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3-5-2: The formation Moyes is looking for?

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I have not posted on Toffeeweb for a while now, but I still come on the site daily and read all the great articles/comments posted by all you fellow blues.

We are all disappointed with the current position of the team, the lack of activity in the transfer window (except outgoing), the continued lack of investment, etc, but... that is the position we are in unfortunately and we(Moyes) need to find a way to best use the resource we have available.

Moyes in my view has always been a one-dimensional manager who has relied to heavily on his tried and trusted 4-5-1 formation and a certain Mr Cahill.

Moyes has also struggled, with the exception of the Yak in his first season, to get the best out of his strikers.

(for the record - I am a Moyes fan)

Everyone on Toffeeweb seems to be calling out for the 4-4-2 formation to solve our problems and I can understand why. However, this removes our biggest goal threat from the team and is simply not an option in my view (Cahill - once he returns from the Asian Cup of course).

The formation nobody seems to have considered but seems obvious to me is 3-5-2.

This formation is rarely used in the prem these days, but I believe it plays to all our strengths, let me explain...

Johnny Heitinga is constantly being played out of position. Moyes plays him as a holding midfielder but he is a World Cup final playing centre half. If we recall Yobo back from his loan, we could plan Heitinga, Jags and Distin as our back three, with Yobo as cover. Heitinga is happy and our strength at the back will be a match for any premier league forward line.

We then play Coleman and Baines as wing-backs, as both have great attacking qualities and they can offer the width we require if pushed further forward.

As we have an abundance of central midfield players at our disposal, we then play Felli as the holding midfielder, with Arteta and Cahill pushed further forward. This leaves Bily, Ossie, Rodwell and Neville (cover for Coleman too) as more than adequate cover.

What this means is we can still play two upfront and the obvious choice for me is Saha and Beckford.

Alternatively, drop Beckford and play Cahill as your second striker, with Rodwell or Bily drafted into the middle.

Looks like this...

Heitinga, Jagielka, Distin
Coleman Baines

Arteta Cahill


Not sure what your views are and lets be honest, Moyes would not play this in a million years, but I personally think it would suit our current squad as:

a) it keeps the majority of the current squad happy and gives more opportunities to certain players.
b) it allows players to play in their natural positions.
c) it gives us strength at the back but still allows us to have the width and pace we need.
d) it plays to our strengths in centre midfield.
e) it means Cahill is still an integral part of the team and his goal threat remains (particularly if coming from deep).
f) it still allows us to play two upfront.

This worked for me on Fifa and Championship Manager anyway :-) Im interested to hear any thoughts?

Note - one caveat is that we lose the captaincy and leadership of Neville. Whilst this has been lacking of late anyway, it would still be a loss. I think Jags, Arteta and Cahill would have to step up to the mark, as Neville can't go on forever anyway.

John McKie, Liverpool     Posted 24/01/2011 at 22:29:50

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Mike Rourke
1   Posted 24/01/2011 at 23:31:56

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If we're going for fantasy formations I'll go with the Ossie Ardiles 2-3-5.

If Moyesy decides he's had enough of it all then I'm starting the 'Ossie for Everton' campaign!
Mike Rourke
2   Posted 24/01/2011 at 23:50:06

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To put some meat on the bone for you:


Heitinga Distin

Coleman Rodwell Arteta

Saha Cahill Fellaini Beckford Bily

What is immediately obvious is the absence of Phil Neville, but to this I say 'do one'. End of.

For this formation to work you need ball playing centre backs, hence the omission of Jags.

Baines is the really controversial one, but I feel he would swiftly be forgotten after just one half of watching the beautiful football this formation would produce.

Tactically, Johnny H would need to step up if we were being over-run in midfield and Arteta and Coleman would be invited to bomb forward whilst getting chalk on their boots whipping in crosses for the front five, just imagine the other four guys feeding like hungry hyenas off of Big Felli's knock downs. Lovely.

Of course the key player is young Jack, who, in his Beckenbauer-esque magnificence, would be required to cover literally every blade of grass, twice, per minute. Something I have every faith he could pull off.

I can only hope Moyesy is reading this.
Peter Bourke
3   Posted 24/01/2011 at 23:31:40

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I know most on here will probably disagree with you John, but I like the look of it. As you said, DM will never play it but the success of this formation hinges on the abilities of your wing backs. And from what I've seen both Baines and Coleman have the ability to run all day and cover the constant need to go from attacking to defending for the whole game.
Jamie Sweet
4   Posted 25/01/2011 at 01:43:11

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I would like to appeal to the editor to bring the article titled "Time to do something about it then!" back onto the home page of TW rather than ones like this which, although interesting to a point, have been done to death already on this site.

