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Need for a new left back

By Anthony Lamb :  17/11/2010 :  Comments (39) :
I have just made a comment elsewhere about this in connection with the post about the Landon Donovan debate. My point is in connection with the left side of Everton's midfield.

Young Coleman has, I feel, shown enough already to suggest that Everton have a very fine young player in the making who is well capable of adding speed, directness, covering ability etc to the right side of the team. However, I feel that the implications of this young man's transition from full back to right midfield has been lost when it comes to the left side of the team.

People have, in some senses rightly, been secure in the Baines/Pienaar partnership. However, leaving aside my own view that Pienaar is somewhat overated (perhaps 3 or 4 goals a season if you are lucky?), I do feel that Leighton Baines this season has shown outstanding potential as an attacking wide midfield player: wonderful left foot, decent pace, natural attacking inclinations... and of course good covering experience to appreciate the role of the left back behind him, and how he would complement/supplement a colleague in that position.

I do feel that these gifts are limited at present by his primary full-back defensive responsibilities which at times may well be criticised, rightly or wrongly. Freed from these primary responsibilities, I genuinely feel that Everton have a player to match any wide left sided midfielder in the division (when Gareth Bale comes down to earth, that is!).

With a good left back behind him, I feel that Baines offers Everton a genuinely exciting natural left-footed wide player able to deliver the kind of crosses capable of turning defences and encouraging his strikers to actually get into the penalty box/six-yard areas. Pienaar could then, a little earlier, be granted his wish to prise himself away from the "the Everton fans that he admires so much" ? and the first choice eleven not be undermined in ways many people might otherwise expect.

Reader Comments

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Andrew Conroy
1   Posted 17/11/2010 at 17:06:06

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Really interesting idea, Anthony, and one I think has got lots of merits.

My main reservation is that David Moyes is much too fond of playing players out of position as it is, and, as a general principle, this is not something to be encouraged. Our early season mess was, for me, caused by this as much as anything.

Likewise, if Moyes was to do this sort of thing with any sort of success, the more it would make the bozos that run the club think that there was no point paying for new players when existing ones can be piff-paff-poofed into 'new signings' in new positions. If Kenwright thought there was even a quarter of a chance Tim Howard could be converted into a 30-a-season striker, you know the fucker would take it.

I take your point though. However, I'd much rather Pienaar started showing the end product he's currently lacking that would justify the contract he thinks he's worth.
David Booth
2   Posted 17/11/2010 at 17:22:34

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Great minds think alike, Anthony, and it would be an even more realistic consideration if Pienaar leaves.

Just imagine Coleman and Baines driving up the wings, supported by two effective full-backs.

Fellaini and Rodwell doing their latter-day impression of Petit and Viera in the middle (what a fearsome foursome that would be) and Cahill behind A N Other up front.

Young, mobile, energetic, enthusiastic, aggressive, pacey, powerful and capable of attacking and defending in equal measure, they really would not allow any opponent to settle, would they?

Exciting just to think about it...
James I'Anson
3   Posted 17/11/2010 at 17:27:40

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Would be worth a try before Pienaar leaves but we only have one left-back.
Alex Baker
4   Posted 17/11/2010 at 17:31:32

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Erm, not wanting to piss on the party or anything, but I'm almost certain Moyes has tried Baines in midfield before on occasion when we were having injury worries and it didn't work. Baines seemed isolated out on the wing and one of his main strengths is his overlapping play ? when he was a winger, that was no longer an option.
Nick Entwistle
5   Posted 17/11/2010 at 17:42:49

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It's one thing to find space and place a cross when you're an unmarked attacking fullback, but Baines certainly won't find the same threat as wide midfielder.
Julian Wait
6   Posted 17/11/2010 at 18:09:02

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So we would have three right backs, two left-backs, four centre-halves, and two midfielders.

Maybe we would stop giving silly goals away?
Joe McParland
7   Posted 17/11/2010 at 18:28:52

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David @ 2, Where do you suggest we play a fully fit Arteta? As the A N Other up front or at centre half?
Matthew Lovekin
8   Posted 17/11/2010 at 19:02:58

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Interesting idea... but I think Baines is so good that he can play left back and bomb forward as a left winger. The only left back similar and better in the league would be Ashley Cole. Baines is very similar in style and almost as good. Imagine what we would be like with an out-and-out effective left winger.

