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The next five-year cycle

By Tony Anetts :  21/12/2007 :  Comments (23) :

I left Liverpool as a young lad in 1972 and have lived the Everton dream in Australia via ?Shoot?, ?MotD?, ?BBC World Service?, Monday?s papers, and more recently the Internet and PayTV. I have cried myself to sleep over losing to Aston Villa in the League Cup Final replay in 1977, gone AWOL from Army Recruit Training to watch the FA Cup victory over Waford in 1984, and made two pilgrimages to Goodison in 1999 and last year (both terrible games of hoof-ball but great to be there).

I tell you this not to wax lyrically, but to put into perspective that some of us live the Everton dream from afar ? not really understanding why and caring why even less. Since I became besotted with Everton (apparently post the 1966 FA Cup final when I was almost two), I have never known better access to all things Everton (much to my wife?s distress) and have not yet found a better site than ?ToffeeWeb? for discussion and debate ? albeit sometimes a touch rabid, but it remains debate and the basis for this is an affirmative and a negative ? so it is essentially healthy.

I have recently watched an Everton team play football worth watching. This has been some time coming and sure, we still spend much of our time chasing the ball around and then immediately dropping deep when we lose it, but when we have it we actually appear to mostly want to keep it on the deck and pass it to each other ? this delights me to my core but how has this come to pass (excuse this rather pithy pun please)?

The basis of this is that David Moyes has built a structure where there are five good/pretty good players in the midfield to compete with, generally, three or four good midfielders on other teams. Now, he does not need to do this against those teams that play like we did but months and years ago, but against teams with players who combine technical mastery with physical prowess (having seen the sun as they were growing rather than just the overhanging roof of a tenement), this is both prudent and required if we are not to be over-run through the middle.

However, assuming that David Moyes has now closed his initial five-year cycle, is this a recipe for football growth and continued improvement over the next five-year cycle?

I?ll answer this after establishing our current team benchmark, through assessing each of our key players and how they contribute to the Everton whole. Each player will be rated out of ten for physicality, technical ability, spark, guile and teamwork. The minimum rating for individual continued success within a developing and growing Everton team has been set at 35 (a pluck but a sound one methinks).

NAME  POSITION PHYSICAL TECHNICAL  SPARK     GUILE   TEAMWORK  TOTAL   SUMMARY
HOWARD	GK	8	8	8	4	8	36	+1
WESSELLS	GK	7	7	6	7	6	34	-2
BAINES	LB	6	8	7	6	8	34	0
VALENTE	LB	6	8	6	7	7	34	-1
YOBO	CB	8	7	7	6	8	36	+1
LESCOTT	CB	9	7	7	6	9	38	+3
STUBBS	CB	8	5	5	5	9	33	-3
JAGIELKA	CB/RB	7	5	5	5	8	30	-5
HIBBERT	RB	7	4	4	3	9	27	-8
NEVILLE	RB	8	5	5	3	9	30	-5
ARTETA	RM	6	9	9	9	7	40	+5
CAHILL	CM	8	8	8	6	9	39	+4
CARSLEY	CM	8	6	6	6	10	36	+1
GRAVESEN	CM	7	8	8	7	7	37	+2
OSMAN	CM/LM	5	8	8	8	8	37	+2
PIENAAR	LM	6	9	8	9	8	40	+5
AVM	LM	7	7	6	6	5	31	-4
YAKUBU	CF	9	8	8	9	7	41	+6
JOHNSON	CF	6	7	8	7	9	37	+2
MCFADDEN	CF	7	8	8	6	6	35	0
VAUGHAN	CF	7	7	8	7	8	37	+2
ANICHEBE	CF	9	6	7	5	7	34	-1

Assessment

Goalkeeper. Howard is a good overall GK ? a great shot-stopper, athletic and good with the ball coming in from wide. He is however, slow off his line and defaults too often to the long punt up the field to alleviate pressure rather than build a movement or possession. His game must begin to include better and shorter distribution or we will continue to waste possession by not beginning it correctly.

