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Physicality?

by   |   31/08/2014  Comments (30)  jump

What prompted me to write about this topic in relation to the Blues team that player against Chelsea, was a comment at the start of Tottenham v Liverpool game, that Tottenham now possess "a physical presence". The current popular word is "physicality" — more often described as 'tall' or 'big'... which I take to mean "a team of 6-ft+ players" with several towering between 6'-1" and 6'-3".

Tottenham are not only the current team in the 2014-15 season who have size to match potential skill. Man City and Chelsea fit this bill as well. Likewise, "lesser" teams such as Stoke and others have always made sure they possess enough "physicality".

So what about our Blues? I have had to dip into a website that states these facts and hopefully they are accurate. So the team that started was as follows:

Tim Howard — 6'-3"
Seamus Coleman — 5'-9"
Phil Jagielka — 6'-1"
Sylvain Distin — 6'-3"
Leighton Baines — 5'-7"
James McCarthy — 5'-11"
Gareth Barry — 6'-1"
Aiden McGeady — 5'-8"
Steven Naismith — 5'-8"
Kevin Mirallas — 5'-9" (?)
Romelu Lukaku — 6'-3"

So that gives us only five 6-ft+ starters and four who are (in terms of football and other professional sport) quite short at 5'-7" to 5'-9". On the bench we had:

Leon Osman — 5'-8"
John Stones — 6'-1"
Mohamed Besic — 5'-9"
Antolin Alcaraz — 6'-2"
Darron Gibson — 6'-1"
Samuel Eto'o — 5'-11" (?)
Joel Robles — ?????

Then starters who are currently injured, or were ineligible:
Ross Barkley — 6'-2"
Steven Pienaar — 5'-7"
Bryan Oviedo — 5'-10" (?)
Christian Atsu — 5'-8"
Arouna Kone — 5'-11"

Sorry about the long list of heights but it does go to show we are not the biggest team that has ever graced Goodison Park. I used to share the old idea that "size did not matter" in certain regards but, just like in other areas, I think it does in today's version of the Premier League.

While I was brought up on the "Holy Trinity" and love to watch smaller skilful players, I wonder if you cannot afford to have more than two or three players who are less than 6 ft tall?

  • How much do we miss Ross Barkley at 6'-2"?
  • How much stronger would we be with Darren Gibson in midfield at 6'-1"?
  • How much longer does John Stones at 6'2 have to wait?

Some of the intricacy and speed that we showed at times against the best team in the league by a country mile was mindblowing. McGeady, Naismith (who plays above his height) and Mirallas played at a level I have rarely seen an Everton team achieve.

Football, like everything else, is a game of compromise when it comes to selecting a team to compete at the top level. I can already hear some saying "size has nothing to do with making stupid errors" — and I totally agree. But I do fear that Roberto's love of playing the ball out and keeping the ball on the floor is achieved at the expense of our lack of physicality.

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Reader Comments (30)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 01/09/2014 at 00:08:34
David,

I see you left out our tallest player, Joel Robles, who we have pegged at 6'-5".

You perhaps have a point if we consider that our least physical and (supposedly) most technically gifted player, Leon Osman, is also one of our smallest and definitely suffers massively in terms of physicality, with the propensity for burly opponents to brush him off the ball.

Beyond his particular challenges, I've got a feeling that skill, positional sense, ability to read the game, and a load of other qualities that combine to make the modern footballer are far more important.

Dick Fearon
2 Posted 01/09/2014 at 00:14:57
David, I do not ascribe to your suggestion that we lack physicality or even if size is a deciding factor. I can recall a successful period in this clubs history when our only six footer was Brian Labone. I also have given physical size some consideration and though it has some merit it only comes into play for central strikers and defenders.

I am an old fashioned school of science type of fan yet at I am also an enthusiastic supporter of innovation. I allow new ideas some time to prove their worth before casting judgement. Sufficient time has passed the jury is back and the verdict is in and as far as I am concerned it is not good.

