As I sat through the match last night, watching West Ham pick up every second ball and pass around some of our players with ease, the paucity of our tactics and selection was once again laid bare.
We effectively play a 4-2-4 system, putting all the emphasis on attack and scoring goals. Unfortunately, when either confidence is low or the opposition keep control of the ball, that system is doomed to failure. The three players in ‘midfield’ last night – Naismith, Barkley and Mirallas – are all forward players whose first reaction is to go forward and attack. None of them have the discipline or mindset to think as a midfield player and look around them, to anticipate where their opposing player might go or to anticipate a loose ball in the centre of the park. Each of them wants the ball played to their feet, and whilst Naismith does forage more than the others, he is always on the turn looking to go forward. None of them could, in your wildest dreams, be termed genuine midfield players – they are attackers or, in Barkley’s case, an attacking Number 10.
Too often, simple give-and-goes in midfield leave them exposed, or when the opposition break forward, they are left chasing back because they are out of position. Balls that drop in and around the centre of the park are too often collected by the opposition and we always seem to be reacting rather than anticipating. This places an enormous burden on the two genuine midfield players, be it McCarthy, Besic or Barry. Not only have they to protect the worst central defence in the Premier League but they are expected to win balls and set up the three in front of them, plus the centre-forward.
West Ham, through Noble, Downing and others, were able to keep the ball with ease and control much of last night – thankfully Nolan is past it and Valencia was generally ineffective or we would have been more than a goal down.
Martinez seems hell bent on playing an unbalanced team overloaded with too many attacking players of a very similar nature – something I thought I would never say after Moyes. However, replacing one poor tactician for another is not progress. Martinez only seems to want to look forward; every man and his dog knows you will never win a thing unless you can defend properly. That doesn’t mean back to the Moyes days; it means a more realistic and pragmatic approach and playing a balanced team.
With the current squad, if he wants more than one attacking player, that’s absolutely fine... but balance it with a more defence-minded midfield player – play Besic, McCarthy and Barry together but not sitting on top of the back four, in the centre of the park. He can then afford the luxury of two players who can push on to support the front runner, as long as one is prepared to drop back when the opposition have the ball.
However, had he a more balanced squad, he would not need three defensive midfield players... but that all he’s got – apart from Osman – and that’s why Osman is still involved. For me, he’s too slow and completely ineffective but, because of the unbalanced nature of the team / squad, Martinez bulls him up to cover his own failings.
Then we come to the defence!!! The central pairing are the weak link: Distin has faded so quickly from last season it's quite alarming and Jagielka has still not recovered from the World Cup. Alcaraz is just an accident waiting to happen. However, I do come back to my earlier point: because the team is unbalanced, the opposition are able to put balls into our box with ease. We do not stop them at source and that is because the likes of Barkley, Eto'o, Naismith and Mirallas cannot defend – nor should they, if the team was more balanced.
Martinez got out of jail last night, but I suspect its just a short reprieve. Unless he has a major rethink, the team and tactics will keep on failing, aka Wigan. It's playground stuff from him: "Let's score more goals than you!" — except this is real football and that’s an attitude doomed to failure.
Reader Comments (55)
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1 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:03:23
"My big worry is, and I think it’s what every single Evertonian feels just now, you know that black hole of relegation which can sometimes suck you in? Well if you get caught in that all normal rules don’t apply any more. All the usual things you do, playing with confidence and the ability of players coming to the fore, disappears. It falls apart. They can’t let that happen. We can’t let that happen.
"I don’t want to be biased. Roberto Martinez is a good mate of mine. He’s someone that I like a lot and I’m good friends with.
"But if he is making a mistake I’m afraid in my business now you need to tell him and I need to say he’s making mistakes.
We can only hope that Roberto listens to his friend’s advice.
2 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:06:47
Attack would be a front three of Lukaku, Miralles and for me either Pienaar or Ovideo. That does exclude some regular starters but balances the side. The remaining problem would be Robles.
3 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:16:39
4 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:13:41
5 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:23:44
My question is: Why doesnÂt the manager realize what appears so obvious?
6 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:33:32
7 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:30:55
Whilst it was still garbage mostly last night a good percentage of that was down to lack of confidence, it would be interesting to see how the players react to a win playing slightly different tactics like we did last night
8 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:55:37
15 corners... I dread to think what might have happened.