Don't cut your nose off to spite your face.
David Hallwood
9   Posted 17/11/2010 at 19:10:24

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Sorry gents, I disagree. There is a substantial difference between an attacking full back and a wide mid/winger: an attacking FB excels running into space or overlapping. What they lack and what I've seen of Baines & Coleman, fine players though they are, is the ability to operate when the space has been closed down by the mids and/or the defence, and they don't have enough trickery to escape it.
Dennis Stevens
10   Posted 17/11/2010 at 19:15:59

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Perhaps we now have the option of using Baines & Coleman as wing-backs with a back three of Distin, Jagielka & Heitinga ? who knows... we could even consider playing two strikers then!
Ernie Baywood
11   Posted 17/11/2010 at 19:35:48

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I agree with Alex, Baines has been tried there before and it wasn't a great succes... though that was early days and he has improved as a player since then.

He's a top drawer attacking left back, I'd be reluctant to change that.
Gavin Ramejkis
12   Posted 17/11/2010 at 19:59:41

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Baines is already in his best position as an attacking left back/wing back but that needs an understanding winger in front of him, Pienaar does that perfectly well with him right now.

Joe (#7) ? Arteta's best position is attacking midfield, the same position he played for PSG & Rangers, and has on occasion played for us too; for injury cover he can play on either wing but it's not his strongest position.

Robert Dunckley
13   Posted 17/11/2010 at 20:07:57

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I am with Dennis @ 10; we have three very good central defenders in Jagielka, Distin and Heitinga.

If Moyes continues to want to play a five-man midfield then please give this option a try, we may even look like having two strikers.
Andy Morden
14   Posted 17/11/2010 at 20:37:58

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For crying out loud, the only reason we need a new left back is for fucking cover!!!!

I realy wish some people would look beyond the amount of goals that a player scores from midfield too. Yes, it would be shit hot if Pienaar got more goals from midfield, but his general link-up play, movement and chances he creates are what he adds to the team (please don't go on about assists ? assists go on the fact that your forwards actually shove the ball in the net. Also, look how many times he creates space for others to get the cross / pass in). Not to mention his general workrate, desire and professionalism. Yes, professionalism ? he may be on the verge of leaving, but he still gives his all.

I can't help but think this current craze for converting full backs into wingers is related to Gareth Bale's current form. He's an exception, get over it. We may be lucky in that Coleman can do the same, but some players should just be left to play full-back. Anyone remember when England used to play both Ahsley Cole and Wayne Bridge down the left, swapping them over on the wing? Both fucking clueless down the wing...
Mike Allison
15   Posted 17/11/2010 at 21:25:59

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More defenders in the team is the answer to our lack of creativity?

Why not Coleman and Baines drive down the wings from full back, and skilfull, technical, creative players play ahead of them?

It's starting to look like a Walter Smith team with 8 defenders in it.
Trevor Lynes
16   Posted 17/11/2010 at 22:37:07

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I mentioned the glaring fact that we need to recruit a left back for cover for Baines... if he gets injured or suspended, we have no cover for him. His is the most obvious deficiency we have at the moment ever since Lescott left.

I don't know whether we have any youngster who can cover for him but I do not fancy the idea of playing yet another out-of-position stop-gap in the event of his being injured. Do any other writers on this forum agree???

Stephen Kenny
17   Posted 17/11/2010 at 22:39:13

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Baines takes a lot of credit for Pienaar's good work. They are an excellent combo and Pienaar also works massively hard to make Baines look good defensively.

When Pienaar leaves, we will be lucky to see Leighton getting half as many assists unless we get a new left sider who is comfortable taking posession with 2/3 players around them and can pass through people instead of around them and in front of them.
Anthony Lamb
18   Posted 17/11/2010 at 22:46:32

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Andy (14) ? just a note to say my comments were not part of any "craze for converting full-backs". Mentioning Bale in fact was meant to ensure that my comments were in no way to be seen as part of the current "Balemania"! (fine player though he is"). They are simply comments offered in the light of a player's development suggesting that his skills and contribution may just possibly be best employed in another role in the team and strengthen it in the process.

I am not sure you can simply say that a player "is a full back" and that is the end of the story. I am not sure how old you are but many years ago there was one Fred Pickering who began life as quite a solid reliable full-back at Blackburn and was transformed into quite a formidable centre-forward here at our beloved Everton.

