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Tactics for Winning and Losing

By Jim Hourigan :  13/02/2010 :  Comments (62) :
After the roller-coaster of the last week, it is easy to be drawn into reactions from specific games — Liverpool garbage; Chelsea fantastic, etc... but let's step back and look at the tactics and performances over a longer period of time. No one doubts that we have progressed immeasurably since the days of Smith, but let's not use that as a benchmark — that was our nadir of the modern game. Comparisons against that or any other era are irrelevant because they are out of context.

It is also probably true to say that generally we are all in far happier states of mind because we win more games than during that period. But the games we win are by and large against all but the Sky 4 and I agree with the comments that we are not part of that club (yet) so to compare against them is unrealistic. Equally, comparing tactics and quality of football with them is probably unfair.

But let's look at the way we play against the rest and look at Moyes’s tactics. In all games he plays with one forward — even against the bottom 3, home or away. How many times have you turned up to a match in the last 3/4 years against a patently inferior side at home and seen him play a different formation? Have you not sat there and wished ’we would have a go’ or ’look to get at teams’?

Football is ultimately very simple — the team that scores more goals wins. Moyes and others like Allardyce turn that around to "if you don’t concede you can't lose" and "statistically, more goals come from set plays than open play"... therefore, defend first and foremost and see what happens.

I know for a fact having spoken at length to Alan Stubbs, that as a player training / tactics concentrated on the ability to defend and stop the opposition. He has said that hours would be spent defending set pieces, and general defensive play and that in comparison little effort was put into the attacking dimension. The creative players were left to ’decide themselves’ how to attack the defenders with little structured organised attacking play.

Those training sessions are mirrored in the way we play. Solid, defensive and hard to beat, a reliance on set pieces and in general a single style of play. Hence the type of performance against the Liverpool. They lose a player, drop deep and leave one player up front. How does Moyes and the team respond? — no change... and then two up front when we’re losing and long balls — can anyone say that was unexpected and not totally in character for the way we have played under Moyes?

If you accept this style against the Sky 4 is justified (which I don’t), how can it be justified at Wigan, or against Birmingham or Blackburn? If it's purely to win at all costs, then we will continue to generally beat the teams in the bottom half and will never challenge the Sky 4 or even the the new top 6.

Those tactics will never win trophies because of the one fundamental flaw that this premise is based upon — to win a trophy, you have to know how to win games — not how to avoid losing them.

In all games, players make mistakes; if they lead to a goal against then you have to know how to score and have players with the tactical knowledge of how that is achieved.

Under Moyes, the players are not coached that way and therefore you get the Liverpool and Chelski results. Against the Liverpool, Howard at fault and we don’t know how to score and lose; against Chelski two poor mistakes from Terry (very rare for two in the same game from a Sky 4 club) and we defend and win.

Finally, look at Wigan away, rubbish match, poor play from both sides and we win from a set piece. Moyes to a Tee.

Reader Comments

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Mike Gwyer
1   Posted 13/02/2010 at 10:49:42

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Excellent post and IMO you state precisely how EFC footy is played.

The “what next scenario” really is Moyes’s call; with the number of player options he has available, and game plans that are not always defence related, he could do with assistance in this area.

I definitely feel that Moyes is limited, regarding the attacking prowess of EFC and especially against the Sky 4 mob. They all know that we are the set-piece kings, and that we attack down the left side with Pienaar; however, with the availability of Donovan, Bily and Arteta we now have many more options.

Moyes needs someone with the key to open up our attacking potential and Moyes must know that he is not that man.
Rory Slingo
2   Posted 13/02/2010 at 15:13:30

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A good offense is the best defense. It doesn’t matter how many goals the other team scores, as long as you score one more than them. We have the creative players to follow that philosophy now, so I think it’s high time we changed mindset during training and shift the emphasis from defense to offense.

Clean sheets used to be the emphasis when we were stabilising the ship and just aiming to stay in the Premier League each year. But now we’ve done that, to kick on and win things we need to start learning how to attack and how to win games. Clean sheets don’t win trophies; goals do.

Chris Halliday
3   Posted 13/02/2010 at 16:18:32

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Totally agree. I think I heard that until Chelsea we have not come from behind to win a game for 6 years in the league. Which, if true, backs up Jim’s theory.

Now I know sometimes you have to grind wins together and keep it solid, but it would be nice to see him unleash his flair players (or two forwards) against inferior teams at home. How often do we see 11 men behind the ball and Saha out wide when we are defending? No wonder we never score on the break as we have no-one up front when it breaks out.

Effeciency is the name of the game for Moyes, which as I said is fine sometimes, but we do need to develop different way of playing, as to avoid the Liverpool debacle. Finally, still can’t believe Moyes is still saying we played well against the Shite. Very worrying.
Kevin Hudson
4   Posted 13/02/2010 at 16:32:57

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Erm. Wigan at home this season? One down with half-an-hour to go... 2-1 win.
Mike Green
5   Posted 13/02/2010 at 17:01:05

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Great piece Jim, spot on.

However, defensive teams can and do win though — George Graham, anyone? The first thing any manager worth his salt does is buy himself the best 'keeper money can buy, followed by the best striker.

I’m with you with Moyes though, some of the performances are downright embarrassing in their lack of ambtion and then, once in a blue moon (pun not intended), we get the kind of performance we got against Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Also, home games in Europe Moyes seems to be far more willing to go for it I’d say.

Moyes might say he’s not got the players to compete playing an attacking game... so this is how he has to do it but I’d say this would be misjudged. The guy was a centre-half and he’s built the team in his image.
Chris Halliday
6   Posted 13/02/2010 at 17:09:35

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You could well be right, Kev, but it certinaly doesn’t happen often, which tells me we’re more a ’take the lead team and keep hold of it’, which is a method that needs progressing into a more attacking system if we’re going to make the step up.
Craig Wilson
7   Posted 13/02/2010 at 17:58:26

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While we would all like to play the Arsenal way, the sad fact is winning and the rewards are more important, especially the financial rewards in this day and age.

Funnily enough, Arsenal have won nothing over the last 4/5 years playing that way and now the supporters are having a good old moan about it .