9 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:57:27
10 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:43:16
The main things IÂve been noticing is a few square pegs in round holes, a team which lacks confidence and a team which isnÂt working hard enough off the ball. WeÂre also far too nice.
We consistently get shat on by the refs because we give them no grief, claim for fuck all and weÂre shit at cheating like other teams. Sad that you should need to, but IÂd rather cheat like 90% of the teams in the league, than get relegated.
We played with two holding midfielders yesterday, Besic and Barry. Occasionally they played too deep, but most of the time they were in the right position. This is no different to last season.
The issues further forward are that we play with two wingers, but only Mirallas is any good at operating there and even he cuts inside too much. Barkley is not a winger, neither is Naismith or EtoÂo. We need width.
When the ball is put out wide, early, itÂs the only time weÂre dangerous but most of our attacking players want to be in the centre where it is too congested.
Yesterdays performance by Lukaku is what IÂd expect from him. Even if things arenÂt going his way, he needs to put a shift in and keep going. He did that and we got our reward. In other games the effort has not been there. His hold up play was also excellent.
There are fine margins in football. Our tactics and personnel this year are virtually identical to last year. Last year we had Deulofeu who provided genuine width and pace and didnÂt have injuries to so many players. Usually weÂve had about 6 first teamers out since August.
There is too much negative bullshit talked on this forum. ItÂs too easy to attack the manager or the players for 100 different reasons, when theyÂre actually only at fault for 1 or 2 things. ItÂs especially easy when results and performances are not great. Grab your pitch-forks and pile in!!
I read last week that Martinez had lost the dressing room and Oviedo wouldnÂt play for him again blah, blah blah.
11 Posted 07/01/2015 at 18:07:45
We also, as Paul rightly points out, played a lot more long balls bypassing midfield.
I think weÂre seeing the beginning of a Roberto adjustment.
12 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:22:01
If I may add, I think part of the problem too is that because our central defenders are scared to do what a defender is supposed to do when in doubt, ie get the ball downfieldd as quick as possible, this has led to so many of our "individual" errors.
I am convinced if you put any of the premiere leagueÂs top defenders into our team, after a period of time they too would start to have the type of errors that our defenders have been making and pretty soon would show the lack of confidence our guys are showing.
Roberto needs to understand central defenders first job is to defend and the creativity comes from midfielders.
13 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:58:58
As far as I can see all RM is doing is desperately trying one bunch of players after another in the hope that something will eventually click and heÂll get to keep his job for another week.
14 Posted 07/01/2015 at 17:55:00
Naismith and Etoo are strikers, and Barkley is a central midfielder. The idea that Naismith is versatile is nonsense. HeÂs rubbish on the wing and in midfield. (But quite effective up top). Etoo has never been a creative schemer. Ross, meanwhile, appears to be much more suited to a deeper role than a traditional number 10. As seen against QPR, he excels when he has space to run into, and all the play and passing options are in front. When he gets the ball in tight areas with back to goal, he is less effective.
ThereÂs no doubt he will end up in central midfield, so why not accelerate to the future and put him in there now? Besic and McCarthy can battle it out to see who plays alongside. Maybe against the very best teams, it makes sense to play all three and go counter-attacking, but generally IÂd put Ross in the middle, with one other. The short- comings in his defensive play are exaggerated. His tackling is robust and he will naturally work harder if that is his role.
15 Posted 07/01/2015 at 18:21:21
Howards clearances have so many times been thrown out to defenders who have either been marked or closed down extremely quickly.
And as mentioned already central defenders yesterday cleared it upfield when under pressure rather than steadfastly tried to pass it out of trouble.
Unbalanced teams have been mentioned continuously by hundreds of posters from the first game of the season, we can see it but unfortunately Martinez canÂt and this has been the main reason we are in this position.
Unfortunately until we can dig ourselves out of this hole I think we have to go a bit Moyesy and play defensively.
I would use the natural defensive qualities of Baines and Coleman as our 2 wide midfielders Both good going forward and both comfortable when doubling up with the 2 full backs Oviedo/Garbutt, Hibbert/Browning when defending.
