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A Winning System

By Tim Luke :  30/11/2008 :  Comments (11) :
Yes, the summer was a total disaster. And the games we?ve witness to-date have been awful with the exception of a few second half performances. The tactics and subsitutions have also been woeful. I could go on and on, but you know the story as well as I. But I still said never mind, we?re in the top 10, the other teams around us aren?t doing that great as well, and I still had hope that Moyes would sort things out.

But the Wigan game was the straw that broke this camel's back. It brought to a head all the problems we?ve been having all season, and suddenly, I started to appreciate the gripes and groans that many of you have been making on this website.

Here was a team with no heart, no will to win, and with a manager that has lost his way. The Wigan game brought to the fore all the faults of the manager. A central defender playing left back. A central midfielder playing right midfield. An attacking midfielder playing left midfield. A wide midfielder playing in central midfield. An attacker playing right wing. I would have been able to stomach all this if there wasn?t any options on the bench. But we had Baines, Rodwell and Castillas on the bench who could have started and balanced the side. But instead, the manager decided to chose a team made up of players that didn?t fit into any logical system of play.

And this is what my post is about ? where is the balance in this Everton side? Every team needs a system of play. It?s the job of the manager to get this system and to stick with it. Look at managers like Alex Ferguson. After a couple of dreadful seasons, he found a system that worked for him and the team (either by design or accident ? it doesn?t matter). He then stuck to it and bought and replaced players based on that system of play. Arsene Wenger does the same.

If you look back at history, all the good teams who won trophies and sustained their leadership over many years had a system. Look at Liverpool. Shankly built a system of play, and it was enhanced by Paisley. They used this system to good effect for close to 20 years. It was only when Souness decided to tinker with the system that the wheels started to fall out!

And once a system is found, the team is sustained and replenished based on this system. Players are bought, or groomed, to fill specific gaps in the system. Moyes has been at Everton for more than 6 years. Has he got a system yet? A few weeks ago there was an inconspicuous article in the Everton website. In it, Moyes said that he was still experimenting with his midfield to find the best combination. With that one comment, I knew we were in for trouble. If a manager of 6 years standing is still trying to find his best midfield combination, I don?t think he ever will!

Much has been said about Moyes 4-5-1 system. It may not be well-liked, but it?s effective, it gets result, and damn it, it?s a working system. For better or worst, it?s a system Moyes knows. He should plant his flag on the ground and build his team around this system. Over time, he can tweak it to give it more flare, dimension and edge, with the purchase of better players for each specific role in the 4-5-1 formation. But at least, he?d have a system and can buy, sell and build a team around it.

So for example, if he knew the 4-5-1 system of play requires a ball winning defensive midfielder, he could have gone out 2 years ago to buy a replacement for the ageing Carsley and have this new player under study Carsley. As soon as the understudy was able to replace Carsley, he would do so. Carsley won?t have been sold immediately. The understudy works better if he knows the ?old-horse? was still waiting in the wings to take over (like the Thompson-Hansen situation at Liverpool in the early 80s). After a year, once the understudy has proven he can do Carsley?s job, Carsley could be sold. This is the way great teams in the past have done it. But what did Moyes do? He sold Carsley even before he had a replacement. This shows a manager who doesn?t know he has a system.

I fear that Moyes doesn?t have the strength of will to make the 4-5-1 work for him. He probably listens to the comments of fans and commentators that the 4-5-1 is boring and too defensive. He doesn?t want to be known as a defensive manager. So he chops and changes the formation, and he?s hoping to stumble upon a more exciting system. But in the process, we?re getting more and more disorganized and the players are getting more disinterested and demoralized.

We?ve all seen that the 4-5-1 can be exciting and attacking. We?ve seen Everton take teams apart with the 4-5-1. If the manager has the strength to commit to this system, he can make it work for him and the team. However, I feel that he?s been bitten by the ?Joe Royle? bug. Remember, Everton were going great guns with the ?Dogs-of-War? system. We won the FA Cup with this system. But commentators started referring to the negative aspects of this system, and fans started saying that this wasn?t the ?School of Science? philosophy of Everton teams of the past.

Royle was torn by these comments. He started to change the system. He sold Barry Horne without a replacement, never found a good placement for the injured Parkinson and Ebbrell, and tried to move towards a more attacking 4-4-2 style. We had one good year, and then the wheels fell out. If he kept with the ?Dogs-of-War? system, and gradually tweaked it to give more class year by year, Royle may have charted a very different history.

Find a winning System, Stick to it, and Build a Team Around it ? Simple! I fear with Moyes, history is repeating itself.

Reader Comments

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Chris Jones
1   Posted 30/11/2008 at 16:57:27

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Today?s line-up definitely had a better balance to it although I don?t agree with all of the choices of personnel - particularly Osman and Lescott. Both willing lads and both good utility players but are they playing well enough to keep others out?

Great victory today, though ? can?t take that away from the boys...

John Martin
2   Posted 30/11/2008 at 17:27:50

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Excellent posting, I have long held the belief that Joe Royle tried to get rid of the Dogs of War tag too soon. I remember it well: he dropped Ebbrell for Tony Grant and the rest is history. 4-5-1 is Moyes's preferred tactic we should stick with it getting better players in rather than changing sytems too quick.
Andy Morden
3   Posted 30/11/2008 at 17:48:47

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Sound reasoning, but I think the constraints of financial reality are what prevented Moyes getting a Carsley understudy. We clearly operate with very little slack financially so I think Moyes has an ?operating ceiling? for players wages and squad numbers. Buying understudies would be difficult because it would leave gaps in his budget to buy in / loan in for other areas. Think about our transfer policy over the laast few seasons, it really is very much one in, one out. So whilst he had Carsley and Neville as back up he made do.