Tom Fearon
8   Posted 13/02/2010 at 17:55:43

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I am really glad that creative players are left to themselves to decide how to attack. That is the point of creativity and it should not be stiffled. This is a bold and praiseworthy strategy. The fact that DM was a centre half is irrelevant. Is there evidence from other managers to show that having played in this position limits attack-mindedness? It would, however, be great if we had more creative players.
Mike Green
9   Posted 13/02/2010 at 18:13:27

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Tom - I dont think it is irrelevant.

Who was the last goalkeeper to make a great manager?

(There’ll be one now, won't there....)
Art Jones
10   Posted 13/02/2010 at 18:34:41

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I think your chat with Alan Stubbs was when he played? Because that's certainly how we played the season we finished 4th and around that time... the playing with one forward theory doesn’t hold water any more. Cahill is not played as a midfielder, he’s a 2nd striker and often drops back into midfield when a forward is brought on off the bench. Landon Donovan is primarily a forward, Pienaar can hardly be regarded as defensive minded and indeed Bainsey is an excellent overlapping left back and delivers some great crosses.

Earlier in the season the injuries dictated our pattern of play. We were awful against our neighbours, granted, but versus City, Chelsea and Arsenal we were the better team and deserved a victory in these games and were only denied that by 2 Arsenal deflections. We now have a team, when fit, that opponents, whoever they are cannot think of resting players because it's "only Everton" and our lesser opponents treat a result against us as a feather in their cap, not just a point gained.

Give credit where it’s due, the Sky 4 all have had bad games... why should we be immune?

Jim Bean
11   Posted 13/02/2010 at 18:32:13

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We are on a different level to when Stubbs was playing. A 5-man midfield isn't defensive, it's modern tactics... not like that luddite O’Neill at Villa: 4-4-2 with 2 wingers, defend all game then rely on pace for counter-attack. Jumpers for goalposts. We pass the ball better than anyone outside top 4; control the midfield; defend properly... that's why we finished 5th for two years running.
Brian Waring
12   Posted 13/02/2010 at 19:12:37

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Moyes’s problem is that he never has a plan B when things are not working out, you only have to look how negative he was after the shite went down to 10 men. I actually think he thought we were one-nil up, he was that negative.
Chris Matheson
13   Posted 13/02/2010 at 20:36:08

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Jim, I agree with your post. It should be a major cause for concern that we rely so heavily on set pieces for our goals.

Our attacking strategy is one dimensional: play the ball out wide then send a cross in. Nothing wrong with wing play per se, except when it is the only tactic. We rarely play the ball through the middle and on the ground. Few of our players (Saha, Osman and Rodwell) will have a shot from the edge of the box. Most of the time we have to pass it in and this passing is almost square.

We are too slow in the build up: we play too many square balls, and however good our passing is, too many passes are to feet and not to space in front of the man. In fact, too many of our passes are to waist height, meaning the player wastes time controlling the ball before moving it on.

But hey, that’s all OK as long as we don’t concede!
Peter Wilson
14   Posted 13/02/2010 at 20:53:31

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Jim, it does my head in when Moyes is described as negative for playing one up front, even against so-called lesser teams.

There is actually very little difference between 4-4-2, 4-5-1 and 4-3-3, or perhaps more accurately there are only very subtle differences.

Very few teams play with the traditional two strikers up front any more. Utd or Chelsea certainly don’t. In the modern game players are required to be much more fluid than that. It's above movement not just formations.

For us, what’s the difference between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2? Cahill (or whoever) being about 10 or 15 yards further forward when we have the ball – that's all. Equally 4-3-3 sounds really attacking, but is actually the same as 4-5-1 with the wide players pushed up a little bit and dropping back in when required to defend.

The second striker, and the intelligence of the other midfielders, really are the key to how the whole thing works or doesn’t. Over the years, the likes of Sheringham, Beardsley, Bergkamp have played that split striker role and in doing so dropped deep into midfield, picking the ball up and playing in the hole where defender don’t really want to pick them up, but crucially also providing an extra man when their team doesn’t have the ball. Soft Lad at Utd does it brilliantly.

One up front is only negative where the rest of the midfielders do not have the intelligence or pace to join in and support. And lack of pace is still our biggest problem in my opinion. In fact, I can't think of a slower team in the Premier League. Generally we are poor at breaking on teams, we can’t get behind them easily and that reduces our options tactically when we need to try something else.

David Booth
15   Posted 13/02/2010 at 20:39:17

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Er, what part do the players play in all this? Why are they never to blame?

Are they pre-programmed robots with no powers of self-determination and the ability to improvise and do what they’re paid to do?

Does anyone seriously believe David Moyes would prefer to defend and nick a point, than win convincingly whenever possible?

Yes, he may attempt to keep things tight and ’have what we hold’ on occasions — but this constant portrait of him as a dour, defensive, over-cautious, backward-thinking, defeatist is so unfair and inaccurate. As it the repetitive assertion that it’s always HIS fault.

Only Manchester United and Arsenal and Spurs (every four or five games), play expansive football anymore.

Chelsea are machine-like efficient, City hapless and increasingly hopeless, Villa entirely defensive/long ball breakaway.

And we all know what Liverpool’s current modus operandi is and they share the same training manual as Birmingham City.

Then there’s us. Returning to full strength, just two (hugely unjustified) defeats in our last 11 league games, climbing the table steadily, still in Europe and the best squad we’ve had for years — with an abundance of creative, attacking players within it (as well as some excellent defenders too).

Yet still there always seems to be an undercurrent on here grumbling and moaning in the background.

Right here, right now, at Everton FC, can you think of anyone who could do a better job?

We’d all love to be top of the league and flattening all before us. In the mercenary muddle that is Premier League football right now though, that is not possible. But pound-for-pound, no-one gets more for their money than Moyes.
Keith Glazzard
16   Posted 13/02/2010 at 21:04:24

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So Terry’s mistakes won us the Chelsea game? Is this Match of the Day?

