With the COVID-19 pandemic still not showing any signs of easing up, the lockdown remains in place pretty much around the world and as a result we are not going to have a resumption in sporting activity any time soon.
With financial obligations now coming into play for a number of football teams, there has been plenty of talk behind the scenes on what to do with the remainder of the 2019-20 Premier League season.
For the most part, it appears many teams would be satisfied if the current season was voided and condemned to the scrapheap of history, though one particular team has vested interests in seeing the status quo maintained and a champion declared.
This week we heard there was some chatter about holding some World Cup styled training camps behind closed doors and playing out the remaining 92 fixtures within a month, likely in June with no spectators present and the whole spectacle televised across the world. The logistics behind that still boggle the mind, because as we all know, football nowadays is not just a matter of twenty two players on the pitch, when you take into consideration the full squads, the match officials, the television crews, the groundskeepers and ballboys, and the myriad other cogs that all have to be in place for the game to be played.
Among some of the more preposterous suggestions for how to finish this Premier League season has been a five-a-side tournament. So, like a number of other blogs in the SBN Soccer network, we decided to take a look as a RBM roundtable on who should be in Everton’s seven man squad that will try to ensure European football for the next season.
GK Pickford, D Digne, MF Gomes, F Bernard, F Richarlison; Subs Kean, Sidibe
Five a side is all about flair and creativity which is why I included fullbacks instead of centrehalves and why Bernard was basically the first man picked. I want forwards who can create their own scoring chances, which is why even though Dominic Calvert-Lewin is better than Moise Kean 11-on-11 I went with the guy who could carry the ball on his own in five a side for one of my subs. Andre Gomes is there to hopefully just provide some stability in the middle of all the chaos this side would have going on. Richarlison, in addition to being our best forward, will also put in a shift defensively.
GK Pickford, D Holgate, MF Gomes, MF Bernard, F Richarlison; Subs Kean, Mina
I’m lining up in an aggressive 1-2-1 formation in a nod to one of our former sponsors. Brazilians are a shoo-in for any five-a-side team. So this shouldn’t be too hard…
Pickford will be utilised in a sweeper keeper role allowing him to pick out passes across the court. Mason Holgate is our only real athletic and technical centre-back, so quite an easy call here.
Gomes’ velvet feet will be well-suited to small-sided action while Bernard twisting and turning would be causing carnage. Up front, Richarlison – two Brazilians in the team? We’d win the league for sure.
In case we need to chase the game and switch up to a 1-1-2 formation, first sub is Kean. Might seem harsh not to include DCL at all, but his biggest strength is in the air which will be wasted in five-a-side. For second sub I’ll take Yerry Mina in case we need a man-mountain to shut up shop.
GK Pickford, D Holgate, D Digne, MF Gomes, F Calvert-Lewin; Subs Richarlison, Delph
Maarten Stekelenburg just misses the cut, England’s number one gets the start. Holgate is a solid and quick defender who can win the ball in the air and even play it forward. He’s played as a rightback and defensive midfielder throughout his career, so he can fill in wherever when needed and Lucas Digne can link up with players and provide some help on the wing. He can also get back if needed thanks to his pace.
Gomes can attack and defend in the middle of the park. He can fill in the gaps at the back to help the defense while also being able to provide support for the striker up top, which is in-form man Calvert-Lewin, who has enough pace and strength to hold up play and allow the team time to run off the ball. He’s also deadly in front of goal.
I really wanted to fit Richy into the starting five, but I’m more of a defensive-minded person and wanted to make sure the team was set at the back. The skillful Brazilian will provide an impact off the bench and has enough pace to tire down the defense late in the match.
Second sub — Fabian Delph. While he hasn’t been Everton’s best player this season by far, Delph can fill in as a defender or midfielder when needed, which will help the rest of the squad if they’re gassed towards the end of the match.
GK Pickford, D Digne, MF Gomes, F Richarlison, F Calvert-Lewin; Subs Mina, Bernard
Pickford is the obvious choice here, even if he hasn’t quite met expectations this season. His distributive abilities will definitely be a help in this sort of setup too. Digne - got to have at least one defender in the mix, and Digne is the obvious choice as the best passer of the defense corps and a reasonable defender. I was tempted to go to Yerry Mina here, given that his size could give opponents problems, but I don’t think it’s the best fit in this type of competition.
Five-a-side is a central midfielder’s type of game, and Andre is the best we’ve got. Easy choice, while Richarlison has got the best combination of attacking skills (dribbling, distribution, finishing) of any player on the roster, and has shown a willingness to get back and help in defense as well.
