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Playing out of defence

By Graham Broyd :  16/08/2010 :  Comments (49) :
I have read all the commentary on Everton's disappointing performance on Saturday. Saha, lost on his own up front, uninspired contributions from the highly regarded midfield. But for me, all the lack of creativity and opportunities stemmed from one spot ? playing the ball out of defence, and unfortunately an experienced manager like Sam Allardyce had us all worked out: Phil Jagielka can't pass.

We know Distin does not have the skill to play clever, thoughtful passes. He is a big docker centre half. We know Phil Neville neither has the skill nor the vision to pass the ball constructively forward ? sideways, sideways, backwards, sideways, an odd cross... but always with enthusiasm. Baines should be receiving passes on the run, preferably from Pienaar.

So it's left to Jagielka. Watch him against Hungary. Every time he received the ball, he looked petrified, rapidly looked for John Terry to his left or Glen Johnson to his right, laid it off to them as quickly as possible, usually backwards or sideways. He made Terry look like Bobby Moore in comparison (which he isn't). Every now and again he would receive the ball under no pressure ? he would look upfield but, under instructions not to hoof the ball, would wait, look, wait and then lay it off left or right again.

Jagielka is such a good defender when under attack. But the passing is a problem ? and is the source of Everton never getting going up the field. Allardyce left Howard to either punt upfield to an isolated Saha, or roll it to one of his 3 defenders - who then chose to punt it upfield to an isolated Saha or knock it sideways to each other.

The much vaunted midfield, not receiving balls in a constructive way, would be forced to turn towards their defence and come and take the pass ? facing the wrong way, with no sight of the attacking parts of the field, and with Blackburn players bearing down on them. Saha looks like a spectator at Wimbledon, watching the ball knocked back and forth, until he gets the opportunity to challenge for a ball 10 feet in the air against at least 2 waiting defenders who are facing and coming to the ball....

Moyes knows it. Not sure what he'll do. Jagielka and Heitinga together sounds simple but probably does not work; two right-sided defenders, both slightly undersized, both like to make the final tackle. Moyes likes to play right- and left-sided central defenders together. He can't drop Jagielka.

Maybe Heitinga back in at right back ? which is the position he joined Everton in ? just as a better outlet ball from defence. If we don't solve this, all Gwladys St will see this year of our great midfield is Arteta's number on the back of his shirt as he runs back towards his defence to take a pass....

Reader Comments

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Dermot Ryan
1   Posted 17/08/2010 at 05:53:41

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You've identified a real problem and a real conundrum. The obvious solution ? drop Neville ? is highly unlikely to happen. So who do you push up into the defensive midfield? Play H there, Jags gets the ball to him and then he distributes it? (Surely a better option than sticking Neville in mid?)

Ultimately, like the repeated suggestion of putting Coleman in on the right midfield (rather than playing him in his natural position), this is a workaround to avoid addressing the real issue: Neville and Jags together undermine our distribution on the right-hand side.

As was the case last season, our right side will continue to be our Achilles heel until Moyes buys a decent right-sided midfielder or drops Neville. I'm not optimistic either will happen.
Paul Olsen
2   Posted 17/08/2010 at 06:33:05

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Well put Graham.
Alan Clarke
3   Posted 17/08/2010 at 08:07:59

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You're right, Jajelka does not have the best passing ability... but if no midfielders are showing for you to take the ball then you're left with very few options. Blackburn pressed us high up the pitch and put our midfield under a lot of pressure. This meant there was no option for Jagielka but to punt it. His problem is his punts are totally aimless.

Players like Arteta and Fellaini need to start taking more responsibility and demanding the ball short from the centre backs.
Steve Abraham
4   Posted 17/08/2010 at 08:43:56

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I agree with Alan at #3. Surely Moyes knows the Jags limitations with the ball at his feet. If he has it then our ball playing midfielders should be showing for him with 2 or 3 options. Otherwise it's a hoof. You could talk about balance, which was why Lescott complimented Jags. But we played the last half of last season with these players at the back and were pretty solid.
David Ellis
5   Posted 17/08/2010 at 08:45:06

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I agree with your analysis. Actually I thought Jags distributed the ball better than normal on Saturday, but as I wrote on an earlier comment it's easy for weaker teams to stop Everton. Just press high up the field and mark all the ball players closely. Give Jagielka all the time and space he needs to kick the ball away and then counter attack.