Our problems lie in the fact that Roberto's unwavering trust in a short passing game has been ripped apart by other managers. We expect lesser teams to 'park the bus' yet these days what is noticeable is even top teams are content to play a defensive game against us while relying on quick breakaways. Think back to all those games when our overwhelming possession of the ball was undone by rapid transition by opponents from defence into attack.

While the bulk of our side play ticka tacka over the halfway line we have just two defenders, usually our centre backs, patrolling wide open spaces in our own half. It only requires two attackers playing with width to make it impossible for our CBs to apply cover for each other. In such circumstances my sympathy is with Jags and Distin who are trying to cope in a system where only two opponents have a definite advantage.

Our defensive woes are compounded at the other end with too many bodies over crowding the area. Romelu is unable to use his main attributes of size power and speed simple because he has no room to move. That is why he wanders out to the wings.

When Roberto says we need to go back to basics he should also create a positive role for Jags and Distin at attacking and defensive corners.

Andy Crooks
3 Posted 01/09/2014 at 00:54:34
Interesting piece, David. I don't think that strength and height are the same thing, however. Consider George Best.
Si Cooper
4 Posted 01/09/2014 at 00:40:37
David, if you are good enough then you could be considered to be 'tall' enough but the opposite isn't necessarily true.

The old adage that 'a good bigg'un will beat a good littl'un' may have some merit, but it is actual performance on the pitch that matters, and pace, maneuverability and distribution probably trump sheer height in every aspect of the game apart from competing for aerial balls or acting as a physical barrier. Darron Gibson may be relatively tall but I don't think he has ever been considered a real aerial threat.

Height is not the be all and end all, of course. There are 'bean-poles' who lack proportional power and co-ordination and 'hulks' who could be considered to be lumbering. Average height has been rising sharply in this country for a while now, and it does seem to be resulting in genuinely athletic giants. It is no surprise that a lot of our youngsters tower over some of the older players, but it remains to be seen whether the additional height comes with proportionally increased physicality and (as importantly) the will to use it.

Dick Fearon
5 Posted 01/09/2014 at 01:08:02
Physicality and size are two totally different attributes. Some have both, others have only one of them. Most have a greater share of one than the other.
As for Osman I have seen many taller and shorter players who lack nothing on the technical or physical side of things.
Maradonna was a short yet physically powerful bloke and another closer to home was Bobby Collins. Actually there are far too many examples of all types to name here.
Derek Thomas
6 Posted 01/09/2014 at 03:52:51

As with a lot of things, it's not what you've got it's how you use it... or don't, like Big Vic, built like Tarzan, plays like Jane or Rodwell, too much Birkdale, not enough Kirkdale. Trite phrases I know, but all true. I remember John Hurst and being ever so slightly under whelmed when I met him, he wasn't 'that big' but on the pitch a monster.

One of my earliest Goodison memories was seeing 5' 4" Bobby Collins square up to a big grok of a WBA defender and the defender having the sense to back down.

Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 01/09/2014 at 05:11:18
Dick is correct... size in general and height in particular have absolutely nothing to do with physicality.

However, the article does point out a major problem I see in Everton's defense this season... attackers running free through our defenders without physical contact. For an example, check out the difference in Jags' play from just a season or two ago... he was continually making hip and shoulder contact while man-marking, while now he's giving half a yard of space. Others are guilty of the same thing... it's a key to our difficulties in defending set pieces.

Physicality is an attitude, and this team needs to get back to it.

Sam Hoare
8 Posted 01/09/2014 at 06:19:32
I think we lack aggression and intensity when defending. Perhaps Roberto's niceness has rubbed off too much but we seem to lack somewhat in the darker arts. Leadership also seems conspicuous in its absence.
Terence Leong
9 Posted 01/09/2014 at 08:20:32
Physicality is not just limited to size, as mentioned above, though size is a significant part of it.

When I think of players from an earlier era like Roy Keane, Dennis Wise, Barry Horne, to some extent, John Ebrell, these players were not big by any imagination, but they could hold their own in any midfield, and they can also play a little.

