In “Defence” of 4-4-2

by   |   07/10/2019  116 Comments  [Jump to last]

“Defenders defend”

“Midfielders create”

“Forwards score”

I have to say I’m sick and tired of 4-2-3-1. Sick of it, sick that we don’t defend, sick that we don’t create and sick that we don’t score. I just want simplicity.

Maybe I’m old fashioned (first Goodison game 1969) but now all I want to see is nothing fancy. I just want simplicity.

I want 4-4-2, I don’t want zonal marking, I don’t want my full backs bombing down the wings, I want clean sheets, centre halves winning headers, full backs stopping crosses. I just want simplicity.

I want 4-4-2, I want my midfield to have a defined shape, give me two wide men (we use to call them wingers you know) one hard tackling mid and one playmaker. I just want simplicity.

I want 4-4-2, give me 2 up top, I know it’s radical but I was brought up on usually “one big’un and one little ‘un” playing off each other, creating mayhem throughout defences. I just want simplicity.

I don’t want my players “profiling” or “trending” on Twitter; Facebook, Snapchat or Tik fucking Tok. I just want simplicity.

I don’t want our manager to be a TV pundit, a radio jock, a community care officer. I want a manager who has the balls to make decisions, pick players on form not transfer fee, holds players accountable and moulds a team greater than the sum of its parts. I just want simplicity.

I want my 11 players to know their jobs, what’s expected of them, carry out instructions, to have tirelessly worked on set pieces in training, run their arses off for 95 minutes and be bloody grateful that they have a job all supporters would die for. I just want simplicity.

I’m just a simple guy who simply wants simplicity.

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Steve Ferns
1 Posted 08/10/2019 at 13:41:28
442 in terms of the old fashioned 2 banks of 4 and 2 up top is dead for good reason. It's old fashioned.

Why? because the game is much more compact now. Forwards defend, defenders attack, defenders create, defenders score. Football has evolved. Football is not simple. Anyone who thinks it is so hasn't watched a Serie A match. The globalisation of the game and the advance in fitness has led to formations being devised to get as many people close to the ball as possible.

When 442 ruled the game, the gap between defence and attack was wide. Often teams attacked with two wingers and the two strikers, so four players. The back four defended as a unit. Contrast that with 4231 defending, there is 6. Attacking there is still four, but with fullbacks pushing on it can be six. Then there is the main reason, control of the ball. This comes from the midfield and with 4231 you have 5 in midfield outnumbering 442's four.

Where does 4231 come from? It's 442. That's what people often miss. 4231 is the evolution of 442. Those who argue for 442 and want to make it work often talk about dropping one of the strikers into midfield in defence. That is how 4231 started!

4231 can be played in many different ways. It does not have to have two defensive midfielders, those two can be pushed a lot further up the pitch in an attacking formation.

Then there is the formation Ronald Koeman wanted to play but quickly abandoned, with three no10s. Very narrow across the middle, leaving space for fullbacks to attack.

4231 can be played as a defensive formation with 10 men behind the ball, it can be played as a counter attacking formation where the back 6 and the front 4 become stretched. It can be played as a possession based formation where it is narrow and stretches wider in possession trying to get as many people close to the ball as possible.

There's lots of problems with 4231 now though. It's not new, it's no longer innovative and people are coming up with other formations to combat it. One problem I see is the lines. there is 4 lines (the 4, the 2, the 3 and the 1), which means it is never quite as compact as the 433. Then there is the fatigue factor. The formation relies on fitness, but players aren't robots and they cannot run all game. Eventually, the game becomes stretched, and like for us with now, there is a big gap between the back 6 and the front 4 and it seems like we do not actually have a midfield. The wide players in the midfield 3 can also get sucked into their defensive work and get pinned back and stop doing their primary function of attacking. But this also happens in a 442, where you can see a 433 pin it right back so you end up with the wingers as full backs, defending against the opposing fullbacks, with the back 4 very narrow and combating the opposition front 3. It then becomes a 622.

433 is favoured by more of the top teams right now, and that is due to the compact nature of the formation, the fact that it suits a pressing game more by how the players are positioned, as they have better zonal coverage, if the front 3 press as a whole, whereas a 4231 can see the shape lost if the midfield 2 are sucked out into pressing. 4231 has often become 442 for Silva as he tries to press the opposition intensively, and this has worked very well, but we've always struggled to support the guy who wins the ball, often the player is just far too isolated and weakly just coughs possession straight back to the opposition.

The future, I think, is a formation that has been around for a long time, but has never really worked properly, and that is 343. Whenever it is employed effectively, the wide players seem to operate as wing backs and it looks more like a 523 or even a 541. However, Bielsa was effective with a 343 for Chile, without more than a couple of top players, and his formation was devoid of wingers, wingbacks or full backs, although he did use wide forwards at the very top of the pitch. His formation was devised based on the best way of pressing the opposition, and obtaining the best zonal coverage. When he tried to implement it at Bilbao, he failed, at first and soon switched to a 4231 and modified it heavily.

And that's the point, 4231 is very, very flexible. Modern tactics are all about getting as many people involved as possible, maximising passing options, maximising space, then in defence, denying space, denying passing options, maximising coverage. 442 lacks the flexibility in it's rigid shape to get enough players involved and so they simply get outnumbered. Whereas if you go with a 4411 variation of a 442, then you are in 4231 territory anyway, it's just a moot point as to what your wingers are doing, is it a rigid 4 or some flexibility and if flexibility then it's 4231. If you go 442 diamond, then you're into the realms of a 433, there is very little difference unless you are talking a rigid 433 and few teams play with such rigid formations in the modern game.

I do not think we have seen the last of 442 though. Formations come and go in cycles. I doubt that 442 will go the way of the WM, and perhaps there is mileage in using it at the end of games when games become stretched and even the modern players struggle to get up and down the pitch like they did earlier in the match.

Michael Lynch
2 Posted 08/10/2019 at 13:56:29
I once picked up a copy of Philosophy Now magazine. I understood about as much of it as I did of Steve's post @1. I honestly tried, but I got lost somewhere between the 4411 being 442 and the 442 diamond actually being the 433.

I'm going for a little lie down now I think.

David Pearl
3 Posted 08/10/2019 at 13:58:46
Ranieri and Leicester won the league with 442.
Conte and Chelsea with a 343.
Pep and City, 41221 (depending how you see it).

What the hell Silva and Everton are doing l don't know. Nobody does.
There is no rhyme or reason for us to be so open and stretched. Why we struggle with set pieces (nothing to do with pace, more to do with shirking responsibility).

We looked better against City with 4411 and you could see Siggy making a difference joining either midfield or attack. The players seem more comfortable with anything but the shape we play. The fact Silva continues with the same thing just amazes me. Even if we turn it around now and finish on a high again we still need a change in manager if we want to reach another level.

Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 08/10/2019 at 13:59:19
I stopped reading when you said football is not simple Steve.

Of course it’s simple, it’s just the money that has changed, which has led to too many cooks spoiling the broth.

I hate the term out-dated, especially when I watch football nowadays, and come to the conclusion that it’s usually just about the latest fashion, with most teams hitting the 60 yard diagonal switch to their bombarding fullback, simply because not many teams play with natural wingers these days?

Football, like most sports is about talent, desire and energy, because if you have got these tools, then I’m sure a simple coach (one that doesn’t complicate things) would definitely be able take care of the rest.

Raymond Fox
5 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:12:33
Jesus Steve, its no wonder our players look bewildered most of the time.

I can imagine one of our players having the ball passed to him and saying to himself 'hell what am I suppose to do next, I cant remember, I know I'll pass it back to who gave it to me'.

Whatever system is played its useless if the players lack the natural ability to play it.

Brian Harrison
6 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:17:02
As the late Bill Shankly said football is a simple game, its just sometimes managers and players make it look complicated.
Michael Lynch
7 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:31:13
And can you imagine Marco Silva trying to explain all that stuff to a bunch of players who speak even less English than he does? "In the moment, the four is the three, sometimes we can make the one and (shrugs) in that moment we might discover triangle is square root of diamond. Follow? Moise? JP? Let me say one time more.. and then Big Dunc will take you through it "

Steve Ferns
8 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:43:37
Raymond, the best managers break it down to the simplest form for the players.

Tony, if you had the 11 best kids you could find, all of whom needed coaching and could not rely on what they already knew, and Guardiola got 11 mediocre kids, but was able to coach them. He would beat your boys because the right system can beat superior players. A modern formation would swarm an old-fashioned 442 and superior positioning and fitness would make it seem like the other side had 2 extra men.

The fundamentals might be simple. But football is a complicated sport. There is more things you can do with a football than a rugby ball, there is less restriction on how to use it, be it a pass forwards, backwards, sideways, dribble, shot. And this goes for most sports. You have more freedom to use the ball, more ways to manipulate it. Then the defensive aspects of the game.

