Mickey Blue Eyes...
Everton team formations
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Mickey Blue Eyes


There are few trivial pursuits more surreal, mildly fascinating and outright funny than listening to footy fans waxing inelegant about the game. At times it is the equivalent of stumble-bum Texas Bush 2 and his air of uncertainty when he read a speech in English that included difficult sentences like, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Proletarian common sense in the proverb is swamped by giggling as you wonder how he managed to inhale haha sherbet and talk afterwards. At such times you exercise your patience, smile politely and quietly ream a new orifice in the more fatuous notions. It helps to pass the time and can even allow you a brief glimpse of the more byzantine areas of the human mind.


Take this question of football team formations. Now, the world and his wife know we have no effective strikers. We haven't had for nigh on two years. And without new money we are unlikely to acquire one; so we hope one of the kids come through. In the meantime David Moyes has to work with the clay he has, and survive. He also has to oversee a transition from older players to new younger players and all the trials that entails. So far, so ordinary...and not much different to how you have to deal with your life. You might wish for a twenty million pounds yacht but you aren't going to get one. You have neither money nor wherewithal. You get on as best you can, which is also common sense. Why, then, do some people talk like utter idiots when it comes to "attacking football" with our present squad? Reasonably informed fans know perfectly well Louis Saha is, sadly, a busted flush, Apostolos Vellios is still learning, Denis Stracqualursi is probably an unsuccessful gamble and Vic Anichebe is injured. Each may spring an occasional surprise, but likely that's all it will be. Even Tim Cahill's high energy game is in its final year or so and will only provide an occasional goal, if that. Meanwhile, the team's football up to the final third of the pitch is as good as anyone's in the league. That it goes no further is truly maddening and irritating, but it is also inevitable in present circumstances. It is like trying to hammer home a nail with a marshmallow hammer head: dispassionate science tells you it won't happen.


However, some fans are not scientific or dispassionate. Hence some of the mind boggling nonsense you get about us playing a 4-4-2 or even 4-3-3 formation, the equivalent of loony numerology or religious superstition. You get the feeling that some people think making a mantra of the numbers will improve matters. Such mantras are, of course, complete bollocks. Start out with either of those formations from our present squad and we would be slaughtered. In fact Moyesy tried 4-4-2 several times last season and it was a disaster. Playing it as an established formation from the start is something open only to a great team with a similar bench of substitutes, and we have neither. We have a good team with intriguing possibilities and some really promising youngsters, all of it in transition. That's the reality, and all the ale-house spluttering in the world isn't going to change it.


So does Moyesy make the best of what he has?........Answer: yes he does, occasional aberration aside. No manager is free of mistakes anymore than you are. It's his job to keep them to the minimum, and by and large Moyesy does it very well from a relatively limited choice. In that respect you only had to compare bench substitutes for the League Cup game V Chelsea. Fact is, team formations are fluid, not fixed. Every manager varies them throughout a game depending on the way things are going and how individuals are performing. Generally, a formation adapts to suit circumstances. If you manage to get on top you press the advantage as best you can. It follows if you haven't got the players you can hardly force circumstances unless you have a reasonable measure of good luck.


During a match your best chance for improvement comes when you make substitutions. In our case this has to be husbanded as carefully as a doctor's prescription. So what about Moyesy's efforts on that front? I checked it out for all fifteen games we have played, League and League Cup. In every game all three subs have been used, a total of forty-five substitutions. In only two games has Moyesy sent on outright defenders, Chelsea at home and Newcastle away. Nine substitutions have been made as like-for-like, striker-for-striker. (The only slight complication in this is Tim Cahill's role, which I have defined as "striker.") Virtually all the other substitutions have been like-for-like midfielder for midfielder, though naturally there has also been some team shuffling involved. Plainly, these are not the actions of a "defensive" manager, particularly one with limited resources.


The reality is, like it or not, every manager outside Chelsea, the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal has to think first of staying in the Premier League. The economic consequences of relegation are too dire for anything else, never mind the threat to his job and CV. This ensures a cautious approach, of reducing the chances for mistakes by playing "keep ball." In our case this is wildly irritating because we are rather good at it up to the enemy penalty area. Then nothing. And of course at home that leaves us open to quick counter attack even by the most modestly talented opposition. We can all think of examples where a team has been out-possessed, out-territoried and sometimes out-played......but have walked away with a draw or a win. At times like that you want to lash your Bovril into mid-air. Or worse.


No, Moyesy isn't "defensive." As I write, we have scored fifteen league goals; six teams have scored less, two have scored the same, two teams have scored only one more, and two of the teams who have scored more are in the bottom three. This shows how narrow the margins are and how well David Moyes manages both his limited resources and the necessary transition from older to younger players. That is the reality. It has a neat way of pricking fantasy bubbles. But don't expect pie-in-the-sky fantasists to understand that.




