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Unbalance causing 'Link-play' Shambles

By Gareth Cooper :  31/03/2008 :  Comments (22) :
Another derby related message I'm afraid, although regarding a point that I have been worrying about for a while.

At the momment our link play is shambolic. We are so lop-sided all over the park! This is a result in part by the injuries we are currently nursing, but I also feel it is in part due to Moyes's stuborness with team selection. The ingredient we are missing currently seems (to me) to be how do we attach our solid defensive unit with our goal productive strike force. This is the job of our 'wing-backs' and midfield.

Firstly, it struck home to me more than ever that the omission of Leighton Baines from the team yesterday was a massive error. Without Baines we lacked pace down the left wing and someone with an ability to cross the ball in first time, or look for a ball with a left footed pass (surely not down the left wing!!). Numerous times in the first half yesterday my frustration boiled over as Arteta, Pienaar or Lescott gave the ball away in the top left of the pitch whilst trying to pass into ever decreasing circles.

I have seen Baines play on 3 (of the few) occasions this season, and when fit have been impressed with his ability to overlap, cross. Also he has had a good understanding with Pienaar and Arteta. Importantly he also takes on defenders and attacks at pace.

As a big Lescott fan I am not using this as a vehicle to attck him, but he should not have played at left back yesterday... or indeed recently. Baines should be taking that place. Lescott should be playing at centre back. Full-stop. He is for me England's best defender along side Ferdinand. An opinion backed up by the performances of Lescott and Terry respectively along side Ferdinand in mid-week. You won't find a respected website/newspaper that didn't have Lescott as one of England's better players, due to his superior marshalling of Anelka.

I am trying to say that we should be playing a balanced team not one that contains all Moyes's 'favourite players'. Jags and Yobo have been great recently, but to play 3 centre backs, regardless of how good they are is stupid unless we balance them. To fit all 3 in we would have to play 3-5-2, with Baines and (*Gasp*) Neville at 'wing' back. This is not our usual way so i'm afraid we need to drop one for the good of the team.

Another position where the side is unbalanced is central midfield. Our recent games without Cahill (and others here and there), has seen Moyes try to shoe-horn others into the roles left vacant. This may work against lesser teams but will always get exposed against better players. Rather than being so rigid we must show some adaptability of our team dynamic to field a balanced team capable of playin good football. Difficult with a small squad but definitely not impossible!

It should never be acceptable to include both Neville and Carsley in our team. It is to defensively balanced and we lack penetration (There is your answer to why we lacked that yesterday Mr Moyes). It is widely accepted that Carsley is best as our defensive midfielder. If Captain 'Pip is not at right back or covering for an injured (or increasingly worrying: retired) Carsley then he shouldn't be on the pitch. Maybe yesterdays retraction was Moyes's realisation of this.... but my breath is not being held.

Finally (for now) the likes of Osman, Pienaar, Fernandes, Arteta (and Mcfadden in days gone by) should not be being asked to plug themselves into Cahill/Johnson etc. shaped holes. Moyes by now (he's had 6 years!!) should know their best positions. Why comprimise so often? Why can't we play a different way so we play to the strengths we have available? Too much is said of injuries. Which of the players in the derby yesterday has so little experience in the premier league that they can be 'let off' for that crap show? They are all very well paid pros which have proved before that they can get results when played in their prefered roles.

Our team needs balance, and if that means dropping certain favourites then so be it. Moyes cannot set up for games as if we are scared of the opposition, or that psychology will rub off on to the players. Playing so many out of position, comprimising what we have, how many of them could've believed that they would beat Liverpool?

Please Mr Moyes, set up for our remaining games with the mind-set that we are going out to win, not play tightly and nick something. We have the skill, it's now time for a bit of belief in what you have begun to assemble!

Reader Comments

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Neil Wilson
1   Posted 01/04/2008 at 09:16:17

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Somebody posted yesterday that Moyes had hardly ever won a ?Big match? in over 10 years of management. Personally, I have very little hope of his ever doing so given his defensive mindset and ?respect? for supposedly superior opposition.
However, he?s as good as we?re ever going to get and at least he?s made relegation fears a thing of the past.
Oh, he?s due to solve your balance problem against Derby County by retoring Neville and Baines to full-back and playing Jagielka in midfield.
Bet that will cheer you up!
Ciarán McGlone
2   Posted 01/04/2008 at 11:24:23

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Whenever I see both Neville?s and Hibbert's names on the teamsheet... Ii knew we were going to be hammered in midfield...