Whether you like it or not, it is a complicated game. That does not mean you cannot keep things simple for individual players and complete morons like Paul Merson can still thrive because you keep their thinking to a minimum. Its the coach who needs to have all the calculations and foresight in his head, not the players, which is why it's Silva everyone is after and not the players.

Tony Abrahams
9 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:46:20
Guardiola wouldn’t beat me Steve!
Kevin Prytherch
10 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:46:59
Our 4-2-3-1 doesn’t work when we have out and out wingers, we leave the midfield 2 exposed. They get overrun, stretched and we get punished.

Our 4-2-3-1 works against the better teams when we have wide players who tuck back into Midfield when we haven’t got the ball, and when Sigurdsson and Calvert Lewin press the defence - effectively turning into a 4-4-2. This was very evident against City until their second goal.

Our 4-2-3-1 doesn’t work against poor teams because Sigurdsson becomes a passenger. He doesn’t score or create, leaving the front player isolated against a wall of defenders. Our wingers end up trying to compensate and play as wingers, we then run the risk of leaving ourselves in scenario 1.

What’s the solution? I actually think that 4-4-2 against the poorer teams could work, as long as we don’t have Schneiderlin in the team. We need two competent central midfielders and wide players who will attack and defend. Keep Calvert-Lewin as a focal point and have Kean causing problems around him trying to win the second ball.

Has there been a team in England who have won the league with 4-2-3-1?
(Not researched it, don’t know the answer, feel free to name any that have).

Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:49:19
Steve it’s no good the coach having all the formulas in his head on the sidelines mate, if he can’t translate it to those blameless players? (Honestly?) out on the pitch.
Steve Ferns
12 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:50:06
Chelsea Kevin, Mourinho's formation of choice. Ferguson also. And that's without doing looking it up.
Steve Ferns
13 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:53:28
Tony, we should appoint you then mate.

As for translating it on the pitch, that's what training is for. Players aren't meant to be thinking on the pitch. They have no time. The game is too fast. The drills are meant to make them move, pass, run, without thinking. And only the clever players like Gomes and Sigurdsson who can improvise to take the time to see what's going on and make something unplanned happen.

Guardiola's City might look spontaneous. It's all pre-planned. It's not simple. It's all very complicated, very clever, well rehearsed and carefully coordinated. Stirling doesn't look confused. His role is simple. Guardiola makes it so. But that role is complicated when taken with the roles of others within the side.

Steve Ferns
14 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:55:42
Leicester won the league playing 4411 not 442. Osaka dropped into midfield. Also Kante was able to sweep behind the midfield and act as a defensive midfielder. It certainly was not 2 banks of 4.
Tony Abrahams
15 Posted 08/10/2019 at 14:58:47
I disagree that this was very effective until City made it 2-1 Kevin, except for about 15 minutes of the second half when Everton were on the front foot.

During the first half against City, the fella next to me said look they’re playing on Coleman because he’s gone, I said look they’re playing on Digne now, because our fullbacks we’re over covering for the centre-half’s, but this system definitely doesn’t give them enough cover, to really allow them to do this effectively?

That’s the other big issue, because although Everton dominate possession in a lot of games, they very rarely play on the front foot, which is usually what causes the most damage to your opponent?

Steavey Buckley
16 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:06:24
Tactics count for nothing if a team is not scoring goals. In every game this season, Everton had chances to win all their matches even against Man City. Everton are suffering from set pieces because Pickford does not come out of his goal to catch the ball or punch it far away from the danger areas. These are Everton's 2 main basic problems. If Everton had a goal keeper like Courtois of Real Madrid and retained Lukaku services at any price Everton could have solved all their footballing problems without spending any more money.
Steve Ferns
17 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:07:04
Tony, if Everton were not effective against City, then why did we create (despite having creativity issues) the most chances and shots on target against Man City for 3 years, forcing Ederson to make a record number of saves and win Man of the Match?
Kevin Prytherch
18 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:07:43
Steve 12 - I would argue against both there...

Mourinho last first stint at Chelsea had Makélélé playing in front of the defence with Essien and Lampard in the centre of midfield. Lampard always got forward, but didn’t play in the supposed number 10 role. He then had 2 wingers in Robben and Duff with Drogba up front. More of a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 than anything.

Ferguson always liked two strikers, although often had one playing as a withdrawn striker. His wide players were often midfielders and not wingers (Giggs being the obvious exception, but his game evolved that much that he was eventually). He also liked balance when he did have a winger, for example when Giggs was more of an out and out winger, he liked Beckham on the other flank, while when Ronaldo was there Giggs was more defensive on the other flank. This then meant he always had at least a midfield 3 when defending.

Steve Ferns
19 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:08:45
Steavey, solving those problems is down to tactics. You either change the personnel or the way you play. Pickford not coming out his goal is also down to tactics. He is either acting to instructions or failing to implement them.
John G Davies
20 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:09:57
A 4-2-3-1 system is only 10-15 m off being a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2.

Regardless of systems, if you don't have the courage to accept the ball in tight situations, the courage to play on the front foot and the speed of thought and application to turn defensive situations into attacking situations, formations are an irrelevance.

Andrew Keatley
21 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:11:18
Steve Ferns - Genuine question. Did you ever play football to any significant level, or is all of this theory just out of coaching manuals and blogs and other distant materials?
Steve Ferns
22 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:11:31
Kevin, I think you'll find that Mourinho is responsible for the popularisation of 4231. It's his formation of choice and he did use it for Chelsea when they won the league, but maybe not in that first season in 2005 (if memory serves me correct). Ferguson did always favour two strikers, but he responded to Mourinho by going like for like and playing 4231. Remember he used to have Ronaldo on one wing and Rooney on the other. Ferguson was great at spotting innovations and jumping on them and keeping up with the Jones'.
Steve Ferns
23 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:12:48
Not really Andrew, not past University level anyway. And I've never read a coaching manual unless Neville Southall's one counts and I last read that in about 1992.
John Keating
24 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:12:53
So football isn't a simple game - apparently.
It's highly complicated and pre-planned, co-ordinated and so on.

If we accept that, then, we also have to accept that Silva must be completely useless because for a year and a half he has not imparted one iota of pre-planning and co-ordination to our bunch. Even teams that have ancients in charge somehow manage to nullify our pre-planned complicated system.

Is giving 100%, showing pride in yourself, your team and your Club, Showing respect to the supporters. Self motivation, also complicated? If so Silva is dramatically failing there too

We appear to be making our game far more complicated than every other team, or maybe our wasters are just thicker than other teams?.

Kevin Prytherch
25 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:13:02
Tony 15 - I said it was evident against City. Although (apart from the first 15/20 minutes) I do think it was fairly effective until 2-1. I feel it would have been more effective from a defensive point of view if we’d have had Bernard as Iwobi left Digne exposed a lot, this sometimes stretching our shape.

Their first was an example of this, where Digne is sucked forward into a poor challenge, Delph is then forced to leave De Bruyne to cover for Digne, our shape is lost, It’s passed to De Bruyne, cross and goal.

Denis Richardson
26 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:15:31
Football is a simple game, 22 fellas trying to get a ball in the back of the net. Too many tactics simply confuses the players and everyone else.

The formation is one thing but end of the day the main thing is that each player plays for the team. Attack as a team and defend as a team. High energy, high press, hunt in packs. If you watch Barca, all their front players defend. Their defence starts once the opposition has the ball, regardless where they get it. Pressure the opposition at all times. When they have the ball they look to attack as a team. This doesn’t really have anything to do with formation.

If I had to choose a specific formation I’d choose 433 but this isn’t the most important thing. The team needs to play as a team and fight for each other for the full 90. You also need to pick a formation that suits the players at your disposal rather than squeezing square pegs into round holes. I quite like attacking full backs but it only works if the requisite cover is there - again that involves another team member recognising what’s going on and covering his team mate. (Bombing full backs chucking crosses in is a bit pointless if there’s no one at the end of the cross or the FBs can’t cross very well or the cover isn’t there when possession is lost.)

All about fighting for each other first and foremost. Don’t have that, tactics and formations are irrelevant.

Steavey Buckley
27 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:15:38
Steve, I have watched Everton all season and scoring goals is the biggest problem, and everyone should realise by now, Pickford remains rooted to the goal line when corners are taken. Bournemouth's first goal was a header from a corner as Pickford looked on rooted to his goal line.
Steve Ferns
28 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:16:10
John, or the plan could be flawed or the instructions unclear, or perhaps luck is against us and the players give up too easily when the going gets tough? Our current failures could be a variety of things. It could also be just not taking the chances at the right time. we have certainly had them.
Steve Ferns
29 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:20:17
Denis, you are right about the attitude of the players. And they are again getting off scot-free. 5th manager in 6 years is about to get the chop and some of them have seen them all off. If Silva is finding it hard to get through to some of them, then he should drop them.