"Football is ultimately very simple — the team that scores more goals wins." It might be that simple if, for example, officials didn’t chalk off perfectly good goals (I could go on about Collinas and Clattenbergs but I won’t).

In any case, while the Brits expected ’The Matthews Final’, or somesuch once a year, people like the Italians were working out that if you kept a clean sheet, you got a result, plus a chance of winning. And prospered.

The great Brazil teams of football lore didn’t come only with Pele and Garrincha, but with rock hard athletic defenders — all of them capable of passing short, long, or into Row F when needs be.

Distin’s fabulous long pass to find Saha, his chest contol (reminiscent of Pele) and bending power shot past the keeper against Chelsea become a ’Terry mistake’. Oh, and one comment I read said he hit it straight at the keeper, who also made a mistake.

Had it been Pele and Co who did it, they would still be showing it on TV now.
Dick Fearon
17   Posted 13/02/2010 at 22:13:16

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Coaches in modern football put a great deal of effort and thought on how their strikers might glimpse the goal posts. Tactics have developed to such an extent that penalty area one-on-ones are unimaginable. Strikers of Saha’s class can only drool of being in those situations.

Was it over-confidence on Chelsea’s part that presented Saha with a one-on-one against Terry... not once but twice? can imagine coaches up and down the country using footage of those goals as a lesson on defensive bloopers.
Full praise for the sublime way Saha took advantage of Terry’s two mistakes. A lesser skilled player could easily have stuffed them up.
Keith Glazzard
18   Posted 13/02/2010 at 22:49:00

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Goal 1: Donovan’s corner passed Lampard, who was put there to avoid this kind of thing, and amazingly found the run of Saha. Terry was left out. Finch Farm.

Goal 2: Distin - Saha - chest - foot - Petre picks ball out of net.

Strikers such as Saha normally miss in those situations (no matter how many millions they cost). Our lad kept up his percentage, and won us the game. (Baines should have taken the pen.)

Do you really think that defensive players can be shown something they’ve never been shown already? "Watch out in case someone hits a 35 yard pass from deep LMF".

"Yes, boss."

"Have you tied your shoelaces?"

"Yes, boss."

I could go on.

Jay Harris
19   Posted 14/02/2010 at 00:04:23

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All of a sudden we all know more than the LMA manager of the year 3 times and a consistent top 6 team manager.

And all that with having to sell star players off and operate within one of the prem’s lowest budgets.

I am not what is commonly called a Moyes apologist, in fact I think he’s a good but not great manager but, compared to the gobshite over the road who’s spent over £200 million and is considered a god by the kopites, I think you guys should give Moyes a break.

Look at the teams who have gone down playing attacking football: West Brom, West Ham, Southhampton, Wolves and this season Portsmouth.

Moyes knows he can't afford top quality players with pace and has established a way of paying within the players' limitations.

Until we get Man City type finances I think it's unreal to expect more.

I’ve been watching EFC for over 50 years and played at a decent level myself but we really need to leave it to the professionals to decide how to play instead of playing Fantasy Manager.
Martin Paice
20   Posted 14/02/2010 at 00:04:39

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’Football is ultimately very simple’, personally I think the opposite is true now, most teams know how to set up not to lose; Greece in the Euros and Chelsea under Mourhinio are prime examples.

The 80s, Howard Kendall's ethos of if you score 3, we’ll score 4, were well and truly over with Kegan's barcodes in the 90s.

We’ve had our moments in the last few years of playing some fantastic free flowing football, but it has only been moments. Let’s face it would you rather take the broadsheet acolades thrown at wenger for the last few years yet winning fuck all, or a Europa League Cup won with a blood, sweat (moments of quality) and nearly tears like the win on Wednesday?

We’re Everton, it’s never easy, and if it was it wouldn’t mean so much.
Rory Slingo
21   Posted 14/02/2010 at 05:06:51

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Tom Fearon, I agree with you that creativity should not be stifled but it must also be nurtured or else it will wither and die. The more attacking tactics they are taught, the more knowledge their creative brains will have to work with and create something magical out of the spur of the moment. opportunities for individual moments of brilliance on the pitch come by very rarely nowadays.

Working out how to take apart defenses creatively by working together with your teammates should be a priority at training. It’s just like with learning music, you first have to practice something over and over again in a rigid, methodical manner until it becomes second nature. When you don’t have to think about what you’re doing and your body just does it automatically, that’s when magic happens.

Dick Fearon
22   Posted 14/02/2010 at 08:24:02

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Creative players play inspirational football and it only works when the whole team is on the same wave length. Too often we see the maestro of the team bamboozling opponents and team mates alike.

All managers strive to harness his teams and mould them into a potent unified force. It is naive to expect managers to drill most of the team in various situations that could arise while telling one or two others just to go out there and skin em’.
Tom Fearon
23   Posted 14/02/2010 at 08:41:31

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Some years ago Jack Charlton said that he had a nightmare of the way football was going. It would end with meticulously coached sides playing out 0-0 draws which no-one wanted to watch.

Creative players need to make up their minds on the pitch and not merely obey instructions. They need to have the ability to unlock drilled defences by doing the unorthodox. Yes, they practice, and it is vital that the less creative know how to occupy the right space for them to exploit. The magic happens when gifted players produce the unexpected after thinking things out for themselves, not merely by acting automatically.

Mike Gwyer
24   Posted 14/02/2010 at 09:52:38

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I do not think anyone is saying "replace Moyes". IMO Moyes is a solid manager but managers can also have a small team of specialist coaches who, in this instance, would excel in the art of "attacking footy".

Additionally, no-one is slagging Moyes off, well not till we lose, but we can all see that our attacking capabilities are extremely limited — mostly set pieces or the long ball. With the current mob of attacking players currently contracted to EFC, it would seem to me that we should have many options and something Moyes could look into. I mean most of the top teams have attacking, defensive and goalkeeping coaches. Why can’t we?
Kevin Gillen
25   Posted 14/02/2010 at 09:52:19

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I don’t agree, Jim, but I respect your point of view.

Some things are excluded from your argument. In my view, when Yakubu was fit, playing one up-front provided more attacking opportunities than when we had two players standing up front. We were able to flood the midfield, pass the ball and keep possession and the wide players had space to run into and score.

