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Sacred Cows and Taboos

By Jim Hourigan :  23/11/2010 :  Comments (31) :
Having read several threads on last night's game together with their responses, I would suggest that there are at least 3 common themes:
  • Playing a lone striker is not working (whether it's Saha or the Yak seems to invoke the same level of vitriol depending upon who played last);
  • Heitinga is not good enough to play in central midfield;
  • DM?s tactics are predictable as are his substitutions.
Clearly there are lots of other points made but these three recur time and again. However, what few people seem to do is go to the next stage and say what should / could happen in order to redress the issues because, if you do, you are faced with making decisions that challenge some apparent taboos.

Firstly, to play with a second striker means you must drop Cahill back into central midfield. He can?t play wide or anywhere else so if you want to keep Cahill in the team someone has to go ? or else you question his selection as a midfield player. What would he contribute from central midfield and is it good enough to warrant a place ahead of say Arteta, Rodwell or Fellaini? Conversely, do his goals, albeit from this attacking roving role forwards role, warrant selection anyway?

Then you have to ask, if we are playing two forwards, \what type of midfield do you need? Width to put crosses in might be one dimension and craft to slide balls into forwards might be a second. Who has the technical ability to make passes and the skill to find players?

Then there is the issue of Heitinga. By general consensus, he is not a midfield player but Moyes is faced with a dilemma ? drop a proven International, play him out of place, or, God forbid, put him in the position that he has won countless caps for Holland in (as we know this is no Mickey Mouse country in football terms... so to play consistently at that level means you?re no mug as a defender).

Well, apart from the Man Utd game, I would suggest Distin has consistently outperformed Jags this year. Jags is great with last-ditch tackles which get the crowd going, but genuinely good defenders rarely make many as they anticipate. Watching last night's match, Jags miskicked from the kick off and on countless other occasions miscued, mishit or just plain missed the ball. As the saying goes, he can?t pass water, which is why all opposition teams allow him the ball ? they know he will give it them back!

So drop Heitinga from midfield by all means but to where? And it?s far too easy at this point to bring up all the nonsense about him wanting away etc ? you play your best players whilst they are the best and are available and deal with the other issues when you need to ? just ask Ferguson!!

Finally, the tactics. So was it surprising that Coleman was replaced before either Heitinga or Arteta? Perhaps you could argue that in the situation we were in, experience was more vital ? so he brings on a 19-year-old!! Or perhaps you might argue bringing Rodwell on will offer us something different, so he plays the same formation but puts a central midfield player out wide in the same set-up? Then he decides to ?go for it? and put the Yak and Beckford up front, drop Cahill back and play with 3 central midfielders and Pienaar who, as much as I like him, is not a winger or a player who naturally puts many crosses in.

So just exactly what was Moyes hoping to achieve? Did his tactics go beyond ?hit the ball long to the forwards?? Yes, a clearance from Jags nearly created a goal but was that his tactics? Hit and hope? Moyes seems incapable of changing his mindset or his approach. In his terms, he may have achieved a modicum of success but, in my terms, he has steadied the ship and put a decent squad together but seems incapable of developing his own thinking to progress us any further. Should he have much of a future with us?

Necessity (ie Kenwright) might dictate he is with us longer than he should be and as such the tactics will not change; playing square pegs in round holes will continue, and we will approach all our matches with one game plan and no plan B. Oh happy days!!

Reader Comments

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Lynn Thorne
1   Posted 23/11/2010 at 13:26:07

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This is a well balanced argument and I agree with most of what you said. I have never played football - but have watched for more years than I care to mention.

Would it be too much of an upheavel to play 5-3-2 with wing backs? Jags, Distin and Heitinga as a central 3, Baines and Coleman as wing backs, a midfield 3 from Pienaar, Arteta, Cahill, Fellaini... with 2 strikers!

Is this not a flexible option? Please enlighten me.

Jay Harris
2   Posted 23/11/2010 at 14:00:22

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wingbacks went as quickly as they came because it is so easy to play a ball into the space behind a wingback.... evidence: Bainesy... almost all our conceded goals come from his flank.

What we really need is MF players who can score goals... therefore NOT Heitinga, Arteta and Pienaar in the same team.

It should improve when we get Fellaini back and Rodwell is worth the odd goal.
Aiden Doyle
3   Posted 23/11/2010 at 14:01:52

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My take would be:

1) We are already playing with two strikers. One of them is out of form, the other is a midfielder being played out of his nominal position.