Besic in front of the central pair of Stones and Jags, allowing Barkley to do what he does best in the middle of the park supported by Naismith with Lukaku up front.
I think this would allow us to defend with 2 banks of 4, all, apart from Barkley, natural defensive players.
Until we are clear of any possibility of relegation we have to win ugly. MartinezÂ theory of outscoring opponents has to be binned both now and at any time in the future
16 Posted 07/01/2015 at 18:48:21
EtoÂo I thought was brought in to be used to give Rom a break in the games weÂre winning. Likewise for Naismith for Ross. But to play them all at once is just madness. We need wingers that track back and then he can coach them to join the attack...when the time is right.
Barkley should be played behind the striker... Every other EFC player who wants the position can fight over the scraps. If Ross is fit, he plays there. DonÂt need to be paid 10Âs of thousands a week to see that.
17 Posted 07/01/2015 at 19:12:31
I wonder whose at fault for all the other things then?
18 Posted 07/01/2015 at 18:54:13
Its no coincidence that last years great performance happened when we often played with players in midfield who are actual midfielders, e.g. Pienaar, Osman, Delboy, players who, as midfielders, know that they also need to work hard defensively, especially on the wings to cover the FBs if they go forward. Players who know that they are expected to try and fight to win the ball back when we lose possession.
The lack of wingers, square pegs in round holes, too many no 10s on the park for me are all different shades of the same problem. We simply need/must sign some proper midfielders, especially wide players, so as to give us more balance. Far too often we have 2 if not 3 no. 10s on the park in the AM role, who all want to play in the middle and we end up with absolutley no width, which in turn nullifies the attacking strengths of Baines and Coleman. WeÂre then forced to try to go through the middle and we just donÂt have the quality to do this.
Osman (like him or not) played in every single league game last season and Pienaar and Delboy both played in about two thirds of the league games. McGeady and Atsu (for different reasons) have not provided anywhere near the service this season that Pienaar and Delboy did last year. As for Osman, he maybe lightweight and brushed off the ball easily but heÂs one of the few proper midfielders we have in the whole squad.
Personally, I think the current squad we have is best suited to playing 352 or 532, with Baines and Coleman playing as wingbacks in either formation. The middle three MFs should then come from McCarthy, Besic, Oviedo, Barry, Osman, Barkley & Pienaar with a front two of Lukaku plus one of Mirralas, Kone or Eto. Barkley woud be in the middle of the 3 MFs with license to get forward. The other two MFs would be there to win the ball and provide cover for the the defence and/or FBs. Stones can play in the middle of the CD with license to bring the ball out.
For 4231 to work properly, two of the 3 AMs have to be proper midfielders who can play out wide and can interlink with the FBs. None of Eto, Naismith or Barkley are suited to playing in these wide AM roles and Mirralas has just about gotten used to it but heÂs really a forward and not a midfielder.
Why Martinez has taken so long to realise this (not even sure he has yet!) is beyond me. 35k+ blues can see this problem every week!
Admittedly Pienaar has gone downhill rapidly and AtsuÂs not been played alot so his options are/were limited, especially as McGeady has also being so inconsistent. However, there is nothing to stop him playing Oviedo in the old Pienaar role to get some balance on the left at least.
As pointed out above, if 2 of the 3 AMs worked harder defensively, our back 4 would be under less pressure (not excusing Distin or Jagielka at the minute mind).
Frustrating that what seems to be so obvious to many is not to the one person whoÂs job it is to see it!
Come Roberto - SORT IT OUT!
19 Posted 07/01/2015 at 19:21:00
20 Posted 07/01/2015 at 19:32:25
I think as a team we need to push up the pitch 5 yards and press teams further up push teams back but takes energy.
21 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:06:47
22 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:00:51
If the original poster is correct then why were we so succesful last season playing exactly the same way with exactly the same team, the team was not unbalanced last season so why should it be now?
The players need to stand up and be counted because there seems to have been very little fight recently, although things seemed more positive last night.
My only concern was the interview after the match, Lukaku was positive and upbeat, but our captain Jagielka looked like a broken man Â– no eye contact, nothing, which to me is more worrying and we should be looking to him for leadership.