Yakubu has been a massive disappointment since his injury and Saha is more direct and not a hold-up player. Donovan, Pienaar, Arteta, Cahill and Osman are all capable attacking midfield players.

We don’t have the resources of the top four clubs or for that matter the resources of Spurs, Man City, Aston Villa or Newcastle. That we have consistently out performed those clubs is a miracle and when I take a look at our personnel I think Moyes has performed a miracle to get some of the players he has to commit to our club.

I don’t believe it is in our power to overtake the top four without significant and sustained investment. It is in their power to give it up though and I feel we are beginning to see signs of them creaking.

I can’t think of any other manager I would want to take our club forward with our budget. I don’t think it’s fair either to dismiss the Smith/Knox comparison. They are the best Scotland mangement team and they took us to the brink of oblivion with an aged squad and pedestrian football. I remember Pembridge being played on the wing and Evertonians begging the ref to send him off he was that bad (he did play some fine games in the middle — respect to him).

I ask, who else would you trust our future to in the current climate?

Chris Matheson
26   Posted 14/02/2010 at 10:24:06

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Kevin, you make good points and despite my criticisms above I am pro-Moyes: work that one out if you can! There was a great article on here a few weeks back entitled "The Moyes Conundrum" which succinctly summed up my feelings: I know we are better off with him and have fared much better with him than without in what is a radically changed football landscape to what it used to be.

I just wish he wasn’t so cautious: it is really dangerous to rely as heavily as we do on set pieces.

For example, why does the whole team have to be in the area to defend a corner? Why can’t we leave one man on the half-way line to break quickly?

It is the over-riding caution that I sometimes despair at.
Stephen Williams
27   Posted 14/02/2010 at 10:32:28

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Jim, as far back as two years and also 7 months ago on ToffeeWeb and as recently as yesterday (before reading your post today Sunday), I had noticed all our coaching staff were ex defenders and asking myself who was coaching the attacking side of things.

I researched all of the staff and we had 1 guy who's limited experience was as a sub for Leeds in the 70s whose name I will leave out... he played in midfield; all the others are defenders.

Even though I was aware of the situation, I was shocked at the comment by Stubbs (that the creative players were left to decide for themselves) WHAT?

I have ever since the 70s (and after his playing days for Arsenal) followed the fortunes of Liam Brady, who for the best part of Wenger's reign presided over the coaching of their youth system. As recently as yesterday, it was reported he was departing from the ROI coaching set-up... Remember France away, where they played them off the park for parts of the game, only for the hand of god to intervene?

it would be fantastic, I thought, for him to do for us at Finch Farm what he did for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. This must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Stephen Williams
28   Posted 14/02/2010 at 10:50:12

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Peter Wilson, I could not agree more with your post. We are the slowest team in the Prem and at Wigan but for poor finishing, Wigan would have buried us.
Kevin Gillen
29   Posted 14/02/2010 at 11:14:04

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I do sometimes wonder why he is so cautious, Chris. I suppose football is a multi-million pound business, he is a stoic Scot and is naturally risk averse. But I think the answer also lies with the players. When Chelsea went 2-1 behind last Wednesday they threw everything into attack. They learnt to react strongly under Mourinho. We don’t have their talent all over the pitch.
Phil Hamer
30   Posted 14/02/2010 at 11:23:14

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Jim, those comments you have attributed to a ’lengthy conversation’ with Alan Stubbs sound remarkably similar to the comments he made in the media a few years ago in praise of Moyes’ defensive coaching. I very much doubt that Stubbs told you, or anyone else, that..

..’in comparison little effort was put into the attacking dimension. The creative players were left to ’decide themselves’ how to attack the defenders with little structured organised attacking play.’

I’m sorry but an employee of Everton Football Club wouldn’t come out with those derogatory comments about his boss to anyone, least of all during a ’lengthy conversation’ with a fan.

As for your comments on the 4-5-1 formation, Peter Wilson has hit the nail on the head. In this day and age it is not a negative formation, in fact it allows more scope for attacking midfielders to break into the penalty area. On Wednesday versus Chelsea, we saw the worst and the best of that formation. To start with the midfield were terrified of pushing up to support Saha, so we were left with a genuine 4-5-1 and couldn’t get out of our half. Something clicked after 25 minutes and suddenly the midfielders started doing their job, ie pushing forward and forcing Chelsea backwards. The rest of the game was a brilliant example of how well 4-5-1 can work.

Please don’t undermine that brilliant performance by saying that we only won due to two defensive errors. Almost every goal scored is due to a defensive error somewhere. It is the pressure you put on the opposing teams that creates those errors and enables you to score goals. You could quite easily look at any of Man Utd’s routine 4-0 wins and say that there were ’just four defensive errors’. It just doesn’t work like that.

I’m sorry but your post reads to me like a naive rant dressed up as a ’thoughtful comment’.
Phil Bellis
31   Posted 14/02/2010 at 12:34:14

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Chris... I bang on so much about not leaving a player (hence two opponents) on the half-way line when defending corners, I’m boring myself now...

And don’t start me on throw-ins... did you see against Chelsea how, without Fellaini’s mop to aim at, we were even more static than usual. Chelsea threw to unmarked players who continually moved into space.

I worry when such basic tactics are ignored.
Jim Hourigan
32   Posted 14/02/2010 at 12:18:31

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Phil, if you re read my article, you will see that I never actually refer to any system other than playing with one forward. No mention of 4-5-1, 4-4-1-1 or 4-1-4-1 or any other combination that you would like to mention.

As regards my conversation with Stubbs, that took place at a Sportman’s Dinner with Alan on the top table with myself and four other people. Alan was never derogatory or critical of Moyes, he was in fact drooling over how successful the defenders where and how they could spend 2 hours and not concede a goal. He was praising the training and not challenging it — it was my comments about what he said that highlight the ethos behind the approach.

He said that they did not take midfield players aside to coach attacking play, nor did they specifically work on counter attacking or anything else. Set-pieces were practiced a lot as well as getting onto second balls and knockdowns. Infer from that what you will — just as I have done.