It comes down to how we want to coach players to be more physical in the way they chase down players, or while shielding players from opponents.

I'm not hopeful though, that this can be improved too much, as a lot seems to depend on the player's ability to adapt this aspect of the game, without compromising their overall play.

Rick Tarleton
10 Posted 01/09/2014 at 09:45:42
Alan Ball springs to mind as does Bobby Collins, both physical and vicious, Collins was around 5' 2" and Ball 5' 6". But our present squad, perhaps Barry and McCarthy lack physical power and certainly are too gentle.
Rick Tarleton
11 Posted 01/09/2014 at 10:42:23
The above comment would read a bit better if I'd added the word 'excepted' after McCarthy and although Mirallas is vicious, he lacks any physical presence to go with it and is just nasty.
Peter Howard
12 Posted 01/09/2014 at 12:37:35
Mike(7):

I thought I was on a medical advice site when I read the first six words of your post!

Nicholas Ryan
13 Posted 01/09/2014 at 15:41:11
David, I think size is becoming more important; I know it's slightly different, but my son is a very good rugby (union) player. He is a scrum-half and therefore, generally, the smallest player on the pitch.

Recently, he met British Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips; who is 6'-3" and 16 stone. He was also invited to Sale Sharks, and watched the 1st team train. He was particularly impressed with Richie Gray (Scotland) who he said was fast, athletic and quick off the mark.

Gray is 6'-10" and 20 stone! However, talented you are, if your'e 5'-9" and 11 stone, in that company, you're just going to get blown away!

Mike Price
15 Posted 01/09/2014 at 16:54:14
Certain sports like rugby and basketball have height and size as prerequisites for success, football is different. The best player ever is Messi... Aguero, Suarez, Rooney, Silva, Arsenal's midfield... the list goes on and on and none are tall.

I've said for a while though, that we are way too soft all over the pitch, too many nice guys and not enough aggression in just about every position. The only one with any real fire in his belly is Mirallas, we need that all over the pitch.

Peter Bell
16 Posted 01/09/2014 at 17:14:56
Mike, that great footballing side of recent times, Barcelona had an average height of 5' 9' in their pomp.
Andy Gray was another mystery also.
Pencil thin,only about 5' 10' but didnt half dish it out.
Puts Lukaku to shame
Mike Gaynes
17 Posted 01/09/2014 at 17:37:00
Mike (15), if you really think "the only one with any real fire in his belly is Mirallas"... you've been watching the games with both eyes closed. Mr Naismith is fire, head to toe, and our MotM two weeks in a row.

Peter (12), just call me Doc.

Ged Dwyer
18 Posted 01/09/2014 at 19:37:08
Spurs got beat 3-0
David Graves
19 Posted 01/09/2014 at 19:42:59
Nonsense and thirty years out of date. Perhaps in the days of Charles Hughes height was important but in the modern game (outside of the centre backs) it is just not relevant.
Ged Dwyer kills this non-argument perfectly.
Trevor Lynes
20 Posted 01/09/2014 at 19:59:46
Not many big players have won Player of the Year awards or been voted WorldÂ’s Best etc. The acknowledged three best: Pele, Best and Maradonna plus more current ones like Messi, Aguero and Suarez are all of limited height but could compete with any big defenders. Only Ronaldo and Henry are over 6 foot even in recent seasons.

I have watched EFC since 1948 and my fondest memories were of watching Collins, Ball, Young, Vernon, Ring, Harvey, Kay, Kendall, Wilson, Parker, Morrissey etc etc etc. — All average height or less.

David Cooper
21 Posted 02/09/2014 at 05:01:12
Thanks for those of you who took time to comment on this thread.

I am particularly interested in the reference to one Charles Hughes of 1970's Football Association fame. I remember taking my FA Preliminary Badge and using his book as the bible of tactics!

Can you go back to Alan Wade and his like of 6-aside football and keeping possession?