2) Heitinga isn?t equipped to be a central midfielder in the classic sense but could do well as a defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1. If he were to drop back in to the defence then, on current form, Jags should be the one to make way.

3) Yes, sadly we are very tactically predictable, both in terms of starting line up / formation and in-game changes.
Tom Fearon
4   Posted 23/11/2010 at 14:10:58

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One problem at the moment is that, if we play with two strikers, we will have two players on the pitch whose job is to score but who cannot. We do create lots of chances with the current formation. Unfortunately, we cannot put them away. It would be great to have MF players who can score but I would like to see a striker who can.
David Poole
5   Posted 23/11/2010 at 14:40:54

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I agree with Jay's point. I said on another forum that none of our midfielders except Cahill can score consistently. We also have forwards who are out of form, this is making life very difficult for us.

I also don't really understand what Yakubu did to deserve being dropped. He was improving and starting to look very dangerous. Saying that, I thought Saha did play well against Bolton and Arsenal (but not last night).

At the moment I would favour a 4-4-2 with Cahill dropping into midfield alongside Arteta. However, I personally believe it should be Beckford that is given the nod up front with Yak or Saha. He really gives us something different; I know he missed that chance last night but I can't imagine that anyone else in the team would have had the acceleration to even reach that long ball from defence.
David Price
6   Posted 23/11/2010 at 15:12:17

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Cahill scores one, has two off the line; they score an offside goal... 4-5-1 isn't the problem. Saha was awful in a 4-4-2 last night and the linesman was shite, that's why we didn't win 3 or 4-1.

I agree about Heitinga and Fellaini will walk back in. Pienaar and Baines were outstanding, something we seem to take for granted when saying Pienaar isn't a winger and doesn't cross.

Distin was at fault for their first goal, not tight enough, but him and Jags played well against two excellent strikers. Coleman needs more support of Neville.

Lastly, I've a feeling Beckford can do a job, strange after that miss, I know... but Saha was a disgrace. We were dominating the game at 1-1 so I didn't expect Moyes to make any changes, why should he? Then they get the dodgy goal and he reacts and we equalise.

Good game last night, two good sides. We'll climb the league, no danger.

Colin Ryan
7   Posted 23/11/2010 at 15:48:59

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How about moving Distin to left back like we did with Lescott? Push Baines into left mid as he's better going forward than back and put Pienaar in the middle?

Neville, Jags, Heitinga, Distin,
Arteta, Fellaini, Rodwell, Baines,

So... 4-4-1-1 with Pienaar in the hole behind Cahill up front on his own and encourage Baines, Arteta, Pienaar and Rodwell to shoot when near the box!

Denis Richardson
8   Posted 23/11/2010 at 17:00:51

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Colin, although our strikers are not on form at the moment, I would not like the thought of starting a match 4-6-0! Like we did a couple of seasons ago when all our strikers were injured.

Players like Saha and Yak don't turn bad overnight and I believe would get more goals in their account if the service was better. Trouble is, at the moment we are too slow going forward, and so, by the time any forward gets the ball, they already have 2-3 defenders around him, so what is he supposed to do? Turn into Messi?

I think the main change DM needs to make is simply to put a DCM in the DCM position, i.e. Rodwell of Fellaini when he is back. This would give us more stability in CM (am not having a go at JH here, he is simply not a CM).

The above may also finally allow MA to player higher up the pitch. It's a bit ridiculous at the moment how deep he has to go to get the ball ? yesterday, there were times when he was getting the ball off the defenders just 10 yards outside our ares. He needs to be further up the pitch to be able to get him to make the through ball passes we know he can make.

Next question people will ask is 'what do we do with JH then?' Well, in my opinion, a squad is just that, a squad. You don't need to play Jags and Distin every game. Try JH and Distin or JH and Jags for a game or two and see what happens.

However, main point I would make is that one of Fellaini or Rodwell needs to be the CDM in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 ? whichever people think we play with TC. We need more presence in the middle of the park.

Saha may not have been that good last night but I still think he has got something left; he (and all the other strikers) need better/quicker service.

3 points against West Brom at home is really a must!!
Mike Allison
9   Posted 23/11/2010 at 18:11:41

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Cahill plays up front.

Rodwell should replace Heitinga in central midfield.