Tactically, Moyes plays only one way and that is to defend first, then ’hope’ to get something from a set piece, an error or a long ball.

I don’t think Chelsea was a brilliant performance but I do think it was a brilliant result. We were battered for 25 mins at the start and it felt like Chelsea could score at any time if they really wanted to. We started getting at them a lot more after that and began to close down their space and hence got more into the game. We were never comfortable and did not pass the ball around with the same level of skill and precision that Chelsea did.

The last 15 mins was a bit hairy and we defended well; that does not make it a brilliant performance in my book but I do recognise that it was good defensive play. What we showed was a greater desire and a greater commitment than some of their players... and, let's be honest, if they had scored the same 2 goals against us, how many of us would be applauding the goals and how many would be critical of our defending? Even John Terry has admitted in his programme notes yesterday that he was to blame.

A 'rant' or a 'comment' is irrelevant because, as it does not coincide with your view, you can dismiss it, but 'naive' I would challenge. Perhaps you also need to reflect on how simplistically you have read the article.

Stephen Williams
33   Posted 14/02/2010 at 13:33:51

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Jim, having read your post I went away to reflect on your main points...

Did Moyes teach Fellaini how to pirouette around Bellamy? No; these sort of skills are impulsive and cannot be taught or coached.

Maybe like Sir Richard Branson, Moyes gives his creative players free reign to express themselves... who knows.

Stewart Littler
34   Posted 14/02/2010 at 13:53:59

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Jim, your inference that Everton basically do not practise attacking play is frankly ridiculous. Me thinks Stubbsy was
a) pissed;
b) having you on;
c) never invited to the attacking sessions cos his manager knew that he was there for one job and one job only — to defend

Of our shots on target on Weds, one came from a cross from the right, one from a cross from the left, one from a long ball forward, one from a set-piece and one from a penalty kick, which was won after a defense-splitting ball down the middle. If that’s not variety, I don’t know what is.
Aleksandar Jovanovic
35   Posted 14/02/2010 at 14:02:56

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I agree that we should definitely focus on passing play in training as we look to be without any self confidence when passing the ball on the pitch and we even lose it many times in the middle.

But I must also say that Moyes has changed much in his tactics over time (hell even he himself says so) and we play much more attacking football now than we did before but still it’s not at the level we want it to be (for example, like the way Tottenham passes the ball around).

Anyway I definitely wouldn’t change Moyesey with another manager so I guess we are just left with hoping that he changes even more in attacking philosophy...

Ryan Holroyd
36   Posted 14/02/2010 at 13:40:49

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Whilst Moyes does make me pissed off sometimes, like against Liverpool away, Stoke and Wolves at home, to say "Tactically Moyes plays only one way and that is to defend first, then ’hope’ to get something from a set piece, an error or a long ball" is just plain wrong.

You don’t become a manager in the top division of English football, finishing above other managers on a lesser transfer budget than others if that is your one and only tactic. That is just wrong.

"We were never comfortable and did not pass the ball around with the same level of skill and precision that Chelsea did." — Of course we didn’t because Chelsea have better players than us. Better players gives you a better chance of being able to pass the ball around better and at a quicker speed.

That’s nothing to do with tactics, just that you have worse players than the opposition. You have to try and counter the opposition's better players by getting your team to fight more than them, try and be fitter than the other team.

As I saw from the Upper Bullens on Wednesday, as soon as you give Chelsea time, as we did in the first 25 mins, then they can pass the ball at speed and look a class above. Then we saw Everton get in their faces, press them as Osman (surprisingly he was making aggressive tackles in the middle of the pitch) and Cahill did.

I was looking at Moyes and he was forever getting his players to push up when we were 2-1 up and sitting back.

I could be wrong but I’m sure Everton have finished 5, 5, and 6 in the last few years. So he must be doing something right. The football is improving as we get our best players back fit and things are looking up.

I was watching a Champions League programme last year and nearly every goal was from a set-piece so no wonder coaches practice on these things.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
37   Posted 14/02/2010 at 15:14:53

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The whole "defend first" ethos has been a maddening tenet of Moyes’s tenure for years but the matches since the Goodison derby were notable for the fact that the emphasis seemed to change to attack.

Birmingham (H), Sunderland (A), Arsenal (A), Man City (H)... these were games where we dominated going forward rather than merely constantly giving up possession as has often been the case under Moyes and hoping to soak up pressure and nick one from a set piece.

Now, carrying more of the attacking impetus doesn’t always translate to goals and victories, of course — sometimes you have to break down a well-organised defence (Brum at home again and in the Cup, plus the Anfield derby) and it’s here where we’ve not shown enough imagination. That, for me, does suggest a failure of the coaching and training as well as a personnel issue — but don’t get me started on the Neville/Coleman debate again!
Paul McGinty
38   Posted 14/02/2010 at 15:38:55

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Stephen, though its unlikely Moyes taught Fellaini his 360 helicopter move, there is a coach somewhere watching that with pride. Talented players nowadays find themselves in Academies from very young, focussing on ball mastery and techniques of beating players, receiving the ball etc. In my day we learnt in the streets; nowadays, technique is so much more improved generally; testimony to "Coerver" clinics, our own "Everton Way" program and others.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
39   Posted 14/02/2010 at 17:24:28

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Jim, an excellent post — and even more respect for a cultured and even-handed response in the face what was a disgusting accusation from Phil Hamer that you had fabricated your conversation with Alan Stubbs. A classic example indeed of a refusal to accept the message and to take aim on the messenger. I won’t hold my breath for the apology, however.

I believe you are 100% correct with your characterization of Moyes’s primary, all-abiding tactic. It is what drives me to despair when I watch Everton play.

Yes, Chelsea was a good result, but the lack of structure and inventiveness going forward was something I commented on (very much along the lines of what Stubbsy said) after the Arsenal game. It appeared to me exactly has he described it — that the players are coached in every aspect and detail of defending but they are not coached in attack.

Of course, I was heavily lambasted for providing such an illuminating interpretation of this basic and fundamental limitation in our play.

