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Stolen Diamonds

By Gavin Roberts :  27/08/2009 :  Comments (21) :
In an attempt to divert myself from the current daily trawl through the internet’s various football sites in search of any news of potential signings, I thought I would pen a piece outlining my thoughts regarding our team’s shape and how the players we currently have at the club could be alternatively utilised.

After reading about the alteration of Chelsea’s formation to a diamond in midfield, I began to assess its merits in relation to our current squad.

Firstly, for the diamond formation to work effectively, a team will need attacking full backs, with high energy, stamina and good crossing ability so as to compensate for the width sacrificed in midfield. I believe in Baines and to a lesser extent Neville we have two players who could fill those positions comfortably.

Secondly, and this is where I find it interesting David Moyes has not experimented with this system, a team needs midfielders with high levels of adaptability. The diamond does have specialist rolls assigned to the three lines but essentially, when employed most effectively the players in midfield have a degree of flexibility.

We have all wondered what Moyes has against wingers and why he insists on playing central midfielders on the flanks; it seems the answer to Moyes’s reluctance to play wingers is to do away with them entirely by implementing the diamond formation!

The third issue that the diamond formation would solve is up front. We currently have Yakubu, Saha, Jô, Anichebe, Vaughan and a number of exciting youngsters all vying for one place in the current 4-1-4-1 formation. The ratio of players to positions seems a bit top-heavy to me when you contrast this with the number of players (three) we have for two full back berths.

The simple answer to this would be to play two strikers. A pairing from the players mentioned would in my opinion be potent with the correct service.

Lastly, to look at the midfield in more detail, I think all Everton fans agree that Cahill is not a midfielder. Pienaar, Osman and Arteta are best playing in the middle... and we have yet to see Fellaini given a decent run in his original position at Anderlecht of defensive midfielder. Even Bilyaletdinov can play both wide left and centrally.

A simple answer to all these frustrations would be to play a diamond in midfield with Fellaini at the base with Arteta, Pienaar, Osman and Bily’ov competing for the two central positions and Cahill and Pienaar for the tip of the diamond. The only position that would need strengthening in this midfield is the defensive midfield position, which (at the time of writing) Moyes is trying to address with the loan signing of Éver Banega.

Moyes has shown a reluctance to alter the shape of his side for nearly 3 years now after he was forced into the 4-1-4-1 we have all come to associate with defensive solidity and a compact workman-like midfield. If we are to progress with the players we currently have at our disposal — and lacking the number of wingers with pace and scoring ability it would take to turn the 4-1-4-1 into a more attacking 4-1-2-3 — I believe the diamond would be our most effective way of utilising our strongest assets.

Reader Comments

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Ciarán McGlone
1   Posted 27/08/2009 at 14:04:25

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I remember seeing Porto employing that tactic expertly last season...I can’t remember who they played - but the opposing team struggled to counter was brilliant to watch.

One thing that struck me was that they had four quality central players in that diamond..who could all pass and and move effectively. It resulted in neat, attractive football that the other team found hard to break down - because of Portos willingness to find space and receive a pass.

The majoprity of midfield players we have are simply not good enough to play this system...they do not have the footballing brain, or the ability to pass to a colleague with any consistency...the other problem is space...a quite obvious problem we have is that our players never seem to move and find space..and if they do it’s only one player out of the whole midfield at any one time.

We are also terrible at closing down and usually play on the edge of our own cannot play a diamond and simply invite the other team into your penalty area..

We really need to work on closing down, finding space and executing a pass before we attempt to even play 442, nevermind a diamond.

At the moment we are struggling to do these simple things...start there.
John Barnes
2   Posted 27/08/2009 at 14:31:19

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You can play diamond, christmas tree, 2-3-5 , whatever formation you like but if you cant pass, or control the ball properly you’re fucked.
Joseph Elworthy
3   Posted 27/08/2009 at 14:48:23

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I agree that more inventiveness is needed given the ’top-heavy’ nature of the squad (Saha, Jo, Yakubu, Vaughn, Anichebe), however, I think Fellaini is a defensive nightmare, the thought of him as ’cover’ for the back-four would keep me up at night.
John Barnes
4   Posted 27/08/2009 at 14:54:16

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Type or paste your comment here. No txt-speak, please try to use proper grammar, all-lowercase posts are likely to be deleted
John Barnes
5   Posted 27/08/2009 at 14:55:04

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I should add, though, we are usually very good at most of the unglamourous side of the game, and are usually difficult to beat ( Arsenal game apart of course) through work rate, defensive organisation etc.
Gareth Atkinson
6   Posted 27/08/2009 at 15:15:51

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I’m sorry but Neville and Baines aren’t in the same league as Boswinga and Ashley Cole, if Neville was to play full back who then plays in the holding role? To play a diamond formation you need two full backs who are comfortable bombing up and down the wing but also defensively sound for 90 minutes, which I don’t think we have (remember getting ruthlesley exposed out wide in the cup final anyone)
Ciarán McGlone
7   Posted 27/08/2009 at 15:32:37

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Neville should never be used in midfield again!
Ross Keeley
8   Posted 27/08/2009 at 16:17:41

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Just to point out fellaini did not play for anderlecht but standard liege
David Cain
9   Posted 27/08/2009 at 16:23:57

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" the players we currently have at the club could be alternatively utilised." Anybody else tempted to be unkind when they read this bit ? On the way home after the Arsenal game I could have come up wih loads... though unfortunately none football related !