If there is a simple solution to our problems (and I'm not sure there is) it is in Arteta's form improving.
David Hallwood
10   Posted 23/11/2010 at 18:46:23

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Thanks, Mike (#9) ? you stole my thunder. Cahill IS a striker, albeit a deep lying one, but a midfielder he ain't.
Colin Ryan
11   Posted 23/11/2010 at 19:00:05

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I see Cahill as a striker too... which is why I have him up front. Best striker at the club at the moment by a long way. He would get 15 goals every season if played up front.
Ciarán McGlone
12   Posted 23/11/2010 at 19:34:42

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Can I add another one to the list about Phil Neville being pure shite?

Has anyone noticed that young Coleman played his best stuff with Hibbert behind him?

ps: Big shout to Mr Cahill who is playing a blinder ? not only is he scoring, he is playing some cracking midfield link-up play... best player by some distance in the last few games.
Stephen Kenny
13   Posted 23/11/2010 at 19:46:35

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If this side was playing week-in, week-out, within 2 years I wouldn't be too unhappy:

Fellaini (capt)

Concievably we could put this side out now and do well. Pace, power, footballing ability, movement and a desire to win.

Of the current side, I'd be happy for Tim Cahill to see his career out with us; I'd love Pienaar to stay as he could play into his early thirties with his style of play. Arteta looks like a man who wants to be on the move and I can see him going to La Liga in the not too distant future.

Tim Howard is IMO a poor keeper and, whether Mucha works out or not, once the striker issue is sorted, I'd be looking at this next as a matter of urgency. Saha is a waste of time and money and should be shipped out in January. Hopefully, with a few good sales and a couple of prospects coming through, we can recycle this squad and go forward with a young exciting side.

The longer this so far dire season drags on, the more I'm thinking we may need a young exciting manager to go with them?

John Daley
14   Posted 23/11/2010 at 21:11:48

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"How about moving Distin to left back like we did with Lescott? "

Shit, I hope I never live to see that.
Ian Kearney
15   Posted 23/11/2010 at 22:20:45

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Good shout, Ciaran, Hibbert was an in-form player dropped for the favourite, who happens to be complete and utter dross.
Anthony Hawkins
16   Posted 23/11/2010 at 23:01:10

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Almost (#13), Stephen Kenny

Rodwell (capt)
[New R Midfield]
[New Striker]

Yakubu doesn't have another 2 seasons in him and Coleman will probably be best at rightback with a quality MF in front of him.

Trouble is, we're barely any further forward than we are today as it still leaves the team requiring a RM and new striker. I don't care how Moyes attempts to paper over these two gulfs (they're no longer mere cracks!). The most urgent position needed to be filled is Right Midfield and a proper sense of playing the best player in the position. NOT playing a quality player out of position so they become average.

As a squad, Everton ARE better than that and when Moyes does play the team to their strengths, OMG, it works and we go on a winning streak!
Dick Fearon
17   Posted 23/11/2010 at 22:51:42

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Jim H, Have you had a brain snap?

By suggesting Cahill be dropped so as to accomodate some no-marks is bordering on the insane.

Sorry, Jim, but in my eyes you have joined a bunch that includes Mike Oates who also do not recognise that Tim is our only world class midfielder. What we should be doing is building a team around him and not trying to create something from nothing ? because, without Tim, that is the level we are at.

Anthony Hawkins
18   Posted 23/11/2010 at 23:16:28

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@ Dick, For the moment, I'd agree; however, you have to ask the question why Cahill is the only one scoring on a regular basis.

Dare I recommend looking over the park to 'pool and recall the various goals and one-man team efforts from Gerrard? That's not the way to play and maybe, just maybe, there's something wrong with the bigger picture?

Looking slightly further afield, Rooney. Rooney played exceptionally well at United for ONE season. He hauled them kicking and screaming to second place in the league. YET I'd dare to suggest in the games Rooney has not played in, the team as a whole has played better with goals appearing from other quarters?

It's the same with the England squad. Over-reliance on one or two players who simply CANNOT step up to the mark every game and sometimes simply don't.

Now Cahill is potentially a different animal in that he does nigh-on always give 100%. BUT, sometimes you have to give up the good for the better.

Man U don't want to let Rooney go just in case he comes alight again. 'Pool wont sell Gerrard unwillingly because he has done so much for them. Cahill the same. However, why is it that when the team is injury ravaged, that it plays at its best?

Because it plays as a unit and each player fights for each other. Most notably players end up in their rightful positions (albeit the 4-6-0 formation which I'm convinced worked because the other teams weren't used to it; think of newly promoted teams that appear to do exceptionally well for a season and then drop down again...)

