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A Winning System

By Tim Luke :  30/11/2008 :  Comments (0) :
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.

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