Wessells is an adequate substitute, but with the money and effort expended on ?spare? GK. Ruddy and Turner must surely be ready for a substitute?s role or why are they here? No immediate overhaul required and a solid platform for development.

Left Back. Baines and Valente; solid, with both offering good options going forward. Average defensively with not much to pick between them ? with both lacking the physicality demanded in the EPL ? exposing us at set pieces and at corners. No immediate overhaul required and a solid platform for development.

Centre-Back. The starting two, Yobo and Lescott, are excellent, however we lack depth as Stubbs ages. Jagielka is not an EPL starting CB and will not seriously compete for a starting berth. A lack of competition here ? and a real concern with the up-coming African Nations Cup. Needs immediate attention.

Right Back. Neville and Hibbert; Solid defensively and exceptionally committed ? almost the opposite of what we have on the left. Both lack height and are easily beaten in the air at dead-ball situations. They lack the fundamental technical basics to ever be comfortable on the ball and cannot replace with hard graft the significant deficiencies in their ability to retain the ball or consistently hit the right pass correctly. This area creates an imbalance in the team as the RB generally offers poor support to Arteta and this denies Arteta options when he is on the ball. However, it does provide Arteta an element of defensive cover, freeing him up to wander across to the left on occasion thus making him more difficult to contain. Urgent attention, as without being addressed this aspect of Everton?s team will prevent real development in the way Everton play from occurring.

Midfield. Stronger than I thought and probably the most difficult aspect of the team to rebalance. Playing Cahill in a 4-4-2 means that we don?t have a ball playing CM ? as his game revolves around moving off the ball and being where the ball is when the midfield and forwards have done their thing. This means that he covers a lot of territory when we have the ball but he does it without the ball ? hence creating a reliance on Carsley to step forward and dominate the middle. Noting that Carsley is most effective when the other team has the ball, through closing down and harrying, this creates a poor fit in the centre of the park when we have the ball in a 4-4-2. This is currently offset by playing an additional CM (Osman/Gravesen) in a five-man midfield. So, the issue is, does Cahill give us enough of a goal threat going forward to warrant his place as ?the second striker?? If he does then the balance is pretty good, as he is an effective worker when the other team has the ball and his physical attributes are useful around the ground.

Any loss of Carsley would change the way Everton currently play. Gravesen (who is only on loan) would have to play in the holding role ? which would negate his strengths ? or we would see the dreaded return of Neville or Jageilka, where they could once again turn the ball over with wild abandon. The problem with the five-man midfield when Cahill is playing is that it results in five strikers (and another couple in the wings) competing for one starting place when arguably this is our strongest suite. The consequential impacts are significant and are not a foundation for continued development. This is a sound technique for grinding out a result against more refined opposition but not a method for us to become a footballing side within the top tier of the EPL. The players meet the individual standard but there are questions over whether the system does into the future.

Forwards. An eclectic and talented mix. Two point men (Yakubu and Anichebe), a runner (Johnson), a ball player (McFadden) and a potentially complete player who combines these attributes (Vaughan). However, if you have strength in the forwards why would you reduce by half the threat you pose with them by playing only one ? unless you lack or have absolute faith in the men behind them (if you lack faith you need to bolster the midfield to ensure it can do its job, if you have absolute faith then you feel the midfield will get you the goals your forwards cannot)? For how long do we want ?rising talents? like Vaughan and Anichebe to be bit part players ? they will reach their potential or otherwise by playing ? they will forever be talents while confined to the bench. Five needs to become four in January, as the excess of riches is a poor investment given our current structure and noted deficiencies.

The way ahead

If you are a David Moyes with a grounding in the Scottish and lower-tier English games, you build on effort and reliability. Therefore, David will struggle with removing Hibbert and Neville because they give these in abundance. However, he needs to battle his inner demons and get this done. A RB who plays wide for the length of the pitch will compensate, in a team balance sense, for Arteta playing narrow and coming inside as a default. This will prevent the opposition LB from coming in ? creating space to play the ball through and into gaps and feet. This automatically relieves the pressure in the centre of the midfield in the final third of the park and allows a little more space to play in when we have the ball.