There are far more important issues which need to be dealt with, and this is an opportunity for readers of Toffeeweb to try and make a difference.


Steve O'Malley
5   Posted 25/01/2011 at 06:04:23

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John , I like Peter Bourke at #3 like the look of it. I would envisage that we will be in the minority but it doesn't really matter anyway because your team and formation will never be tested, it will never happen
Paul Olsen
6   Posted 25/01/2011 at 07:34:14

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If there was money involved in Yobo's loan we can't recall him.
Matthew Lovekin
7   Posted 25/01/2011 at 07:37:23

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Far too attacking for Moyes, I'm afraid.
Aiden Doyle
8   Posted 25/01/2011 at 07:41:31

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3-5-2 tends to work extremely well against a traditional 4-4-2, which is exactly what it was designed to do. If you use it against just about anything else, you're asking for trouble.
Derek Thomas
9   Posted 25/01/2011 at 08:00:22

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I am a big advocate of 3 at the back. ( have been on and off mooting it for 2yrs ) We actually have 2 wingbacks to make it work. Seems a shame to waste them.

But it won't happen with Moyes, he will 'forget' the 2 games we did well with 442 ( but it must be added WITH Pienaar).. and see the 2 games where we could, in all fairness, have gone in at halftime 0-3 down ( but again it must be said with NO Pienaar ).

Although some of that has to do with his, I think, lack of knowing just which is his best 11. perm from Ossie, Anichebe, Vaughan, Saha, Beckford over 2 games for 3 positions.

He will never, ever, start a game with 3 defenders, just like he will never start a game with 3 attackers.

It just isn't in Defensive Davey's mindset.
Declan O'Shaughnessy
10   Posted 25/01/2011 at 08:30:33

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As well as Aiden (#8) pointing out that 3-5-2 only really works against 4-4-2 (which not many teams play), I would like to address the following from the original article:

(a) This isn't really a manager's job though, is it? His job is to get the best out of players, not "keep them happy" by using an artifical system just so he can keep some players at the club. If the personnel available are best suited to 3-5-2, then fine, but if they're not then there's no point shoehorning it in

(b) Really? Which of our defenders are best suited to play in a 3-man pattern? Which of them are natural (or trained) sweepers? Playing 3 CBs is very different (in terms of role and responsibility) to playing 2 CBs. Which of our CBs can step out of defence into midfield when required, and contribute to attacks? How is playing Cahill as a second striker (as you advocate later on) playing him in his natural position? What makes you think that Coleman, who is pretty woeful defensively (still), can both defend and attack with no support from a player in front of him or behind him?

(c) What pace? Neither Coleman or Baines are overly quick, certainly not with the ball at their feet. But on a wider point, pace in football comes from moving the ball quickly, sometimes unexpectedly, and accurately. This has to start at the back. Where are we going to play these balls from? Who is going to play them?

(d) What strengths in centre midfield? No, I mean seriously, what strengths?

(e) As you point out, Cahill's main threat comes when he's making late runs into the box. But that's the only time he's dangerous. He's not great as a striker. And he's not great in 4-4-2 (though he has improved).

(f) Playing 2 up front is all well and good, so long as you create chances for them and play to their (the individual players') strength.

Unfortunately, football is a lot harder than picking nice formations (without wishing to be too patronising). At the minute (and for most of this season) it doesn't matter what formations you employ, or what players you pick even: against perceived "weaker" teams, our players simply don't turn up or put in a committed performance. But when they play Man City or Spurs or Liverpool etc. they up their game. That basically comes down to players not being professional enough to do their jobs, and Moyes and Round not being to motivate the players sufficiently.
Gavin Wadeson
11   Posted 25/01/2011 at 08:56:48

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I'd like to join the OSSIE FOR EVERTON campaign.

No, not Ardiles ...Osman! Recently, I think he's been playing like Arteta used to (a few years ago).

I'm not too bothered about discussing formations, but I think Osman has to be played in centre mid from now on. I'd also rather have Bily in the team instead of Arteta, because he gets in the box and scores goals.

After Saturday, it's obvious that Fellaini has to be played upfront with Saha until we get a suitable striker in on loan or Cahill comes back. However, that would mean that we wouldn't have a defensive midfielder against Chelsea. Heitinga, Neville and Jags have all failed there, and Rodwell seems more suited to being an attacking midfielder (despite allegedly being a centre-half!)