Steavey, Pickford lacks the height and strength to challenge on corners. Big Nev was the same height, but he had more about him to knock people flying, Pickford doesn't have that ability. If I'm correct about that, then that's a good reason to be rooted to the goal-line, where he could be more effective.

andy mcguffog
30 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:24:34
One of the best No 10s we ever had was John Hurst. He played alongside Brian Labone. And let me get this right: 4231 is really 442, and 343 would be even better because it looks like 523 or even 541. I know something even better. 11. Just 11. Eleven blokes who can actually control and pass a ball, and a manager (not a feckin 'coach' who's been successful in the Cyprus Sunday Amateur League, but has been seen on some interweb Super Soccer compilation, looking vaguely cool) who has the nouse and the authority to explain the idea of the game to them.
Mike Gaynes
31 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:27:30
Hey guys, I have a couple of questions.

Is 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 better for defending set pieces?

Which is better for running a corner kick routine that doesn't go offside?

Which is better for coming back from a goal down to win a game?

Sorry to be so cynical, but this is an empty exercise.

Steve Ferns
32 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:28:14
No, andy. But if you think it's all bollocks, then you're entitled to your opinion. Fair dos.
Steve Ferns
33 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:29:05
Neither, neither and probably 442 Mike.
Mike Gaynes
34 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:32:43
Steve, I knew that. I was being satirical.

And yes... for this team, and this manager, at this point in time, it's all bollocks. Pointless.

John Keating
35 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:33:23
you could well be right.
The plan could be flawed - Silva's had over a year to change it. Not done
The instructions could be unclear - Silva's had over a year to clarify them. Not done
Luck is against us - not every game for over a season plus we've been bloody lucky in games where we've got something
Players give up too easily - definitely 100% agree but again that has been like that over a season and is down to Silva's motivational skills, or not. Silva accepts players giving up as he keeps picking them

It could be one, some or all of the above Steve and the players, individually, and as a group, are equally culpable, however, it is the managers job to rectify issues not allow them to continue.
This is down to Silva alone.

Steve Ferns
36 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:38:13
Mike, you're right and I did know it. But I thought I'd answer anyway. In times like this, a manager like Harry Redknapp is better than a clever coach, for sure. Someone who can inspire the troops and get them to fight for the shirt, and turn things around. A clever coach without those motivational skills can have the right plan, it could work, but if the opposition score against the run of play, then the plan is out the window, the heads are down and the towel is thrown in. So, yes, right now tactics mean far less than usual. But in the long-term, tactics mean far more than motivation. as self-motivation and pride and all the stuff John Keatings talked about are easier when you're winning and it's easier to stick to the plan.

John, you and others have said motivation time and again. Why is that? How do you know that the players are not motivated. I am not saying you are wrong, but how do you know that it is not just confidence? How do you know Silva cannot motivate them?

Is it based on press-conferences rather than how he is on the training pitch or in the dressing room? Is it because of shite Richard Keys says (best mate of Sam Allardyce)?

Andrew Keatley
37 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:41:45
Steve Ferns - Thanks for answering my question. I do think your assessments of all formations (but especially 442) are a tad limiting. Every formation offers a certain degree of flexibility - the opportunity for interpretation by a management team - and really it can be tweaked in respect of the available individual personnel and the relationships that different units can achieve.

For instance, let's say your full-backs - when in possession - have the pace, skill and energy to play wide and attacking. This will have an impact on the central midfield 2 - one of whom might need to generally sit deep as an auxiliary defender - encouraging the centre-backs to split slightly. It would also mean that the "wider" players in the midfield 4 might tuck in more centrally to allow the full-backs to operate along the line.

Alternatively, let's say the full-backs are more defensively-minded - and the back four is going to aim to retain its shape throughout, with the full-backs will only join the attack when an overload is possible. This system would encourage two old-fashioned side-by-side all-energy central midfielders (as opposed to one DM, one CM), and encourages the two wider midfielders to play closer to the touchline.

I'd like our manager - whoever they are - to choose a system that suits our players. Hopefully there are more than one to choose from. Sadly Silva seems to be wishing 4231 into existence rather than try anything else.

One last thing; you mention that one of the problems with Silva's current 4231 is that it can lead to an eventual gap between the defensive midfield 2 and the attacking 3; I would say that another (probably bigger) problem has been the distance between the attacking midfield 3 and the isolated one up front.

Jay Harris
38 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:49:45
Shankly's philosophy was very simple convince all his players they were world beaters and far better than the opposition and get whoever was nearest to the ref to scream down their ear "our ball".

The rest as they say is history.

I hate to say it but he single handedly turned them from Division 2 also rans to the bigger team on Merseyside.

Hang you heads in shame Everton because we allowed that to happen and continue with the mediocrity to this day. Can you imagine them putting up with Kenwright for over 20 years. Can you imagine them ever considering to appoint Marco Silva.

Forget tactics its more about culture and where you set your standards as a club.

We have fallen from a solid position of one of the big 5 to not even being considered in the top 7.

What are you going to do about it Mosh?

John Keating
39 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:50:29
you go the games.
You have sat and watched us, more bad than good it has to be said.
Please, you see exactly what I and 30k plus others see.
There is absolutely no motivation from our players as soon as things start to unwind
Silva shows hardly anything on the sidelines that in any way could be motivational
The players themselves, apart, from the odd comment from Delph, are as quiet as church mice. Their interaction in play and when we have let one inis totally defeatist.

Yes Steve I mention motivation a lot because I see nothing during the game that would indicate to me that there is any motivation.

No doubt Steve you are very intelligent and articulate but you have to be truthful with what your own eyes tell you.

Steve Ferns
40 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:54:14
Andrew, fair enough. It's up to the manager as to how flexible his formation is. But the more flexible it is the less it becomes what it says on paper. Wenger and Guardiola are exponents of that, though Wenger allowed players more creative freedom, whereas Guardiola's freedom of movement is more pre-planned and thought out. Proper old fashioned British 442 is rigid though. No flexibility at all. Those 2 banks of 4 have to stay in shape as if coated in starch. And this is what brought about the demise of the formation in terms of popularity.

The tweaks you describe are moving a 442 into something else though, it no longer resembles a 442. The 4231 does not have to be as rigid as we play it. Last season Gueye was roaming far from his position and getting forwards. So silva allows that. Schneiderlin however, never vacates position. This is a strength and a weakness for sure. Good against the likes of City, bad against the likes of Burnley. You could play Paul Pogba and Doucoure as the midfield 2. Both of whom can get forward well and make the formation very attacking.

Back to the Silva system and the gaps, yes the striker is very isolated, but this is earlier in the matches, and this is why I want to see a 433, to have Richarlison pushed right up alongside Calvert-Lewin and not to leave him isolated. The gap I described is later in games as we become more and more ragged.

Steve Ferns
41 Posted 08/10/2019 at 15:58:40
John, if you are basing it off what you see on the pitch, then you cannot say it's motivational issues anymore than I can say it's confidence issues. If Silva was a poor motivator then that would have been an issue earlier in his career than Everton.

As for the side-lines, where do you sit? I sit in the Park End, dead centre, so I get to look to my left and watch Silva. The guy is not passive in game, he is active. More so than most other opposition managers. He is certainly not Klopp. But ask yourself, if you are an elite level professional (as all Premier League players are) then do you really need a clown like Klopp doing a routine on the sidelines to make you roll your sleeves up and get stuck in? If so, how the hell did you ever make it as a pro?

The question mark over Silva has always been what happens when the going gets tough. He'd never been tested, he'd never learned the skills to adapt. His first taste was at Watford and he was sacked, but you can make excuses for that. Then next was last season, and he came through it. I hope he had learnt the skills to do so, and it would stand him in good stead. The opposite looks more likely. but the story is not written yet. I think he now has until Christmas, unless there is another international break (think there is) and so he could prove he has got what it takes.

Steavey Buckley
42 Posted 08/10/2019 at 16:05:19
Steve #29. I agree, Pickford lacks the height so is a liability in the premier because opposition target him with corners and free kicks.
Stan Schofield
43 Posted 08/10/2019 at 16:05:31
I think our problem is we're just mediocre, regardless of formations.
Steve Ferns
44 Posted 08/10/2019 at 16:11:08
But Yerry Mina should be able to win the ball in his place. If given a free role to attack the ball he could outjump anyone and clear it. He's almost as tall as Pickford with arms outstretched. The theory for zonal marking is meant to be that the defenders forget the men and just concentrate on the ball and head it clear. Too many of our guys are getting into duels and losing it. So whilst that might sound like an excuse for Silva, it can also be a criticism. If Richarlison keeps getting beat at the near post, and it's always him there, and he's lost a lot of duels this season, then why not switch him for someone else? Let's put Calvert-Lewin there or try someone else. Near post has been a big issue.
Andy Crooks
45 Posted 08/10/2019 at 18:50:05
Steve, I love this stuff and I enjoy reading it. This is the thread for you. I really do know that formation will win over a period of time. But, there is still room for a bit of magic, effort now and again overcoming guile and guile overcoming yard dogs. You know that too, Steve, and that is why this game is special to us.
442 is for now, as redundant as left halfs, right halfs and inside rights and lefts.
Tony Abrahams
46 Posted 08/10/2019 at 19:24:25
Read my post again Steve, I said that I don’t think it’s effective for a fullback, to be covering his centre-backs, in Silva’s present system mate, simply because when they do, they very rarely get a wide man coming back to fill in for them. (It’s why city pulled us all over the place at times)

My biggest gripe is midfield though because I think if you have got space in this area of the pitch, you should mostly look to carry the ball forward, so it’s very disheartening to watch us never looking to utilise space.