Valente/Baines need to do likewise on the left (or a genuine left winger needs to come in ? but I don?t think Everton can support one of these, as they are a luxury item to be played when you have two strikers to feed off their crosses and foundation strength in the middle of the park). Pienaar playing narrow on the left is a good foil for the gap in the middle, where he can interchange short passes with the other ball playing central midfielder/s. So, Valente/Baines getting forward with width is required ? and they have the capacity to do this.

The result is both FBs able and willing to overlap, creating ambiguity for the opposition defence, thus creating space inside. The movement of the outside halves inside reduces the gap in the middle that requires a five-man midfield to begin with. Hence, and paradoxically, creating width from the back actually strengthens the middle of the park and can create the environment in which Everton can play with a four-man midfield.

In this context Cahill upsets the balance of the team. I know this is heresy and he always gives us something (and he?s Australian to boot), but it is true. He is the catalyst for us needing to play a five-man midfield ? even against relatively average sides. It is a coping mechanism but it is not ? or should not be ? part of the next five-year plan. Either Cahill needs to play with the ball more than he currently does and become a genuine box-to-box central midfielder (in the Steven Gerrard mould) or he needs to go wide, go forward or just go. I don?t now what the answer is and I don?t think David Moyes does either ? for how do you fundamentally change or move aside a player who gets it done and makes a difference to your side?

But?to do nothing means a five-man midfield or an expensive super-midfielder to play with Cahill who can both hold and distribute ? and these are hard to find, hard to fund and harder to entice. A five-man midfield is only going to be a forward step for Everton when it is built with two genuine hard-working wingers who transition between 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 without pause (and this is not a solution that supports having Arteta and Pienaar in the side and we would all be loath to lose them). This is not how we currently do it ? we transition from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, with Cahill coming through the middle rather than wide midfielders coming around the outside.

So, David Moyes should:

  1. Give Howard hypnosis to get him to release the ball short ? in an effort to stop the ball being hoofed then turned over on the bounce.
  2. Find a young-ish attacking RB who can also defend and buy him.
  3. Have faith that Rodwell or Boyle can make the grade as a CB quickly or get CB cover in January.
  4. Determine what he wants to do with Cahill and buy/sell midfielders and forwards around that decision.
  5. Sell a forward (if he intends to persist with a five-man midfield into 2008-09 and 2009-10 then he should sell two forwards and buy a super-midfielder with the proceeds at the end of this season).

Conclusion

To do nothing is to perpetuate the probability that Everton will not progress to playing ?School of Science? football and continue to default too readily under pressure to cramping the opposition and playing without the ball. This is a workable option if no others exist and it has served us well in the past five-year rebuilding and stability cycle. However, it is not the recipe for advancement into a genuine top-four side with Champions League and EPL aspirations and should not be in David Moyes? Christmas Stocking. We are on a great run and we all love it. For this to become a more common occurrence into the next five years it is decision time. For once I?m glad not to be the Everton Manager!!

COYB.

Reader Comments

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David Barks
1   Posted 21/12/2007 at 15:38:53

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What an absolute waste of time. Yeah, Cahill is a problem, shows just how much you know mate. Since he’s come back into the team we have not lost, and the 5 man midfield that we play is not a defensive formation, it is an attacking 5 man midfield much like the one that Alex Ferguson plays in every European game.
joe mcparland
2   Posted 21/12/2007 at 15:41:49

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Thankfully Moyes is the manager. I think we’ll stick with the way he’s going about doing the job rather than read any more of this drivel.
Andrew Emmett
3   Posted 21/12/2007 at 15:58:11

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why does a centre back need ’spark’ - or in fact what is it? Looking at your figures for ’technical’ and ’spark’ they are similar which I would then suggest means that ’spark’ is an element of technical ability. I don’t think you can judge players using the same platform for each position either. Nice try though, but if I was you i’d be out enjoying the sun in Australia having a beer. Like above trust Moyes to do his job.
David Ellis
4   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:18:21

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Tony
Don’t listen to them. I thought you made a few good points. We have little quality cover for our 5 man midfield and we will have to see how we go without Osman.