I don?t have coaching badges, managerial experience or a job at a Premier League club, but I do have eyes in my head...and week in, week out those eyes perceive quite clearly that Phil Neville is the weak link in out team... I wouldn?t even have him at right back as Hibbert is a better defender....

Repeating the Neville mistake is Mr Moyes's biggest and most frustrating ineptitude..... well, that?s apart from buying this furious pointer in the first place.
Luke Billing
3   Posted 01/04/2008 at 12:19:27

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What would you class as a ’big match’ Neil. Beating the RS 3-0 at home, beating Arsenal 1-0 at home, beating Man Utd 1-0 at home. That’s three of the top of my head. Get a grip pal.
Clive Morgan
4   Posted 01/04/2008 at 13:03:29

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I think you are being a bit harsh on Moyes,Neil-he?s done a bit more than save us from relegation. With the present set-up we can never expect to seriously challenge the Sky4. Just be content to see us get 5th or 6th every year and perhaps one day a fairy-godfather may appear!
Peter Corcoran
5   Posted 01/04/2008 at 13:03:27

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So who would you have played and in what position, given the squad of players available?

The squad is too small, simple as that.

Some good money needs to be found to spend in the summer and I trust Moyes to spend it wisely (even though I have heavily critcised him in the past), but we do not want to shop in Home & Bargan we want to shop in Harrods.

Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 01/04/2008 at 13:17:09

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Peter, anybody but neville, would obviously be my answer.

And this ’squad is too small’ excuse is a smokescreen...we had more than enough first team players to cover our favoured 451..

who were we really missing? Cahill? In my opinion, thats hardly a great loss from midfield.

You can only play 11 players at any one time!
Mal Bentley
7   Posted 01/04/2008 at 14:03:10

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I suspect that Phil Neville has qualities us mere mortals fail to recognise.After all,he was good enough for Fergie to play him in nearly 400 games and convinced no fewer than 5 different England managers to award him a total of 56 caps.A Manc colleague tells me they all thought he was total shite-so what is it we are not picking up on.
Total balance will be restored this weekend when Moyesie opts for Howard;Neville,Yobo,Lescott ,Baines;Arteta,Jagielka,Carsley,Osman and Fernandes. Easy, this Football Manager!
Gareth Cooper
8   Posted 01/04/2008 at 14:12:30

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I think that a balanced team would have been:

Howard, Neville, Yobo, Baines, Carsley, Fernandes, Arteta, Pienaar, Osman, Yakubu.

This would however have only been the right choice in my eyes for this game with key players missing. I would certainly have included pace and youth on the bench too. For me Gravesen and Valente are not good enough and add nothing. A hungry youngster may have had more to give if necessary. There are tired legs across the whole league, which could be exploited, or certainly made to work by something unknown.

Jags would have lost out for me because although he has been playing very well this year, I lost a little confidence in how he defended Sears vs West Ham (yet more back up to the arguement that at this late stage in the season, young, fit, pacey players can play a part) . I still wince a little when he is our last line of defence. Hibbert could easily take the place of Neville here, but vs Babel I feel Neville would have been better.

I think a point you may have missed from what I was trying to convey is how the team is ’directed’ rather than it’s component parts. It is seen in the ’Big3’ teams that they can adapt their style of play around the same core of players and a few who are rotated. This is to suit the blend of players on show. We cannot play the 4-5-1 without Cahill, so why set up in that way with Osman trying to do what Cahill does? He tried, and to be fair, got his head on one chance, but for all the huff and puff, that isn’t his strength. If we have small, technical passers in midfield we need to play the pass and move game and get pace down the wings.

I do agree that the squad is small and that we need new additions (right-back, centre-mid and maybe a striker). But with our money situation we won’t be like Man ure with ~£30million warming the bench ready to plug straight in. We need to make the best of what we have, and frankly that has not been done in our last 3 games.
Ciarán McGlone
9   Posted 01/04/2008 at 14:51:14

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Point of order!