Definitely agree with you about Bernard, Kevin, because although I don’t think he’s been great, (who has?) he has got a big heart, keeps on trying, and Digne has looked only half the player without him

Steve Ferns
47 Posted 08/10/2019 at 19:36:06
For sure, Andy. A Harry Redknapp style motivator would work wonders for us in the short term, more than clever tactics or coaching. The players need a kick up the arse and to be made to feel like they can get out their and win. Over a period of time, such words lose all effect. Look at Pochettino at Spurs I think they have heard it all before and he can no longer get a tune out of them. Bit test of his managerial skills (as opposed to coaching skills) right now.

Tony, Richarlison is forever covering Coleman. So much so that he's one of the top tacklers in the league. I think he needs to be told to track back less. And whilst City pulled us apart, we did similar to them. They were playing well and we caused them a lot of problems. I thought there was a lot of positives from that game.

As for midfield. It's the big issue. It's a mess. Sigurdsson is far below where he was last season. Gueye is gone and Gomes has been injured. Gueye's replacement has been injured before he can get settled, Delph is on his second injury in 8 games, and Davies can't get a game despite all of this. Meantime, Schneiderlin cannot be dropped because there's no one else left. My biggest gripe with Silva this season, other than the marking, is why he doesn't shift to a midfield 3. He can leave Schneiderlin at the base to play his usual game but have Delph and Gomes flanking him and try to get more of the ball. Both Delph and Gomes can carry the ball forwards. Gomes was one of our best dribblers on the stats last season because of his ability to do this. Without Gomes we have really struggled. I think we need another central midfielder ASAP, but it's unlikely to happen in January.

Dave McDowell
48 Posted 08/10/2019 at 20:55:13
Steve #1 many thanks for such a comprehensive reply.

Not sure “old fashioned” is a good enough reason for dismissal of 4-4-2 especially with such a flimsy rationale as “football has changed”.

You say:

“Why? because the game is much more compact now. Forwards defend, defenders attack, defenders create, defenders score. Football has evolved. Football is not simple. Anyone who thinks it is so hasn't watched a Serie A match.”

I say:

Ian Rush was LFC first line of defence. Derek Mountfield scored more times than I remember. Stevens & Hinchcliffe created again more than I can remember.

There is a certain pretentiousness in thinking the wheel has been reinvented.

The reason the managers you quote have done so well is in part to them having a outstanding individual player or geniuses in some cases not solely down to their formations.

Messi, Ronaldo, Dalglish, Rooney, Maradona etc. In these teams really the formation most of the time was immaterial. Even Salah over the park. Outstanding individual match winners.

You mention Serie A, I just watched the new Maradona documentary and his genius of virtually single handedly dragging a relegation team to two Serie A titles. Nothing to do with sublime innovative Italian tactics.

Let’s look at, as I said, teams that were “greater than the sum of its parts” our 80s team, 4-4-2. Leicester title winning team, however you want to spin it they were 4-4-2 with Okazaki partnering Vardy upfront. United with Ferguson mostly played 4-4-2 at their best.

You might just want to spin a 4-4-2 as a 4-4-1-1 but a striker on the edge of the box and one on the 6 yard line is a 4-4-2.

Actually rather than “old fashioned”, which is quite dismissive, you need a number of intelligent hard working (yes they have to run) players to make it work and keep the banks of 4 tight to minimise space. Defenders actually have to defend, yes one on one defending. Centre mid
have to be canny, position themselves properly and wingers have to work their bollocks off tracking back.

I give you Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid. I would have this guy as our manager in a heartbeat and gladly pay to see to them play every week. 100% organisation & 100% commitment. Plus they win trophies. 4-4-2.

You might think 4-4-2 old fashioned but I’d put money our mid 80s team playing 4-4-2 would finish top 4 nowadays.

Give me Pickford, Digne, Keane, Mina, Coleman, Richarlison, Delph, Gomes, Bernard, Kean, Tosun in a 4-4-2, all drilled, full commitment and we’ll start winning.

Thanks all for some great and thoughtful contributions.

Steve Ferns
49 Posted 08/10/2019 at 21:03:57
Dave do you know how much more the players run today compared to the 70’s and 80’s? Do you also know how much closer the average centre half is to the average centre forward?
Paul Tran
50 Posted 08/10/2019 at 21:25:45
I think the apparent obsession with 'formation' leaves us missing the bigger picture.

We have three issues; poor in our own box, poor in the opposition box, lacking support & cohesion all over the pitch. Sort out those three, we won't be talking about formations and our individual perceptions of them.

'Old fashioned'? I remember Kendall talking about playing in the opposition half. That become the modern concept 'pressing', which I first heard in the early 1990s.

In any walk of life, the best practitioners find better ways of doing things. The best among them explain these 'complicated' ideas in a simple, easy to understand way. We need a manager who can do this.

Tony Abrahams
51 Posted 08/10/2019 at 22:25:14
We pulled City, all over the place? We played some decent football, but it was football without pragmatism Steve, we tried playing too much football against the prettiest team in the land, but football that still had DCL, chasing his own flick-ons, because of the way we constantly isolate our only striker.

You seem to have the answers though Steve, keep picking Schneiderlin, but get players who can compliment him though, because the law of averages say we will then have to win a game with him in the team soon.

Steve Ferns
52 Posted 08/10/2019 at 23:58:44
Tony, you keep glossing over the fact that Ederson made his highest number of saves for Man City. We had good chances and we could have or even should have scored at 1-1. We created chances. We had shots on target. Their keeper was Man of the Match.

This was the Champions playing well, not how they played against Norwich or at the weekend and we were not devoid of ideas and getting thrashed. From that game there was signs we could have gone on to beat Burnley, but obviously we did not.

As for Schneiderlin, I'd love to see a midfield trio with Gbamin in it instead of him, but that ain't happening any time soon. Instead of that, Delph and Gomes could be alright, they looked alright earlier in the season, but only against teams where we have more of the ball. Otherwise, lack of alternatives means Schneiderlin keeps getting a game.

Dennis Stevens
53 Posted 09/10/2019 at 02:53:33
I'd be interested, pending the return to fitness of Gbamin, to see a midfield three of Delph flanked by Gomes & Davies. However, that would mean dropping Sigurdsson, of course - & that does not appear to be an option for some reason.
Daniel A Johnson
54 Posted 09/10/2019 at 08:11:44
Talk formations to you are blue in the face the whole Squad knows they cant score this season.

As soon as the opposition score we are beat. The players know this.

At kick off there is optimism but as soon as we go a goal down the heads drop fast.

An inability to find a goal scorer in nearly 3 years has finally caught up with us. You can all blow sunshine up Marcel Brands arse and gush over the Kean's mum t-shirt pantomime but where is our striker Marcel Brands?

Laurie Hartley
55 Posted 09/10/2019 at 08:36:54
Dave McDowell - OP. I like your post.

In answer to your request:

Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne
Richarlison, Gomes, Delph, Bernard
Kean, Calvert Lewin.


Rob Dolby
56 Posted 09/10/2019 at 09:24:34
There are at least 2 comments in this thread mentioning Shankley. In nearly every article published on this site regardless of topic people have to refer to the shite. I just don't get it.

For my two penneth on tactics and formations. The manager is limited to what the players abilities are. It's no use trying to get players to do stuff they aren't capable of.

We tried that with Sigurdsson during our multiple number 10 season. You can't get Bernard,Iwobi,Delph, Schneiderlan, Gomes,Davies,
gbamin to score more than a couple of goals per season.

No matter what formation we play we rely on Richarleson and Sigurdssons goals.

Kevin Prytherch
57 Posted 09/10/2019 at 09:31:58
Laurie 55

I honestly think that team would Work against teams who sit back and defend.

And it would give Pickford the kick up the arse he needs.

Laurie Hartley
58 Posted 09/10/2019 at 11:57:36
Kevin # 57 - Carlo Ancelotti on 4-4-2 (and 4-3-3). It makes sense to me.


Steve Ferns
59 Posted 09/10/2019 at 12:18:27
Laurie, Silva defends in a 4-4-2 when he defends deep. You see Sigurdsson get right up alongside the striker and we sit in a 4-4-2 shape covering the zones.

