Come Back, Schneiderlin – All is forgiven!!

Kevin Prytherch 25/01/2019 42comments  |  Jump to last

Let me start by saying that I am not Morgan Schneiderlin's biggest fan. I think he is lazy, doesn’t show for the ball enough, doesn’t tackle enough, largely plays the ball sideways and offers little going forward. I feel he hides when the going gets tough and is mentally fragile, allowing his game to be affected too much by the fans. In addition, I feel he doesn’t possess enough to play as part of a 2-man midfield.

His natural tendency is to protect the back 4, this leaves glaring gaps in front of him that the opposition can exploit, he rarely steps forward enough to contest these gaps for fear of leaving the back 4 exposed. I also detest the notion that he got sent home from training for a lack of effort. However, I think he is central to getting our season back on track.

At Present – 4-2-3-1

Let me start with our current set up – it doesn’t work.


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Idrissa Gueye struggles as part of a 2-man midfield. This been debated to death on another thread. Gueye hunts for the ball, he is brilliant at what he does and breaks down many an attack by his ability to retrieve the ball from the opposition and make a timely interception.

However, by doing this he negates his position. If he fails to make the tackle, there is often a huge hole in the centre of midfield where Gueye once was, Gomes is not the man to plug this hole and Sigurdsson is often too far forward to help out as his natural game is to attack.

If the opposition manages to pass the ball around Gueye, they’re left with just Gomes before they’re at our defence – hence the number of chances we see where our midfield is carved open. It is only down to the brilliance of Gueye that this doesn’t happen more frequently.

This is not a unique situation. When Gueye and Schneiderlin played with a ‘Number 10’ in front of them, Gueye would go hunting for the ball, Schneiderlin would be pre-occupied with protecting the back 4 and there would be a gaping hole in the centre of the park. The opposition, if they got past Gueye, would simply set up an attack from there. Hence why it didn’t work in Koemans second season when it looked like Schneiderlin had completely gone off the boil.

We’ve tried Gueye and Davies in this formation, Gomes and Sigurdsson…. At present, it isn’t working. Idrissa Gueye can’t play against top quality opposition as part of a 2 man midfield.

Roberto Martinez and the introduction of 4-2-3-1

So how did it work under Martinez? Two words – Ross Barkley.

This formation got introduced under Roberto Martinez, Gareth Barry would play in the Schneiderlin role and protect the back 4, James McCarthy would be playing in the Idrissa Gueye role and go hunting for the ball. So what was different to Gueye and Schneiderlin if McCarthy didn’t get the ball?

Ross Barkley played in the Number 10 role, Ross Barkley struck fear into every opposition team he played against. Ross Barkley, unlike Sigurdsson, could get the ball, drive 20 yards, take out a couple of opposition payers and do something spectacular (or stupid).

For this reason, the opposition always had one of their midfielders watching him, effectively taking out a player who could exploit the space left if McCarthy didn’t win the ball. No one watches Sigurdsson as he doesn’t possess these qualities, therefore when the ball gets past Gueye – either Gomes is stranded or Schneiderlin isn’t there.

So why Schneiderlin?

The most sustained consistent part of any season since Martinez’s first season was the second half of Koemans first season, around the time of the 4-0 drubbing of Man City, and around the time Schneiderlin came to the club. This period of time also shifted from playing a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3.

We had a midfield 3 of Gueye (for some part), Schneiderlin and Tom Davies, with Barkley and Mirallas (or Deulofeu) playing as inside forwards flanking Lukaku. Our forward line doesn’t have to be too dissimilar at the moment, for Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku, pick a combination out of Richarlison, Bernard, Walcott, Lookman and Calvert-Lewin.

The big difference in this formation is the midfield 3.

Gueye can still hunt for the ball, Schneiderlin can still protect the back 4, and if the opposition manage to get past Gueye, there’s still Tom Davies in the middle. This brings the best out of Gueye, because having the extra body in midfield will slow the opposition down enough for Gueye to recover should he miss the first tackle. This also brings the best out of Schneiderlin as he can use his discipline (he is probably the only player at the club to have this discipline) to continue to protect the back 4.