If we played with 4 in midfield the squad looks deeper, because we do have good cover in the striker department.

Cahill is great but can he fit in a 4-4-2 formation? If not then this limits his usefulness considerably.
Alex Baker
5   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:24:09

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I really do not get the message of this post Tony. What are you saying, that 4-5-1 with 4 offensive midfielders is not forward thinking? That Cahill is a liability unless we surround him with other midfielders? That according to your ratings McFadden is better than Yobo? All seems too much like grasping at straws a lot of the time.
Dave OBrien
6   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:42:14

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Formations are utter bollocks.A starting point but any manager will tell you the strength is being able to move the players around during the game. Cahill is utterly superb, time to buy a one way ticket to drivvlesville and hang your head in shame.
Andy Cummins
7   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:54:03

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Time on your hands mate?
J FLetcher
8   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:57:16

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Eh?

What was all that about?
Tony Williams
9   Posted 21/12/2007 at 16:59:42

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Please explain to me how Shandy Andy managed to get a better grade than Neville & Jagielka?????
James Elworthy
10   Posted 21/12/2007 at 17:04:14

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This was as boring as Tolstoys War & Peace.
Wessels 2 pts behind Howard, 20 is more accurate.
Cahill is a talisman we have not lost since he came back, you build your team round a player like him.
Gravesen holding midfielder, most peoples granny would make a better holding midfielder.
Boyle is a left back not a centre back
Neville only 30 pts he has proven with a run in the team he is one of best right backs in the league.
Stay in Australia mate the sun has wharped your head
Harvey Warbanger
11   Posted 21/12/2007 at 17:18:38

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Thanks for the article Tony. Although the thought behind your article is well-intentioned, the method you chose to motivate your arguments is utter bollocks.

Creating categories and assigning points to get a measure of how valuable the player is something that nestles firmly in computer games, not on the pitch. You could have saved yourself, and everyone else a load of time by just pointing us towards the latest incarnation of Pro Evolution Soccer or EA?s FIFA. Your breakdown misses those fancy chart things that demonstrate the relative strength of a player in a particular area. Makes it way easier to compare players when deciding who you?re going to sub.

Having said that, which game do fellow Blues prefer?

Pro Evo or FIFA?
John Maxwell
12   Posted 21/12/2007 at 17:04:13

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Dude, you have been in the sun too long !!

Where are you in Oz ? I am moving out there next year..

Typical, Ive been watching Everton since 87... and been through some bad times..

Now looks like things are happening for us again..
Dan Adams
13   Posted 21/12/2007 at 18:34:55

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Stop playing football manager or what ever other ratings based game, that table is ridiculus and is entirely based on your opinion.

Pointless and il-informed artical. Sorry Tony, i know you ment well but I would recomend webmasters delete this before anyone else wastes 10 min of there life reading this.
Michael Kenrick
14   Posted 21/12/2007 at 19:08:22

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Sheesh... if I’d realised it was a reflection of those frigging computer games I would probably not have wasted my time reading through it and struggling to format that table in the middle and instead consigned it straight to the Recyle Bin! Consider it as punishment for all the geeks who spend their time thinking about footy as a computer game... I guess I assumed some of you might want to read this kind of "analysis" but I admit I started falling asleep after the third paragraph.

Note to Editor: If it looks bad... it probably is! Time for a Word Limit too!!!!
Kevin MacCallum
15   Posted 21/12/2007 at 21:48:04

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Are you joking pal?

Apart from taking a fornight to read, you make very little sense.

We are scoring goals. We are winning. Wembley may be on the cards.
Be happy.
Andrew Gaule
16   Posted 21/12/2007 at 22:42:22

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Thanks for making me laugh! I needed one. Its been a long Friday. Your post in conjunction with the responses made me laugh outloud.

Cheers and here’s hoping that we win against Man U on Sunday.

Have another glass of Fosters.