Let’s forget diamonds for the moment and try to make the best of the truckload of coal we currently have without confusing their little brains too much. (And at the mention of coal.. we know what happened to Newcastle !)
Gerard Quinn
10   Posted 27/08/2009 at 16:19:51

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Gavin, fair play for trying to come up with something different. It’s not a bad shout apart from right back and defensive midfielder options.

That said where does our new £10 million left winger fit into this formation? And again we’re left with the problem of strength in depth because we don’t have any.

For defensive midfield we should get someone experienced in to bring Rodwell on because he’s the best young player to wear the Royal Blue in many a long year and should be our defensive midfielder for the next decade.

And to be perfectly honest I believe Moyes wants to play wingers but we’ve never had the personnel and he’s never been successful bringing any in because they tend to be more expensive.

For me the problem is how we accommodate Cahill. We should always play with two up front at home but then we struggle to fit Cahill into midfield. Surely his form up front last year has shown that the lad’s a striker.

He should play up front with the Yak with Saha and Jo/ Vaughan on the bench. Bilyaletdinov on the left, Pienaar the right, Arteta and new defensive mid to complete the midfield. Neville for right back, Baines on the left and Jags (from Nov) and Distin/Taylor in the centre. Howard shouting the odds from between the sticks and a few more signings for the bench and it’s fifth place all over again.

As for our defensive midfielder options, where’s the annual rumour about Alan Smith?
Dave Usher
11   Posted 27/08/2009 at 19:25:12

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Like the idea of making more use of the strikers but doubt very much that a formula that has worked for the last few years will be tampered with too much.

As most of our problems seem to be down the right how about leaving Hibbo at right back with Neville in def mid role helping cover with Jo on the right side? I know he won’t track back too much but I think that the def mid should be able to slot over to help out.

Probably a crap idea but it seems that if we don’t find a place on the pitch for some strikers we might end up with a bench of Strikers.

David Ellis
12   Posted 28/08/2009 at 03:19:50

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If you are interested in formations I can recommend the book "Inverting the Pryamid" that I picked this summer.

It’s a history of soccer tactics. Starting with the 2-3-5 of the Victorian era; to the W-M (with a third back) starting in the 1930’s with Arsenal; various types of 4-3-3; Brazil’s 4-2-4 of 1962; the classic 4-4-2 of the 1970’s and 80’s.

According to this book the pressing game only emerged in the 1980s (our ’85 certainly played that way). 4-4-2 was overtaken by 5-3-2, used by Argentian in 1986 and used by nearly everybody (even England eventually) in the 1990 World Cup.

However 5-3-2 relied on wing backs to act as wingers and full backs. During the 1990s the pace of the game increased that wing backs were unable to properly perform this role. As a result various versions of 4-5-1 emerged.

The old 3 level classification has begun to break down. Mourhinho’s 4-3-3 could also be described as a sub-set of 4-5-1 - it depends how you classify the wide forwards. The classic diamond is a 4-1-2-1-2. Everton play 4-1-3-1-1 or 4-2-2-1-1 depending on how many truely defensve midfielders we play (one or two).

For those of you glazing over I would make three key points
1. Formation really does matter. For example in the 1986 quarter final England introduced John Barnes (a winger) and immediately the 5-3-2 of Argentina was exposed at the back as the wing backs were caught in no man’s land - Lineker (of Everton) scored from a cross and Argentina hung on frantically to win 2-1.

2. The classic 4-4-2 is no longer the optimum formation. Lazy journalism keeps it alive - but few teams actually play this way. The 4-5-1 with more flexible players beats it (hence sniffer strikers like Michael Owen are practically redundant - except as impact subs).

3. Cahill is not a striker! But he can be the front midfield player in a 4-1-3-1-1
David Ellis
13   Posted 28/08/2009 at 03:37:01

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One more thing
The book "Inverting the Pryamid" mused about the "next big thing" in formations and suggested a 4-6-0

This is not defensive - it simply uses multi-purpose players in midfield who can pass and cross as well as stick it in the back of the net.

Imagine my pride when I realised that this is the formation that Everton used to great effect following the injuries to all our strikers last season!
Michael Parrington
14   Posted 28/08/2009 at 04:51:19

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Some interesting posts and points of view. I’d look at the team and say whatever the formation there is a lack of balance in pace and mobility from the left hand to right hand side of the pitch.

Last year on the left we seem to have been creating opportunities and have looked dangerous, owing to the pace of Baines & Pienaar, and the positional ability and then accuracy of Baines’s crossing. You can bet this season the opposition will be wary of allowing Baines to get forward.

Herein lies a big problem. We do not have the same ability on the right hand side of the pitch and can not excerpt similar pressure on the opposition. i.e. we can’t stretch opposition teams effectively enough to create space for the forwards.