Heitinga is part of the answer to this. However, he struggled at right back last season because his lack of pace was cruelly exposed. I would play him in the middle of defence with Jags. Putting Heitinga in central midfield would not improve our ability to pass the ball as we would be replacing other good passers such as Arteta, Rodwell and Fellaini.

However we also need the central midfielders to be a bit more dynamic in asking for the ball then their immediate use of the ball. This also needs good off the ball movement by the whole team ? something that is hard to judge on TV.

Coleman at right back might also give us another option, but may come at the cost of a weaker defence.

Another way of relieving the problem is more pace up front. This should stop defensive sides holding a high line ? thus making it harder for them to press so far forward in our half. Someone like Landon Donovan would help on this score ? but in the meantime perhaps Anichebe on the right-hand side would pose more a threat than Osman.
Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 17/08/2010 at 04:38:13

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Jagielka is an extremely limited defender who has become a folk hero due to his attitude and the number of last ditch tackles he makes. The problem is that he creates the situations where he needs to make these last ditch tackles... they are of his own making.

His defensive failties aside, he needs someone beside him who he can give the ball to. and who knows how to use it; Distin is not that person.
Andy McNabb
7   Posted 17/08/2010 at 09:46:57

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Good post. Love the guy but quite why Wenger was ever after him is a complete mystery. The Jag playing for Arsenal? 'Fish out of water' comes to mind.
Iain Love
8   Posted 17/08/2010 at 09:45:46

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Pretty obvious Jags needs Heitinga alongside him. Watching them last season, Jags looked like he was trying to pass because he could see Johnny doing it.

When we play teams like Blackburn, they do press to make us hoof the ball as players like Samba will deal with that all day long. The way to counteract that is passing in triangles (tika taka the Spanish call it) and pass through their midfield. Then, if they're pressing high and get bypassed, they will be light at the back, hence they will drop back and hey presto we're playing our way.

Doesn't help if we're behind at the time though.

Dave Wilson
9   Posted 17/08/2010 at 09:46:40

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If you want a really top defender who'll put his body on the line, Jagielka's your man; if you want stylish on-the-carpet football, then take Wenger's £15 million and get a better footballer in.

Our results are decent when the Jag plays but our style of play fell off a cliff when he returned to the team last season. Why blame everybody else?

It amazes me how many people claim Jagielka is irreplaceable... then complain about our tactics; for me, it's either or...
Jim Hourigan
10   Posted 17/08/2010 at 10:14:22

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Graham, I agree totally with your comments about Jagielka's inability to pass the ball constructively. Like some of the other posters, I think Heitinga alongside is a better option. Apart from Stoke and possibly the barcodes, no other teams play high long balls to a big centre-forward so I do not see their size as a particular problem.

However, I think the one glaring omission from your post (and the other respondents) is the role Cahill has in making us play long balls from the back. Cahill has little to offer in a constructive way, much like Jags ? no incisive passing, relatively poor first touch, no creativity but lots of enthusiasm and commitment. Playing him has only one purpose ? hit the balls high for him to challenge and upset the back 4. He does not play as an orthodox midfield player, nor is he a forward in the traditional sense. He rarely shows for the ball from the back, doesn't look to prompt Saha but merely looks to create a fuss upfield - hence the long balls in order to involve him in the game.

If a 5 in midfield is to function correctly then surely the idea is to get the ball wide and behind the defenders (ie, like Villa), or to play through the middle with the three central players dictating, ie, like everyone else who plays the system: Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs etc. Cahill has been a great servant for the club but his presence is now a hinderance if we wish to play progressive football.

Jags is limited in his passing but surely the central midfield should be demanding the ball and dictating play particularly when we need a goal. Having only 1 (Arteta) or possibly Fellaini is easily countered by a negative side such as Blackburn funneling back. Cahill then becomes irrelevant unless we get a set piece or you hit the ball long.