23 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:11:02
24 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:27:15
The decline of Pienaar has hurt us and Ossie has always been underrated and appreciated.
What I want to know is WHY Barkley struggles to play left. It shouldnÂt be that much of a stretch for a ball playing attacking midfielder
25 Posted 07/01/2015 at 20:44:06
26 Posted 07/01/2015 at 21:08:53
27 Posted 07/01/2015 at 21:28:25
Although Eto'o is a better sub than starter, I just felt it made us a lot narrower and we became easier to play against. McGeady hasnÂt done much since he came to Everton, but at least he gives us width, which helps our fullbacks get forward on the overlap.
People say Martinez has been found out, especially the experts who are paid a fortune to tell us very little. I canÂt agree with this because the difference between last season and this one is as you have said, we have very rarely played with natural width this season.
28 Posted 07/01/2015 at 21:50:33
Naismith has been dreadful since he signed his contract. Also he scored in the first 3 PL games of the season. His next was against Utd on October 5th. He has not scored PL goal since. This is not good enough for the main attacking player after Lukaku.
Barry is not a box to box player any more. When we have possession and go forward, he canÂt keep up and has no goals this season. His legs have gone.
Mirallas is a luxury as he is not a team player. HeÂs not really a winger either as he provides virtually no service for other forwards usually preferring to cut inside and shoot. He never tracks back and makes a tackle. He was very poor last night. Seems to have his mind on a move.
I wouldnÂt pick any of these three for the next few games.
29 Posted 07/01/2015 at 22:31:48
30 Posted 07/01/2015 at 23:44:04
Only last night I watched SimioneÂs Atletico hammer Real Madrid 2-0. Ten out-fielders contesting every throw-in, every corner, every loose ball, all over the pitch. Hunting in packs, all physically strong with a fine first touch and moving to provide options. No-one flying around like Usain Bolt because they played with intelligence and knew exactly what to do. Players of the Besic-McCarthy mould rather than the Barkley-Mirallis type. Okay, we know the latter two are good enough to play any role but getting them to enjoy doing it for the team would not be easy.
Atletico definitely played the possession game but it was built on a defence as solid as a rock led by the magnificent Diego Godin. Wow, what a player. Supported everyone in sight, including a couple of 20yr old academy lads who fitted in nicely.
Simione and his boys also let the officials know their feelings and itÂs time we did the same. Good losers are just that....... Losers.
31 Posted 08/01/2015 at 02:10:08
32 Posted 08/01/2015 at 02:29:33
Harold speaks the truth, we have no excuse for being wimps.
Our greatest ever squad were afraid of no-one.
Not a single one of them.
We were not animals, we could outplay the toughest of opponents, the most stylish of opponents.......and we feared no-one.
We were the finest in every respect.
Roberto has frequently stated that he has learned and loved our history. He is also a true football connoisseur student.
As Everton fans we both understand and DEMAND "The best, and only the best".
Hopefully, our connoisseur manager has learned that "The School of Science" has very rarely handed out our highest accolade for exceptionally well founded reasons.
He has shown great promise, original thinking and a true appreciation of style, that is a promising as a young undergraduate.
In order to graduate with HONOURS, our promising acolyte clearly needs to learn and excel in the fullness of all of the disciplines of "The School of Science".
He has promise.
Does he have "True Grit" ?
Success teaches us NOTHING, setbacks and failures offer far more concentrated lessons.
Only the most resilient witness, learn and OVERCOME adversity. Roberto has the experience of both failure and success.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
Then Roberto, Yours is the Earth and everything thatÂs in it,
And - which is more - youÂll be an Evertonian, my son !
34 Posted 08/01/2015 at 09:57:15
I feel sorry for Naismith trying to play a midfield role, which is not his natural position. Late in Newcastle game, he was in the Barry position. When Eto'o was signed, he was lauded by Roberto for his cleverness of movement in the box. I think he got into the box once in the last game.
Tony Draper, enjoyed your post and agree with you and Harold, we have to be tougher. I might add a bit more to your Kipling quote. "If you can keep your head, when all about you are losing their's and blaming it on you." Maybe, Roberto, you haven't realised the seriousness of our situation!