Apologies for not listing my starting line-up or talking about a combination of numbers that add up to 11 (3+5+2 etc)
Gavin Wadeson
12   Posted 25/01/2011 at 10:07:10

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Doh! That last sentence should've said
"Apologies for not listing my starting line-up or talking about a combination of numbers that add up to 10 (3+5+2 etc)"
John Ford
13   Posted 25/01/2011 at 10:55:53

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Ive never understood the obsession with formation. It was never really an issue until the sky era when every detail benign or otherwise is over played and over scrutinised. We just need intelligent players who can play and adapt according to the dynamics of each game.
Aiden Doyle
14   Posted 25/01/2011 at 11:38:05

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Sorry John, you?re entitled to be as interested or disinterested as you like about formations, but you?re wrong to dismiss their importance and equally wrong to suggest that they?re a product of the Sky era:
Dave Wilson
15   Posted 25/01/2011 at 13:00:15

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Coleman and Baines cant cope with a ball played behind them as it is.
Norman Merrill
16   Posted 25/01/2011 at 13:32:56

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The one problem that I find with some of the sides chosen on most sites is Louis Saha, when was the last time he played 3 games on the trot??
Chris Wright
17   Posted 25/01/2011 at 13:24:13

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I'm not a fan of 3 CB's it's never really worked well in English football and is rarely used anywhere in European football. A flat back 4 is the general starting point for teams now. But the main reason for my reply is Coleman. I've seen a few times on this site people saying Coleman should play full back or wing back. Sorry I completely disagree. Coleman is poor defensively, again highlighted by his poor positioning and reading on the first goal Saturday. Also he gave away a penalty against Brentford and should have given away another against Newcastle, again through poor position and poor reading of the play. My point is though he has been around the first team squad for 12 months now, and was on loan at Blackpool at the tail end of last season (where again he was found lacking defensively at times) and he just doesn't seem to have improved this side of his game. Is this down to him personally or is this something should be working on in training. I'm not expecting him to suddenly be the best right back in the world but I would like him to have developed and atleast be pushing Neville or Hibbert for the right back slot and to me he just isn't. I would like to add that 2 years ago I expected Rodwell to have developed into our first choice CM by now, but again he just doesn't seem to be developing. Both have great potential but neither seem to be developing their game fully.
Jamie Tulacz
18   Posted 25/01/2011 at 13:40:21

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Mike Rourke (2)- brilliant love it!

In that formation the big Fella would have to play the old fashioned "barge the keeper into the net" role a la Nat Lofthouse!
Matthew Tait
19   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:40:28

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3-5-2 essentially got killed by the rise of the attacking fullback. It's a strong formation against a fairly static 4-4-2, but as soon as the fullbacks start overlapping you're toast. It's actually still a useful formation in lower level football where genuine attacking fullbacks are less of an issue.

I have actually been wondering though whether it's time for a revival of 3-5-2, because so many sides now play variations on 4-5-1/4-3-3.

Against that sort of formation, I think there's a much stronger case for playing three centre backs - really, almost one centreback and two full backs - with the wingbacks pushed forward most of the time except to track back when the opposition fullbacks get forward.

But anyway this is just tactical geekery, I can't see us making that sort of radical change.
John Ford
20   Posted 25/01/2011 at 16:15:07

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Aiden , I didnt suggest it was a product of the sky era, but this kind of circular debate certainly is (couldnt get your link to work). It just didnt happen in the eighties or previously in the same way. Your assertion that 352 works very well against 442 is another example of why this debate is no more than nuance. I dont see how you can prove this, where the system could be shown as more important over player abilities and teamwork. I would always maintain that the best teams operate without adherence to a strict model, although fair enough you have to start with a formation in mind. It is surely more about competent team players being able to adapt and taking a formation according to the characteristics of individual games.
Aiden Doyle
21   Posted 25/01/2011 at 19:53:37

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Hi again John. It had occurred to me that I?d possibly read the wrong emphasis into your comment about Sky.

I think that you?re probably right to say that formations are debated more frequently by everyday fans than they were a few decades ago. It seems logical that when people have a greater awareness of any issue, they?re more likely to hold - and express - an opinion on it, and perhaps Sky has had a role in this.

As for the link, it?s not a hyperlink, so you?ll need to copy & paste it into your browser?s address bar (or, depending on which browser you use, highlight, right-click and go to..). If that?s failing for some reason, just go to Wikipedia and look up ?football formations?. You might not share my enthusiasm, but I found reading about the way the revolutionary 2-3-5 formation made a mockery of 1-1-8s and 1-2-7s in the late 1800?s, for example, to be fascinating stuff.

Finally, the guys at Zonal Marking explain the merits and perils of the three man defence far better than I ever could:

(again, not a working hyperlink)

Of course, you?re fully within your rights to disagree with what they say, but at least you?ll see where people like me are coming from.

Incidentally, if anyone reading this is interested in tactics, formations etc, the whole series of ?How the 2000s changed tactics? articles on the site are well worth a read.

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