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Delivery and Execution

By Simon Birdsey :  27/08/2007 :  Comments (7) :
We all know that football is a beautiful art, an inprecise science... we love it because of it's unpredictability. There is a language of football however, certain patterns of play that we see repeated over and over, which are very difficult to defend against, such as the corner taken to the near post, which is flicked on or a one-two on the edge of the box.

My issue with Everton is that we're lacking in even basic training ground moves to open up a defence. We don't seem to have a long throw routine, a pre-planned setpiece or even a specific threat from corners... remember when Arsenal all used to line up on the edge of the box and attack the ball?! We're not the most creative of teams. The majority of our wins are 1-0, which means that we need any slim advantage that we can get. So, why aren't we paying more particular attention to these aspects of our game on the training field. Neville can deliver an excellent long throw and we have a number of freekick weapons in our arsenal now with Baines, Arteta and Stubbs but they seem to make up what they're doing at the time rather than having a predetermined signal, which could fox the opposition.

As far as open play goes, we have a very narrow, compact midfield which helps us to stifle the game defensively, but provides no service to the striker(s). Again, going back to Arsenal of old, they'd have two holding midfielders in Petit and Viera, who would allow the wide players (Overmars and Ljungberg) the freedom to bomb forward and plunder goals. They even gave Winterburn and Dixon the opportunity to bomb forward. Where our system falls down is that Arteta and Osman tuck in, the full backs are afraid of going forward, so Johnson chases down the channels to give us width, meaning that we only have Anichebe or Cahill in the middle... usually against three or four defenders.

If you're going to score a goal from open play, then normally it's either through the full back or winger reaching the byeline and whipping the ball in (we don't usually get to the byeline); a dribble or cute passing move around the box (again not our current trademark, out of saturdays line up you'd probably only class Arteta and McFadden as dribblers; from a long shot (how many is Carsley going to score thruthfully?); or from a tap in (watch Johnson on Youtube and most of his goals were inside the 6 yard box. I can't remember him getting too many of those opportunities for us though).

Think of the goals we have scored so far this season: Osman was pretty fortunate against Wigan, but the ball came across goal rather than a long diagonal punt; some cute play (involving Pienaar) for Anichebe's goal; two good deliveries from close to the byeline for goals against Spurs and a fortunate freekick; and a little bit of skill and a good delivery from Arteta against Blackburn. How many times though did anyone get to the touchline and pull the ball back? When did we beat the full back? What clever, crisp passing moves did we put together? When was the last time a midfielder threaded a through ball into AJ for him to run onto and slot home?

These sort of difficencies and the generally overcautious tactics of our esteemed manager are why we're consistently amongst the lowest scorers in the league. Blackburn set out with two forwards, two attacking widemen in Bentley and Pedersen, an attacking midefielder in Dunn and Robbie Savage holding and they probably deserved to nick the points. As much as I like Moyes, if he's going to play with a double anchor in midfield (Carsley and Jagielka say), then he's got to give Neville and Baines the license to get forward. Watch how Gary Neville plays for United, he's always bombing it past the wide midfielder and giving him an option to play it behind the opposing full back. Especially at home we can't just sit back and punt aimless balls into the channels for Johnson to chase. If there's no one in the middle, once he has fetched it, he has to keep hold of it and try and go for goal himself, during which time the opposition are back in numbers.

Even if you look at Everton of old, Sheedy and Steven weren't wingers, but they knew where the goal was and they were easily capable of 10 goals a season each. They were clever players. In that system we had two holding midfielders in Bracewell and Ried, who allowed Stevens and Van Den Hauwe to get forward. Man for man weren't actually striking similar to that side...Yobo is a modern day Kevin Ratcliffe. Imagine if Lescott got as many goals as Mountfield or Watson! Drool.

In Moyes's defence, he has stated that he's had limited means to work with during much of his tenure at Goodison (hence the ultracautious approach)and that, as he builds the team, he would like them to become more fluid and offensive, in the mould of Arsenal. Should Yakubu sign, then we've potentially got a 1 in 2 and a 1 in 3 pairing up front, although I'd probably expect Johnson to do much of the fetching and carrying out wide for Yak. It's a major blow that the Fernandes deal now appears to be off as I felt that he could be our Sheedy to Arteta's Steven, as he's a tidy footballer, capable of defending and with an eye for goal.