This can also bring the best out of Everton because, when our full backs bomb forward, we have that defensively disciplined midfielder to plug the gaps left without the need to also worry about the centre of the midfield. Schneiderlin is also very good at recycling the ball, he plays quick one-touch passes to get the ball moving quickly out wide, this again helps Everton as a whole build attacks at pace, something we fail to do with our current set up.

Koeman's obsession with Number 10s trying to fill the void left by Lukaku meant that we never really tried this formation again, we reverted to type with a 4-2-3-1 and have never looked the same, for a sustained period of time, again.

Where does this leave our former record signing and biggest goal threat from midfield? Unfortunately – on the subs bench.

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Reader Comments (42)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 25/01/2019 at 21:58:41
FM Alert! FM Alert!

No, just no... and you explained why right at the top of your piece.

Si Cooper
2 Posted 25/01/2019 at 22:24:01
Too simplistic an analysis of our midfield inadequacies for me. For years now we have been shown up in this area of the pitch by the likes of Spurs.

Why? Because, broadly speaking, all of their midfielders are good enough all-rounders to be able to be equally effective at defence and attack. Therefore, you are not in trouble if your tackling machine is repeatedly out-flanked, nor are you having to defer attacks until the ball winner can find a more creative player who isn't already in the clutches of a defender.

We've had patches were our complementary pairings or trios have clicked but none have sustained that form. Schneiderlin has been so far below the level of mobility and combative tackling that is required for so long, it is difficult to imagine he can ever do it again.

Fran Mitchell
3 Posted 25/01/2019 at 23:26:22
Davies, Schneiderlin and Gueye as a midfield three.

Read that again and re-think this post.

Half-decent Schneiderlin has long departed the figure who currently received 100k a week for having the name Schneiderlin doesn't wouldn't get into the local Sunday league team. And besides, half-decent Schneiderlin would not work with Gueye. Never has worked with Gueye.

If it was Schneiderlin - Gomes - Sigurdsson (in a No 8 role), then maybe... but Schneiderlin is shit, so, no.

I do agree that there is a problem with the midfield set-up in that Sigurdsson is essentially playing as a false No 9. IMO, he needs to drop deeper, be more disciplined, and play as a No 8.

Danny Broderick
4 Posted 25/01/2019 at 23:38:36
If Schneiderlin is the answer, then what the hell is the question?!

He is a one-paced crab. He doesn’t have a major asset. At least with Gueye, it’s his interceptions/tackling, or with Gomes, it’s his ability on the ball and twisting and turning in midfield. Schneiderlin never gets past 3rd gear when he runs. He doesn’t move into space to look for the ball. He always passes it sideways. He’s not a great tackler. He isn’t the bravest, and he doesn’t score many goals. If that’s what you are looking for, he’s your man!

What we need is a hard working 3 man midfield. Across the park, they have any 3 from Milner, Henderson, Keita and Wijnaldum. Tonight, Man United had Matic, Pogba and Herrera.

We seem to have a problem trying to shoe horn Sigurdsson and the attacking wide midfielders into the same team. We are too open in midfield. I think we need to either play Sigurdsson as an orthodox midfielder instead of a number 10, or take him out of the equation. We need to be more solid, particularly away from home.

I’d like to see us start Calvert-Lewin and have a proper 3 man midfield, starting at Millwall. We need to tighten up a bit and get the team functioning a bit better, because we seem to have lost the ability to build attacks also.

Jerome Shields
5 Posted 25/01/2019 at 23:52:36
I don't agree. Schneiderlin would make the midfield more static than it is. We already have problems with the static midfield Everton have got.
Peter Gorman
6 Posted 26/01/2019 at 00:16:41
An interesting take, Kevin, but entirely academic because Schneiderlin is just a gutless dick who should be nowhere near our team.
Rob Dolby
7 Posted 26/01/2019 at 01:09:40
He had his chance and blew it. Let's move on and give Joe Williams his chance, he can't be any worse.

A prime example of us buying someone who had lost his fight. Cruised in and generally performed worse and worse. Similarly to what Gomes is showing us now.