Time for some hard decisions in my view, and laying the blame at Jagielka's feet is too simple. Defenders should defend firstly and then allow the midfield to create by giving them simple passes. Can / will Cahill ever do that?

Ciarán McGlone
11   Posted 17/08/2010 at 10:56:20

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Jim,

I agree completely with your excellent yet wholly obvious conclusions. Expect brickbats from those who think certain players have a 'right' to be in the team...
Adam Bennett
12   Posted 17/08/2010 at 11:20:49

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I think it?s a bit out of order to single out Jagielka in terms of distribution. Distin on Saturday was shocking in this department. Nearly every time he had the ball, he lumped it up to Osman ? who had a Blackburn player over 6ft standing next to him! As for Yobo, every time he passes the ball he gets his 5 iron out!

Playing out of defence shouldn?t be down to Jagielka, or any other centre half. It's down to the midfielders coming deep and using quick passing to move up the pitch. How many times do you see Chelsea?s centre half?s lumping the ball forward compared to how many times Essien or Mikel drop deep to collect the ball. Same with Man Utd, same with Arsenal, same with Spurs, in fact, same with every other good side in the league.

For me, bringing the ball out should be down to our deepest midfielder ? i.e. Fellaini on Saturday ? and then use the passing talents of Arteta and Pienaar to move up the pitch.
Alan Clarke
13   Posted 17/08/2010 at 11:26:42

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Nail on head, Adam.

I don't see why it's Cahill's fault, Jim. Cahill's asset is arriving late into the box to pick up on crosses put in by our supposed attacking full backs. His asset is not trying to head long balls on so I don't see why he gets the blame. Like Adam said, Fellaini should have been dropping deep and taking responsibility to make sure the ball wasn't lumped forward.
Dave Smith
14   Posted 17/08/2010 at 11:32:46

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Everyone seem's to be forgetting we had more possesion and more shots on goal than Blackburn. In all likelihood, if it wasn't for the goalkeeping blunder, it would have finished 0-0. Surely our lack of finnishing should come under some scrutiny?

On a side note, had it finnished 0-0, how many would be saying 'a good away point aganist a difficult side'?
Ciarán McGlone
15   Posted 17/08/2010 at 11:39:09

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"I don't see why it's Cahill's fault, Jim. Cahill's asset is arriving late into the box to pick up on crosses put in by our supposed attacking full backs. "
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The point is that he offers nothing else apart from this... and while he's in midfield we sacrifice putting a decent football playing midfielder on the pitch.

Playing Cahill flat out, without question is an acceptance that we are reliant on set-pieces... if we are genuinely looking to improve then we need to get away from this mindset.

As for Jags... he panics. It doesn't matter if a midfielder is showing for him or not, 9 times out of ten he'll whack it. That is not the fault of the midfielders.
Joe Carroll
16   Posted 17/08/2010 at 12:22:52

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Was it not Fellaini who was taking it upon himself last year to take the ball from the back line and distribute it to out attacking players?

Surely, once he is back to full fitness, this won't seem like so much of a problem, although I do agree with you Graham that our distribution from the back is poor.
Dick Fearon
17   Posted 17/08/2010 at 12:03:27

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I go along with most of the above yet one item not getting a mention is our safety-first mind set. To prove what I say, just note how many of our players get behind the ball at opposition free kicks taken from anywhere in our half. There is desperation in our mass rush to defend.

What that does is create acres of space for opponents to use in our half of the pitch. It becomes almost impossible to employ rapid counter sttacks. Our defenders' only option if they are to clear their lines is with lumping it.

Tommy Gourlay
18   Posted 17/08/2010 at 12:46:14

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I keep hoping Jagielka's England trips will bring him back with his one missing ingredient for a top class defender ? the desire to play the short simple ball.

It almost seems like he plays these sideways balls for England (I know it's not constructive but it doesn't give the ball away) then when he comes home he says to himself "I'm the daddy of the defenders in this team, I'm loved here for my defending so I'm gonna punt this and I know no one will question me."
Andy Crooks
19   Posted 17/08/2010 at 12:53:33

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Excellent analysis, Jim. Much as I admire Cahill, I see his role now as an impact sub. I'd give, in the absence of a fit Yakubu, Beckford a chance up front with Bily behind him.
Ciarán McGlone
20   Posted 17/08/2010 at 13:01:50

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Andy,

I think you may be a bit dissapointed in Beckford's touch of a Donkey routine by the end of the season..