Best regards
Brendan McLaughlin
17   Posted 22/12/2007 at 18:43:45

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I really don’t understand where this assumption that 4-5-1 is automatically a negative formation comes from. Obviously, if you play Neville & Jagielka in the five it will be but Cahill, Pienaar, Arteta & Osman - come on? And if we have Cahill, a player who excels as the supporting midfielder, I mean, surely we should play to our strengths?
Wayne Smyth
18   Posted 23/12/2007 at 00:13:40

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If you cut through the crap, I think the author makes some valid points.

If we have aspirations to be a regular top-4 club, then we need more from our players; central midfield in particular.

Cahills main asset are his goals, however if we need to play only 4 across the middle then we need more from him and cars in order to be competitive. Take scholes/essien as examples of top quality CM’s that we should be aiming for(Stephen Sunday who plays for valencia would be a top choice).

I think the posters point regarding vaughny and victor are also valid. We need to be playing two up top more regularly for them to get the football they need to properly develop.

Finally I would say that although things are going well at the moment, lets not go on a witch hunt if someone dares to suggest that there is a weakness or room for improvement.

NSNO
Bruce Rumble
19   Posted 23/12/2007 at 03:22:04

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Just one comment about the above.

lol.No one drinks fosters in Australia! well maybe one or two...

yeah, and while well intentioned.. article was a waste... :)
Derek Thomas
20   Posted 23/12/2007 at 03:26:48

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In a technical and theoretical sense similar to the experts saying that to all theories bumble bees can’t fly it is all probably true.

But all a bit too FMish for me.

The valid point(s?) would be in the short version eg Moyes must stick to one formation and tailor the squad to it. If so, there could be no place for Cahill !!

If it is to be 4-1 4-1 then do we need 5 forwards on the books is a fair if short sighted question.

Rebuttal :

1) What is wrong with playing one or more formations if you can do it well enough.

2) The formation used should play to the strengths 11 selected. (no square Neville pegs in round centre mid holes)

3) Like it or not, rotation (or some none over the top rafa esque just seemingly for the sake of it) is a fact of life. The day of knowing you best 11 and sticking to it is gone.

No hysterics required to deal to the arguments of a deluded under arm bowler/ budgie smuggler.

Karl Masters
21   Posted 23/12/2007 at 14:23:41

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Although this was a bit long winded, he makes some valid points: Summarised quickly-

1/ Phil Neville should only ever play right back. Hibbert has not looked too clever there when he’s played. Solution: Neville will do for now, but Alan Hutton from Rangers would be a smart move.

2/ We are short on players in midfield and at Centre back. ANC will highlight this. .

3/ We will struggle to keep 5 forwards happy if only one starts in each game. The biggest conundrum is likely to be that the 2 youngest ( Vic & Vaugany ) look to me to actually be the two most effective and how much longer will they be happy as bit part players? You could even say that Cahill is our 6th forward so maybe that is the area to raise some money through a sale.

I’d sell Mcfadden to Rangers in a swap for Hutton, get a loan Centre back in, and try and find a decent holding midfieler on the cheap ( somebody struggling to fit in like Pienaar and Arteta were when we found them) in January.

Must have taken hours, mate, and it’s a shame some of the people on here reacted so childishly as you clearly gave it a lot of thought even if some people don’t agree with some of your observations.
Steve Taylor
22   Posted 26/12/2007 at 14:11:44

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I couldn’t be arsed reading all of it, but after all that shite he comes to the conclusion that we need a right back & another midfielder - no shit Sherlock.

Jarrod Prosser
23   Posted 26/12/2007 at 23:07:38

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After cutting through most of that with napalm intensity, there are some good points that i hadn’t thought of:

Whilst Cahill is a decent ball player, he is most effective away from the ball. this can leave us vulnerable to reverting to longer balls, especially with Arteta/Osman out of the lineup.

the fullback situation was well summed up - almost. Our right backs are defensice, out leftbacks attacking. Although i think Baines is underrated defensively (he did a great job on Ronaldo a few months back). Also, he doesn’t mention Lescott as a fullback, either.

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