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Fans Comment
Martin Doherty


Never Mind the Quality, get the Width!
19 August 2005

Davies: insider?

Listening to Legends on CenturyFM the other day, I was mildly amused to hear the comments of a fellow blue assuring Graeme Sharpe that Simon Davies played in central midfield against Villarreal.  What game were you watching?  He played on the right, I thought to myself only for the thought to be echoed by a bemused Sharpy.

Sharpy dismissed the caller in no uncertain terms, but I found myself pondering, How many times did we actually get down the flanks in that game?.  I couldnt really recall but I did remember that during the first half, one of our better more penetrative moves came down our usually ineffective left, through Pistone and Kilbane.

Taking my seat in the Park End for the Man Utd game, I had gone into the game with the need for width in my sub-conscious thoughts.  I felt reassured, every time Ive seen Davies hes reminded me of an old-fashioned winger.  Doubly reassured when Heinze wasnt playing surely we can get at them down that flank.

My reassured confidence began to ebb away as time after time Davies, whilst contributing well, made inside runs, rarely electing to go wide into the corners.  Matters were compounded on the other flank as Osman, in for Kilbane and naturally right-footed, also drifted inside and at times was almost a striker.

Now I may not be the best player of Championship Manager, but Ive always been brought up on the principle that width opens up defences.  Cast your mind back to the eighties and it was one of Howards guiding principles.  Ill always remember him writing in his programme notes that, in an effort to teach the importance of width to the players, he conducted a training ground experiment where he played 7 vs 11 on a very narrow pitch.  The result was virtual stalemate. However, after widening the pitch, the goals began to flow.

For those who can recall that great side, one of their greatest attributes was the ability to bombard the opposition from the flanks. Steven, Sheedy and even the full backs supplied some terrific crosses for the likes of Sharpy and Gray. Yes, the game has changed since then, but the importance of getting width in your attack is an ever present constant because getting width creates space.  It was no coincidence that the first thing boring Walter did when he was in charge was narrow the pitch.  What followed has to be the most depressing set of 0-0 draws Goodison has ever witnessed.

It was also no coincidence that our tendency to attack down the middle against Man Utd led to congestion, blocked shots and ricochets.

I dont know whether Davies is playing to orders, but Im sure that given a little bit of width in our attack the goals will flow, even for Marcus Bent whose general overall approach play is excellent.  I wrote some time ago in my No, Mercenaries Please David letter that I felt he was better than Beattie and the events of the Man Utd game only back this up for me.

Playing five in midfield should give us plenty of width and the ability to stretch congested penalty areas but the players have to stay wide and get into and deliver the ball from those corner flag areas.

So come on Davey wake up to the idea of width and get Davies playing were he will do most damage!!!

Martin  Doherty


Responses:

With regards to the width issue, I couldnt agree more with the need for more width in attack. The question is really a matter of ability versus tactics. As weve seen in the past from our history of great centre-forwards, the most incisive cross is delivered from closer to the byline. Too often we settle for throwing a cross over from either flank merely yards from the half-way line. Which leads me to suspect that David Moyes is choosing to play this way (tactics) presumably the plan being that our advancing midfielders play off the knock-downs.

Lets face it, if we were throwing crosses in repeatedly from the wrong place, I think we would know that Davie wasnt happy and I cant say that Ive observed any overly negative reaction from him in this regard (from the TV coverage and peoples reports from the games). We may be choosing to play this way because the coaching staff has scouted the opposition and feels this is the best way to go... or the coaching staff realizes that we havent the ability to beat the full-back and get to the by-line. Only Davie, Alan and the rest of the backroom lads know the answer to that question; in my feeble opinion its a bit of both.

Theres nothing more frustrating than having developed a bit of an attacking flow and got the ball at the feet of someone who is supposed to deliver a telling cross, only for the full-back to easily take the ball off him. If the player can beat the full-back better than 50% than its a risk worth taking (with suitable outlet and defensive coverage). If the coaching staff dont think the players up for it, or they dont have confidence that he can adequately decide when the time is right for taking his man on or protecting the ball and using the outlet pass, then they will tactically instruct him to not get in that situation (eg, Kevin/Jimmy Mac, if you do that one more time and give it up, Ill kill you!).

Is Simon Davies capable of consistently delivering in that situation? I think its too early to tell and, given the opposition weve faced so far, I think its unrealistic to expect that wed know. Id love to see us attacking from the by-line; Man Utds first on Saturday is a perfect illustration. Anyone watching Arsenal vs Newcastle would see the same thing (from Arsenal not Newcastle!), but I dont think Davies going to take the risk on a consistent basis as a prudent coach hell go with the highest percentage type of play that he can find.  Greg Dawson, Sacramento, CA (8/19/05)

 

I can only totally agree to what Martin Doherty writes in this article.  But apart from width, what is as important, is that by using the width, crosses come from as close to the front-line as possible and not from the midfield area.  Many people might agree with that; for those who don't, here are some reasons:
  1. As a defender, you are normal y between your goal and the opponent.  If a ball comes from the side of midfield, you can see the ball and your opponent; you have better control of the situation.  Behind you is - often - nobody, otherwise he might be offside.  If the ball comes from the corner area, the situation is much more difficult for the defender, another opponent might be behind you (on the same line) and not offside.
     
  2. When the ball comes from midfield, the team-mates have less time to go forward and expect the ball (especially if you play with one striker who is alone there; poor Beattie..).  If you go near the corner area, your team-mates (like Cahill etc.) have more time to go into the penalty box.  You could say that the defending opponents would have less time to go backward as well, but a well organized defence is normally - apart from during a quickly played counter-attack - back there anyway .
     
  3. It is much more difficult to head a ball into the goal from a midfield pass, as you can't give the ball more speed; you can only "forward" the ball on.  If a ball comes from the corner area, the striker can go against the ball and head against it to power it towards the goal with much more force.
I was quite pleased with the way Everton played against Villarreal.  There was quality and a lot of commitment in midfield while Beattie worked very hard up-front and got a goal. Bent is also a hard worker and can do this job as well now. I missed two things:
  1. Width, and playing balls in from much further forward (see above).  The second Villarreal goal was a fantastic example of that (even if it sounds easier than it is): You play the ball to the midfield guy on the side who plays the ball in from close to the goal-line.  The header is then powerful and it was difficult for the defence to control the situation or mark the attacking midfield player who scored.
  2. What I missed in the Man Utd game was the pressure that a losing team should produce in the final minutes.  The more golas you are losing by, the earlier you should start with this pressure. So I was expecting in the last 20 min Everton to work even harder and put Man Utd under real pressure - even risking giving up a third goal.  To be fair, it was not exactly the same for the Villarreal game, as it is not a all or nothing situation because of the second game and you don't want to risk a third goal.
So I'm very pleased with what I've seen from Everton so far and haven't given up hope for the Villarreal game.  Even if there are a couple of injuries, we have for the moment enough men to win a game and we will need the injured Krldrups for the long season ahead, when they are hopefully gonna be fit again.  So heads up and think positive!!!  Thomas Zbinden Fribourg, Switzerland, 20/08/2005

 

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