if anybody is accepting shite its you. if its so bad, why put yourself through it ?

Try understand the game , when Fergie ordered his troops to camp in their own half it was because of fear. When he asked a world class striker to play in a deep lying midfield role, it was to protect his center backs, not give them practice.

United came to spoil the game not Everton,

You`re excepting it ok, because coming on websites to hiss childish names at good Evertonians does not constitute trying to do something about it
Trevor Mackie
19   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:17:17

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Dave Wilson

You're as mad as a hatter, put a lock on the fridge door this time of night and have some drinking choccie instead.
Daniel Cross
20   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:30:18

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Steve Walmsley
21   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:27:31

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Maybe I see a different set of tactics but I reckon we play a 4-2-3-1 with felli and jack sitting as the 2. The problem is that we are lightweight beyond that with little creativity and intelligence with arteta and piennar gone and not replaced, and distinctly powder puff up front with whoever plays there.

In the 3 - Cahill is looking past his sell by date, ossie only plays for a third of the season at best , bily is not up to it, maggie maybe but must have upset moyesy and ross has 18 months with no football to make up.
Drenthe could do a job on the along with mustard, but they are not the same quality.

Up front - Saha is past his best, denis is a donkey, and velios maybe a good player in time.

We will do well to finish in the top half - maybe the Indians will rescue us :)
John Ford
22   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:38:05

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Dave W there are thankfully few people on TW with the ingrained bitterness of our blinkered friend. It wouldnt matter except where as you say things get personal, or often in this case regular tantrums at the expense of a decent argument.

Ciaran Duff
23   Posted 31/10/2011 at 22:54:33

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Thanks for feedback so far.
I really believe that the Cahill (sitting behind Saha) role is really a tactical waste. It could possibly work if that person is very mobile and the front man has a large presence and will hold the ball up (eg big Dunc).
I agree that you need wingers to play 4-3-3 properly. I do think that Drenthe, Gueye, Barkley and (don't laugh) Big Vic can fill those roles (I like Coleman but he's not a winger in my opinion).
I think that having more attacking wingers would help ease the isolation of the lone attacker and also would pin back opposition full backs and give maybe Baines a few more options going forward.
Eric Myles
24   Posted 01/11/2011 at 01:44:06

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2-3-5 used to serve the whole of English football well until this new fangled 'European' formation came in and started the ruin of the English game.
Ryan Rosenberg
25   Posted 01/11/2011 at 05:01:23

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Jagielka Heitinga Distin Baines
Drenthe Rodwell Fellaini Gueye
Robbie Shields
26   Posted 01/11/2011 at 05:22:51

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Dave #17, is that really true??????

"....Fergie ordered his troops to camp in their own half it was because of fear. When he asked a world class striker to play in a deep lying midfield role, it was to protect his center backs......."

I wish I'd not gone out on the stag do now and watched SAF shitting his pants at the sheer tactical genius of Moyes' team setup (was it 4-5-1 by any chance?) and our immense attacking potential, creativity, movement and goal scoring threat.

Perhaps some other blues can verify that SAF came to Goodison in a state of panic and realized the only way he could possibly beat us was to play one of the best players in the world in a defensive midfield position to stiffle us, I'm gobsmacked, just my fuckin luck to miss it, crap!

Oh hang on a minute, SAF must be even better than I thought he was because given he was shitting his pants he seems to have outsmarted DM yet AGAIN and cottoned on to our threat, because I think United might have won 0-1, that's was soccernet said anyway.

And now I'm going to hug some big poisonous snakes...... now that's sarcasm. (Copyright Homer J Simpson 1995)
David Chait
27   Posted 01/11/2011 at 06:54:16

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Ryan 25 .. swap Jags for Hibbert as I can';t even picture puting in a decent cross in my wildest dreams...and you have my starting 11 every day of the week! Well until Bily proves he can't play in the position that actually allows him to play to his strengths.
Dave Wilson
28   Posted 01/11/2011 at 08:45:11

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Yes its true, thats exactly what happened, now as you say if you`d have watched it, you`d have known,
But you didnt . .so you dont.

Funny fergie employing negative tactics to pinch a goal meets with your approval.
Predictable but funny
Stephen Kinder
29   Posted 01/11/2011 at 09:28:04

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Ciaran Duff
30   Posted 01/11/2011 at 09:45:16

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Another alternative is 3-5-2 or 3-2-3-2
------- Jags, Heitinga, Distin----------
----------Rods, Osman, Fellli---------
----------------Vellios, Saha-------------
We have 3 good central defenders in Distin, Heitinga and Jags. Distin and Jags are more man markers and Heitinga is better positionally and distributing. They take some of the defensive burden off Coleman & Baines to allow them to act as wing backs. We have 3 midfielders and 2 target men.
Tony J Williams
31   Posted 01/11/2011 at 11:53:15

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Robbie, it would have been good if you had seen the game, then you would have known that Man U were time wasting from about the 55 minute mark.

In all my years of going the match I have never seen Man U time wasting against us. I have recently seen Ferguson change his team to nulify us, again something that didn't used to happen.

Also, the 4-3-3 that is being bandied about, isn't that just a 4-5-1 with the wingers moving up with the know!, just exactl what we do now?
Dick Fearon
32   Posted 01/11/2011 at 12:03:47

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Eric # 24, I remember that day. Harry Johnson of Blackpool was England's centre half and as was the tradition in those days he wore the number 5 shirt.
The game started and Harry prepared to do battle with Hungary's centre forward who wore the traditional Number 9.
Harry looked in vain for the wearer of the number 9 shirt. Why hadn't the blighter done the the right thing by heading straight for Harry so that the traditional centre half/centre forward battle could commence.
Harry then was surprised to see the bloke wearing the 9 shirt having lots of ball touches and controlling the game from the other half of the pitch. A very confused Harry decided that seeing as his man would not come to him then he had better go to him.
So ended England's dominance of the game.
I had just started my working life when in a dock road cafe I listened to a broadcast of that momentous thrashing.
Sean McCarthy
33   Posted 01/11/2011 at 13:56:29

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Holloway for Everton!