If he gets 10 I'll be amazed.

We should be sticking with Saha... we know what he's capable of..
Sam Hoare
21   Posted 17/08/2010 at 13:19:56

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Ciaran. We know what he's capable of but he hasn't done it for a long while! Is it 14 games without a goal? I would agree however that he's still our best striker but something's gotta give.

As for further above, some interesting and valid observations. For my part a few points:

1) I agree that (hero that he is) playing Cahill limits our playing style. Not his fault necessarily but his inclusion can't but add to defenders willingness to hoof. He still has a huge part to play this season but i agree that to push on we might be better off starting with Billy in that position (or 2 strikers..)

2) Nothing wrong with Jagielka's passing for England the other night. Passing it along the back 4 or to a deep-lying midfielder is fine. It's what the Spanish back 4 do 95% of the time. Not many CBs can play constant incisive balls ? if they could, they wouldn't be playing there.

3) Playing Johnny inevitably improves distribution and is one of many reason why he should start with Jags. I don't see height being a problem as good positioning and strength can usually make up for lack of height (look at Vermaelen vs Fella in first game of last season!).

4) Yes, deep-lying midfielders Fella/Arteta should come to collect the ball from back 4 and then use their ability to start moves. See Fabregas for Arsenal and Xavi for Spain. This is what we started doing so well last season and need to return to.

With all this in mind, I hope to see vs Wolves:

Howard
Neville Jags Heitinga Baines
Fellaini Arteta
Rodwell Bily Pienaar
Saha

I would eat my hat if that team when fit (freak blunders aside) didn't get 3 points.
Jay Harris
22   Posted 17/08/2010 at 13:37:36

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When things go against us, why does it have to be one player's fault?

The whole team was shite on Saturday as they were against Wolfsburg and the worst culprit was the best little Spaniard we know.

I watched Utd last night and their running off the ball and every player seeking the ball brought home the point even more that our players have not shown up in the last two matches.

Now I don't know why. Whether it's the training, the team selection, the motivation... the fact that some players may resent Mikey's deal... but something is wrong.

This is not the Everton team that finished so well last season.
Chris Butler
23   Posted 17/08/2010 at 13:53:31

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The simple reality is Saha has proven he's pretty useless at being a lone striker. He was never a lone striker at United. Everton will not finish 4th unless we can buy and sell a few players. We have too many players palying in the wrong position.

Why when we have Rodwell and Fellaini does Arteta play in central midfield? Arteta is the only player in our team capable of taking on players and played his best football for Everton on the wings, yet is being played in central midfield. Personally I'd play Rodwell and Fellaini in central midfield with Arteta and Pienaar being played on the wings and Saha being played behind Cahill.

Tommy Gourlay
24   Posted 17/08/2010 at 13:55:03

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@Sam Hoare

That sounds the perfect team to me although ? despite a lot of the good comments about hjm on here ? I still want to find a place for Tim, if he was to alternate with Rodwell (if Rodwell was struggling) that would make me happy.

The annoying with Neville is that he is capable of good distribution, he just keeps thinking he's Scholes and capable of 40-yard balls because he played with him for too long.....
Richard Reeves
25   Posted 17/08/2010 at 14:29:43

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I don't know why there is a problem. If Jags can't pass out of defence then there should be players moving into positions within short passing distances so that they can then make those telling passes but I get the feeling that Moyes is happy with this as being caught out near to your own penalty area normally ends with a goal or at the very least a shot on goal.

If Jags can't do it then pass to Baines, whoever is on the right of defence, or, if Fellaini is the defensive midfielder, then he can collect from deep. As long as it's not always hoof ball from Jags then I'm not too bothered as long as he is a top quality defender and by that I mean someone who is very good at DEFENDING, which he is.