35 Posted 08/01/2015 at 13:15:27
36 Posted 08/01/2015 at 14:08:59
Last season we moved forward with pace with the likes of Coleman, Baines, Miralles and Deolofeu ripping teams apart out wide as well and with Barkley in the middle teams were stretched which gave Lukaku loads more space to move into, We are not even close to that this season.
37 Posted 08/01/2015 at 14:43:55
People criticise Martinez because we "can't play with 2 defensive mid's" or that "passing and possession can never work", or whatever. We did that last season. It worked.
You're right that last season we were more dynamic getting forwards and for me this is mainly down to confidence. The same is probably true of individual defensive mistakes. Largely down to players who lack confidence.
I don't think players generally want to play slowly, or not score goals. I certainly don't think Martinez is instructing them to do so.
Darren(17), there are no "other things". The majority of accusations that people aim at Martinez or the players are figments of their imagination or malicious bollocks. Stuff like "Martinez lost the dressing room".
We've got enough genuine issues to discuss sensibly here without having to wade through pages of crap that muddy the waters.
38 Posted 08/01/2015 at 14:39:45
I fully accept that for some reason this year everything seems to be a lot slower, but I suspect that may be because too many players are hiding because they donÂt want to be responsible for making a mistake.
There were several times against West Ham Coleman had the ball and nobody was moving for him to pass to so he had to go back to the keeper, which is why I keep banging on about the players having to step up and take responsibility.
In the same way I also think that Barkley is trying to do too much, beating an extra man and losing the ball when passing it is an easier option, but much of this comes down to player confidence which Martinez can't give the players, they have to find it for themselves.
39 Posted 08/01/2015 at 15:01:26
40 Posted 08/01/2015 at 16:17:12
A lot of our width last season came from our full backs. They're not getting forward as much this year, but I don't think it's down to manager instructions. I think it's confidence. Our play is too slow. Players taking too long over decisions, others not making the right runs.
We lack proper decent wingers too. That is down to Martinez, hence why we have so many "wide" players who want to be in the centre. It's a transfer fuck up basically. All our cash went on a centre forward.
Atsu is not Premier League quality and McGeady is too inconsistent, although I'd play him and tell him to stay on the touchline and get crosses in quick because like you say none of the other players we have want to be out wide.
Injuries haven't helped, either. Mirallas, Lukaku, Baines, Coleman, Barkley, Pienaar, Osman, McCarthy have all been out for significant time or been played while partially injured(e.g. Lukaku's toe). Most of those players are our attacking players, so I'm not surprised we've struggled. Again, not Martinez's fault.
This season, results have been poor, performances shit, but I don't think Martinez is setting the team up differently to last season. It's just the way things have panned out. The personnel he's trying to fit into that system are just not suited as well.
41 Posted 08/01/2015 at 16:31:44
As Denis says in 18 above, we are lacking 'real' midfielders. This is particularly noticable in away games.
Pienaar at his best, granted his physical strength was waned now, was very effective at shielding the ball, throwing a few feints and shapes, allowing others to get into position, primarily working well with Baines and always capable of intelligent passes in the box. We don't have the same ability to hold the ball in forward areas, to bring others into the play.
42 Posted 08/01/2015 at 17:17:07
To me, being set up in the same way is actually a huge part of the problem. Last year, most teams adopted a policy of sitting back and letting us pass the ball around, daring us to break them down. This is demonstrated by the number of games in which we had a huge percentage of possession. This year, most teams have changed tactics, instead of letting us pass it around indefinitely they're springing a trap - letting us pass into the midfield and then suddenly swamping us - we have our full backs ahead of the ball and the centre halves split and teams are running straight through at a totally exposed backline. Despite this change in emphasis from pretty much every team, we've kept playing the same way - never making a team doubt that they're doing the right thing by mixing it up and doing the unexpected. I certainly don't think there have been anywhere near as many games this year where we've had possession percentages in the high 60s, something we did a lot last season, particularly at home. This is because teams are setting up differently and we're still the same.
I also think we need to qualify some of that by saying that many of the performances last year weren't quite as good as some blue tinted specs would see it either. There were some absolutely fantastic performances don't get me wrong, but a fair few games were settled by moments of individual brilliance rather than dazzling team play. Let's be honest, you can't expect your right back to keep pulling top class winners out of the bag for you indefinitely.