Comments about Everton team formations
Great article
Mike, Liverpool, 2:26 PM 1/12/2011
Tony B @ 17, tell me you're joking. Blackpool got relegated, did real well didn't they.
Macca, New Brighton, 4:04 PM 30/11/2011
It was a breath of fresh air when Moysey moulded us into 451. No one could handle us for a couple of seasons, but now everyone is playing it and we have become very predictable. The measure of a manager is how he can think outside the box and outwit the opposition and thats where I think a change to 442 for the right game with the right players will upset the opposition. Confidence is the key to it being successful.
Az, Wavo, 3:36 PM 30/11/2011
MBE's philsosophy: "Decimus est satis" (Tenth is good enough). There is nothing to fear but fear itself Mickey ...don't fear attacking play, see how well Blackpool done with it and they were a bunch of 2nd hand car salesmen..imagine the mighty blues playing like that, the mind boggles. Well we did, infact against blackpool when Louis got 4. What a match!
Tony B, Finland, 3:10 PM 30/11/2011
Very well written argument. Statistically speaking excellent, totally agree he has to do the best he has with the resources. Rob Queanbeyan - opinions without data are just that - opinions. At least the stats here back up what is said.
SeanInOz, Blue Mtns, NSW, 4:05 AM 30/11/2011
I couldn't give a shit what formation we play as long as we win. If the winner goes in off someone's arse and both posts I couldn't give a toss.
Ste Philips, Litherland, 6:44 PM 29/11/2011
I very rarely read a full article as i get bored and frutsrated by the "all around the world aproach to your writing"
Gary, Liverpool, 3:06 PM 29/11/2011
Yes, I think words like Apostolos and Stracqualursi and maybe proletarian should be avoided at all costs. Don't upset the chavs whatever you do :o)
Spectator, Crosby, 2:25 PM 29/11/2011
A mixed reaction in the reponses , Let me offer a counter argument. Moyes will not deviate from 4-4-1-1 , this is regardless of the drastic need to change the pattern of play during the game and he brings players onto the field to try and make a difference but does not change the formation. Whilst i fully agree we do not have the personnel to say we are blessed with an abundance of strikers I think things could be improved with what we have. Cahill is a makeshift striker and due to his magnificent work ethic drops deep naturally to assist the team , Saha would be more suited in my opinion in the current Cahill role. He is always dropping deep to link up and pulling wide , this makes us a 4-6-0 at times and it has been highlighted in the media past few games that despite good deliveries into the box , nobody gets on the end of them. Moyes isn't defensive ! When did we last score on the counter attack due to the fact we bring every man back when defendaing set pieces , awful tactic. My worry is even with a top quality striker up front he will remain isolated with moyes stubborness to retract from 4-4-1-1. hopefully I am wrong and once the necessary players arrive (if they arrive) we will see a positive change of tactic.
Phil Mac, Prescot, 1:24 PM 29/11/2011
Mickey, why do you over-complicate your articles by adding unnessary complex words. The reader is much more likely to switch off. So take some indegestion tablets and try and push out that dictionary you swallowed. Just saying...
J, Liv, 12:34 PM 29/11/2011
Not that I want to play 442, but to say its outdated is silly. Spurs play it and imo play the best most attractive football in the league. You just need a formation that utilises and gets the best out of your best players. IMWT
Tom, Ormskirk, 12:30 PM 29/11/2011
Let's see what January brings. Hopefully it's a striker, but where's the money coming from? Moyes does the best he can with what he's got. Don't doubt it for a minute.
Paul, Warrington, 12:20 PM 29/11/2011
"Our build up play is as good as anyones in the league." Thats laughable. We're predictable, slow and static. Yes we might concede more playing with 2 strikers but we would score more and its always worth the gamble because its 3 points for a win.
Paul, Aigburth, 12:00 PM 29/11/2011
I have been wanting someone to say this for a long time. I actually now laugh at the people shouting for 4-4-2, they've been saying it for 2 years and we're bored of it. Put another record on! Fact is, no one plays 4-4-2 these days, its an old formation that doesnt apply to modern day football and anyone calling for it needs to get up with the times.
Steve, Liverpool, 10:31 AM 29/11/2011
Excellent piece. Whilst we are all tactical experts, of course, it constantly stuns me how people can write such rubbish about formation, about what should and shouldn't be done and then end their contribution with "Moyes out." Moyes' 'crime' is that he has made bricks without straw for so long that we all now expect miracles every season.
Andy McNabb, Melbourne, 5:37 AM 29/11/2011
Sensible well written piece."Well said Sir"
Albie, Gloucester, 1:27 AM 29/11/2011
Condescending tone is insulting. We are entitled to our opinions same as you, "exercise your patience" give me a break. Stats can be made to justify any case. Its not the number of subs thats important its the timing of their use. Moyes usually leaves it too late for the sub to get into the game.
Rob, Queanbeyan, 12:17 AM 29/11/2011
Don't always agree with what you say, mate, but that was the best (coherent) piece on Moyes, and Everton, I've read in a long while. I just hope it makes some people think a bit before they start screaming nonsense at a good, integral man, like our manager, for not having a bench worth 100 million quid!!!
Nealw, Wirral, 11:05 PM 28/11/2011
Are you soft in the head? You reckon our football up to the final third is as good as anyones in the league? You claim the few times we played 442 last year it failed when in fact it was successful and more importantly exciting to watch. Yes we dont have much in the way of strikers but even if we had a 20 mil striker up top for us, it would be just as ineffective. We have no movement, hardly create many clear cut chances and our midfield rarely support the attack.
Stevo, Liverpool, 10:22 PM 28/11/2011
Good piece
Macalex101, London, 6:25 PM 28/11/2011
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