Trevor Lynes
26   Posted 17/08/2010 at 14:53:45

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Scholes gave a masterclass against the Toon and he makes the job of passing accurately very easy by instinctively finding space BUT he also has players who run off the ball so his defence splitting passes have more chance of an end product. This is a fundamental part of every pro footballers role and unfortunately seems to be missing at most clubs, including ours.

Don't blame Jags for hoofing the ball, blame must be laid at the talented feet of the midfield who should pick up defenders' short passes and provide the ammunition for Saha and the other strikers we have. The long punt upfield was our normal ploy when we had Ferguson and that has now become ancient practice.

I would try Coleman in the role of attacking right-sided midfielder in front of Neville as he has some ball control and crossing ability. Arteta should become our Scholes or Fabregas and demand the ball in space.

The likes of Osman, Cahill and Hibbert should be kept on the bench and chances should be given to Rodwell and Coleman. I would keep Anichebe and sell the Yak as I think Anichebe will develop into a decent player. If Pienaar is not wholeheartedly with the club then he also should be moved on or given a long-term contract if he is committed.

David Price
27   Posted 17/08/2010 at 15:11:32

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Despite the varied comments on pros and cons around certain players, it's difficult to say which is right as they all have a point. The main thing from Saturday is highlighted by Jay (#22): the whole team didn't perform. You could have the same 11 v Wolves, after 3 mins, Baines on the overlap, puts a cross on Cahill's head, 1-0; ten minutes later Arteta slides a ball through to Saha, 2-0; all of a sudden, they're heroes again. That's what we can do, it was just a shite day at the office, end of.
Kevin Hudson
28   Posted 17/08/2010 at 17:23:00

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Circular argument.

Rather than slaughtering almost every defender on the books, ad nauseam, why not instead look to the midfield.

Surely one of those could drop back, and take responsibility by demanding a short pass to feet, thereby allowing them to play the ball out, thus beginning the construction of moves.

A defenders job is to protect his goalkeeper, not fanny about with incisive, midfield-splitting slide-rule passes.
Luke Dunn
29   Posted 17/08/2010 at 19:06:11

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Finally, someone has stated the obvious: Jags can't pass, except for those delicate 60-yard hoofs up the pitch. Should a centre half who can't pass be in the starting 11? This guy gets far too much slack, hopefully Wenger is still interested in him.
Stephen Kenny
30   Posted 17/08/2010 at 19:05:06

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Chris,

You haven't got a clue mate. Please don't ever coach junior footballers.
Pete Sullivan
31   Posted 17/08/2010 at 19:07:11

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Interesting innit...The actual Stats show that Jags was second only to Arteta on completed passes: 52 out of 67, (which is 77%) whereas Fellaini was 72%..but I'm getting confused on how this original post is constructed as to me the post criticises Jags for playing to his limitations - which is what every player at every level should always try and do, otherwise you just fuck everything up for the team by losing the ball, trying shots from bad positions etc etc...

Further in my eyes it is not a problem that the midfield come and take the ball off the defenders..in fact I applaud it. We keep posession and the midfielder's superior skill and vision should then come into play. If a midfielder is taking the ball with his back to the opponent's goal all of the time then he displays his own poor technique as he should be positioning his body and feet to take the ball on the turn or half turn so he knows what is around him so he can take a touch or lay off depending how much pressure he is under.

Jags is a very good defender; if he keeps defending and then passes short so we keep possession, that is a result... every single time.

Ray Robinson
32   Posted 17/08/2010 at 19:21:21

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Not just Jags - Neville, Yobo, Hibbert don't look comfortable with the ball at their feet. At least Distin can burst forward with the ball in some sort of control.

Answer? Get Coleman, Heitinga in there and we may be able to play football from the back.
Ray Said
33   Posted 17/08/2010 at 20:20:29

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Well put Graham.
Joe (16) Fellaini did pick up the ball well from defence last season but that leaves us short in midfield, Better if a central defender brings it out to Fellaini who can then stay 20 yards further forward. Jagielka is limited and is nowhere near as good as Heitinga in any area of the game. Distin and John H in central defense for me.
Carl Moulton
34   Posted 17/08/2010 at 21:47:58