At Estoril, he played an interesting 4-4-2, where the midfield 4 had a Carsley type sat deep so it looked like a 4-1-3-2. The front two were more like wingers and they ran the channels and vacated the middle. The tactic was mainly about defending deep in a 4-4-2 and playing the "low block" or to use the common parlance, parking the bus. His team then played long ball style on the counter with precise passing to the flanks were he had two rapid forward who would race clear down the flanks, dragging defenders wide. This created space in the middle whereby Silva's favourite player, Evandro, would come into the space and try and arrive late to score the goals. Thereby turning a 4-4-2 into a 4-3-3 in attack.

Sadly, we've not seen enough of this tactical innovation at Everton. With Richarlison in particular we do have the forwards needed to play with way. He did use it at Hull where Niasse was utilised in such a forward role, but he had also signed Evandro to come to Hull and play the Evandro role. Sadly, Evandro was well out of his depth in the Premier League. I believe Evandro is now back in Brazil.

Tony Abrahams
60 Posted 09/10/2019 at 13:24:17
I keep glossing over nothing, Steve. Calvert-Lewin should have scored after a great Everton move, but other than that it was set-pieces that gave Man City the most problems.

If Everton play well I'm happy, and although I left Goodison feeling it was as well as we have played this season, I also felt we played the game wrong considering City, had a major weakness in the middle of their defence, and other than from set-pieces I don't think we tried to exploit this enough.

Sometimes football is about more than tactics, it's about heart and desire, and being savvy. Sometimes it's about trying to play a game that doesn't suit your opposition, instead of playing a game that suits them instead.

Kevin Prytherch
61 Posted 09/10/2019 at 13:48:15
Laurie @58 – interesting read and, like Steve says, I think we already have the player to make that formation work in Richarlison. I posted last year that I believed his ability to be in both midfield and attack depending on whether we had the ball was a major catalyst for our upturn in form. Bernard followed suit and, all of a sudden, we had a compact, pressing midfield and conceded less goals.

I still advocate Sigurdsson against the better teams (and potentially even Schneiderlin) as I think he does a brilliant job against them, but against weaker teams I definitely think that Kean and Calvert-Lewin up-front would work; as long as Schneiderlin is not in midfield.

John McFarlane Snr
62 Posted 09/10/2019 at 14:05:56
Hi Tony [60] I think you will have read enough of my posts to know what I think of formations and tactics, of course they are necessary but all this talk of false number nines, diamonds etc are doing my head in. Where is the encouragement for players to play their natural game when the occasion arises? Are they always going to be treated like robots, programmed to perform without straying from the Manager's or Coaches' instructions?

If the answers to both of those questions is yes, I thank God that I witnessed Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, Alex young, George Best and countless others, when football was a sport and not a science. There was certainly a lot more enjoyment and entertainment in those days, and yes, played properly football [in my opinion] is a simple game made complicated by Managers and Coaches.

Tony Abrahams
63 Posted 09/10/2019 at 14:57:06
If you read this thread, some people will argue that it's not a simple game anymore, John, although I can't see anything obvious that might have changed? (Fitness maybe.)

Some people find tactics dead interesting but I'd bet that 99% of professional footballers find tactics boring, unless the coach can make them easy to understand, which is something Paul T tells us every single week!

I've even got Steve saying I'm glossing over the fact that Man City's goalie made loads of saves, although I could argue that I was getting mixed up with the Burnley keeper.

Kieran Kinsella
64 Posted 09/10/2019 at 15:10:45

I think tactics matter more for weaker teams. I saw Scholes saying Fergie's tactics were pretty much "Attack. If you keep passing sideways or backwards you'll be subbed."

Pleat and Hodgson have both had occasions when they cause upsets on the back of great tactical plans but if you're talking Stanley Matthews, Messi etc, just let them do their thing.

Dave Abrahams
65 Posted 09/10/2019 at 15:10:50
John (62), nice post. I think you were advocating for players to think for themselves; I doubt it's allowed any more, John. It's more about, "If in doubt pass it back or sideways." Everton players do this to perfection, it's when they pass forward they mostly come unstuck.
Tony Abrahams
66 Posted 09/10/2019 at 16:21:04
Agree Kieran, it's all about the players at the end of the day, and yet some people still want to pick Schneiderlin!

I would like to see Calvert-Lewin and Kean, play together sometime though, and think if Silva was flexible, he could make it work quite easily imo.

Start 4-4-2, with Bernard/Iwobi and Richarlison, on the flanks, and if the other team have a good spell, he could easily change to a five-man midfield by putting Dominic out wide for a bit and bringing either Bernard or Iwobi inside?

Pressing is good if you've got the players but, if you haven't, then be tight and compact, and, once you win the ball, look for a fast counter-attack.

Laurie Hartley
67 Posted 09/10/2019 at 22:24:56
John Mc # 62 - I remember watching match of the day when Everton beat Man Utd 3-1 at Goodison in the sixties. United's team included Best, Charlton, and Law.

From the outset, Everton dominated the game. The commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme said something along the lines of “there is much talk these days of formations and tactics but from what I can see here Everton are playin 1-9!” In other words, the whole team was playing as a unit. There were no passengers.

In my opinion there are the players in this squad that are capable of playing with that sort of unity. As Kevin #61 pointed out, they did last season. As a result, we saw them overrun very good teams.

That is why I am bewildered with what is happening this season. Perhaps Idrissa Gana Gueye is the big difference... I don't know.

I believe if we saw Calvert-Lewin and Kean given a run together and Bernard and Richarlison playing a disciplined game helping the defence out when we don't have the ball, we would see a big turnaround in results.

These are professional footballers, not robots. To have made it to this level, as well as a high level of skill, they must all have an inbuilt sense of danger and opportunity. It's got me flummoxed.

Dave McDowell
68 Posted 10/10/2019 at 07:36:57
Acknowledging all the formations discussed it can indeed make your head spin but to me it seems if you have a sufficient quality of player (agreeing with Kieran #64 about weaker teams) then it comes down to two things: confidence and luck.

Maybe this should be a separate "Talking Point".

I am sure most of us (over whatever period we have supported the Toffees) have said "when will we get a break?" usually interjected with a choice of profanities.

I guess all supporters feel the same but honestly sometimes I cannot believe how we can fluff a great chance, miss a last minute opportunity, gift a goal (Pickford's calamity as exhibit number one), never pick up the ball just outside the box and drill in a winner.

Only two periods (players) stand out to me as bucking that trend, that was with Tim Cahill in the team and the mid-80s team.

The mid-80s title winning team was the only time I confidently, I mean 100% believed we would win the matches, in 87, Norwich & Spurs away, I never had a doubt.

Tim Cahill, some players are just blessed with (apart from skill, and determination) with being in the right place at the right time.

Of course they work at it, it's not all chance and Gary Players "the harder I work the luckier I get" comes to mind but Tim had that gift, you know when the ball is a magnet to some players.

For those who remember "Billy's Boots" from the comic "The Scorcher", a kid who's boots magically took him into the goal scoring positions, that was Tim.

Confidence, any of us who have played sport at whatever level have hopefully had the feeling when you are right at the top of your game, also known as being in "the zone" when you are playing almost on instinct and not letting fear, tactics or your mind getting in the way.

So back to the Blues, confidence is a key aspect, it grows with winning games, we've all seen that, but what Everton seem to miss (and over the park they get in abundance) time and time again is just a little bit of luck.

Having re-read this, I feel I should be sitting in a dimly lit bar, at 1am with a shot of whiskey and ten empty glasses in front of me looking around for someone to shout out "I could've been a contender".

Matthew Williams
69 Posted 10/10/2019 at 12:45:02
The real Boss played it, week after week, in the 80s and it did us no harm at all Blues,old fashioned some say... my arse, tried and tested and can work and get results today if used properly.

4-2-3-1 is a shit system that simply doesn't work for our club,with us it is always way to negative and slow as well as being predictable and fucking boring to watch and listen to, we simply have no guille or style to our play,no one takes players on or shoot on sight, all our Midfielder's play the same way,we need three (ideally) that all bring different skill sets at the heart of our engine room... one that tackles, one that picks passes and one that just shoots from range, all nippy and ideally small scurrying type players that are hard to track and mark up.

For me, the three in Midfield would be Chair (QPR), Pearson (Preston) and Lolley (Forrest); all bring something different to the table, wouldn't break the bank, and would bust a bollock to be given a shot at the Premier big league... they'll make it anyroad but I want them playing for us, it would enable us to play three (imagine that!) up-front too.

4-4-2 would be fine with me but 3-4-3 could be tried too. As it stands, 4-3-3 would be ideal with the midfield listed above... with Alex Neil on the touchline (a Blue can dream).

John McFarlane Snr
70 Posted 10/10/2019 at 14:27:47
Hi Tony [63], I'm a little older than you, but I believe we share many opinions on football in general, and Everton in particular. I'm afraid that I pay scant attention to tactics, formations, etc. I may be considered a dinosaur by some, but at the risk of sounding like a boastful person, I believe that I can tell when some players or teams play well or badly. I don't require stats to indicate how many passes have been successfully executed, or how many kilometres have been covered by individuals. The only statistic that matters at the end of each game, is how many goals we have scored as opposed to how many we have conceded.