Dropping Cahill is a MASSIVE risk but could potentially be a MASSIVE win. We've seen how well the team plays when Beckford and Yakubu come on as two "proper" strikers.... I'll leave you with that thought.
Aiden Jones
19   Posted 23/11/2010 at 23:23:44

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Cahill a world class midfielder? World class!? Steady on. He is playing very well as deep lying striker. As an out-and-out midfielder, he will be OK at best.
David Thomas
20   Posted 23/11/2010 at 23:28:48

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I give up. When people start discussing the idea of dropping Tim Cahill, I wonder if these people actually watch Everton.

I would love someone to explain to me how they could watch Everton's games this season and even think of dropping Tim Cahill.
Paul Olsen
21   Posted 24/11/2010 at 00:39:54

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Quality posting there, Jim. Certainly brings up some of the main issues right now.
Steve Carter
22   Posted 24/11/2010 at 01:02:39

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So do I David Thomas. And when I see reasoning like Anthony's, I weep. More than Jesus.
Paul Olsen
23   Posted 24/11/2010 at 00:43:29

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And Tim Cahill is world-class. Not a world-class midfielder but a world-class box player.
Derek Thomas
24   Posted 24/11/2010 at 06:49:38

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So to sum up, Cahill's 'faults' in all aspects of MF play mean he is not good enough for a place, in theory.

But... in practice, you know, the real world, on the pitch week in week out, when he does somehow fluke it into the starting 11. His assists, attitude, commitment, attempts kicked off the line... Oh and yes, the odd goal... make him too hard to drop.

Just what is it I am missing here???

Could it be the difference between theory and practice? Those who CAN... DO!
Steve Pugh
25   Posted 24/11/2010 at 08:57:15

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To everyone calling for Tiger Tim to be a striker, hear hear.

A partnership between Cahill and Yakubu could be superb because they are both capable of dropping back and linking up the play. They are both a handful in the box and they scare defenders.

Or what about Cahill and Beckford, if the lad can develop the composure to finish more often. Teams wouldn't be able to defend up the pitch because we would just play the ball in behind the for Beckford to run on to. Nor could they defend deep because we would just lob balls into the box for Tim to muscle his way towards.
Peter Norris
26   Posted 24/11/2010 at 12:34:21

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There was no 4-5-1 at the Mackems. Cahill was not deep lying he played on the shoulder of the last defender all match until he dropped back into midfield when Yak and Becks appeared. Let's get it right!
Stephen Kenny
27   Posted 24/11/2010 at 16:51:40

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I disagree about Seamus Coleman, he fast direct and difficult to play against. He also gets back and defends well. Hibbert gets forward much better than Neville and is defensively solid in a way I dont think Seamus will be.

Also I prefer to name player who actually play for us. Give it a go?
Jim Hourigan
28   Posted 25/11/2010 at 16:15:38

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The debate about Cahill is probably the most intriguing. I don't think even the most negative Evertonian could ever question his enthusiasm, passion or commitment to the club ? but to describe him as 'world class' is just plain nonsense.

A world class player affects a game through their skill, vision and ability and can win matches on their own when those around are struggling. Tim scores goals in and around 12 yards from goal, and almost always is reliant on a decent cross or free kick. He does not and cannot dictate play, tactics or approach although his enthusiasm does often affect the tempo we see.

Tim is a decent / good attacking midfielder and, whilst that might be better than the rest on offer at Goodison at present, please don't attach such over-the-top and patently absurd descriptions about his ability ? he might be the best Aus footballer around but world class he certainly ain't

Stephen Kenny
29   Posted 25/11/2010 at 17:35:19

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I wouldn't say his all-round play is world class by any means but he is a very good player and he does directly influence the outcome of games. Player's who have everything you mention above are very few and far between, try and name more than a few?

IMO when heading ability is talked about in a league where heading ability is paramount, our 5'-10" guy is universally accepted as the best. A world class skill that saves us countless goals, and scores a load more.
Jim Hourigan
30   Posted 25/11/2010 at 20:24:59

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Stephen, I didn't see much of his world class heading ability against Bolton the other week. Knight and the other Cahill beat him every time it mattered in and around the penalty area and whilst I fully acknowledge his talent at heading, given his height, to describe it as a world class skill is another example of an over-inflated view of his abilities.
Stephen Kenny
31   Posted 27/11/2010 at 08:01:36

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I saw a game once where Cristiano ronaldo gave the ball away constantly, skied every shot and didnt track back. Doesn't mean he's not one of the best footballers ever to play in the league. what a stupid argument.

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