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Strength in Depth?

By Steve  Callaghan :  24/09/2007 :  Comments (9) :
A couple of weeks ago, Moyes and the usual suspects (Neville, Stubbs, Howard) proclaimed how delighted they now were that we now had the strength of depth and 'quality' needed to compete at the highest level. Well, the last two (arguably 3) performances blow that argument right out the water. Now, I am not going to suggest Moyes should be sacked ? quite frankly that is a non-starter as he has too much support from the board ? in fact, a new five-year deal has been muted. I am not going to waste time talking about Moyes?s tactics either as I believe his shortcomings are well covered by other contributors.

However, sometimes he does himself no favours with his own fans. Why oh why he persists in playing Phil Neville in center-mid I have no idea ? when his best position for us is at right back where he is a real asset. At times, Hibbert is a liability due to his inability to turn his head and look up when in possession. Neville is not a fantastic passer (spot the understatement) but he is good enough to switch the play inside instead of always looking long.

Fact of the matter is that we still cannot cope with one or two injuries ? no Arteta and Cahill leaves us hugely exposed. The enigma Osman often flatters to deceive; Pienaar is of the same mold and McFadden just simply does not look up to the level needed. So our squad is not strong and, whilst Moyes insists he now has more 'options' available to him, he should qualify this statement with 'bodies' ? instead of using 'options' keyword.

His inability to secure proven midfield craft in the summer (wide and center) has shattered our early optimism. OK, he would argue that he did not fail in bringing in additional 'craft' ? i.e. in Gravesen and Pienaar ? but whilst he has been unlucky so far with Mad Dog, Pienaar does not look the part ? or at least he gives us nothing different to what we had in abundance anyway ? mediocrity.

I have no doubt that we will turn in the odd decent performance once we have the likes of Cahill, Arteta and Gravesen back in and perhaps we will see AJ and Yakubu given half-decent chances instead of receiving the ball in the air invariably with their backs to goal.

I am not having a go at the Yak yet because I will reserve that for when he is given a chance of one-on-one with the keeper or given a half-decent pass to have a run on Goal to give him an opportunity to show how good (or not) his finishing actually is these days. Evidently, he was not brought in for his running off the ball ? the stats show he is a finisher ? we need to create for the lad. But, I am afraid progress will be slow and jittery until Moyes can bring in quality gradually over the next few years and get rid of some of the mediocrity. So, we all have to lower our expectations I am afraid ? as sad a fact as that is.

Reader Comments

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James Smith
1   Posted 24/09/2007 at 15:17:12

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The irony of Moyes’ comments was that they were centered around the role of Gravesen as a subsitute in the Bolton game, when we know too well sooner rather than later (when fit basically) he’ll be starting, leaving no attacking options on the bench.

...strength in depth indeed!
steve callaghan
2   Posted 24/09/2007 at 15:52:47

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Something I failed to mention was the fact that we should perhaps try Baines on the left of midfield - and bring in Valente to play left or Stubbs and move Lescot back to full-back where, to me, he seems more capable. With Neville at right-back, Gravesen and Jags in the center and, god willing, Arteta wide right we should be much better equipped.
Vincent Siow
3   Posted 24/09/2007 at 15:59:45

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Steve, totally agree with on this. Was thinking of this the whole of last week, playing Baines and Valente on the same flank. Valente’s a seasoned pro and won’t let anyone down, and Baines looks terrific attacking as well as defending.

Neville looks far better on the right with his runs and crosses and positional sense compared to Hibbert. And the centre of the park would go to Cahill or Gravesen with Carsley or Jags.

At the moment we are too uncreative and even with Yak we can’t score any goals.
Connor Rohrer
4   Posted 24/09/2007 at 17:29:22

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Vincent, I think we are in desperate need for Stubbsy at the back. Valente is a seasoned pro and good back up but he takes about 5 games to get back into rythm something we dont need. What you see is what you get with Stubbs. He is slow but he is strong, good in the air, reads the game well and is a natural organiser and leader.