Hi Dave [65], I'm afraid you may well be right when you imply that today's players are not allowed to think for themselves, as I posted on one thread or another, thank God we got to see Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, Alex Young, and George Best plus countless more. I wonder in 100 years from now, what the record fee for an 'Oil Can' will be, and will there be an 'Oil Can of the Year Award'.

Hi Laurie [67], from your post, I gather that you are of a certain age group, a privileged age group I might add, who witnessed football of the highest quality. If you are in a younger age group, I sincerely apologize, and if you are accepting new members into the 'Flummoxed Club' can you find a place for me?

Laurie Hartley
71 Posted 10/10/2019 at 21:48:09
John # 67 x, no need for an apology; I was born in the same year as Joe Royle and was indeed privileged to see first hand the great Everton teams of the 60’s.

Consider yourself accepted into the “flummoxed club” - we are growing in numbers.

John McFarlane Snr
72 Posted 10/10/2019 at 23:10:20
Hi Laurie [71] many thanks, for acceptance into the 'Flummoxed Club' but can we steer clear of 'Badges'? They have an adverse effect on me, and the mere mention of the word coach, takes me back to my youth, when a coach was also known as a charabanc, causing me to have a severe attack of nostalgia.
Andrew Laird
73 Posted 10/10/2019 at 23:53:33
Football and footballers are simple, coaches make it complicated. Football has moved on in diet and fitness but that's it, 4-4-2 will have its day in the sun again it's cyclical, just like every other “new” formation or fashion.

I think it's good for anyone to have a hobby. Someone who takes time out and learns something new, new formations, tactics, stats etc, but in spewing dissertation length rebuttals with an underlying sense of trying to belittle mere mortals who don't understand or to try and pass their opinion off as “science" or "fact” does little to change the indisputable fact that football is a simple game, made complicated by NFL playbook numptys.

Now, just imagine if the main coach and the majority of the backroom staff doesn't count English as his first language, the forward coach has a thick Scottish accent barely legible to an Englishman... The majority of the first team squad doesn't count English as their first language, just imagine. Imagine. How fucking confusing all this tactical “genius” is. Some managers and coaches try to be too clever and it never works, now combine this with a language barrier. It's not rocket science.

John McFarlane Snr
74 Posted 12/10/2019 at 15:15:08
Hi Steve, various posts, but particularly [13] where your reply to Tony was, 'Tony, we should appoint you mate.' I find that remark, if addressed to me would be deemed insensitive, but maybe I'm being a little thin-skinned.

In your earlier post [8] you wrote. 'Tony, If you had the 11 best kids you could find, all of whom needed coaching and could not rely on what they already knew, and Guardiola got 11 mediocre kids, but was able to coach them, he would beat your boys because the right system can beat superior players. A modern formation would swarm an old fashioned 4-4-2, and superior and positioning and fitness would make it seem like the other side had 2 extra men.'

Steve, I can't believe that you could possibly arrive at that conclusion, mainly because you are assuming that the gifted kids are all going to be less fit than the mediocre kids, and that they wouldn't have sufficient possession of the ball to make their superior skill count. If I could subtract 70 years off my 81 I know which team [and manager], I would like to play for. I don't expect a reply to this post because you appear to have used your allotted 20 submissions.

Tony Marsh
75 Posted 12/10/2019 at 15:41:13
The content on ToffeeWeb is so tame these days Guys it makes my brain bleed reading some of the mind numbing crap fans argue about. Currently, Everton sit in the bottom 3 with no sign of getting out of there if they keep that gormless manager in charge.

We don't score goals, we play shit football, there's no passion, no skill, no excitement. There's rumours the imaginary new stadium is having problems, Goodison is falling down, and Bill Kenwright is still at the helm – grinning and clapping at every game like a demented seal waiting for a fish to be thrown.

What's the solution from our fans? Discuss tactics in depth and argue about 4-4-2 or other shit formations Silva plays. It's a joke, lads. No wonder there's no passion on the pitch when our own fans don't have any fire in their bellies. Have we all given up?

How about some hard-hitting raw-to-the-bone posts that go for the jugular instead of all this nice stuff? Steve Ferns, why not dissect the twats running EFC rather than dissect that prick Silva's tactics?? I mean ToffeeWeb has really gone soft. It's a shame, thereused to be real energy on this site; now it's just like old men arguing about odd socks.

Wake up, lads – the club is going down the shitter and some of you are more interested in trying to look clever than writing something worth reading. It's becoming boring.

Tony Abrahams
76 Posted 12/10/2019 at 16:42:53
I'm thinking of starting a ToffeeWeb team, John Mc, after careful consideration to what I actually deemed a compliment from Steve! Walking football obviously, so let us know if you can come to the trials, mate.

Steve can be my talent spotter, I couldn't trust him with being one of my coaches because I don't think he concentrates enough on some of the things I write down!

Stan Schofield
77 Posted 12/10/2019 at 17:33:32
I recently watched the documentary about Brian Clough. I'd forgotten he'd got both Derby County and Nottm Forest to win the league, and Forest the European Cup twice. Both fairly middling teams when he took over, with good players but not top players like Everton and Leeds had around that time.

It was particularly interesting regarding his time at Leeds. It failed because although Leeds had played great football under Revie, they were also very dirty, which Clough hated.

It struck me that Clough should have managed Everton, because we also played great football, fancier stuff than Leeds, but were never dirty. We were hard but fair. Imagine if Clough had managed us, it might have been great, like Kendal in the mid-80s.

Clough seemed to take a simple approach to tactics and formations. They were important, but didn't seem complicated. They seemed to work because he got his players well organised, and, equally importantly, inspired. They would 'walk across the Sahara for him', as one player put it. Even Leeds' Johnny Giles said he was a genius at this.

The thing is, formations do seem important, but during a game they might need to be adapted and changed depending on what's happening and who's playing well or badly. But no matter what the formation, it surely won't be very effective unless the players are inspired to perform, i.e. unless they want to play for the manager and ultimately walk across the Sahara for him.

Last season, there were times when we had very good team spirit, and the players seemed to want to play, to enjoy it. We struggle when this doesn't happen, regardless of the formation used. But surely the formation is a means to an end, to aiding the players in gelling together in such a way that they want to play. And surely a point is that, the formations can and do change during a game, in order to help achieve this outcome in the players.

The fact that Silva had successes in this respect last season gives hope that we can do it this season.

Ray Roche
78 Posted 12/10/2019 at 17:51:00
If 4-4-2 is dead as the DoDo why do I see, on MOTD, the likes of Brighton, Palace, Newcastle, whoever, being lauded for their “ two banks of four “ with the two forwards pressing high? And can someone explain exactly the difference between 4-4-2 and 4-4-1? I don't think there is one.

And if over coaching doesn't exist why does the thick as mince sub who's about to enter the fray require a Professor of Tactics to spend ten fuckin' minutes explaining where he should stand when we concede from another corner.

Why do we have the little fucker from The Crankies (Bernard) “defending“ at corners when he should be on the half-way line to offer an outlet in the off-chance that we are not picking the ball out of the back of the net but, instead, are playing it up-field?
Frustrated from Wales.

Eric Paul
79 Posted 12/10/2019 at 17:56:58

I think 4-4-1 is when one of your forwards has been sent off.

Ray Roche
80 Posted 12/10/2019 at 18:00:19
Well spotted Paul.

Maybe it's me who's thick as mince. 🤦🏻‍♂️

John McFarlane Snr
81 Posted 12/10/2019 at 18:03:33
Hi again Tony, [76] I consider that walking [at all] is a 'trial', but when I managed teams in the Skem Sunday League, my flasks of OXO were legendary, so there may be a position l could take up after all. The post of 'OXO' coach if you require one, carries extreme responsibilities, and you must be aware that the complexities make it a highly skilled operation, everything must be done according to the relevant Health and Safety regulations.

It's a job well worth doing that requires hours of dedication, but the satisfaction of seeing the players reaping the benefits of a hot OXO at half-time makes it all worthwhile. There are [ like football itself] many ways to prepare the perfect OXO, I preferred a decent addition of pepper, and without blowing my own trumpet I believe that it attracted many a player. No matter how many games we lost, [and there were many] everyone went home feeling a warm glow.

I'll have to close now as there are two gentlemen approaching me, one is carrying a mug of OXO and the other a strait- jacket.

Jay Harris
82 Posted 12/10/2019 at 18:07:49
Stan, I totally agree.

Clough and Shankly were outstanding man-managers.

Imagine Silva saying to big Dunc "Now listen, young man".

Modern managers just don't get respect because they don't earn it or demand it.