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Why would anyone drop Jagielka? He hasn't looked very limited to me when he has had the likes of torres in his back pocket time after time. If Moyes had left out the likes of Cahill and Jagielka and we lost at Blackburn then what would these pages be like!? Arteta or Fellaini need to just drop in and start the play ? just like Scholes does at Utd.
Dermot Ryan
35   Posted 18/08/2010 at 00:31:14

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Its funny. No one has been saying drop Jagielka, but poster after poster reads any mention of his limitations as a passer as just this. Central defenders don't need to pass (it is nice, however, that Heitenga does know) but, if a defender doesn't know how to pass and we want to avoid hoofball, I think we need to figure out an outlet, so that Jags doesn't continually hoof it up field. My observation was Neville is not that outlet.

Others said that the defensive midfielders need to step up and take responsibility. Unless you want to read it perversely, this was not a "now let's pick on Jags" thread.

Brendan O'Doherty
36   Posted 18/08/2010 at 01:08:23

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"No one has been saying drop Jagielka"

See posts #s 30, 33, 34, Dermot. Some would like to get rid.

Yes there are some valid points here about his distribution. But a defender is there to defend, first and foremost.

Player of the Season 08-09.

Torres in his pocket, as Carl says (#36).

Fickle isn't the word.
Kevin Hudson
37   Posted 18/08/2010 at 02:00:07

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It's Fellaini and Arteta for me who ought to be habitually showing for the ball, allowing Jags to concentrate on the obvious, and indeed if THEY feel that Jagielka's distribution isn't up to it, then THEY should take it off his plate... Meantime, keep it simple.

Maybe (if rumours are true) this debate will be moot one day when Rodwell takes up a centre-half position ? we know he can pick a pass.

Although I'd love to see him nurtured into a Viera-esque captain.
Martin Mason
38   Posted 18/08/2010 at 04:11:48

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Brian Labone, John Hurst, Tommy Wright and Ray Wilson could play the ball beautifully out of defence, the full backs especially, with those lovely balls down the line. Why can't defenders be expected to do it now? Hansen, Phil Thompson and Lawrenson were also brilliant runners and distributors out of defence. Jagielka was a midfield player once, how can he not pass the ball?

I for one don't believe that Saturday's result was just a blip. I believe that we have structural problems with the team in terms of ability and formation that were showing towards the end of last season too but we refused to acknowledge them in the wave of positive feeling.

I completely agree about Timmy Cahill too much as I love the bloke. When he isn't scoring regular and critical goals, he is a Championship standard player.
Dave Wilson
39   Posted 18/08/2010 at 06:29:03

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I`m a at a bit of a loss here, the midfielders who are being blamed didn't have much trouble getting the ball off Heitinga when he played there.

Jagielka ? not Moyes ? is the most cautious man at our club, his first instinct is to get the ball out of danger, as too is his second. The guy is a fine defender, but moaning about our style of play whilst advocating he plays, is like giving a barman a hard time for putting vodka in the Bloody Mary you just ordered.
David Chait
40   Posted 18/08/2010 at 09:49:48

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Seems like I'm the onty one.. but I think Jags short range passing is not bad at all.. I'm thinking specifically the England game where was was comfortably passing the ball around and even ran it up a couple times...

Got to say where Johnny stands out is the long range passing.. Jags really can't pick out those long range ones at all... but thats no reason to have a go.. we just need to adapt to it... and play Johnny FFS!!!
Tommy Gourlay
41   Posted 18/08/2010 at 11:15:37

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@David Chait

You're not the only one David. The people - like me - who don't think Jags should be dropped (as said above - Player of the Season 08-09 & Torres in his pocket - he'd be the 2nd name on the team sheet for me) are saying that he can pass short, as you rightly point out, he did that for England fine.

That's why we're annoyed he hoofs it for us.
Kevin Hudson
42   Posted 18/08/2010 at 14:16:34

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Good shout, David Chait, Heitinga's distribution is elegant, presumably a net result of his Ajax education. This perhaps magnifies the relatively small flaws of the less capable members of the back four.

