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Formation Stagnation

By James Martin :  2/05/2011 :  Comments (21) :
There have been a lot of complaints this season that Moyes should be more positive and play 4-4-2 rather than his ultra negative 4-5-1. I totally agree despite the fact we don't at present possess two decent strikers or two decent centre midfielders. The attacking principle of 4-4-2 should always be the aspiration, however ? even if lacking in capability. What worries me is that Moyes can't even seem to get his 4-5-1 formation right anymore.

From what I remember of the 2004-05 season, we were picking up a lot of praise on MotD (for what good that's worth) for playing a 4-1-4-1 formation. It was a back four with Carsley the holding midfielder, Gravesen and Cahill bombing forward and Bent upfront by himself. Osman and Kilbane were on the flanks.

Over the past few seasons, Moyes seems to have changed this. Now we have two deep, very very deep, holding midfielders (for defensive solidity, apparently... although we haven't seen much of that!) in any combination from Rodwell, Neville, Heitinga & Fellaini. We then have Cahill playing as the fifth 'midfielder' right up alongside the striker. This leaves a massive gap in-between the middle 2 and strike pair that two slow-paced wide men (from Bily, Osman, Gueye or Anichebe) are supposed to miraculously cover.

Yes, Cahill has a goal in him, but he was at his best as a tough tackling centre mid who used to arrive late in the box with a few headers. Now he is being used to flick on long balls to his strike partner. Any half-decent centre-back can pick him up with ease as he's shorter and slower than most conventional strikers. If he's going to play so far upfront why not just play another striker instead of him? It's not 4-5-1 ? it's just a toothless 4-4-2.

If Moyes is going to cling to his beloved 4-5-1 next season, then I would much rather see Fellaini as the sole anchor of a midfield three with two attacking talents ahead of him, an Osman, Arteta... maybe even Bily. Then perhaps the wide players wouldn't have to run 50 yards and beat three men to get anywhere near the penalty area, and perhaps a tackle would land on the opposition before they set up camp on the edge of our area.

Obviously having the widemen up by the striker, instead of holding hands with the full back, would be the best of all worlds in a 4-3-3. This would stop Baines neglecting all defensive duties or hibbert being our sole attacking outlet on the right side. You can only carry one holding mid if you're offensive players are as painfully slow as ours are.

Barcelona and Spain only have Busquets, Arsenal only have Song, Spurs only have Sandro, Man Utd don't even have a recognised holding midfielder usually, Chelsea only have Essien. If our defense is so good (it's not... but Moyes thinks it is), and we struggle to score goals, why do we start every game with two holding midfielders? Play just one and let our plethora of slow-paced pint-sized inside forwards/ not wingers flourish!

Reader Comments

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Tony J Williams
1   Posted 02/05/2011 at 20:57:17

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James, our midfield, if we had everyone fit was Felliani as the holding midfielder, with Arteta just a head, Pienaar was on the left, Osman on the right and Cahill just behind the forward.

Unfortunately Arteta decided to sit back instead of moving forward and there was a massive hole in midfield where he should have been. He should have been pushing forward trying to dictate the play. Pienaar left and Osman isn't a winger. We now have Coleman out there but he is still raw and is starting to get marked out of games now.

We have on the left Bily/Gueye or Ossie now, not a petty sight.

The formation was fine but the players aren't doing their roles justice anymore. Cahill was scoring until he went to play for Oz and got injured. hasn't been fit since. Arteta started to show some form then someone robbed his hamstring.

We now simply do not have the players to deal with loss of staff and loss of form.

As I said the formation works just fine, but only when the players are on form and uninjured.
Peter Warren
2   Posted 02/05/2011 at 21:11:23

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Whilst I agree with Tony that players haven't played as well as they can, I think the manager has ballsed up a lot this season.

Fellaini and Arteta have both been too deep and Cahill when he first came was at his best ? a midfielder who covered every blade of grass and popped up late in the box. He was played up front a few seasons back because of lack of strikers and Moyes has kept him there. Whilst he does a decent job, I think we should have two strikers or play a true 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 and Moyes does neither.

People want Arteta more forward ? can understand that... but I think the problem is Fellaini isn't good as a holding midfielder. Everybody raves about him there ? don't get me wrong; for me, he's brilliant but not as a holding midfielder. I think Moyes plays him totally wrong and curbs his game. He should have freedom to go forward but he doesn't.

Either play just Arteta in front of the back four (who can do the job Carrick did for Spurs /Man Utd) or buy somebody for the job, ie, a Carsley. But Fellaini is not the man for this position and playing both so deep is so frustrating...