Give me someone with the desire and a point to prove over someone who has already earnt a fortune and blunted their appetite for the game.

John Pierce
10 Posted 26/01/2019 at 03:53:50
Whatever the opinions, I think Silva will give Schniederlin another go. Either forced as a result of the sale of Gana or because it will dawn on him that he holds his position. Against the poorer sides, this might – I stress 'might' – give us the cover Gana doesn't by looking for the ball.

Poorer sides score against us easily, often through a quick transition. Schniederlin has a better passing skill-set than Gana too, a requirement against the poorer teams.

A short-term option, a placeholder... but I think it's a definite possibility.

Tony Everan
11 Posted 26/01/2019 at 08:09:55
I don't think Schneiderlin has ever committed fully to Everton . He never puts his heart and soul on the line for us and I always feel he leaves a lot in the locker when he has played any game. In his mind I think he feels hard done by and it is always someone else's fault.

Kevin is right to get his wellies dirty in trying to get to the bottom of the midfield weaknesses we have . It needs discussing, it needs thought and action.

We are too exposed when we lose control, too many players out of position, and when we are exposed it is often through the middle, in the most dangerous place.

For me It isn't bold to play with 4 attackers 2 wide Bernard/ Walcott, Rich CF and Sigurdsson at no 10 . It is foolish .

It gives no respect to the quality of premierleague opposition. Matches have to be won more often than not after a war. Midfielders have to battle for possession, harry, breakdown and defend non stop for long periods. They need to feed a Strong CF who can hold it up and bring into the game 1 free playing flair player at no 10 . Many games are won in the premier league by keeping it tight and scoring from a corner . These games give the club a foundation for glory later in the season, when through greater confidence we can take big scalps, or go deep in the cup competitions. I don't want Moyes back, but he understood and executed all that particularly away from home.

We need a midfield which is more compact and disciplined, a cohesive fighting unit . At the moment it is loose and ineffective . Offering not enough protection and nowhere near enough going forward for all the attacking players there.

It is a paradox, that shoehorning in 4 attacking players is actually making our offence weaker.

I think part of the problem is that we have paid so much money for some players that we just can't stomach leaving them out . But essentially for me the system and approach to a game has to come first . Then the correct players to execute that system have to be chosen for it . We need to address that to improve long term as a team.

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 26/01/2019 at 08:13:59
You couldn’t even seriously select a midfield three of Davies, Gueye and Schneiderlin and put them in a Sunday league team, there’s not a forward pass, one ounce of creativity nor a single shot on goal in any of them.

If you take Sigurdsson out of the team then you take away any remote hope of goals, shots on goal from any of of midfielders.

It’s just a big no.

Stephen Brown
13 Posted 26/01/2019 at 08:45:23
I’d get more pleasure this transfer window in selling Sneiderlin, Mirralas, Sandro and Bolasie than I would if we signed a world class player.

It’s soul destroying hearing about the money these people are on to contribute nothing! Sneiderlin doesn’t even threaten to leave as he’s not playing! He just seems happy to collect his 100k a week!

It’s pretty grim and I just can’t see a quick solution!

Michael Ward
14 Posted 26/01/2019 at 09:07:45
I think the main problem is we love the ball too slowly at the moment. That for me is confidence, it only takes that extra second on the ball to completely diffuse the attack. Dropping Sigurdsson (or at least dropping him further down the pitch) will help with this I think as it will force us to look for the wide players quicker. I wouldn't be against a Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson and Gomes midfield in theory. That would mean dropping the one midfielder who isn't stinking the place out at the moment though. I agree on the discipline to sit, Beni can also do that too though.
Michael Ward
15 Posted 26/01/2019 at 09:12:07
I have also been thinking recently that playing McCarthy and Gueye either with Gomes in a 3 or in a 2 behind Sigurdsson/Bernard could also help as one could close down and the other would cover. Gomes was doing a decent job of helping Gueye a few weeks ago and the team looked balanced but he just isn't doing it at the moment. I think today's game could be a prime chance to throw McCarthy and Gueye together.
Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 26/01/2019 at 09:22:42
Just concentrating on Schneiderlin, he has lost the one thing absolutely necessary to perform successfully,
desire to play, he’s lost that, and proved it time after time in the last twelve months, it’s more than likely the reason he isn’t been selected over the last few month’s.
Paul Birmingham
17 Posted 26/01/2019 at 09:46:16
Jim, and Dave agreed. For any sport, the basics, desire, motivation, confidence, belief and communication and team spirit in football.