Eric Paul
83 Posted 12/10/2019 at 18:26:59

No, you're not thick as mince. When I was a young man playing Sunday league, a man called Billy Southall who drank in our boozer who played with Pongo Waring, tried to explain 4-4-2 as:

“When you are defending, 2 wide midfielders drop back and the full-backs squeeze in; when you are attacking, your fullbacks push up allowing the wide midfielders to push up."

Which means you are playing 6-4-4 in his words. Genius! And he was a true gent, as hard as nails.

Andy Crooks
84 Posted 12/10/2019 at 18:50:26
I may be totally wrong but I think the high press started with Ravinelli and Viali for Juve in the eighties. They played 4-4-2 and were the most effective side I have ever seen.
Kevin Latham
85 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:00:50
John Mac and others of the ‘Flummoxed Club' (please consider me for membership, lads) hit the nail squarely on the head. The game is played on the pitch rather than the blackboard, and if formations and tactics were the be-all and end-all, then where is the room for ability, instinct, skill and flair?

I'm not convinced that, say, George Best ever thought ‘should I be in this position? Am I the 2 in the 4-3-2-1 or the 1?' But the argument always is that the game has changed, the implication being that only those with up to date tactical acumen understand. Well, I notice that tactical acumen means that marking the posts from corners is yesterday's (and therefore out-of-date) news – and yet, week after week, I see goals conceded which may have been prevented with a man on the stick.

I also see many long balls played to the man ‘up top' as they say, which bypass any formation you care to name. Old school but effective on many occasions.

There are too many outstanding players in the game who seem to rely on talent and instinct, which for me negate any tactics or formation you care to name. It's not a chess match – and maybe Silva should be worrying less about tactics and formation and more about trying to instill some heart and bottle in the team and a culture that just will not accept second best. When we do what it says on the badge, then I for one will be a happy man, and I suspect many more will be too...

Paul Tran
86 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:15:07
Tony #63, sorry I keep banging on about communication every week. I'll be carrying on until we get a manager that shows evidence he can do it!

Football is and always will be, like life itself, a simple game made complicated by people desperate to do far more than necessary.

The concept of formation and tactics isn't new, perhaps the concept disecting them into minutea ad infinitum is?

Once we have a team playing well, scoring goals and winning games, we'll have more interesting things to talk about.

John McFarlane Snr
87 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:26:56
Hi Kevin [85] unless Laurie revisits this thread, I can only hope that he would have no objections to your admittance into the 'Flummoxed Club'. As you are [as far as I'm concerned] member number three, we require one more successful applicant to form a quorum. I would like to propose that we be referred to as an alternative FA, the 'Flummoxed Association'. I'm quite confident that as the season progresses we will be joined by more people who will be suffering from 'Flummoxation'. [From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow.]
Tony Abrahams
88 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:50:52
That oxo sounds good John Mc, but it’s got to be a quarter of an orange at half-time mate!
Steve Carse
89 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:51:02
Andy (84), don't know about the continent but in the English top Division the claim for the introduction of the press on the opposing back four in the 80s can undoubtedly be placed at the door of Howard Kendall. So intense was the style he adopted that you will recall the media attaching the label of 'the pitch-shrinkers' to the side.
Prior to Kendall's time, other managers would give one of their forwards a harrying role (Rush being a classic example) but it was Kendall who got the whole team at it. Indeed I was fortunate enough some time back to have an illuminating conversation with Graeme Sharp who put the change in Everton's fortunes down to all the players finally getting how to do it, pressing up the park simultaneously so that no space was being left between the lines.
Kevin Latham
90 Posted 12/10/2019 at 19:54:39
Mr Mac, I’m honoured!
Andy Crooks
91 Posted 12/10/2019 at 20:04:51
You're right Steve about Howard. What I recall about Juve was the incredible energy of Viali and Ravinelli. They closed down the goalkeeper, they made a back pass impossible. The finest front two I have ever seen. Could Kean and DCL do the same?
If I am not mistaken, Howard nearly signed Ravinelli. It would never have worked out, though.
Tony Abrahams
92 Posted 12/10/2019 at 20:06:37
Kev@85, very sensible post that mate, and Ste@89, that’s a very interesting point, and shows that Silva, has been hung out to dry, with regards the summer recruitment, imo.

How can a team play a high press, when they have got no pace in the middle of their defence? Although that obviously doesn’t mean that Silva, has got anything right so far this season.

Don Alexander
93 Posted 12/10/2019 at 21:11:30
Like "The Venerable Flummoxed Squad" all I want to see is football that makes me excitedly, unthinkingly, get to my feet as often as possible. The more I see of present-day football however it's a "game" that's a living embodiment of Steve Ferns' first post in this thread. It's complicated, very demanding of the viewer, gives me about as much excitement as cutting my toenails, and has me pondering what I might better do with my time.

That said, I know football has always been analysed to death by various experts, and I have genuine respect for the detail that Steve elaborates, but football is a simple game. If players perfect "control, pass and move forwards" they're likely to occasionally get me on my feet, especially when they make an attempt on goal, but when they can't even achieve these basics it's nail-clipper time, again.

John McFarlane Snr
94 Posted 12/10/2019 at 22:00:54
Hi Tony [88] it would appear in hindsight that I mollycoddled my players, but on the plus side when we were drinking in the pub after games, and it was my round I could always pass the money to one of the team and say, "Your legs are younger than mine,and he would struggle to the bar and back.

Hi Kevin [90] Welcome to the Club, I'm sure that we are about to see an increase in numbers, if things don't improve rapidly. I've just reread my post and noticed that I spelled "Flummoxation incorrectly, that rules me out of recording any minutes of meetings [thankfully].

Hi Don [93] you would be a perfect addition to the 'Flummoxed Association' you have all the qualities that our movement needs, it's a pity that the team lacks the movement we expect from them. I'll take the liberty of enrolling you as a member, if you don't wish to be included please accept my sincere apologies.

Rob Dolby
95 Posted 12/10/2019 at 23:10:22
Sports in general have progressed. Science is used in almost all aspects of top level sports. Kipchoge broke the marathon record today after years of planning and analysing. David Brailsford has brought the UK tour De France winners based up sport science and tactics.
Football is no different.

Big Sam had a reputation for percentage long ball football but was one of the first to use sports science to analyse opposition and tactics. Probably one of the reasons why his team's had reputations for upsetting the apple cart and beating the big boys.

The worrying thing for us is that opposition managers are beating us with inferior players as their tactics and formations beat ours.

The stats about not coming back from deficits and conceding at set pieces are damming for the manager and his tactics.

Derek Thomas
96 Posted 14/10/2019 at 02:10:24
Steve @1; No mate, sorry but you're guilty of over complicating a simple game for kids now played by grown-ups for a king's ransom.

It's not about 4-2-3-1 vs 4-4-2; all have their good and bad points, both can be effective and – as we are witnessing –ineffective.

It's about flexible vs inflexible.

In short; when we have the ball, we are all attackers and the quicker the better. When we don't, we're all defenders.

Forget the numbers, the 4-4-2s etc. It's all about the transition from (say) 2 banks of 5, aka under the cosh. To (say) 2-3-5 and laying siege to their goal.

If there were such a thing... bear with me... as an 'automatic football formation number counter' when you attack (or defend) it should flip round like a demented airport destination board in full meltdown until every line reads GOAL!

Not stuck on one number (say) 4-2-3-1 or, to continue the airport metaphor – DELAYED.

KISS... (and fast!)

Alan J Thompson
97 Posted 14/10/2019 at 05:26:53
John (#81); Obviously, you have not kept up with things as the years have passed. While my playing days are well gone, we had, even then, moved from OXO to the more expansive Beef Tea and even that may well be the Marmite Formation by now.

A rose by any other peony...

Laurie Hartley
98 Posted 14/10/2019 at 09:31:02
I have discovered over the last week that one of the nasty side effects of being flummoxed is apathy - a sort of “couldn’t care less” frame of mind.

As this dawned on me I decided to revisit this thread to see how it had developed and discovered that it wasn’t just myself and John Mc who were suffering from this dreadful malaise. It seems it is wide spread and I find it quite alarming.

To add to my consternation Tony Marsh’s post @ 75 was the clincher for me “it’s just like old men arguing about odd socks”. That rattled me that did Tony especially when I had to go back three times to check your post number because I kept on forgetting it.

As the saying goes “if the cap fits wear it”. Here I am 56 years on from watching Alex Young hanging in the air before planting a header past Bill Brown to clinch the title from Spurs, worrying about numbers like 442, 4132, 4312, and so on. How did it come to this?

I do think the time has come for us to do something about it. In the olden days one of the flummoxed club would probably have decided to start a fight and that would have relieved the sense of frustration but we are getting a bit long in the tooth for that now (although I am quite sure many of us would still have a go).

What to do? I think we should beat our walking sticks into clubs and get some bin lids (you know like the old fashioned tin ones). Then on the morning of the next game at Goodison we should march round the ground for two hours banging the bin lids and shouting in unison - WE ARE FLUMMOXED!!!