That's just made me spill yogurt down the front of my shirt!!!!!!
Sean McCarthy
34   Posted 01/11/2011 at 14:03:45

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Pardew for Everton

Now I've spilt my drink and it looks like I've pissed my pants!!!!!
Enough already!!!
Graham Brandwood
35   Posted 01/11/2011 at 15:30:37

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The problem with our 4-4-1-1 is Cahill is a very one dimensional player. Too much is spoken about formations but the real issue is personell. Put Rooney or Van de Vart in the Cahill position and Everton become an attractive, attacking outfit.
Graham Brandwood
36   Posted 01/11/2011 at 15:42:20

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Trevor is not only childish and stupid, but his cynical negativity is becomming tedious. The most annoying of the toffeeweb millitant tendancy, and his failure to see Fellaini's talents show he knows nothing about football too.
Anthony Hughes
37   Posted 01/11/2011 at 15:59:19

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Our problem is simply that we don't have enough good players in the squad. Moyes wants to play this 4-5-1 formation fair enough but the players we have at the moment don't really lend themselves to it. I agree with Graham, the Cahill role, playing in the "hole" or the second striker what ever you want to call it should be occupied by an intelligent, incisive playmaker type with the propensity to add goals and bring others into play. Assisted by two wide players to help feed a central striker with two proper defensive midfielders, ball winners who will protect the back four.

At the moment we don't have the wide players (hopefully Drenthe will fill one side, still not convinced entirely with Coleman) and we don't have the second striker/playmaker to play off the centre forward. Until we do then the 4-5-1 system won't be to alot of fans liking. Cahill always reminded me of a Lampard type goalscoring midfielder arriving late in the box chipping in with goals, I don't think he's suited to being the link player.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
38   Posted 01/11/2011 at 16:15:05

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Some of you are getting good at slinging the insults without actually crossing the fuzzy line, I'll give you that.

But is it just me that finds this "knows nothing about football" jibe a step too far?

It seems pretty sad when you have to come on a football forum to put down other fans of your club in such a pathetic way, whatever the merits of your views. Please pack it in, Graham.
Graham Brandwood
39   Posted 01/11/2011 at 16:32:26

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Sorry Michael. Its just that Trevor and I had a previous discusion about Fellaini, and he just can't see his qualities. I would prefare to have balanced debate but he is never going to meet anybody half way, and he is very good at pressing my buttons.
Trevor Mackie
40   Posted 01/11/2011 at 17:18:11

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Tell you what, that Fellaini's overrated
Tony J Williams
41   Posted 01/11/2011 at 17:26:47

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Oh No he's not.....etc etc
Trevor Mackie
42   Posted 01/11/2011 at 17:29:35

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Actually think he and Baines are our best players - don't remember saying anything different to anyone, but just for Graham - that Fellaini is shite.
Anthony Jones
43   Posted 01/11/2011 at 17:38:12

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I love it Michael!

"knows nothing about football" is off limits, but calling someone stupid; i.e. "knows nothing about anything" is fair game.

Personally I prefer being called a "twat" or a "prick" much more than being misrepresented by manipulative egotists who can't allow a single thread to remain Bill-bashing free.

Is it okay if I label the perpetrators of the aforementioned crime "fucking clowns"?

Eric Myles
44   Posted 02/11/2011 at 03:00:45

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Dick #32, good job the Germans weren't listening to that match being broadcast as well otherwise things might have been different in '66?
Sagar Palikhey
45   Posted 02/11/2011 at 15:00:41

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Coleman Jags Distin Baines

Fellani Rodwell

Gueye Barkley Drenthe


4-2-3-1 would be a more attacking formation but Moyes is very defensive minded i don't think he'll ever go this formation
Tony J Williams
46   Posted 02/11/2011 at 16:03:28

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Substitute Cahill and Ossie for Gueye and Barkley and that is the almost the exact same formation/team Moyes always plays.....what is so different about that apart from having a winger in the Ossie place?
Peter Fearon
47   Posted 02/11/2011 at 20:51:08

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I like the concept of a three at the back system in a 3-2-3-2 formation which gives you the flexibility to bring five back when you need them and throw five into midfield to outnumber most other teams four-man formations. The problem with the way David Moyes employs his 4-5-1 system is that for much of the time too many players are deployed too deep, presumably on his say-so. It becomes 6-3-1, with the one trying to pick up long clearances over an outgunned midfield.
Andy Crooks
48   Posted 02/11/2011 at 21:25:41

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I didn't see the Everton-United game but the notion that they came to defend is quite interesting. They used similar tactics against Liverpool which I really couldn't understand. I suspect that after the previous week keeping a clean sheet was of paramount importance last Saturday. I appreciate that highlights can be misleading so I wonder if anyone who was there believes that, had Baines's freekick gone in, United could have gone up a gear?
Tony J Williams
49   Posted 03/11/2011 at 10:07:24

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Probably Andy, but as pointed out on another thread. I have never in my life seen Man U time wasting at Goodison. All from about the 50th minute.

i know they were nervy due to the thrashing last week but I have never seen Man U so defensive and resort to wasting time.

I did had to laugh at Halsey though, they had been time wasting for 30+ minutes and when we were into injury time, he eventually speaks to De Gea about time wasting.....wasting time in the process doing it.

If the whole crowd could see Man U time wasting from 50+ minutes, why couldn't the prick in the middle?

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