Sadly MS, lost this a long time ago. In my view he must go out on loan and toughen up and face the reality check on demands of being a footballer, but I sense there could be a last minute bid and he’ll go to a European League.

It’s hard to suss what happened as he played well, when he first arrived.

Today let’s take a win today and be in the draw for the next round.

Alex Gray
18 Posted 26/01/2019 at 10:15:10
Kevin, if you're suggesting we drop both Gomes and Sigurdsson to fit in Sneiderlin then I find it really hard to get on board.
Ben Howard
19 Posted 26/01/2019 at 11:29:30
Most of the questions you pose are valid and I agree with the assertion that Gueye's inability to hold position does cause us a great deal of problems. Conversely he's also fantastic at breaking up play.

However, Shneiderlin is definitely not the answer and to drop any player to accommodate him is not for me.
The most interesting point was about Barkley and the opposition having to worry about him which allowed others to shine and opened space. Ultimately he was found out.

Simply, we're too predictable and I think we have been for as long as I can remember. Give me a manager who can change things according to the opposition. Constantly keep them thinking. The rigid 'philosophy' has become very tiresome.

Alan J Thompson
20 Posted 26/01/2019 at 11:43:19
I'm sorry, I couldn't get halfway through this article. If Schneiderlin is central to solving our performance problems then we certainly have a major problem and if Silva plays him it just shows that he is a one trick pony that almost all teams have seen through.

I'm also amazed how so many, rather then the usual names, drag Davies in to this whose only problems seem to be that he scored a cracker against City and ever since seems to have been told to abandon any cavalier play to concentrate on defending.

If there is a problem it is that we seem to have accepted that any midfielder has to be labelled defensive while any all-round midfielder, as they should all be, is given some sort of a number.
Midfield, that's the bit between the defence and the forwards and should be robust enough to do both.

Brian Williams
21 Posted 26/01/2019 at 12:18:30
I avoided reading this due to the title but sucumbed out of curiosity.
The first paragraph was enough though it did make me laugh.
You might as well write: I know this (some) guy is a thief and untrustworthy and will scam all my accounts and leave me in allsorts kf financial peril but I believe he's central to looking after my finances.
Go figure! 🤣
Stan Schofield
22 Posted 26/01/2019 at 13:30:47
It's very odd with Schneiderin. When he joined us he was very good, and at the time the midfield combination of him, Davies and Barkley looked potentially great. But then he got injured just before the Derby, and when he returned he was never the same. It's almost as if something at Everton has seriously pissed him off or taken away any desire.
Kevin Prytherch
23 Posted 26/01/2019 at 13:31:14
I focussed on Schneiderlin here because the only time he has played well was when he first arrived, and that was part of a midfield 3. Maybe he was always lazy and always had a lack of desire, but being part of a formation that suited him masked this??

The same for Gueye, we’ve only been consistently good with him in the team as part of a midfield 3.

I believe Schneiderlin to be a very poor mans Gareth Barry, however I don’t think we have another midfielder disciplined enough to hold his position in front of the centre backs like he does.

I honestly think we’ll see a better Everton team with a midfield that compliments Gueye’s ability, or lack of it, and, unfortunately, I think that Schneiderlin is the best option we have to do that.

Don’t forget, he was adored when he first came, and the wheels camenoff the season when he was injured for 3 - 4 games at the end. He’s never been the same again - maybe the change in formation is a massive part of this.

Kevin Prytherch
24 Posted 26/01/2019 at 13:34:25
Alan - regarding Davies - I also think we’ll see the best of him again in a midfield 3 where he wouldn’t have as much defensive responsibility, like he did when he first burst on the scene.

All 3 of them, Schneiderlin, Gueye and Davies, were brilliant in that midfield. They complimented each other and each other’s strengths hid the others weaknesses.

