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Compare and Contrast?

By Steve Hogan :  19/10/2008 :  Comments (23) :
My job takes me to the Castellon region in Southern Spain quite a lot, for those of you not familiar with the area, it's often compared to Stoke-on-Trent... 'with sun.'

Most of europe's porcelain tiles are manufactured here and right in the middle sits the small town of Villarreal, population just 48,000. It has a rather glamorous near neighbour, Valencia, whose history and culture far outshines it's industrial cousin nearby.

Villarreal CF was formed in 1923, and up to the late 1990s, when it was promoted to the old Spanish 2nd division, had spent it's entire existence languishing in the Spanish 3rd and 4th divisions. Why is it then a small town club whose average gate is around 20,000, can regularly qualify for the Champions League and rub shoulders with Barcelona and Real Madrid?

The answer is almost entirely down to their manager, the Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who incidentally, had never managed in Europe prior to his appointment in July 2004. You see, it's quite simple really, he has developed a team who are comfortable with the ball and pass, pass, pass.

Not only that, the thought of playing balls long is apparently, according to my Spanish colleagues, not an option. He also managed to attract players such as Riquelme (now departed), Forlan and Sorin along the way. This, coupled with a sprinkling of Spanish players and a motley crew of low budget signings, and presto, a team that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2005-06, narrowly losing to Arsenal, and having dispatched Everton (with the help of Collina) along the way.

Why is it then that our own team, with vastly superior buying power and resources, can't do the same?

The answer I believe lies in the culture of the two managers: whilst one advocates possession as the way to progress as a team and as a way of playing football, the other favours a high tempo, pressing game where players are encouraged to play the 'hoofball' percentage game, and give away the ball rather cheaply. I am absolutely convinced the manager and coaches don't practice this feature on the training ground, how could they when we can't seem to make more than two/three passes at a time?

More alarmingly, we have never really seen any evidence during Moyes's six-year reign that he ever intends any of his Everton sides to adopt this practice, despite having a squad with much more ability than the one he inherited from Walter Smith in 2002. I feel we have the players (Arteta, Fellaini etc), but the manager has to dictate the overall pattern of the game when it comes to matchday.

Not surprisingly, Villarreal have just persuaded Pellegrini to extend his current deal to 2011. I don't think there will be any any shortage of takers when he does decide to leave at some time in the future.

Reader Comments

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Dave Wilson
1   Posted 20/10/2008 at 07:10:12

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Sorry Steve

You sound like Jim Bowen

"look at what you coulda won".
Stefan Tosev
2   Posted 20/10/2008 at 07:36:53

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You are joking right?!?

We have "vastly superior buying power and resources", have you just checked the low "budget signings" or even who stands behind Villarreal CF. If it was some journo ? I would have said lazy journalism and counter the points but as it is another FM stuff will just leave it.
Mark Stone
3   Posted 20/10/2008 at 08:33:44

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My life takes me to the Liverpool region of England a lot of the time. Within Liverpool contains the inner city district of Everton with a population of just 15237. It has a wealthy PR machine of a neighbour ... Liverpool FC who are widely regarded as one of the best known football brands not only in Europe, but in the world. Between 1992 and 2002, times were bleak for Everton. With growing debt and year after relegation battles their long standing love affair with the top flight of English football was under threat. However since 2002 there has been an upsurge in Everton's fortunes. Qualifying for the Champions League once and have enjoyed two successive seasons qualifying for the Uefa Cup.

Why is it then, that my team with equal (insert any of the following: Sunderland, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Boro, Bolton) if not vastly superior buying power and resources (insert any of the latter Spurs, Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa, Man City) finish below them year after year?