As you and others have pointed out, there's an easy way to compensate.
David Chait
43   Posted 18/08/2010 at 14:43:37

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Guilty of not reading all comments.. just like to say
Sam Haore #21 .. absolutely spot on.. so much right about what you are saying Moyes should pin it on his fridge!
Tim O'Connell
44   Posted 18/08/2010 at 20:55:11

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Some very interesting and realistic posts. Don't forget however it was the first game of the season, although some of the posts still ring true.

Johnny H would improve the passing from the back and I agree very few teams play long-ball big centre-forward hoof so playing alongside Jags should not present a height issue against most teams. I think they are good enough to sort out the left right issue ? Jags played both for England. Further it should be the responsibility of midfield to create options ? Felli did this when at the top of his game last year and can do this again but probably needs a couple of games to get back to his best. Colemen v Neville remains a conundrum and my cop out is horses for courses.

What I would really like to know is whether Jack the Lad can be effective wide right as to me clearly this is where the biggest issue is, he is a magnificent player and may just be able to solve the problem (the Stevie G issue for England).

Andy Crooks
45   Posted 18/08/2010 at 21:25:45

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Tim, I don't see Coleman v Neville as a conundrum. I start on Saturday with Hibbert at right back behind Coleman at right midfield. It would leave us solid on the right with some pace going forward. I'd try Heitinga and Distin at centre back. Arteta, Fellaini central midfield with Pienaar on the left. Bily behind Beckford up front. That side cannot lose to Wolves.

We have the personnel capable of losing at the weekend ,it can't happen though. Can it?

Tim O'Connell
46   Posted 18/08/2010 at 21:48:37

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Andy Crooks etc may have a point re Coleman right midfield. Gareth Bale for Spurs the last 9 months has been superb and I think midfield actually is best for him ? Seamus has many similarities so maybe this would work.
Tim Brashar
47   Posted 19/08/2010 at 04:15:10

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I think we underestimate the influence Johhny H has on our playing style. I remember Tim Howard saying that Johnny was like our 'quarterback' in that he called the plays and pulled the strings. More influential than Arteta? Arguably. I see him as the key piece in the puzzle who weaves the back and midfield together allowing players like Arteta & Jags to do their respective things.
Michael Parrington
48   Posted 19/08/2010 at 07:35:12

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Tim #47, good point on Johnny H, his distribution out of defense is excellent, but he still makes me a little nervous when we are under continuous pressure.

Jagielka is great under pressure and he would have been perfect partnered with Distin in the dogs of war era. Unfortunately, they both lack any finesse in completing a pass especially when under pressure.

However, I do like the fact that Jags is quick enough to stay with the strikers if we get caught on a quick break. Perhaps him and Johnny H need a bit of time in the middle to get a good partnership going. Neither are perfect, but together they might prove to be solid. Jags makes the tackle, passes it to Johnny H and we move the ball successfully out of defense.

Then again, we get the same sort of option with Distin partnering Johnny H.

Some good points made about the rest of the team when it comes to distribution out of defense adam #12. Last Saturday the lads in midfield were not really making any effort to come and get the ball and were slack in loosing a marker, our right wing was poor, which made it easier for Peanut and Baines to be well marked. Was Cahill on the field? The end result is it was difficult for the defense to find an easy or obvious pass, which very frustratingly lead us back to the long ball.

From what I remember of the last game against Blackburn we were lucky to get a winner in the last minute and played most of the game in the same frustrating way. Perhaps we need to give some credit to big Sam for his tactics, and also reminding us all just how boring his teams can make a football match.

Hopefully we'll look awake against Wolves.
Laurie Hartley
49   Posted 19/08/2010 at 11:37:45

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I have really enjoyed reading this post and the comments. For once we haven't ripped each other to pieces (yet).

I watched the whole of the Blackburn game on Foxtel and from what I saw there was no symmetry or balance in the team that played. Heitinga is in my opinion the key to this problem. I think Moyes will put him just in front of the back four slightly deeper than Fellaini. My back four would be:

Coleman, Jagielka, Distin and Baines.
Heitinga, Fellaini
That leaves for me:
Pienaar, Arteta and Bily as the creative midfield... with:
Saha up front.

Yes that means, Rodwell, Neville, Hibbert, Cahill, Osman, Yakubu, Anichebe on the bench.

This is the season, fellas!

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