This doesn?t excuse his glaring lack of tactical nous, dithering, strange substitutions etc. But be fair, the man does have to work in a constricted environment. The questions are, how would he do if he did have money to play with? Would this stop his dithering?
Anthony Dyer
4   Posted 30/11/2008 at 18:06:57

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With the sad and bad news about the Yak it looks like we will be forced to play 4-5-1 for the rest of the season.

I missed the first 30 mins of the game so I don?t know how he came by his injury.

What I did see today was a brave and battling performance by all the players and they should be saluted for that.

But we now have to buy another Centre-Forward and perhaps it will lead to the departure of Arteta (who was much improved today) or Lescott.
Once again despite winning it has been another trying day for us Blues.
Denis Richardson
5   Posted 30/11/2008 at 18:02:20

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Well like it or not, with the Yak out for the season, Vaughan out until January and Saha out for a couple of weeks, we have no choice but to play 4-5-1 with Big Vic being the only fit striker left in the squad. Mabe this will be a blessing with Cahill coming back to form knowing he?s not playing in a 4-4-2. Either way, 3 points at The Lane again and 7th in the table ? after the pre-season and start we?ve had, I?ll take that at as we go into December. COYB.
Ped Pearl
6   Posted 30/11/2008 at 18:34:17

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It is a fact that we have played our best football over the last few seasons using a 4-4-1-1 with Cahil playing behind. However we have to get the midfield balance right with Felliani not the quickest. Arteta was better today playing a more central role.

Apart from that I am just sick of all the Moyes bashers on here... too easy a target. Through thick and thin I am a blue - I believe Moyes is still the best man out there for us. You cant agree with every decision any manager makes but in the long run we will come good again. The players played for their manager and the shirt today, something they have not done consistently this season... Lets hope they can keep up that same determination over the next few games.

Finally - wtf - I am gobsmaked at this post praising the shite... Hansen and Big Nose.. are you having a laugh?? I need to go lie down...
Vinny Garstrokes
7   Posted 30/11/2008 at 20:58:17

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That was an immense performance today and difficult to see how it could have happened after Monday night at the JJB. Jags and Tim Howard are turning out the kind of displays that put others to shame. Cometh the hour etc and I am sure that Victor will step up to the plate. Another turn on the rollercoaster ride that it being a Toffee. I was in bits when the Refs assistant put 6 minutes on the board but well done lads, I was very impressed and hope I am home in time to watch MotD2!!
Keith Glazzard
8   Posted 30/11/2008 at 21:37:35

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The idea that 4-4-2 is a more attacking strategy than 4-5-1 is simplistic. Anyone who uses the word ?hoofball? should know that. What we need is more passes to our own players, and Lescott or Baines on the left, and Cap?n Nev on the right can easily convert us into an eight man attacking force.

El maestro Mikel playing more centrally today ? more control, more quality and great result. Someone had to stop the "Harry Effect" ? glad it was us.
Steve Jones
9   Posted 01/12/2008 at 20:49:45

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Tim, I think Moyes bought Jagz to replace Carsley but unfortunately he looked lost in centre mid when he played there in the early part of last season hence Carsley was restored to the side. Carsley then chose to leave in the summer and Moyes couldn?t do anything to stop him. We clearly didn?t have the money to replace him until the Sky money came in and Johnson was sold hence the last minute arrivals of Felly & Castillo.

Jagz was tried there again early part of this season and again looked lost but is clearly better at centre back. Moyes clearly doesn?t fancy Castillo. He didn?t look any worse than Felly at Blackburn but hasn?t been given a chance since.

Have to agree on playing people out of position, If Lescott isn?t good enough to play centre back then he should be on the bench, he?s been at fault for a large number of our goals this season and it?s no coincidence that every team targets our left. Lescott drifts forward or to the centre too often.

Problem is Moyes accommodates players rather than going for a system and until that changes we?re going to continue to look disjointed and scrape results. Players out of position are more often than not dragged out of position and spend their time in 2 minds rather than playing their natural game.
Joe Rourke
10   Posted 02/12/2008 at 13:14:55

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Moyes played 4-4-2 in his first full season and rotated the midfielders... if you remember the line up: Gravesen, Li Tie, Linderoth, Gemmill, Carsley and even Steve Watson in midfield and Rads and Campbell up front... I thought Moyes adopted the formation to the players that year... no mention of 4-5-1.

Even the 4-5-1 he has used was been altered at different times... it was more like 4-1-3-1-1 in 2004-05. changing to 4-2-3-1 last year (for me). This year, I have no idea what he is up to the defensive part of the 5 man midfield has been totally abandoned.

I?d agree with Steve jones about Jags above too...
Joe Rourke
11   Posted 02/12/2008 at 13:35:40

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In para.1 above it should read ?he adapted?...

It's my general point really when he has adapted to the players available he has done better.

This year I have no clue what is thinking other than maybe that Wenger is inspiration and he is trying to buid a northern Arsenel with the ?midget gems? (by playing hoof-ball!?!)... I just dunno...

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