The last spot is a tough one. I’d love to watch Bernard obliterate people on the dribble in the small-sided game’s open space, but he’s just too much of a passenger off the ball. Calvert-Lewin, on the other hand, will run for days off the ball, and although his technical skill isn’t quite to the level we’d like it to be for this sort of competition, it’s good enough to get him into the team given his finishing ability and physical gifts.
My two subs are the two players mentioned above not in the starting lineup - Mina if things get physical, just unleash the big Colombian and let him do his thing — not to mention that it can’t ever hurt to have another former Barcelona player in a five-a-side competition, and if I need late goals, I’m going with everyone’s favorite tiny Brazilian Bernard to open things up in the attack.
D Holgate, D Mina, MF Gomes, MF Bernard, F Richarlison; Subs Baines, Calvert-Lewin
I’m going with no goalkeeper as the five can play rush-goalie between them and I don’t want Pickford or Stekelenburg. Holgate is the quickest and most mobile centre-half at the club and Mina has partnered Holgate well and would make defence more imposing.
Gomes is the most composed and technically gifted midfielder, could pick out a pass from anywhere while Bernard is one of the best at the club technically, could play out wide or drift inside.
Richarlison could drift out wide or play up front, one of the best technical players, still a better finisher than Calvert-Lewin in my opinion, and less likely to need DCL’s hold-up play in a game of five-a-side.
For my subs, Baines is such an intelligent footballer that he could probably play anywhere in a game of five-a-side and DCL who is the best finisher currently at the club after Richarlison.
GK Pickford, D Holgate, MF Bernard, F Richarlison F Calvert-Lewin; Subs Kean, Digne
There really isn’t any other option for me but Pickford, he’s our number one and despite his struggles on the pitch this season, his quick reactions would be important in a 5-a-side match. I was thinking about going with Jean-Philippe Gbamin being that he has the versatility and skills of a CDM and has played CB, but then I remembered how good Holgate has been. His defensive prowess and quickness would be huge in a sort of stopper role to sit in front of Pickford and make sure nothing gets through. He also can pass out of the back when needed.
Our crafty, little winger Bernard in the middle - in a five-a-side match, you need creativity in small spaces and the ability to take on defenders one-on-one and create space, and he has shown the ability to do that and create that magic.
For the two up top, it was pretty obvious. Richarlison has been consistently one of our best players on the pitch and he has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one to create space, as well. His talent on a regular pitch is proof enough that he could dominate any five-a-side match, and I don’t want anyone leading the line that isn’t named Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Easily our most potent goalscorer, recently, DCL has proven he can put the finishing touches on most things that come his way. His finishing has improved mightily and that will help in this type of match.
As substitutes, I couldn’t leave Kean out of the squad altogether because when you talk about skill, we know he has it. He has a ton of power behind his shot, as well, and I think when you can find space, you need to be able to blow it by a keeper and he has the ability to do that. I didn’t put Digne in the starting lineup because I liked the size and speed of Holgate in the back, but there is no doubt that the Frenchman has the best passing skills out of anyone in on our backline. Crosses may not be as important, but his ability to find an open man would be important in this type of match.
GK Pickford, D Holgate, MF Bernard, F Richarlison F Calvert-Lewin; Subs Kean, Digne
I went with Pickford as I’m not going to pick Stek, am I? For my two defenders I went with Holgate and Digne - the former is solid enough to defend at the back but comfortable enough on the ball to bring it forward and create chances at the other end, while the latter has the engine to get up and down the pitch quickly, a wicked left foot and good understanding with Bernard.
My other two players are both Samba-skilled Brazilians - Bernard and Richarlison, having them in the same team is frightening (for me, anyway!)
For subs, I’ll take Kean - pace, power tricky and (most of the time) attacking precision, the perfect player to bring on if we need a goal and Theo Walcott - who is also pacy and direct and with the smaller pitch his crosses may actually be effective.
GK Pickford, D Holgate, MF Bernard, F Richarlison F Kean; Subs Digne, Gomes
Pickford is my sweeper-keeper here while Holgate is flexible enough to play across the line and can step up and support Gomes if some tough-tackling is needed in the middle. Goals are what will settle these games, so I have both Richarlison and Kean in my side. The Italian is in ahead of Calvert-Lewin because of his better close control and there won’t be much need for aerial ability with five-a-side.
Digne and Bernard are excellent distributors and make the bench for me, both have the composure and talent to step in and support wherever needed in this quicker form of the game.
This was a lot of fun for us writers to put together, but now we would like to hear what you the readers think would be your Everton starting five (with two subs), comment below!