The answer I believe lies in the culture of the club and the qualities of the manager. Whilst Everton have stuck with their manager whilst their team have temporarily styruggled with form, other teams have chopped and changed manager to little avail. Everton?s manager has built his team gradually over the years, each season recognising his team's limitations and adapted style of play to suit their own strengths. Whilst individual players are currently suffering a run of poor form, this manager has proven his ability to grind performances from his players and it is surely only a matter of time until the results start coming again.
Richard Dodd
4   Posted 20/10/2008 at 09:23:59

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Could I respectfully suggest that if all you crave is pretty-pretty football you switch your allegiance to Arsenal ? although they don?t win much these days either! Teams at the very top of the Prem gave up on your romantic approach years ago ? Chelsea?s billionaires are as direct as it?s possible to be ? and Davey, like Allardyce, Brown and Hughes, realises that with comparitively limited players, we HAVE to go route one. It?s interesting that when we are winning, it?s perfectly acceptable but dare to lose a few and it?s all down to the style of play!

As somebody said on here a few days ago, the ?beautiful game? has only been seen from Everton over a few games since the days of Carey and Catterick (yawn, yawn). Pragmatism rules in the Prem. Get used to it!

Mike Southworth
5   Posted 20/10/2008 at 10:07:09

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Richard, we don?t have to go route one at all. BUT if we do then we need to do it in a way that allows us to retain possession. On Saturday afternoon I watched Hibbert and Jagielka attempt route one time and time again - and every time Arsenal came straight back through the middle on the floor with either direct running on the ball or quick slick passing and great off the ball running.

Route one will only work if the midfield are following up quickly to pick up the knock downs from the lone striker.
John Andrews
6   Posted 20/10/2008 at 09:59:29

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Dodd again, Aaaaaaaaaargh.
It has obviously escaped your attention that we have still to win a home game. We have also served up some of the most dire football/hoofball that I have ever seen from an Everton side. I am fortunate in that I have seen Everton win plenty and with some sort of style. However that style is not only lacking but completely non-existent !

Perhaps the difference between us and Arsenal, Chelsea etc., is that they manage to keep possession of the ball where as we, Jagielka in particular, does not know the meaning of keeping possession. The motto of our club at the moment seems to be lash it to all four corners of the ground! And as quickly as possible.

It has also, possibly, escaped your notice, Dodd, but we are 16th in the table at the moment and should the barcodes beat Man City this evening then we will be 17th.
Good eh?

Ciaran Duff
7   Posted 20/10/2008 at 10:09:10

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Not sure the financial comparisons with Villareal are quite correct but I do think that you have a point about our style of football. We AS A TEAM do not look comfortable in possession. We have some individuals who are skillful but as a team we don?t play a possession type system. When a defender has a the ball do we see 2 or 3 guys looking for the ball? Are we comfortable to play across the back line without having to resort to playing back to Howard to hoof it up? Do we play the ball into forwards feet and look to bring midfielders into the box? Shit no.

This is not about "pretty, pretty" football - its about controlling the game. We continually gave the ball away on Saturday and allowed Arsenal a huge amount of possession and it was only a matter of time before we cracked under that pressure.

Steve Hogan
8   Posted 20/10/2008 at 10:43:57

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Stefan, for the record, I have never claimed to have any journalistic prowess, I’m merely stating the facts.

The guy who runs Villarreal is Fernando Roig Alfonso, who made his money in tiles, Perhaps you would like to compare their spend on transfer fees over the last two years and what Moyes has spent?
Steve Hogan
9   Posted 20/10/2008 at 10:55:47

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Richard, I quite enjoy you labelling me a ’romantic’ when it comes to Everton.

Is it really too much to ask that our team is capable of just retaining possession and capable of actually pasing the ball on a regular basis?

Somehow, I don’t think it’s me that’s wearing the rose (blue) tinted glasses.
Tony Pickering
10   Posted 20/10/2008 at 11:00:28

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On the Jagielka = hoofball front, in mitigation for him, I noted on Saturday (particularly second half) that the midfielders rarely seem to come and give options to him, or the other back players, hence they often don?t have much choice other than to hoof it upfield.

Hoofball works if you build your team around it like Bolton did ? no fun to watch for purists but often very effective. Moyes seems to have got some good ball-players together who need a more pass and move approach to get the best from them. Sadly it does not often appear to be how they are told to go and play.