And for the record, I totally reject this idea that Everton players cannot be expected to play football against better-funded teams because they have the more expensive, more skillful players. For me, it’s all about what YOU do when YOU have possession of the ball — it’s all about possession. If YOU have possession, THEY cannot play with it until they get it off you (or you give it back!) — no matter how well paid they are.

If YOU are coached to use the ball properly in possession, as a team, going forward, then you are of course going to do better than a team that is coached primarily to deal with the opposing team in possession, coming at you with the ball. That’s the point Jim was making.

Art Jones
40   Posted 14/02/2010 at 17:27:56

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Everton have 15 players who have scored for the first team this season, not including the famous "own goals" who has grabbed the headlines lately, this indicates to me that players are encouraged to get into the opponent's penalty area for whatever reason. Hardly defensive?
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
41   Posted 14/02/2010 at 17:57:19

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OMG... Don’t let Moyesie see this:

The Coerver Coaching Philosophy

Not a word about coaching players how to defend!
Alan Clarke
42   Posted 14/02/2010 at 19:30:21

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What grates me the most about Moyes is his total lack of a Plan B. He has no ability to change a game if it’s not going to plan. Everyone could see against Liverpool we needed to change things but he carried on with the same old laboured approach. Moyes’s tactics were to defend and counter-attack but, as soon as they went down to 10 men, we needed to become the attacking team as Liverpool sat deep. Moyes showed he didn’t know what to do to change things.

This is also highlighted by the way he refuses to use his subs in any game before the 80-minute mark. He is unwilling or far too cautious to ever stray away from his beloved 4-5-1.

Against Chelsea, Plan A worked. In every game we win with Moyes, Plan A works... but we’ve never won by Moyes changing things round unless it’s pure desperation in the last 5 minutes.
Mark Reid
43   Posted 14/02/2010 at 19:53:58

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I’d like to know how you "coach" attacks, except for set-pieces? Surely that undermines the principle of "attacking flair"?

You can actually "coach out" this.

In fact, in theory the only thing you can coach is how to defend, because this is primarily about positioning off the ball, and closing down as a unit.

Yeah players can be taught to move forward "as a unit", but most of this is instinctive as it involves overlapping runs, and players expressing themselves — thoughtfully (i.e. not giving possesion away and giving away soft counters, a la Arsenal).

So, in summary, you can coach defence but attacking is primarily a natural thing, the players should (a) have the instinct, (b) desire, (c) ability, (d) fitness to do.

I recall hearing Moyes comment about Gosling, not having yet had attacking flair "coached out" of him.

We want to strike the balance between playing like Arsenal (which we were just prior to Arteta getting injured last season), and being solid at the back — to actually win games.

It's easy to sit there and comment that Moyes is all this and that.

For one thing Alan Stubbs is a defender — he’s not exactly expected to partake in any "attacking lessons" is he????? Logic like.

It's the ability and fitness of the players that primarily dictates how we play. We play 4-5-1 (actually 4-1-3-1-1 or 4-4-1-1) because that works with the players we have.

We want to be solid at the back whilst penetrating the back.

Swings and roundabouts.
Phil Hamer
44   Posted 14/02/2010 at 19:57:45

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Firstly apologies from me to you Jim for casting doubt on the conversation you had with Alan Stubbs. I do remember a tv interview where he made exactly those comments on the defensive coaching and I also doubted that Stubbs would be critical of his boss. Unfortunately I then put those 2 factors together and got 5. That was out of order.

However, to suggest that the fifth best team in England over the past two years do not carry out attacking drills in training just doesn’t ring true at all. I realise that Stubbs personally told you this, but surely when him, Davey Weir, Naysmith and co were working on the defensive drills the attacking players would be on a different pitch working out some attacking moves? Even a part-time non league outfit would do this.

Yes sometimes, especially against massed defences, we seem to run out of ideas, but thats more to do with the fact that 11 super fit athletes (on the defending team) can make an area 60m wide by 30m deep seem like a very small place indeed. Only the very best players and teams in the world can regularly penetrate densely populated areas like that.

I’m gutted to see that, yet again, no more than a few days after a tremendous win against Chelsea, certain posters to this website (not neccessarily you Jim) have sunk back into the angst ridden debate of whether we play good enough football, whether Moyes is doing a good job, darn it, whether its really worth carrying on at all. It happens all the time. A brilliant result or match raises the mood here for a while but then we have the inexorable slide back down into negativity and doom, which intensifies greatly if the next match isn’t a thrilling win.

I really hope that the members of this band of doom don’t take this attitude out into their personal lives, or they could become some seriously grumpy fellas!!

Btw I’m not some happy clappy Doddy style ’moyes apologist’ (what a disgusting phrase), I’m a rational, even-minded chap who tends toward the positive because, well, life is just better that way.
Paul McGinty
45   Posted 14/02/2010 at 20:20:07

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Michael, be careful what you wish for. Gerard Houlier was a big Coerver guy! Joking apart, its a great system. (I have friends who coach with Coerver) but don’t you think our Manager and everyone of the players are on board with its principles. I do.

Surely, you cannot be a professional footballer in the premiership today without having the physical and mental attributes along with the skills developed through intensive training in football academies.

I don’t think Moyes is going to buy Arteta, Pienaar, Bily for example and then restrict them from using their silky skills. I don’t see for example Donovan going backwards while playing for Everton. For the Galaxy, he can play in the final third, but for his country and Everton he has to track back and add defensive duties. I don’t think that's to his detriment... it adds to his game.

Moyes is no Wenger, I will give you that. Not many are. How much that's to do with resources (Arshavin makes Wenger look real good... we couldn’t afford him) or coaching, we will never know. But there are signs that the present Everton group is a footballing unit, which in my view is a positive reflection on the manager.

Alan Clarke
46   Posted 14/02/2010 at 21:36:33

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Mark Reid, do you really think you can’t coach an attack?

I think it’s quite simple really: tell your players where to make runs to when you’re in possession of the ball. Tell them where the space is and not to panic when in possession. Whatever you do, don’t just hoof it up the field and give it away to the opposition. If you absolutely have to clear the ball then push out quickly, don’t just sit deep all the time inviting more pressure.