As a schoolboy I played against a fine inside forward called Tommy Wright who joined Everton in that position, moved to wing half and finished as a fine England full-back. Jamie Carragher across the park was transformed from a journeyman full-back into quite a formidable central defender...

Football is awash with players who found a niche role removed from their original position. It was only a suggestion for debate, as I believe Baines is blessed with skills that may just suggest that he be able to blossom in a much more offensive role rather than a primary defensive one. If he were to grow into such a role, he would be a wide left-sided midfield player, not another left back further up the pitch.

I also feel that getting him into forward positions more frequently would facilitate more threatening quality on crosses from a naturally balanced left-footed player, allied to his ability to strike the ball with both power and finesse. However, it may well be, as others suggest that he would be incapable of applying himself in such a role, and that a full back he is destined to stay ? but the possibility does excite at least this one elderly Evertonian!

I take your points about Pienaar's qualities but still think his cause is often overstated... and yes, unless you are Colin Harvey, I do expect a midfield player to be more of a threat in the goal attempts department. Developing that aspect of his game would be a more authentic claim to professionalism than the hard work ? in my humble opinion ? but there we go; we are all Evertonians aren't we? All the best!!

David Booth
19   Posted 17/11/2010 at 23:46:27

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Joe McParland (2): sadly Arteta looks consistently lacklustre this season. He'll doubtless come back, but this was a 'right here, right now' piece of fantasising!

David Hallwood (9): fair comment. But as above, nice to speculate when considering the pretty but impotent way we're playing right now?

As has been cited in another current thread, at the moment though, our problem is perhaps not players and positions, it's lack of movement ? something Baines and Coleman could never be accused of?
Julian Wait
20   Posted 18/11/2010 at 00:35:54

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Didn't Phil Neville play left back for MU on occasion? I seem to remember him and his brother the shop steward playing as FB at the same time?
Brian Wilson
21   Posted 18/11/2010 at 00:46:01

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Baines is a contender for England in his chosen position so why risk spoiling him by playing him out of position? How about giving the young lad Gueye a go, wasn't he bought as a left-sided MF/winger?
Ernie Baywood
22   Posted 18/11/2010 at 01:16:06

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Neville is our left back cover. Not much doubt in my mind about that.

One thing... if we play Distin, Heitinga, and Jagielka as 3 CBs we've just added another player who isn't all that great on the ball. I'd rather that extra place went to a genuine midfielder ? and that's still not Heitinga either!
Joe McParland
23   Posted 18/11/2010 at 01:30:53

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The other player who could cover at left back is Distin... Only if Baines gets injured though.
Tim Brashar
24   Posted 18/11/2010 at 02:21:44

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I agree that Pienaar makes Baines look good. Pienaar has been amongst our best players for the last 4 weeks now. No he does not have goals in his game, but he brings so much. I can't understand why everyone bags him and will be so happy to see the back of him.
Lin Jinli
25   Posted 18/11/2010 at 04:40:28

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David Moyes should try something like

LB : Phil Neville
LW : Baines
RB : Hibbert
RW : Coleman
Martin Hughes
26   Posted 18/11/2010 at 07:33:50

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With a formation 0-4-0-0 we would be fucked!!!! LOL, what about the rest!
Derek Thomas
27   Posted 18/11/2010 at 07:47:38

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Dennis Stevens, Yahoo, another convert to the 3 at the back I have been banging on about since Jags and Lescott came together.

You need to go to 3 at the back to make the wingbacks scenario work. With Jags, Johnny and Distin at the back you have the wingbacks to cover when defending... In fact, why not go real old school, defend from the front AND attack from the back.

Anthony Lamb, Pickering was converted by Blackburn, who came to Goodison early in the season to play the then stuttering current Champions (us) and not only kicked us from arsehole to breakfast time, but gave us a lesson in direct football with Big Fred firing the bullets that the old style Inside Forward, Bryan Douglas provided.

Too all and sundry, we have more chance of seeing 3 up front then 3 at the back with Mr "keep it tight and pinch one" Moyes.
Chris Fisher
28   Posted 18/11/2010 at 10:00:36

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I think Baines is best left where he is as, between him and Cahill, they have easily been our best players this season. It's the overlapping with whoever is playing left midfield that makes him so effective; it's harder to pick up an overlapping left back than it is a left midfielder, that's why in the main you see Baines further forward, when we're attacking, than Pienaar.