Eddie Dunn
25 Posted 26/01/2019 at 14:28:04
Kevin, your piece falls flat simply because Schneiderlin and Gueye prooved time and again that they just can't play together.
Brian Williams
26 Posted 26/01/2019 at 14:43:57
Stan #22,

You know what I think changed him, and I'm being serious? Getting married. I think he married his gorgeous wife and the desire to bust a gut playing football has taken second place ever since.

I think a rich young man's first and main priority is to his lovely missus and he just can't be arsed knocking his pan in when he doesn't really have to, to continue receiving his very large salary.

Kevin Prytherch
27 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:15:19
Eddie – Schneiderlin and Gueye proved time and time again they couldn't play as a 2-man midfield – which is essentially what we do when we play a 4-2-3-1 with a number 10 in the team.

They proved they can function as part of a midfield 3 when Schneiderlin first came.

That's the point I'm making – we've written Schneiderlin off because he can't play in our current system, what if we went back to 4-3-3? Would we see the same Schneiderlin we originally saw?

Jim Wilson
28 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:31:54
I think your point on the difference between Barkley and Sigurdsson is spot on, Kevin. Barkley was so much more dangerous so the opposition would concentrate on him, taking the pressure off the rest of the midfield.

In the early days of Martinez, Barkley would track back and help the midfield much more than Sigurdsson does too. We should have made sure we kept Barkley, another massive mistake by the club.

John Pierce
29 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:32:02
Kev. I do think you are barking up the right tree!

The team needs a vertical balance, Gana doesn't give us that. Moreover, the poorest we've looked is when we go behind, with Silva throwing forwards on like confetti, we look a shapeless mess. Perhaps having Schniederlin stay there might give us some a semblance of a spine.

Andy Crooks
30 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:32:39
Schneiderlin has exactly what we need now, bar a backbone.
Alan J Thompson
31 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:35:30
Kevin (#24); Assuming all players, including those on loan, are available as Everton players next season, what then would your midfield and forward line-up be and would it be a 4-3-3 formation?
Jack Convery
32 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:45:49
Brian - spot on.
John Pierce
33 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:54:11
Andy - chuckleworthy that lad.
Kieran Kinsella
34 Posted 26/01/2019 at 15:59:58
Brian 26

You may be correct. I also think Schneidrlin is "broken". He is a cry baby. We all used to make fun of Jags weekly "we know we need to do better" speeches after lost. But between Schneiderlin and his wife I have read way too many quotes and interviews about how he is misunderstood, unfairly vilified etc etc. I just sense he is at a point where he is picking up a paycheck, goes home sulking, feeling unappreciated and his wife is "there, there honey, don't let the bastards grind you down." As opposed to say Niasse, who seemed to have a "screw you Koeman I will show you what I can do" kind of attitude. The sad part is that Schneiderlin is a far better player than Niasse, so even when Niasse adopts his Rocky underdog attitude he is still pretty crap.

Andy Crooks
35 Posted 26/01/2019 at 16:47:04
Kieran, that is a cracker. I think there should be Coles notes or some sort of literary analysis to explain it to the undiscerning.
David Pearl
36 Posted 26/01/2019 at 16:49:25
I think your piece makes sense actually, apart from playing both Davies and Gana with him. That negates any attacking forward play. There is a good player in Schneiderlin that’s been banished due to the incompetence of our managers.

MS started the season well enough and injury derailed him when he was possible one of our better players. His game is all about reading the game. I know when Gana was in the AFCON MS started well with us but didn’t gel with one another on Ghana’s return. Part of the problem was that he had to cover for an aging defence. He doesn’t have that worry now and I think he should be given another go. If he doesn’t I have no doubts that he could do a good job for another club when we give him away for buttons along with the other 10 or so. Sandro £120k a week haha haha is it just fantasy

Kevin Prytherch
37 Posted 26/01/2019 at 19:34:52
Alan 31 – for the best possible balance at the moment, I would try Schneiderlin, Gueye and Gomes in midfield.

Richarlison, Bernard and Calvert Lewin up front.

If we write this season off though and plan for the future, I would play Davies and Lookman instead of Gomes and Bernard.

