The draw to Manchester United was a great result. The way we achieved it was even more exciting, by scoring two extra time goals courtesy of Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill. But the fact of the matter is, we should not have been down two goals in the first place. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is something wrong with Everton that needs to be fixed. We were not just unlucky to come away with two points in the first four matches. We could not score, and in certain portions we could not defend. There has not been a single match where I thought we should not have won afterwards. Yet we continue to come away with only a point, or worse, with none.
I'm not going to act like there are huge problems, because there are not. We could have just as easily been sitting at 7 or 8 points rather than the 2 points we have now. So the fact is, we are very close to being a good team. But we are not there yet. To get there, we need to address these problems.
In this edition, I am going to be talking about the offense (or lack thereof). Why are we having trouble finding the back of the net (especially when we hold the majority of possession)? We found some success against Manchester United, which is a start, but I believe that there are still problems.
More after the jump.
The most glaring problem that people would insist we have are injuries or just a plain lack of talent at the striker position. I would disagree with the latter. We have talent. Everyone we have at the striker positions is talented. Injuries have affected us, but I think Moyes' strategy has adversely affected us more.
I love the 4-5-1 that Moyes employs. I have always supported it, even when we had some trouble scoring, because we always had the perfect players to complement it. But right now, I am not so sure about the 4-5-1. The striker position, in specific, is what seems to be undermining this formation.
Here are the strikers who we employ and how they fit into our squad:
Jermaine Beckford doesn't fit well with the 4-5-1 at all. Even though he adds pace, you need to be a physical, ball controlling striker to have real success in this formation. Beckford has shown that he is more comfortable in the 4-4-2 (which is what he played while at Leeds United), in which he had a fantastic scoring rate.
Louis Saha is a completely different story. He is probably suited better for a striker partnership, but he is talented enough that he can still thrive as a lone striker (though he is not consistent). We can literally use Saha in any type of formation and he would not be bad, but the problem with Saha is that he is always injured. We always need insurance, and we already know that Beckford won't work unless he is partnered with another striker.
Yakubu is probably the best fit for the Toffees. I have advocated for us to trade him, but I finally realize why we would not let him go unless we got enough money for him. As bad as his fitness has been, he works perfectly as a lone striker. He just needs to find his form and start scoring goals. Will it start happening soon? I really don't know. Yakubu has not really looked the same since his ruptured achilles (and calf and knee problems).
Victor Anichebe is very similar to Yakubu in that he is a strong powerful striker that fits the lone striker label. But like Saha, he is also injured a lot (currently with a knee problem). All the other strikers need more experience before they jump up to the first team.
These injuries ended up leading to the 4-6-0 formation last week. Fellaini and Cahill played up top in this formation, similar to strikers, but they also fell back when needed to. The formation actually worked pretty well, except for the counterattack goals, but I would put that more on suspect defense than deficiencies with the formation. The 4-6-0 seems like a difficult formation to pull of, but could be very effective if executed properly (puts all the opposing defenders out of position). If you want to read about the 4-6-0, here is the Wikipedia page on it: Wikipedia- 4-6-0 Formation.
We have about a million midfielders that can all play various roles in the midfield (and in some cases even striker), so we can confidently say that there is not a big problem there. I do have a slight issue with set pieces though. Last season, the club was phenomenal at scoring on set pieces. This is what made the 4-5-1 so dangerous. Even though goals were hard to come by traditionally, the team would convert set pieces into goals (or at least challenge the goalkeeper). This year has been somewhat of a disappointment when it comes to set pieces. The only way to really improve set pieces is during practice. Corner kicks and free kicks have been especially disappointing. Most of them are way too long (corner kicks) or hit the wall (free kicks). I think that is just a matter of time before we start getting better at set pieces and start converting those into goals.
So what needs to be worked on and what needs to be changed?
I think things like set pieces and individual mistakes will be straightened out on its own, while we play more matches. Moyes definitely needs to change the formation as injuries and fitness influence the squad, though. He has been doing it to a certain amount (especially at the end of matches when we really need a score), but it seems he still hasn't figured out the striker situation yet. I think the best thing to do here would be to get Yakubu up top for now until Saha is fit. Beckford should not start, ever, unless we start employing the 4-4-2. So what that means for him is he will most likely be subbed into matches, when we really need to score at the end of matches (paired with another midfielder or striker up top).
We will find out in the upcoming weeks whether Moyes is going to take the laissez-faire approach and wait for the club to get better on its own, or actively change the formation to fit his players' skills.