Tony J Williams
3   Posted 02/05/2011 at 21:17:04

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I disagree Peter, Felliani is a holding midfielder, he breaks up so many plays and then passes the ball to Arteta, who unfortunately has decided to become a third centre half of late.

He wins headers but mainly he brings the ball down and looks for a pass instead of a pointless flick on to nobody.

Going forward isn't Felliani's strong point and his shooting ranks up there with Jags.
Joe McMahon
4   Posted 02/05/2011 at 21:57:37

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James - you can disect all you want. I'm sure we all remeber West ham away this season, with no strikers in the starting 11 against the team bottom of the league. Having just watch Norwich attack their way into the premiership with goals, goals, goals I feel (IMO) what we seen a Goodison many many times in the last few years is tactics of a Neanderthal. I know we won't win anything without any money but do we have to be bored to death with Defend -Hold - defend, keep it tight 90% of every season. "Go out and enjoy yourselves" ? Matt Busby
Lyndon Lloyd
5   Posted 02/05/2011 at 23:22:49

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Tony: Unfortunately Arteta decided to sit back instead of moving forward

If you recall from that video interview he did earlier this season, Arteta admitted that playing as a deep-sitting midfielder was not his favoured role but that he was respecting the manager's wishes.

There were suggestions that he was a lot less happy about it than he let on in that interview and I think that was borne out in his form. He clearly doesn't belong there but Moyes thought otherwise.
Paul Conatzer
6   Posted 03/05/2011 at 00:58:55

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Makes me long for the days of Gordon Lee....
Peter Laing
7   Posted 03/05/2011 at 01:05:59

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The compelling factors in Everton's failing continue to be a distinct lack of pace and the wherewithal to attack with any semblance of aggression. This, combined with the lack of a half-decent goalscorer, usually results in neat pretty football but a lack of cutting edge which has been seen far too often under David Moyes's stewardship.

There are obvious mitigating factors including financial hardship and to change the status quo without any meaningful transfer kitty will ensure that we remain perennially amongst the also-rans ad infinitum.

Peter Laing
8   Posted 03/05/2011 at 01:11:44

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The one game that I have enjoyed in recent months was Wolves away, the 3-0 scoreline flattered Everton and the defensive frailty afforded allowed for greated impetus and resulted in more effective counter-attacking football. Unfortunately, approximately 17 out of the 19 other teams in the Premier League do not offer or grant such a luxury: without pace in the team, we will continue to go around in circles without making any headway in the vast majority of games.
Martin Mason
9   Posted 03/05/2011 at 03:56:19

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If there's one player I'd like to see in Everton's team it is Song from Arsenal. He had Rooney in his pocket on Sunday. We'd still need another creative midfielder but he is the best defensive midfielder I've seen in ages.

Surely United have one in Carrick, Scholes also plays a very deep role now.
Chris Matheson
10   Posted 03/05/2011 at 08:37:47

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I agree with Peter at No 7. Our attacking tactics stink:

? Short passing to feet with (as opposed to space) with insufficient forwaad movement to make this work.

? Too much played out to wings and high balls bombed in. I am not opposed to wing play but you have to vary attacking play and we don't. Very little on the ground and through the middle, very few low crosses.

? Slow attacks with sideways passes, no quick breaks (well, not many) and neanderthal commentators on the radio praising players who "hold the ball up well".

The question I have is, are these tactics a result of the manager's choice ? James's original question, I guess ? or are they because of financial constraints?

I don't like Kenwright so I am always ready to blame him, but I can't really argue with Joe at No 4 ? there is a world of difference between aiming to win a game, and aiming not to lose....
James Martin
11   Posted 03/05/2011 at 08:58:37

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Ferguson has begun to ask Carrick to anchor his midfield but I don't think he could be described as a typical holding midfielder. In the big Champions League games, despite having an abundance of pacy players out wide and Rooney in sensational form, Ferguson has still played Giggs who has marauded forward, so even he barely ever plays with two holding mids despite having the offensive power to get away with it.
Tony J Williams
12   Posted 03/05/2011 at 09:06:04

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Chris, that hits upon one of my biggest gripes with this team and the main reason I nearly always lose my voice at the match.

Pass the ball in front of the man! It's not a difficult concept, pass it in front of him to run on to, not direct to him or like most times, behind therefore halting our forward momentum.

The "put it in front of him you fecking dickhead" and "will you lazy feckers move" are my two oft used shouts.
Roman Sidey
13   Posted 03/05/2011 at 13:29:48

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Thanks James. With the clap trap Round is throwing out there about Vic showing good signs I was thinking of writing a formation based article. You beat me to it and I couldn't agree more with what you're saying.