I do feel, playing Schneiderlin in a midfield 3 would enable the full backs to go on the overlap more and provide more of an attacking impetus than they currently do, this would counter the fact that we lose a creative player in midfield.

I tend to see the fullbacks pushing forward at the moment, but rarely fully committing. I remember a couple of years ago when Baines would be crossing and Coleman would be on the end of it. A disciplined central midfielder might encourage this again.

Mike Gaynes
38 Posted 26/01/2019 at 19:45:57
"Schneiderlin can still protect the back 4"

He never has before.

Pat Kelly
39 Posted 26/01/2019 at 21:06:11
Well, Barkley struck fear in me whenever he was named on the teamsheet.

And if Schneiderlin is the answer, after all that was said about him in the opening paragraph, then the situation is much worse than I imagined.

Steve Little
40 Posted 26/01/2019 at 21:26:51
An interesting deconstruction of the 4-2-3-1 formation which I have never bought into.

And also the suggestion of dropping Sigurdsson who has never done enough for me.

I think I agree in principle but would there not be a space for Gomes somewhere? Possibly in the Davies role?

Greg Hasbrouck
41 Posted 27/01/2019 at 03:25:22
Your solution is to replace Gylfi with Schneiderlin? There are so many problems with this, it's hard to know where to begin.

For starters, it completely ignores the fact that our biggest defensive liability is our league-leading 10 goals we've conceded from set pieces. Our open play defense has not been the issue. And the fact of the matter is, we'd likely concede even fewer goals from open play goals if we weren't constantly forced to chase games, after having allowed yet another (demoralizing) set-piece goal.

The second problem with your suggestion is that it violates your own premise; the Barkley factor. You wrote, "the opposition always had one of their midfielders watching (Barkley), effectively taking out a player who could exploit the space left if McCarthy didn't win the ball." If this is what made the 4-3-3 effective, which one of our midfield players is now going to occupy an opposition player in your Starting XI?

It's not Gomes or Gana, because, if it was, they'd be doing that now. And it's sure as hell not Schneiderlin. Of course, all of this ignores the reality that we now need to replace the 9 Goals and 3 Assists Gylfi has provided thus far.

For future articles, please consider that the way to improve a team is not to replace one of their best players with one of their worst.

James Carroll
42 Posted 27/01/2019 at 05:04:06
Fuck it, I’d even give Bolasie a game now...
Kevin Prytherch
43 Posted 27/01/2019 at 13:48:53
Greg - I referenced the Barkley factor in our current formation, highlighting how Gueye could get away with hunting for the ball as one of their defensive midfielders would always be too pre-occupied with Barkley to exploit the hole created in midfield. In a 4-3-3 when he played on the right of the forward 3, that onus fell on the opposition full backs.

For future responses, please read where you pick quotes from and apply them to the same context.

Ps - didn’t Sílva mention how crucial Schneiderlin was to defending set pieces? Never thought of it til now but maybe we’d concede less with him in the team.

Sam Hoare
44 Posted 28/01/2019 at 09:50:20
There is clearly something wrong with our midfield but i'm not sure Schneiderlin is the answer. Perhaps a midfield 3 could be better but I agree with Si Cooper @2, basically we don't have enough (any) midfiedlers who are athletic and can both attack and defend.

I do think pace and mobility is an issue, Gomes, Schneiderlin and Siggurdsson are all pretty slow in terms of reaction and acceleration, they simply don't get to the loose ball quick enough, nor do we ever see them dominating their opposite men physically despite all being quite big. Gueye is quicker and hence is often able to get a foot in. And I do think having Barkley was useful and his ability to beat a man did allow us to open teams up more easily.

I can't believe I'm writing this but what about a midfield 3 of Davies, Gueye and Bernard. With Davies sitting, Gueye hunting and Bernard playing the Barkley role of breaking forward with the ball?

Something like this:

Coleman Keane Zouma Digne
Gueye Davies Bernard
Lookman Calvert-Lewin (or Tosun) Richarlison

I've not seen a lot to suggest that Davies could perform that sitting midfield role adequately but, at this point, I'd just like to see something different.

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