Pienaar picks the ball up in midfield and then looks to Baines overlapping; if Baines goes in to midfield, then he will be picking up the ball in midfield and looking for someone else to overlap. Bale basically wasn't good enough to play the role that Baines plays now, so was pushed up.

The thing about Bale is he is lightning quick so he can just pass the ball round players and run on to it, Baines isn't quite as fast so in my opinion would be less effective in midfield than at left back... he's been playing amazingly so why change it?

Gareth Humphreys
29   Posted 18/11/2010 at 10:11:08

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Yep ? why not move a player playing really well in one position into another position, thus displacing our reigning player of the season.

What a cracking idea.

Stephen Birch
30   Posted 18/11/2010 at 13:07:22

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Bily has been used as a Left Back for the Russians, so I guess if we are really short he could be considered as cover too.
Peter Warren
31   Posted 18/11/2010 at 13:48:08

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I just don't see Baines as a real option as left mid winger. He's a decent left back and should stay there.

Left back perhaps needed as cover although I would be content to have Phil Neville as cover for that position.
Thomas James
32   Posted 18/11/2010 at 14:06:17

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Did we put Coleman in RM because he was defensively not 100%...?? Following that logic, it would be wrong to put Baines in LM, because he can defend.

I'm with Brian Wilson (#21), get Gueye on the pitch... he has got to be worth a blast, especially if the Fat Spanish Waiter wants Pienaar in January.
Trevor Lynes
33   Posted 18/11/2010 at 15:28:10

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Phil Neville, although always fit, is nearing his premier standard end and we DO NOT have adequate cover for Baines unless we have a young player emerging... God help us if Baines gets injured.
Robert Dunckley
34   Posted 18/11/2010 at 16:18:27

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Do you not think that Distin could cover LB, if Lescott could do a job in that position then I am sure he also has the required attributes.

Cover would also be found at reserve level, was Luke Garbutt not purchased from Leeds becasue of his performaces and potential? Time for the guys in the reserves to step up and repay the faith shown in them by the club and compete for first-team spots.
Andrew Davies
35   Posted 18/11/2010 at 20:57:25

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Agree about the wing back idea. During the Walter Smith era it was used defensively and without the players to make it work. Now we have the wing backs in Coleman and Baines and the right 3 for the centre backs and both Heitinga, in particular, and Distin to a lesser extent have got the ability to play what is a difficult and flexible role.

Under Smith, we often saw 3 centre backs unsure of their role and who to mark. Having said that, I doubt Moyes has the tactical vision to try it . But I don't believe we will get the best out of Coleman /Baines as attacking options as midfielders because what they have as full backs is the view from the back and the space to run into. Bale is in a different league due to his extreme pace.

Joseph Hand
36   Posted 19/11/2010 at 18:56:58

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QUOTE: ''I genuinely feel that Everton have a player to match any wide left sided midfielder in the division (when Gareth Bale comes down to earth, that is!).''

Err... Ryan Giggs, Gareth Bale, Nani, Maluda, Nasri, Etherington, Ashley Young, Stuart Downing... just to name a few ? you really believe that Leighton Baines can match any of them?
Anthony Lamb
37   Posted 20/11/2010 at 13:52:07

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Thanks for the list of very fine left sided wide players but I do believe that if Baines was playing with and alongside some of the players these fellows play with ? especially those at Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal! ? then yes, I do feel that he has the technical abilities to match most if not all of them!

Ciarán McGlone
38   Posted 21/11/2010 at 14:10:15

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Baines is more comfortable with the play in front of him...once he is asked to recieve the ball in a forward position and be the furthest forward, things start to go pear shaped...

That's not to say he can't do it occasionally during a match - he can. However he clearly doesn't like being the furthest forward. Coleman doesn't have that defenders instinct of always needing to cover his full back position...Baines does.

I don't think it's an option. Buy a left winger instead.
Joseph Hand
39   Posted 21/11/2010 at 16:26:42

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Ashley Young, Stuart Downing and Matty Etherington play with players that are nowere near as good as the players that Baines is playing with, week-in, week-out.

In my opinion, Baines is a full back. He is no Roberto Carlos and even he wasn't converted to a winger. I don't even think Seamus Coleman is good enough to match any of the players I listed. If Coleman can't match them, then Baines has got no chance.

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