Have a central key figure in midfield. Tell him to get the ball off our defenders. When he’s in possession he should be able to look up and see 3 or 4 different options in front of him of players running into space offering to take the ball and progress the attack be it out wide to deliver a cross or through the middle to a striker’s feet . Add into that decoy runs from other players to open up more space and you should find you’ve coached an attack.

If it isn’t so simple and you can’t coach an attack then it boils down to the types of players you have, in which case Moyes has bought too many defence minded players.
Paul McGinty
47   Posted 14/02/2010 at 22:52:58

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Alan, are you having a laugh. One school of thought argues Moyes is too fixated with defense and as an ex-defender probably does not have the knowledge or inclination to coach offensive football. Then you are coming up with these simple rules which presumably would be the answer to our prayers and yet are beyond the grasp of the Manager.

Everything that you talked about would be engrained in youth football... no offence to you but it's basic stuff. Premier League football is in my opinion a more complex game altogether.

As to defense minded players, obviously defending is important, but don’t you think we have some creative threats, who in the Everton system have to work hard and defend also. The set up of this team is hardly akin to Stoke City.

Dick Fearon
48   Posted 14/02/2010 at 22:28:27

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Coerver is multi national money orientated coaching franchise and only one of hundreds of similar schemes mostly aimed at kids A lot of ex players sponsor them, for cash of course.

I am in no way denigrating their worth in passing on to children the rudiments of the game. Most of the things they teach an accredited coach would cover in any case.

To get a Coerver (basic) certificate, 40 locals went by bus to a Coerver course. They each paid a fee of approx 70 pounds Sterling and watched a squad of kids do various skill exercises. Then they watched videos, a few of which were ball routines the rest were a sale pitch for Coerver brand equipment that ranged from hats to track suits and mini goals.

After the 4 hour ’course’ all 40 participants picked up a Coerver coaching badge, including the bus driver who spent most of the four hours asleep in his cab. That badge entitled them to coach kids the Coerver way.

Compare that with my experience. As a pre-requisite for my Australian Soccer Federation level 2 badge, I had already completed ’Treating Sports Injuries’ and ’Fitness for Soccer’ courses. Then I did 26 hours of practical work with course directors and players plus a 4-hour exam on theory and another on laws of the game.

These days, you also require a certificate on working with children and police clearance.
I am not comparing the quality of participants in either course just the quality of the courses.

ps: The director of the ASF course was ex-Portsmouth and Chelsea player, Ron Tindall.

Paul McGinty
49   Posted 15/02/2010 at 01:09:40

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Dick, nice to read of your experiences in Australia. Myself, though I still have a season ticket for the Blues, I left Liverpool in 1986 and live in NJ in the USA. Here the coaching badges go from F to A. I have trained from Under-9s up to U23 college level players.

I have used Coerver summer course for the younger age groups in the age range 10-14. I have also used UK Elite and a couple of A licence coaching friends of mine, just for summer courses when the kids have no school. Basically it gives them a different voice, after hearing me drone on for 52 weeks.

There are a lot of English guys in the USA who have taken coaching badges here and make a living as paid trainers. The fact that US Soccer operates a pyramid scheme with the National Team at the top and the youngest travel player at the bottom, with all players registered and talent identified at early ages has undoubtedly helped the game develop over here.

College football provides opportunity for play at a good level into their 20s and though the Pro leagues lag behind those of the UK, they are improving. There are a lot of technically proficient players over here and it is a pleasure to be involved in the game into my mid-50s.

Stuart O'Malley
50   Posted 15/02/2010 at 02:21:34

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Good post, Jim, but I have to take exception to your retort to Phil Hamer’ first post..." Chelsea could score if they wanted". Well, as far as I could see, after Malouda’s first goal, Chelsea wanted to score again, but couldn’t.

Also, I think you will find most top sides play 4-5-1, not a negative tactic at all, but one that gives lots of options, especially if you have good attacking midfielders, like we do. Moyes has been playing this way for awhile now, and I think more and more sides are using it now, because in my opinion it is very versatile.

I don't necessarily think Saha is the ideal striker for this type of formation, as you really need a striker who can hold the ball up so support from midfield can arrive, but I am not complaining as he is a top player, and great striker all the same. It's great to see a really classy striker in the royal blue again, and long may he keep banging them in.

I think Moyes deserves credit for sticking to this formation, for as I said, a lot of managers seem to be following suit. I also happen to think that, after the first 25 mins against Chelsea, we played very well, and to suggest we did not play very well is really a misnomer, as you do not beat teams of Chelsea’s quality without being on top of your game. Remember they had gone 10 games undefeated before that one.

Colin Southern
51   Posted 15/02/2010 at 10:30:30

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I have to agree with Phil ’Moyes apologist’ is an awful slur used by posters when they’re not able to put a sound arguement together or they are coming from an indefensible position. In my eyes they’re just delusional, how can we challenge the top 4 when our net outlay on players each season is £3 million? Even Birmingham and Fulham spend more on players than us.

Let's face it the clubs skint. We just can’t afford to go out and buy players who can play expansive football that we ALL want to see. All we can do is take a punt on potentially good players and develop them. I can see that Moyes is trying to do this but its a very slow and frustrating process for us all. I’d just love it if we turned into Arsenal overnight. But I’m a realist, not fantasist.

Anyone can see no matter how blinkered you are that our football is getting better. Yes, it's still inconsistent but there is no other arguement that can be put together, that will change my mind — that the teams who spend the most tend to be in the top four.

So Basically what they’re saying is if I’m thinking rightly is that we should be challenging the top four with the smallest squad in the EPL and with smallest budget. That sounds like a well thought out and rational

Maybe we should call these guys ’top 4 fantasists’.
Ciarán McGlone
52   Posted 15/02/2010 at 11:25:15

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4-5-1 is an extremely fluid formation — when we play it we play with 5 or 6 attacking players... That is not a turgid formation, and incorrectly stating that we are only playing with one forward fails to grasp the real advantage of a 4-5-1.
Colin Southern
53   Posted 15/02/2010 at 11:29:13

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Cheers, Ciarán — a voice of reason, someone who actually understands what this formation does.