Ste Kenny
11   Posted 20/10/2008 at 11:54:01

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Richard Dodd,

If you are suggesting Everton should try and emulate Bolton, Hull and Blackburn (that's where those managers made their names) your an even bigger idiot than I assumed you were. These teams all adapted that style in an attempt to stay up and all have or will try to sign more technically gifted players in an attempt to change their style of play after they consolidate their position in the top division. They are the types of club where you go and sing "shit ground no fans" etc. If that's how you see Everton, I'm worried.

Did you see what Chelsea done to Boro this weekend. I'm certain your a wind up merchant who posts to get people's backs up.

How could any so-called fan not want their team to play good football and instead shout the merits of route 1 shite!!!!.

Your assertion that pragmatism rules in the prem is completely false as we will probably find out against Man utd this weekend, the team who have ruled the prem by playing quality football on the floor.
Ron Hill
12   Posted 20/10/2008 at 12:11:11

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I’d say that the flaw in your argument is quite simply is if we HAVE to play hoofball then why aren’t we any good at it. The last team I remember playing this way effectively was Sunderland under Reid with Quinn and Phillips up front. Also when a manager cites a lack of money has the root of all his troubles when his team is unmotivated and not doing the basics right, in whatever system, then he’s lost my confidence irrespective of who that manager is, as fundamentally football is still a simple game.
David Bodian
13   Posted 20/10/2008 at 13:10:16

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I agree with the tone and conclusion of Steve Hogan’s article. Route one / hoofball is definitely out. Were’t we once the School of Science? Does the memory of Harvey, Ball and Kendall mean anything to anyone these days? I sometimes watch players from my son’s academy in Stevenage? These would be 15-16 year olds and their skills and possession are breathtaking. Where do we go wrong between ages 16 - 18? We have some great talent coming through from the Everton Academy. Let’s not waste it. More articles are needed that praise the "beautiful" game as played by teams who can pass the ball.
Carleton Wright
14   Posted 20/10/2008 at 13:22:32

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I do think there is some point to Richard?s arguement although as ever he is confused. Route One was played very effectively (and attractively) just after the War by Wolves and Arsenal. BUT they had players who could pass 40 yards out of defence with complete accuracy, viz Cullis, Wright, Scott and Barnes. What the managers he mentions do ? like Moyes ? is not the same. They just play the percentages ? close down, clear the lines, get rid ? the sort of stuff you see in the Unibond and below. Only Mowbray of the lesser team managers seeks to play real football ? it will be interesting to see if his team survives.
Jay Harris
15   Posted 20/10/2008 at 14:41:39

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You just beat me to it.

I totally agree. Long ball played the Arsenal way means it is directed to/at one of your own players.

Long ball (Hoofball) played the Everton way means it is just booted up the pitch into a space where there are no Everton players within 30 feet.

It used to be said that most goals were scored with just 3 touches i.e 30-yard passes but football is so quick and tight these days that I?m sure most goals are scored by quick short interplay and getting round the back of the opposition.
Steven Flynn
16   Posted 20/10/2008 at 15:52:39

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Great post, Steve. I have been on here before about Pellegrino, he has rebulit this Villarreal team since we played them, but the style of football remains the same, ie, quick passing on the floor with plenty of movement around the player in possession.
Connor Rohrer
17   Posted 20/10/2008 at 18:01:16

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Richard Dodd,

The likes of Hughes and Allardyce played effective hoofball. They had physical teams and they used a target man (Davies, Santa Cruz). We use Yakubu, a player who struggles to get off the ground. The Yak’s a quality player but he’s not a target man.

No one is asking for pretty, pretty football all we want is a bit of ball retention. A few passes stringed together and a bit of movement of the ball.

At the moment we aren’t even doing the basics, we struggle to keep hold of the ball.
Alan Kirwin
18   Posted 21/10/2008 at 01:17:47

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Steve: Good article and totally agree, both with your assessment of Moyes?s failings and with the achievement of Villarreal (Champions League SF by the way).