Phil Neville never had 400 games for united...he had 260 odd games in 9 years!

but then Mal suggests he clearly has some super power that normal occular vision cannot perceive!
Colin Grierson
10   Posted 01/04/2008 at 15:08:13

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I have played in Sunday league games where Neville would be the worst player on the pitch.


Don’t let the fact that he has played for a knowledgeable manger fool you. He is absolutely useless. Believe your own eyes mate. Steptoe must go!
John Talbot
11   Posted 01/04/2008 at 15:39:13

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Re G Cooper/M Bentley comments on balanced team selection you would do well having 11players in your teams before having a go at Mr Moyes match day selection as you put it ’Easy this managers job’
Mal Bentley
12   Posted 01/04/2008 at 16:04:32

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Re Point of Order.
The Man Unt. stats site shows that Pip appeared in a total of 389 games including Prem,FA and Carling Cups and Europe.The figure includes sub appearances.
Sorry about missing Yakubu-could have sworn I typed his name in!
And, by the way,where did I criticise Moyes?I gave him credit for seeing something in Captain Marvel that we have all missed!
Gareth Cooper
13   Posted 01/04/2008 at 16:11:00

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Haha! Oh yeah! I clearly left out Mr Lescott at centre back. How foolish

Tim Lewis
14   Posted 01/04/2008 at 17:26:00

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The biggest mistake that Moyes made this season was exposed on Sunday: selling James McFadden. With all of these injuries we could have done with his skill and creativity against the RS. Notice how much Birmingham have improved recently with him in the team? Enough said...
Tony Williams
15   Posted 01/04/2008 at 17:37:24

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Fuck off with the McFadden shite, he was shite for 4 years so why all of a sudden after we sold him he is now the saviour we let go.

He was shite and still will be with the Brum in the Coca Cola league
Sean McKenna
16   Posted 01/04/2008 at 17:44:32

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Well said Tony, McFadden was shite for us a one trick pony with no pace or power.

£5 million for McFadden I thought it was daylight robbery.
Tony Senter
17   Posted 01/04/2008 at 19:09:08

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Any criticism of Phil Neville is a criticism of David Moyes in that Pip is the eyes, ears and mouthpiece of the gaffer on the pitch. Quite why so many have singled this true professional out for dog?s abuse astounds me! For crissake this is the Captain of Everton FC you are all slagging off!
Peter Seward
18   Posted 01/04/2008 at 19:29:53

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I have never seen anything in Phil Neville and always groaned when he was on the England teamsheet.But how can so many senior managers be so wrong?Moyes will defend him to the ends of the earth and all the TV pundits describe him as a true professional’s professional. just what are we all missing?
Barry Earley
19   Posted 02/04/2008 at 05:45:19

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"The biggest mistake that Moyes made this season was exposed on Sunday: selling James McFadden. With all of these injuries we could have done with his skill and creativity against the RS. Notice how much Birmingham have improved recently with him in the team? Enough said"

As pointed out elsewhere, MCFADDEN IS OUT INJURED!! He has been out with a bad knee and now it has been operated on. Please, if you insist on playing football manager, check the availability first....Enough said.

Alan Smith
20   Posted 02/04/2008 at 08:59:40

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But he got injured playing for Brum you twerp.There’s no way of knowing if the same leg would have gone in a totally different series of games!
Dean Johnson
21   Posted 02/04/2008 at 10:16:40

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Do we really need "the eyes and ears" when Cars does just as good a job. The difference is that Cars does it himself whereas Neville just does the bosses bidding.

That?s what it is, he?s a complete suck up to the boss, whoever he plays for. I don?t see anything in him that other players don?t have. Professionals professional? WTF? Aren?t they all supposed to be professional?
Jay Wilson
22   Posted 02/04/2008 at 15:13:21

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What was missing on Sunday was pace it’s as simple as that. Without Johnson and Vaughan our paciest players are all at the back. Liverpool had pace in the right areas (Torres, Babel and Gerrard) we didn’t and we didn’t have it on the bench. Say what you like about balance but pace is what all the top teams have and we just don’t have enough of it. The problem is, pace costs big money (That?s why Johnson cost 8.6m 2years ago) we have the sort of money that will buy the player that will gives our defence and midfield an easy out ball? I?m not sure?we, along with Moyes will find out in the summer!

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