I'll be hypothetical and (slightly) dreamy when I make these suggestions, but here's what I think would work (3-5-2/5-3-2:

Howard - Haven't seen Mucha except for in World Cup when all his opponents were either minnows or playing like shit.
LCB - Distin
CB - Heitinga
RCB - Jagielka - obviously if one of these guys prefers left/right/centre it can be shuffled.
RW - Arteta - I don't care what he or anyone says, we got the most out of him in a team sense out wide.
LW - Baines - Lets him off the hook defensively a little bit.
DMF - Neville - still inspires the players and can get stuck in for a good tackle. Just can't leave him out yet.
LMF - Osman - wouldn't have said this 3 months ago.
RMF - Fellaini - providing he shaves his stupid head so he can actually win a hoofed header, he learns how to LOOK like he isn't making a foul, and basically progresses at the rate he is on the ground.
FWD - Saha - for now, if fit, the best striker we've had in a long time.
FWD - Beckford - has showed that paired with Saha he is a very good partner.
Subs: Mucha/whichever other goalie Moyes purchases/talks up/tells people to be excited about.
Hibbert - for now.
Gueye - back-up on the left.
Coleman - back-up on the right.
Cahill - back-up for Osman or Fellaini.
Duffy - back-up for CBs.
Bily - Substitute forward - I think he is best suited as an attacking midfielder, but with our shortage of strikers, I cannot believe Moyes hasn't put him up there beside one of them.

Stephen Leary
14   Posted 03/05/2011 at 14:57:39

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I'm liking that formation and side, Roman, mate. Although I would maybe have Coleman on the right side and Fellaini in the holding roll with Arteta alongside Osman.
Gavin Ramejkis
15   Posted 03/05/2011 at 16:00:34

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We seem overly heavy with players with defensive in their descriptions, when Arteta started playing again he looked scared of getting injured again that tied with having him sitting too deep just compounded the problem.

We only have Coleman, Beckford, Osman, Baines and possibly Arteta who will look to take on a player and go around them and Arteta hasn't done that enough this season. If Baines does it there's a huge Baines shaped hole at the left. Osman has improved and was one of very few players deserving any praise from the Wigan game.

Beckford is a player screaming out of the right ball played ahead of him to run onto NOT lumped high or blasted to the corner flag Andy Johnson lost cause style. The balance in the midfield is to my mind the biggest culprit it our toothless attacks for too long, no pace, no true wingers and the wrong ammo or no ammo to the usually lone striker.
Chris Matheson
16   Posted 03/05/2011 at 16:36:38

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Absolutely right, Gav Ram. I felt we ruined AJ by always sending him scurrying alone into the corner. He was then expected to cross it to...well nobody because he was also the lone striker!!

But when you are tied to a mindset that says you attack by playing the ball out wide then crossing back in, when that's the only way you know to play, it doesn't matter what the strengths of your players are.

Please let's not make the same mistake with Beckford. He has missed a good few chances this season, but with the right balls played through to him, he will always be in with a chance, and he won't miss them all.
Chris Matheson
17   Posted 03/05/2011 at 16:36:38

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Absolutely right, Gav Ram. I felt we ruined AJ by always sending him scurrying alone into the corner. He was then expected to cross it to...well nobody because he was also the lone striker!!

But when you are tied to a mindset that says you attack by playing the ball out wide then crossing back in, when that's the only way you know to play, it doesn't matter what the strengths of your players are.

Please let's not make the same mistake with Beckford. He has missed a good few chances this season, but with the right balls played through to him, he will always be in with a chance, and he won't miss them all.
Trevor Lynes
18   Posted 03/05/2011 at 18:42:21

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The squad as a whole needs a real shake up and I for one want new blood. I cannot be bothered in formation planning with the bunch we have at present.

The best way to stimulate the fans is to bring in a few decent players and clear out the following; Yakubu, Vaughan, Anichebe, Yobo, Bily, Heitinga and any others who will not make the Premier League grade. Get them permanantly off the wage bill and freshen up the squad as a whole... sooner rather than later!!

Martin Mason
19   Posted 04/05/2011 at 04:04:54

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Anderson also plays in the holding role for United.
Trevor Lynes
20   Posted 04/05/2011 at 10:15:40

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If the club are not active in the transfer market (and I don't mean just talk), I foresee decline.
Kevin Gillen
21   Posted 04/05/2011 at 16:06:21

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4-5-1 is no more or less of an attacking formation than 4-4-2. The quality and speed of your wide midfielders is what counts and we don't have an awful lot of speed or quality out wide.

The best and most attacking football I have seen at Everton in the past few years was 4-5-1 with the ball played to Yakubu's feet and with Osman and Pienaar getting well forward and Cahill coming in from behind. Without investment Moyes cannot be expected to keep making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

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