That will give them something to think about.

Alan J Thompson
99 Posted 14/10/2019 at 10:01:31
Laurie(#98); Two hours! Have you had your knees done?
John McFarlane Snr
100 Posted 14/10/2019 at 10:51:37
Hi Alan [97] I think the adage "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is applicable, and I'd have you know that a lot of hard work and dedication is required to stand still, while the rest of the world goes hurtling by. I'm referring to the late 60s until the mid 80s when my OXO gained fame/notoriety, players used to volunteer to take the substitute role in order to guard the coffee flasks, and I'm a great believer in the football adage of, 'Never change a winning formula'.

I have over the years, fought hard to justify the nickname of 'Johnny McFossil' which was bestowed on me for my efforts of keeping the past in the present.

Hi Laurie [98] you had me worried for a while, I thought that you had been the first victim of 'Flummoxation', I feel a great sense of relief on learning that you have [with the aid of dustbin lids] been 'Drumming up interest' I wasn't aware that things had reached such an alarming level, keep up the good work.

Kevin Latham
101 Posted 14/10/2019 at 11:34:23
Laurie (98) not a bad idea that, marching around the ground for 2 hours. Although at my pace 2 hours would get me from the Park End to – well, the Park End. But I was wondering what our marching formation would be. Diamond, maybe, or The Christmas Tree so beloved of Terry Venables? On the other hand, of course, we could just march.
Laurie Hartley
102 Posted 14/10/2019 at 11:55:28
Kevin - if we are going to have a formation it would have to be 4-4-2 but I would prefer us shuffling and hobbling as a sort of rabble. If anyone has got a bugle please bring it along.

It would be great if George and his mob from The Dark House came out and joined us on the second or third circuit – it would be good for the TV cameras.

Alan - my knees are holding up alright it's my head that is the problem.

John Mc, I will be alright – once a blue, always a blue.

Tony Abrahams
103 Posted 14/10/2019 at 12:37:24
George can play the harmonica Laurie, hopefully something along the lines, “about how the times they are a’ changin!”
John McFarlane Snr
104 Posted 14/10/2019 at 13:41:06
Hi Kevin [101] don't worry about your lack of pace, of all the phrases that the so-called pundits roll out, I have selected one for you, but first allow me to illustrate the one's that irritate me the most.

"He hit it with his favourite left foot" How many left feet has he got? "Only one team is going to win this game." well, they both can't win it can they? "He gave it away cheaply" surely if he gave it away there's no cost involved.

There are many others, but due to a mental blockage, and a feeble mind I'm unable to quote them at the moment, perhaps someone may jog my memory. The one I've selected for you is, "He's leading from the back" the mind boggles.

Hi Tony [103] Aren't you afraid of losing 'Street Credibility' mixing with the 'Vintage Unhinged'? Your choice of a marching song is commendable, but may I suggest a song recorded by numerous Country artistes, that being 'My Elusive Dreams'.

Dave Abrahams
105 Posted 14/10/2019 at 13:52:01
John (104), I was at a funeral a few years ago and the song that played as the coffin left the church was “ To dream the impossible dream”: I said to my mate ‘ I wouldn’t have thought he would have have chosen that song’ referring to the lad who had passed away, my mate who was a red fan said. ‘ Well he was an Evertonian Dave’. A true story, made me smile at the time.
John McFarlane Snr
106 Posted 14/10/2019 at 13:56:54
Hi Dave [105], I firmly believe that there' s humour in everything, it's how it's delivered that counts.
Tony Abrahams
107 Posted 14/10/2019 at 14:43:48
I can't see George Mc being into country, John Mc. Something about street credibility, I think, mate!
Paul Tran
108 Posted 14/10/2019 at 15:18:31
John #104, Private Eye's 'Commentatorballs' is a great source of pundit nonsense.

My all-time favourites are from David Coleman, 'Juantorena opens his legs and shows the world his talent.' and Ron Atkinson, 'That was a shocking tackle, took his back legs away from him'.

Kevin Latham
109 Posted 14/10/2019 at 15:30:33
John (104), my pace has always been deceptive, I'm slower than people think.

On the point of pundits' expressions, the one I hate most (which in many ways shows how the game has changed) is ‘he was entitled to go down there' when there is the least contact. There was a time when a player would try to stay on his feet at all costs but now they'd rather fall down than try to score. And as far as being ‘entitled', well it's completely beyond me.

Peter Thistle
110 Posted 15/10/2019 at 19:10:48
The manager is not capable of changing a game in any way whatsoever. He probably is worse tactically than all the shite managers we've had since Mike Walker. I think he's blagging that he's a manager, he's young and good looking, probably the only reason we signed him, to try and "look cool".

Go now, Silva, save yourself any further embarrassment.

Trevor Peers
111 Posted 15/10/2019 at 19:30:14
It may be stating the obvious but it doesn't matter if the manager wins the odd game by whatever tactics, the truth is Silva isn't good enough to manage our team, everybody knows it and it's a disgrace he's still there.

It's causing us so much embarrassment we've become the laughing stock of football.

Andrew James
112 Posted 16/10/2019 at 15:39:43
I was an 80's/90's kid so 4-4-2 is my natural inclination.

I totally agree with the poster in that the game has become complicated. While I admire what Steve Ferns has to say on the tactical front, I would question his point that players are more multi faceted in the modern game.

How many centre halves score a lot these days? I remember Steve Bruce, Dave Watson and Derek Mountfield getting amongst the goals in 4-4-2 systems.

But more pertinently, a 4-4-2 wouldn't have a DCM in it, instead it would have two CM's who can do everything required of a midfielder, one being more skilful and the other being the deeper tackler. My problem with Steve's theory is that Gueye and Schneiderlin are DCM's and do nothing else. They don't perform other roles, they are redundant once the team crosses the halfway line.

Some will say they give cover to full backs to go forward but I would counter that in a 4-4-2, you will have proper wingers (not frustrated or failed strikers) so the full backs are not expected to play so high up. Remember, in a 4-4-2, you'd have two CM's going through the middle thus creating options.

My problem with current formations is that you end up not going through the middle and just down the sides. The great Everton teams and those of United in the 1990's tended to shift the ball centrally and out again at the optimum moments as they got the run on opponents.

Just my slant but, like the main poster, I have long wondered about 4-4-2 returning to rid us of CDM's and lone strikers being isolated up front.

John McFarlane Snr
113 Posted 16/10/2019 at 16:36:28
Hi Andrew [112], I entirely agree with your sentiments, if you are a regular reader of the comments on the various threads, you will be aware that I can't abide the formations put forward by some. 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1, Diamond, Christmas Tree, talk of false number 9s and Number 10s, no matter what number is on the shirt. I mentioned this on one thread or other, and it appears that for one game we actually played with 3 number 10s.

Another thing I find disturbing, and the only part of your post that caused me discomfort, was your use of acronyms, luckily I managed to decipher them I think. I assume that CMs are central mid-fielders, and DCMs are defensive central mid-fielders, I know you meant no harm, but the use of acronyms causes flash backs to my army days, when I had to obey the orders of NCOs Non Commissioned Officer's, CSMs Company Sergeant Major's, and RSMs Regimental Sergeant Major's.

That last paragraph Andrew was my attempt at humour, I hope you don't take offence, none intended.

Andrew James
114 Posted 16/10/2019 at 22:30:25
Hi John

Sorry for the acronyms, just typing the words out on my dodgy keyboard was getting on my nerves.

No offence taken sir.

I do enjoy some of the tactical discussions on here because I am an amateur football historian and try understanding how the game has evolved. But I am wary of "philosophy" because sometimes you should just do the most effective thing to score, however direct or basic some might regard it.

But some of the false "Number 9" nonsense is lazy media talk. Gimmicky rubbish. What next? A false "Number 1"? A keeper who wears the jersey but doesn't actually stand between the posts.

John McFarlane Snr
115 Posted 17/10/2019 at 13:45:54
Hi Andrew [115] I'm pleased that my post didn't cause offence, and as a one digit user of my laptop, I understand your frustration when typing posts. I mistakenly had you down as a lazy 21st-century keyboard operator, for which I offer sincere apologies. It's interesting to learn that you are an amateur football historian, I have among my football books one that traces the game from what is considered it's birth in 1863 until 1959. You have my permission to seek my e-mail address from Michael or Lyndon if you should wish to contact me at any time, you need only to quote this thread and the post number.

Despite my dislike of stats, formations, and acronyms I will make my way to the GOL on Saturday morning, where I will yell as loud as I can, COYB, I hope that MS picks another striker to play alongside DCL, in a conventional 4-4-2 system. That's another feeble attempt at sarcastic humour, and probably cause for another apology.

John McFarlane Snr
116 Posted 17/10/2019 at 13:59:02
Hi Andrew, [114] sorry wrong number. I'm losing the plot.

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