LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: The Everton players line up to pay their respects to the late Gary Speed prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 4, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
It's been a while, but the performance on Saturday has made me put finger to keyboard and share with you some things which have been going through my mind in the past few days. From 4-4-2 to 5-3-2, to substitutions to breaking the opposition down..... read on!
People were saying Saturday was the worst they have seen Everton play in years. We tend to hear this a few times each season. I have to say I don't think we played too badly, we had most of the possession and kept our shape well when we needed to. We also had a few shots on goal (not necessarily on target) but alas Stoke took their chance and we didn't take ours.
What went wrong?
Stoke are a big, physical strong team. They play well against less physical teams and thrive when defending against a more direct style of play. Our main attacking threat is becoming all too predictable. Play the ball out wide at the earliest opportunity for Baines or Hibbert to cross from deep, or for Coleman to run at the full back and chip one across. That's fine - when you have Ferguson and Rideout playing. But, they've retired, and Cahill's struggling to find the goalscoring touch at the minute. Who else wins headers in the box? Osman? And so, every cross was cleared comfortably.
The added fact that Louis Saha decided he couldn't be bothered against a big strong team voided us of an established striker. Annoying isn't the word! Vellios, to his credit, worked very hard but didn't get a sniff. Cahill too. Fellaini broke play up well but became frustrated with the constant man handling, especially in the box from corners.
So, Plan B? Well, there isnt one. Teams have sussed us out. Stop Baines and you stop Everton, basically. Tony Pulis went with Ryan Shotton rather than Jermaine Pennant, purely for that reason. And it worked. We honestly didn't look like scoring.
"So what would you have done?" I hear you say. Well, I dont, but Im going to tell you anyway.
Moyes went with Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Coleman, Osman, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov; Vellios. On the bench he had Mucha, Distin, Neville, Barkley, Rodwell, Stracqualursi and Gueye. I couldnt argue with bringing Rodwell on for the Russian, nor Gueye for Hibbert as we were chasing the game. And as I said earlier, Vellios looked isolated up against Shawcross and Woodgate and I agree with the manager in taking him off. I could also understand him bringing Denis on, given his size. However, I wouldnt have done that.
The direct game to Vellios and Cahill, although an option, wasn't working. Stoke were packing the box and hitting us on the break. But I dont remember Howard having to make a save of note. So, the other option for me was to play the ball on the floor and try shots from distance. Then, once the opposition know what you are going to do, they will close you down more often, which in turn sucks them out of defence and thus creating the opportunity to thread a neat ball in.
I would have stuck with the back four as it was, as Hibbert can actually deliver a decent ball and we all know about Baines. Rodwell for Bilyaletdinov was the right change. At times the Russian showed his ineptness to control the television and drifted out of the game. Rodwell does have a dig on him and has come on this season. Gueye can whip a ball in as he has shown when he has been given the chance. However, the one I would have done would have been Barkley for Vellios, pushing Cahill on to their centre backs and have the youngster in the pocket between Cahill and Fellaini.
Barkley still has a lot to learn, but at the minute he also has a lot to give. He's got a similar swagger about him as Rooney had when he first entered the fold. He can dribble, find space in a telephone box, and he can shoot. He's strong too. His decision making needs fine tuning, but at a goal down with 15 to play we had nothing to lose and Barkley would have more exposure to the Premier League. Cahill would still be there to try to connect to the crosses.
The substitutions puzzled me slightly. The lack of game time Barkley is getting is frustrating me. We have no strikers, something has to give.
So what about the formation. To me it looked like Moyes had gone with a 4-4-2, with Cahill playing next to Vellios. It didnt work for two reasons. First, the opposition were bigger than us and defended everything we threw at them and second playing Cahill up top nullifies his main threat which we all know is running from a deep position to attack crosses.
4-5-1 is a formation which I think suits us best. It packs the midfield nicely and allows the wide men to join in the attacks with ample cover. However, it needs a target man to hold up the ball and introduce the midfield into the move. Saha is more a goalscorer, which is why he is best used in a 4-4-1-1 with Cahill behind him.
What about 5-3-2 or 3-5-2? There's no doubt Coleman and Baines would make excellent wing backs. Baines actually started life as a wing back at Wigan Athletic and Sligo Rovers used to line up with a right side of... well Coleman. Wing backs needs loads of energy and the ability to attack AND defend. I think both can do that. We have three centre backs in Jagielka, Heitinga and Distin who are more than capable of sorting that system out, with Heitinga and Distin picking men up, and Jagielka sweeping. Fellaini, Rodwell and Osman/Barkley would provide a very good balanced midfield and Saha and Cahill/AN Other could easily do a job up front. There's no better time to try it than this Saturday at Arsenal.
The key thing is though, there has to be another plan in place other than give the ball to Baines. It's becoming that predictable that we dont even flood the box anymore!
Onwards and Upwards eh?!
As always comments welcome below.
Follow me on Twitter - @DarrenMelling
Which formation would you use?
4-5-1 (1 vote)
4-4-1-1 (1 vote)
4-4-2 (4 votes)
5-3-2/3-5-2 (14 votes)
None of these (4 votes)
24 total votes