There's a general view that we're slower to get the ball forward than we were last year but there were also many games then where we struggled to get any attacking impetus at all - West Brom at home and Crystal Palace away were every bit as bad as anything this year from an attacking perspective.
I really like Martinez, and if we're going to become a really good side then I think he can be the man who does it, but only if he realises that sometimes you've got to walk before you can run.
43 Posted 08/01/2015 at 17:36:06
Certainly relying on Pienaar and Osman is not going to cut it. We need players with pace and power. Montero at Swansea is a good example of what we lack.
I think our team is not far off; we've got good players, but when Mirallas is injured and McGeady not on form, we struggle to get forward quick enough and with enough penetration.
I'm not sure I agree with Dennis(18). Deulofeu never worked hard or defended well. Pienaar and Osman do, but they don't have the physicality to make a real difference. Either way, it doesn't help to explain why we're struggling to get goals.
What I'm hoping is that we get through this season with a top half finish. After last years honeymoon, Martinez will have no reason to not be acutely aware of the weaknesses in his squad, so I would expect him to address most of them.
44 Posted 08/01/2015 at 17:54:48
Against Hull we got bossed. They weren't letting us have the ball and hitting us on the counter, they were just taking it and doing what they wanted with it. We've also conceded a lot of goals from corners or when our team is already setup, for example the first Hull goal.
It's a similar scenario if you look at individual players. Earlier in the season Lukaku couldn't trap a football and looked like a Sunday League player. People were slagging him off saying he was shit and a waste of money.
Against West Ham he was a different animal and was top drawer in all aspects of his play. He was still the same player with the same abilities, but his workrate, mindset and attitude was better. As he was winning his battles and getting good feedback from the crowd his confidence improved.
Also in the West Ham game, when Barry broke with the ball, he couldn't play a 10 yard pass to Mirallas with the correct pace. Last season when confidence was high that chance would've been a goal. It's all fine margins as far as I can tell. You can also see the frustration with some of the ref's decisions. Those are not helping.
45 Posted 08/01/2015 at 19:41:57
Montero is a totally different type of player. Very fast and direct and hugely dangerous against us in the Capital One Cup game, an old fashioned high powered winger, but I don't see him having the skill that we miss from Pienaar. It's his cleverness and ability to hold the ball and link up play and play the decisive passes that bring Baines and others into play that we miss. Hey, 3 plays in one sentence. Sadly with age and injuries, I don't see him having that impact again. MLS beckons.
Dare I say it, Downing showed a lot of what we were missing on Tuesday night, a real number 10.
46 Posted 08/01/2015 at 20:04:52
"We've got enough genuine issues to discuss sensibly without having to wade through pages of crap "
"When they're (manager n players) are only at fault for 1or 2 things " . . . "there are no other things"
Irony? see it ?
47 Posted 09/01/2015 at 07:13:06
48 Posted 09/01/2015 at 16:32:20
49 Posted 09/01/2015 at 16:34:54
50 Posted 09/01/2015 at 16:47:25
If we are going to persist with this strategy then we need to fill this role with players possessing these characteristics - simple as that. If we can manage to bring out the ball from the back with pace and purpose, much of the other problems we are seeing across the pitch will likely abate to a large degree. The utter lack of confidence at the back under this style of play is completely undermining everything else from working (going forward and defending). Players are second- guessing themselves and each other effectively crippling the team.
I still think we need a Pienaar replacement to provide proper service and coverage in front of Baines or Garbutt. Oviedo could likely serve in this role, I believe.
Sort it out Bobby - stop experimenting!!
51 Posted 09/01/2015 at 17:10:35
52 Posted 09/01/2015 at 18:32:23
53 Posted 09/01/2015 at 18:35:09
54 Posted 09/01/2015 at 18:35:45
Find the right player to fit the desired style/approach or adapt the style/approach to fit the player skill/strength you have. Not rocket science.
55 Posted 09/01/2015 at 18:41:50
The mistakes at the back (or just on front of them) are finding their way into our net. Can mitigate that from happening to some degree if you at least have some pace at the back to recover. On most days, our centre halves appear to be running in quicksand
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