It enables teams to attack and defend in numbers and is a fluid formation. It's favoured by all the top teams as the 4-4-2 is a bit too static, when the game is played at such a fast and frenetic pace in the EPL.
Ciarán McGlone
54   Posted 15/02/2010 at 11:38:11

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I don’t know about being the voice of reason Colin — you’ll get brickbats for that...

But it’s obvious that playing with 2 up front can limit the ability for creative play from the middle of the park — especially if that extra forward is a Yakubu who is abysmal at dribbling...

When you have so many creative midfielders, then 4-5-1 makes sense.
Mike Allison
55   Posted 15/02/2010 at 12:52:32

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Ciaran, amongst others has made the point that seems to need to be rammed home into some people’s heads. Playing ’two strikers’ instead of ’one striker’ is NOT a more attacking formation by definition. It may look like it when you write it down, and if you try to demonstrate it in the pub, you have got an extra pint glass nearer the oppositions end of the table, but the way football is actually played, it isn’t that simple. Someone else also mentioned that Cahill plays very far forward, more a ’second striker’, ’split striker’, even ’inside forward’ if you like. Having him pushed right on to the centre back to be marked more easily wouldn’t make us more attacking, it would make us easier to defend against.

Here’s a potentially oversimplified thought about coaching, which is in contrast to a very early reply from Keith Glazzard:

You can coach defending, and in particular, defensive organisation, but you can’t coach creativity.

It is clear that you can coach players to make runs, offer certain angles and so on, but when it comes down to it, a player doing something creative with the ball is down to him and his talent and vision, not the manager. The manager’s job is to set the team up in a way that allows him to do that, I would argue that the ’4-5-1’ is the best way to do that, as it has a fluidity that provides more options than two strikers right up against the centre backs.
Ed Fitzgerald
56   Posted 15/02/2010 at 21:03:49

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This pains me to say it but for once I am in total agreement with you. Jesus that hurt!

Enjoy the game tomorrow its bloody freezing in Holland!
Mark Murphy
57   Posted 16/02/2010 at 12:35:31

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4-5-1 is the present.

Soon, football teams will play 4-6-0 as they are already using in Italy and as, in effect, ManYoo play when Berbatov isnt on the pitch.

Strikers will soon be obsolete as players fitness levels continue to improve and teams become more fluid and able to switch from defence to attack as if on six-a-side pitches.

Danny Burke
58   Posted 16/02/2010 at 13:19:40

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A dont have anything agianst 4-5-1. It is not negative, maybe at times two strikers against weaker teams would benifit but in the main 4-5-1 is a fluid attacking fromation, Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, The Shite, Barcelona, all play a version of 4-5-1, 4-3-3 (similar systems), are they not fairly successfull?

Quote from above, sorry I forget who.
"For example, why does the whole team have to be in the area to defend a corner? Why can’t we leave one man on the half-way line to break quickly? "

As was said earlier, most goals are scored from set pieces, how many come from the ball coming straight back I dont know but I would suggest it is less than that from set plays, so more men back to defend. Even leaving a man up to occupy two defenders rather than one wouldnt take away the biggest ariel threat, just a smaller player. For example Chelsea may leave Ashley Cole back on his own, Putting Saha up the pitch would not bring back Terry or Ballack or Drogba, they would just bring back some other player less good in the air, Joe Cole just for the sake of picking one. That also takes Louis away from defending who is good in the air.

Sometimes i wish we would play more expansive classy stuff and at times with the right players we can, but we have to mix it up and do the ugly stuff to win to. People sometimes forget there are two teams out there who have been coached by professionals who both want to win.
Darren Wynn
59   Posted 16/02/2010 at 14:32:03

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Whilst good points are made. We must remember that the club, Moyesey and coaching staff have to work within great restraints ie:- money. What we have actually got are a bunch of average players who have limited flair etc.

Although we always seem to look at Arteta or Pienaar / Baines for a breakthrough, we are dealing here with one player that, despite all his guille, cannot break into the Spanish squad, let alone team.

One who cannot get unbelievably mentioned before Wayne Bridge in the England reckonings... and one who Moyes rescued from career wilderness and now carries the expectant weight of a whole nation on his back like his namesake did in rugby union.

Let's not forget that these players would probably not get in any of the top four sides apart from Liverpool and yet we expect great things constantly from them. Moyes I believe is doing a first class job with what he has got. On our day we can match and occasionally beat the best but, given our restraints, that is not achievable all the time.

Every million that is spent is much more valuable to us than it is to let's say Chelsea, Arsenal or Man Utd or Man City. On this basis, I say we're in the right hands at present. We maybe need Bily to sparkle a bit more to back up my claims. COYB Da la

James McGlone
60   Posted 17/02/2010 at 20:50:12

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Jim, I hope you didn’t waste too many hours writing that, because it’s time that you’ll never get back. That is possibly the biggest amount of bollocks i’ve ever read. Congratulations. I wish there was a prize I could give you.

You used what was an alleged conversation with a player, possibly 7-8 years ago, and claimed that it’s relevant now - even after seeing how much has changed in our style of play.

Aayush Jain
61   Posted 18/02/2010 at 07:07:13

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Jim, I respect your views but I want to ask you why is it we outperform our rivals when they clearly have better players and more money than we do... the answer is that we are tactically better than them... so I don't see why you are questioning our tactics... as they say why fix something which is not broken??

As for the Liverpool game, I don't know why you don't appreciate how hard Liverpool worked after they went a man down.They pressed like hungry hordes of alligators, never giving us a moment’s peace even in our own half... I thought we defended very well against them and deserved at least a point.

As for the Chelsea game, the two errors are an excuse. I can say that we wouldn’t have lost to Arsenal if they didn’t have two deflected goals but that doesn’t change the scoreline...

James McGlone
62   Posted 20/02/2010 at 14:43:21

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Anyone else think Jim’s locked himself in the bathroom after that performance against Utd?

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