Lescott is as good at left back as he is at centre half in my opinion. No one gets past him and he gives us a decent outlet with his pace going forward as he showed last season. Baines used to be a winger and is naturally atacking so it wouldnt be a problem pushing him to left midfield. He would also give us a natural left footer aswell as some natural width on the forgotten left hand side.

On the right handside my pick would be Neville and Arteta. Neville is undroppable in Moyes’s eyes so putting him at right back keeps everyone happy. He’s out the way of our midfield and he is on the pitch so that keeps Moyes happy. For me he is our best right back. We kept 14/15 clean sheets last season with him at the back and he also contributed 5 assists which proves my point. Arteta is obviously everyone pick.

In the middle for now its Jagielka and Gravesen. At the moment I wont mention Cahill as he is injured for a while. Both Jagielka and Gravesen would compliment eachother. Jagielka needs a ball player alongside him and Gravesen needs a ball winner alongside him. Jagielka offers the pace, energy and tackling ability that Carsley and Neville just dont. Gravesen could be key as he is our only player who can retain possession and pick out a through ball. With Gravesen dictating it also gives Arteta more of a chance of getting the ball faster in better positions.

Upfront my choice would be Yakubu and Johnson. Yakubu has already been critised which I sort of agree with and dont. His workrate defo needs improving but he is a talented player. The problem is we are treating him like a target man something he is far from. He is strong, quick, holds the ball up well and plays with his back to goal. If he given the ball in the right areas he will put the ball the back of the net something he has proved he can do with Pompy, Boro and Maccabi Haifa. Johnson would be my pick to partner Yak. Hopefully his game will improve with service from Arteta and Gravesen. Gravesen passing in the 04/05 season made Marcus Bent look like a world beater so I sure it would improve the much more talented Johnson’s game.

Thats my views anyway. If Moyes listens we might go somewhere or he could pick a better combination we will never know.
joe mcparland
5   Posted 24/09/2007 at 20:06:22

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as ive said on another post playing 3,5,2 would be a way to give us more stability AND creativity until we get cahill and vaughn back.
yobo, stubbs and lescott
baines left, neville right, jagielka sitting hopefully behind arteta and graveson.
up front
johnsonand either yakubu or anichebe.
this would also leave the likes of pienaar, mcfadden and osman who could come on and do a shift when needed.
Tom Martin
6   Posted 24/09/2007 at 20:44:04

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Joe, that sounds like a good formation, would like to see Moyes play that against Sheffield Wednesday, providing everyone is fit. That might work against most teams in the premiership too, 5 in midfield would make it hard for teams to play through us. However it would probably leave us exposed against the better teams with more attacking flair.
joe mcparland
7   Posted 24/09/2007 at 21:11:06

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Tom, i can agree with you on that one about flair teams mate. The good thing is the only team that is playing with real flair at the moment is Arsenal
Peter Singer
8   Posted 24/09/2007 at 21:42:08

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Playing Valente and Baines on the left side is an interesting prospect indeed. Primarily because they share the same weakness: failure to track back quickly enough after losing possession.

Now, if the two could make overlapping runs, this problem could be eliminated.

But it takes a lot of practice to do properly and I doubt Moyes encourages it. If we just throw the two on the left in the hope that something good comes out of it, we’ll be let down.
Matt Willey
9   Posted 24/09/2007 at 21:39:39

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I think there are some valid comments here, but I wouldn’t entertain a recall for Stubbs just yet... despite the recent defensive frailties. Play Neville at fullback and let him dictate to the defence and keep them in check.

Stubbs offers a great deal of experience and is positionally solid but he is very slow, too slow... the defence generally sits back far to much to accommodate him because the game always has to be played in front of him...

Stubbs will come to the fore against the likes of Chelsea and the RS where we can expect to come under significant pressure, but in games where we need to pressurise the opponents we need desperately to compress the play into the opposition’s half and get the ball out to the wingers (with fullbacks pushing on and supporting).... this approach will produce less aimless long balls... and hopefully more potent delivery into the danger areas.

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