The mockers on here miss the point as usual. It has nothing to do with pretty football (although some form of aesthetic would help the spirit), it has everything to do with effective football that gets results and which players enjoy I?d like to hear (from those who have missed the point) regarding teams who play the "pressing" or "hoof ball" style who have won anything in recent years. Seems to me that all the glory goes to teams who KEEP THE BALL.

I have been greatly impressed by Pellegrino since we did battle with the Yellow Submarines 3 years ago. I thought he and his team conducted themselves brilliantly and was disappointed they fell at the SF stage. He has clearly maintained momentum and style on a modest budget.

In fact you can take the argument further with Arsenal. They spend only a fraction of what Chelsea, Liverpool and ManU spend (and even Man City, Villa & Sunderland). Wenger blends players into a consistent style of play. It doesn?t matter who plays for Arsenal, the approach is basically the same, superb first touch, keep the ball, attack space and keep moving. It?s not only great to watch but invariably it is successful.

I am not as critical of Moyes as some. But in addition to dropping the ball for 3 months this summer (I blame him for the shit start, not Kenwright), he is endorsing a style of play that is ugly, unsuccessful and patently unenjoyable for the players.

As you rightly point out Steve, it doesn?t have to be this way.
Derek Thomas
19   Posted 21/10/2008 at 07:10:35

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The whole trouble with Moyes is he just doesn’t know...know what style he wants to play (the answer is you play the system that best fits the stengths of your avaliable players ) THUS what his best 11 is.

If any one needed a director of FOOTBALL and player recruitment guru it’s him.

Re Richard Dodd ( yawn yawn ) The world can be divided in to two...Those you don’t have to tell and those you CAN’T tell... be it saying please and thank you, picking your nose in public, or why decent football is to be admired and aspired to.
Ciarán McGlone
20   Posted 21/10/2008 at 10:01:10

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I would?ve thought there was quite a significant link between ?good football? and ?effective football?. But obviously anyone who subscribes to this theory is quite clearly ?missing the point? proferred by higher authority.
Tim Lloyd
21   Posted 21/10/2008 at 17:22:06

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In their various ways, all the posters to this thread, require the same thing. A team like Arsenal when attacking and like Man. Utd. when defending.

The problem is we haven’t got such a team. Still our biggest drawback is the midfield. People like Jags.,is a great stopper but I believe our main ’hoofer’. There are two reasons for this, (1) he’s no ball player and (2) the midfield is rarely available for him to pass to.

Unfortunately, Yobo, Hibbert and Lescott, to different degrees, are not what I would call comfortable with the ball at their feet. I don’t think their first instinct is the big ’wellie’ upfield, as it does appear Jags seems to be so guilty of, but even the others don’t seem to manage to look at ease with the ball at their feet.

The accent should be on the midfield calling for the ball from the defenders and making themselves available to collect it.

In the 2nd half against Arsenal, Felliani seemed to have stopped running completely, Leon Osman looked really shagged out, I hardly noticed Arteta, maybe he had gone home. The only midfield player apparently still active was Pienaar.

When the midfield is like that, the defence is left with few alternatives but hoof ball.

I’m quite sure Moyes does not advocate these tactics, they are forced on to this way of clearing the ball from their own Penalty area because the sensible alternative is not available to them.

Hopefully Felliani, when fully fit and the return of Castillo, will sort out this problem to some degree.
Stuart Reid
22   Posted 21/10/2008 at 23:13:42

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I think a lot of Villareal?s success is down to good quality players, many of them young, from South America. These players are usually cheap as they are not yet internationals. Unfortunately this precludes them from getting a work permit in the UK; this is not a problem in Spain.

If you want an example of how cheap you can get players from South and Central America look no further than Palacios at Wigan (one of the few cheap players who is an international.) He is now attracting reported £15m interest from Man U.

Connor Rohrer
23   Posted 22/10/2008 at 02:24:43

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Palacios was scouted by Arsenal, he had a trial there aswell. Wenger turned him down but recommended him to Bruce. Bruce bought him to Birmingham and then too Wigan.

He looks a very good player, exactly what we need. A bit of strength and quality.

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