If we had a line up of:

Neville Yobo Lescott Baines
Arteta Jagileka Cahill Fernandes
Johnson Yakubu

then the team has taken care of itself and Moyes could concentrate on strengthening the squad. Perhaps the collapse of the Fernandes deal will give Pienaar the opportunity to shine? Either way, I suspect that, unless we alter our tactics that goals will once again be at a premium this season.

Reader Comments

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Barry Johnson
1   Posted 27/08/2007 at 15:57:19

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Most of what you say more or less sums up Everton’s style of play.
Just one problem. Your prefered lineup includes Yakubu & he hasn’t yet signed on the dotted line.
I await with bated breath for him to sign. If he does, things might turn out rosy. If he doesn’t, we’re stuffed.
Nigel Gregson
2   Posted 27/08/2007 at 15:51:14

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Great article and some good analysis. No point talking about Fernandes now.
We do seem to forget that we have 2 other mid fielders in Andy Van Der Meyde and Anderson Silva, who have hardly been given any chances recently. Perhaps our manager should start breaking out of his ultra cautious mould , by trying these players out ?
Mike Hughes
3   Posted 27/08/2007 at 18:22:05

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I agree with alot of your points. We do seem wasteful at throw-ins and set pieces, with the occasional exception of Arteta’s brilliance. I’ve also noticed, when attacking, we often have nobody just outside the box mopping-up / lashing a 30 yard volley when the first attack is repelled. With Fernandes doing the dirty, who can fill the left side of midfield role? AVdM is not fit (probably quite literally) to wear an Everton shirt in my opinion. Can Piennar do the job there? Interesting that your team has Carsley, Hibbert, McFadden and Osman on the bench along with (eventually) Vaughan. Personally, I’m pretty excited about the future with Vaughan if he can stay healthy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we do get Yakubu + A.N. Other midfielder (though time is runnng out). I think these conspiracy theories are a pile of crap, though.
Danny Mullally
4   Posted 27/08/2007 at 20:08:47

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I agree almost unreservedly with your points about our style of play. However from the managers point of view he cant exactly turn Baines and Hibbert into Evra and Neville. If we look at the positives in our team, we are (very) slowly building our most attack minded side in years, when you look at Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar, Johnson, Vaughan. Dare we add Yakubu to that equaton and there is a threatening look to the side. We have a good defence and I feel that once we threaten from other areas of the pitch apart from Arteta then we will stretch teams more and allow full backs more licence to roam.
It is frustrating to see two anchor men in the middle of the park, but there is always a biot of shuffling around early season and I think once the side is settled we should look alot healthier:
Neville Yobo Lescott Baines
Arteta Jagielka Cahill Pienaar
Johnson (Yakubu)

Come on lets be optimistic for a change.
Richard Dodd
5   Posted 27/08/2007 at 23:39:03

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I am sure the Board have noted your brilliant tactical acumen,Mr Birdsey.You can expect a call any time soon as the side can hardly expect to survive in the Prem without your input!
Do you seriously think you know more about this game than David Moyes?
Brian Wolf
6   Posted 28/08/2007 at 09:29:51

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When all of our forwards are fit we’ll be laughing. We only need a couple of more signings to be on the up.

What was disappointing was that Moyes started with Stubbs and Yobo for Blackburn instead of Stubbs and Lescott.

Simon Birdsey
7   Posted 28/08/2007 at 11:47:01

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Ever heard that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?!

Sure, Moyes is doing a good job and I think he’s brought some excellent players to the club. If you measured caution from 1 to 100 though, I’m sure that Moyes could afford to turn it down to 70 without us suffering from a defensive collapse.

As it stands, our most (only) attacking weapon is Arteta, if he’s marked out of the game, has an off day or is injured, then we’re knackered. The defenders just punt the ball long and I don’t think that Neville or Carsley would know what to do with it if they ended up in posession. We’re all too predictable and easily stifled.

Most of us could name the starting lineup before the game because, barring injuries, Moyes plays the same team and the same system game after game. Opposing managers (with any nous) can soon nullify any threat that we have. Ok, we’re hard to break down ourselves, but I think that we’ll end up drawing a lot of games that are there to be won. In my opinion, Moyes needs to mix it up from time to time to keep players fresh and surprise the opposition.

Long throws, corner routines, overlapping fullbacks etc just give us so many more attacking options. Even listening to Jagielka after the Blackburn game ’I just win the ball and give it to Arteta’...the guy is great, but he can’t win every game for us. Even if we bedded Pienaar in or gave Faddy a shout on the left, it would give us an alternative.

By the way Richard, I’m not a Premier league manager, but how do you know I’m not an FA coaching assesor?!

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