David Graves
22 Posted 02/09/2014 at 09:08:25
David I too was a Prelim 'student' but in the 1980s when Hughes's nonsense was still being peddled as the only acceptable coaching manual. That was the point I was trying to make about player size and stature - that the game has evolved so much more since then. Aggression and temperament are of course important but I don't believe physical size is.
Laurie Hartley
23 Posted 02/09/2014 at 10:49:11
In my view if you want to win anything in the English game you have to have what David calls physicality. But I don't think it's a question of size it's more a mental thing.

Trevor at 20 gave us a list of players that he enjoyed watching in the 60's. I never saw Tommy Ring play but I can tell you that all the rest of them could look after themselves on a football field. Three of them Collins, Kay, and Morrissey were amongst the toughest footballers I have ever watched.

We won the league twice and the Cup once in the 60's.

Johnny ( put that in you little black book) Morrisey was a rugged individual who was also a beautiful footballer. I saw him flatten Tommy Smith in a Goodison Derby once.

Listening to Derek Temple being interviewed on you tube I recall he reckoned Bobby Collins 5'4" was the best footballer he ever played with but also said he was vicious. Not surprisingly he fitted in very well when he went to Leeds.

I only saw glimpses of the great and successful 80's team on television but Going by what I have read on Toffeweb they had a physical presence on the pitch. A winning team.

Last time we won anything - Joe Royles Dogs of War.

So for Everton FC at least it would seem that we are successful when we have that "physical presence" on the pitch.

I think that maybe Besic and Gibson will have to become more involved this season if we are going to do any good.

Seb Rivers
24 Posted 02/09/2014 at 12:14:30
I agree to a certain extent. However, I would certainly not put physicality before technique. Also, I don't think it's a lack of height, strength or aggression, but our style (that must be respected) that has undoubtedly taken us to another level, and in turn leaves us vulnerable. We must have a better shape and strengthen the defence in order to push for the top four.
Jamie Barlow
25 Posted 02/09/2014 at 13:17:34
I see Gibson is down to start for Ireland tomorrow. I wonder if we'll see him play for us this season.
Andrew Ellams
26 Posted 02/09/2014 at 13:21:20
Reid, Bremner, Batty could all look after themselves on the physical side.

I once stood next to Barry McGuigan at Gatwick Airport and even at my 5'-9" I as way taller than him and he was a big girl's blouse as we all know.

Denis Richardson
27 Posted 02/09/2014 at 14:41:01
Physicality? - just has the feel of a made-up word but is actually in the dictionary.

Still not a big fan, just like 'bouncebackability' made up by Dowie but now widely accepted.

Tony Doran
28 Posted 02/09/2014 at 15:44:06
It was stated when Roberto Martinez took over that his training methods invoilved lots of ball work and a massive reduction in things like running and other more physical things. Running certainly helps with stamina which is something we have been lacking this season.

My question is: Could it be possible that Roberto inherited a team that had the fitness levels required and simply added the technical stuff?

As time has gone on, the training Roberto does means that the physicality has gradually left them over the past 14 months. In the last two games, the players have been treading water for the last 15 minutes. I don't think they are fit enough.

It's just a thought.

Roger Helm
29 Posted 02/09/2014 at 22:25:20
All the good smaller players mentioned – Messi, Maradona, Ball, Bremner, Collins – are exceptions to the rule, exceptions because they are all-time greats who would succeed whatever their stature. What David says is true – EFC teams have long had a tendency to be physically out-muscled by opponents. A player needs to be world-class to overcome bigger opponents.

Most PL players are built like light-heavyweight boxers. Over a long tough season this is an important factor. How often have we seen how difficult it is to break down teams of well-drilled athletic big blokes. It may be the beautiful game but you have to earn the right to play, as the saying goes.

Harold Matthews
30 Posted 03/09/2014 at 05:00:23
Those measurements look pretty dodgy. Since when have Gibbo, Barry and Jags grown to the same height as Stones?

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