Through the middle with Arteta’s absence we are missing the player with the ability to create space for the left or right wings by quick accurate passing, or beat a midfielder to apply pressure on the opposition defense.

The result is that we are not getting behind the opposing defenses often enough, because we’re generally too bloody slow and predictable when going forward.
David Alexander
15   Posted 28/08/2009 at 09:37:43

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The dimond is interesting but Chelsea probably only play it because its practacle given that they have lots of top class big powerful central midfielders (most of ours midfielders are small and not strong) chelsea also lack top class wide men. The point being the tactics need to make the most of the available players and to be fair I think the managers current tactics have been getting the most out of a small often tired and at times limited squad.

very interesting article though!
Mike Iddon
16   Posted 28/08/2009 at 12:27:49

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Best article I’ve seen on TW for a while.....completely fed up reading about Lescott, transfers etc.

Interesting for me on this topic was Arsenal’s formation against us in the opening game. Although we couldn’t defend against a 10-year old team that day and the Arse have high technical ability, the way they set out the front 3 with Bendtner on the right and Arshavin on the left supporting Van Persie was integral to their performance. Bendtner’s height against Baines was painful to see and contributed to the 1st goal with Fabregas and Denilson supporting the front 3. Song held in front of the back 4 and won most tackles.

A point made by several respondents was the ability of our squad and I agree, it limits Moyes. I do think he could be more flexible though and a diamond could work IF he sorts out the right side. Bily’s not an out-and-out winger (see Kanchelskis’ comments on him on the OS) so perm a middle 3 of him, Pienaar, Arteta when fit, Felli is not too bad, Ossie as sub; Cahil has to be the point of the diamond. Defensive mid either Nev or Rodwell but a bit weak.

I’ll believe Banega when I see it.
Andy McNabb
17   Posted 28/08/2009 at 13:10:21

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Interesting comment about Bendtner vs Baines. As a 5 foot 8 incher, I have to acknowlege that a good big ’un is always better than a good little ’un, apart from in exceptional circumstances.
As has been commented, we can play every formation under the sun but at the end of the day it depends on the quality of players available. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.
As an aside, did it hurt anyone else to see Lescott in a City shirt on the Sky highlights of the Palace game?
Wish he hadn’t said the money wasn’t important - I lost a lot of respect for him as soon as that tripped off his tongue.
Mark Scarratt
18   Posted 28/08/2009 at 21:28:43

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Ciaran McGlone.
Neville was outstanding last season in midfield alongside Arteta.
He played the defensive midfield role perfectly and allowed Arteta the freedom to express himself.
What everyone seems to forget is the injuries we have suffered.
Arteta. Yakubu, and for less time Jagielka.

The equivalent loss for the top 4 teams would be as follows.

Man Utd, Ferdinand, Ronaldo, Rooney
Chelsea, Terry, Lampard, Drogba
Liverpool, Carragher, Gerrard, Torres
Arsenal, Gallas, Fabreags, Van Persie

Lets see how they would cope

In think we have done magnificently
David Nicholls
19   Posted 30/08/2009 at 11:15:02

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Gavin, what a cracking, intelligent post mate, very refreshing to read, especially compared to some of the posts on here by those armchair Jose Mourinho’s who just love to tell everyone how crap a player iswithout offering anything constructive.

I’ve always been intrigued by formations and the way the team is set up, I actually like the way Moyes plays attacking midfielders out wide, Arsene Wenger does the same. I think it will prove much more effective if we can gradually bring in a higher standard of attacking midfielder. Hopefully Bilyaletdinov will help with this.

I too would like to see Fellaini employed in a deeper role, I think Moyes pulled him away from that position due to his poor timing of tackles resulting in a speight of bookings. He seems to have got used to the pace of the Premier league now and should be given another crack, therefore allowing Cahill to push forward at the tip of either a diamond in the formation you describe or just off Saha/Yak/Jo in our current formation.
Joe Cavanagh
20   Posted 30/08/2009 at 11:53:12

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Great posting, I thought. I don’t get too many chances to see Everton in action - I live in Brasil now and rely on ESPN for coverage of the Premiership. They’re obsessed with the Sky4 (and now Man City) and so I only get to see Everton when they play against such opposition - generally not a pleasant experience, given our form against the Big 4.

I’d like to add 2 thoughts. Aside from the formation issue, it seems to me that there are 2 other tactical ones worth mentioning. The first is speed - we don’t seem to have the players to counterattack with speed, an essential ingredient that the very best clubs enjoy. The other aspect is the ability the Big4 seem to have to throw on substitutes, and change the pattern or pace of the game when they need to.

I suspect both of these changes would need new personnel, and greater strength in depth than we have or can afford. But one or two key signings could make a difference - I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for surprise signings before Tuesday..

John Martin
21   Posted 31/08/2009 at 18:42:35

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Moyes knows 4-5-1 and that's it. Even yesterday at 1-1 he took off a striker and replaced him with another. Most other managers would have and fans wanted 2 up front in an attempt to win the game. We got a result yesterday so it papered over the fact we don't seem willing to try any new tactics.

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