Early Doors

Tactics Bored: Moyes pioneers use of a ‘false four’

Early Doors

View gallery

Due to the FA Cup being a waste of time for everyone concerned, and everybody knowing that tactics don’t exist in the Championship or below, Tactics Bored was delayed until the grown-ups played each other last night. And thank heavens for that, as the analysis that was done throughout the night could only have been matched by one billion monkeys on two billion typewriters - one typewriter for each monkey hand.

Unfortunately the budget does not stretch to more than six monkeys, and there are no typewriters at all - just computers, and the monkeys can’t operate Windows 7 until they’re trained up - so the findings are limited to that of just one very special human being.


This is not, as you might assume, the use of a player in the 4 position, as a kind of defensive, inverted regista, or an advanced sweeper who would drop back to cover exposed weaknesses to allow full-backs to push forward.

Last night David Moyes used four players in midfield - Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young - who are all, in a sense, false footballers. None of them are capable of playing to a standard to get Manchester United into the Champions League, or even control the game when they play opposition as poor as Cardiff City. This confusion can best be represented by using animals in place of the players used by United last night.

View gallery


Therefore, this impostor midfield four is a sort of ‘false 4’, where none of the players deserve to be on the pitch. United’s relative safety at the back and the winning goal scored by Robin van Persie demonstrate that the tactic worked, lulling Cardiff into a false sense of security.


Many Everton fans had become exasperated with Moyes’ dithering and lack of attacking intent - much the same as United fans have, really - and were singing the praises of their new man. Martinez successfully translated his Wigan vision last night, dominating possession against Liverpool. Everton had 61% of the ball while Liverpool had just 39%.

View gallery


After 23 games Everton were in fifth with 38 points in 2012-13, and this season they are in sixth with 42. Such a minor improvement in terms of a points haul, but they do have much more possession. What an enormous improvement. If the league starts awarding points for possession over the course of matches, then Everton’s hierarchy can be well satisfied with their appointment. As it is, they might like to remember where Wigan’s possession got them last season.


Further to the comparison between Everton in this and the previous season, it was revealed that QPR have improved their points total significantly, suggesting a huge improvement in performance over the season. This is borne out by a number of key statistics in comparison. Obviously QPR have played more league games, but the proportional difference points to a fundamental shift in the success of their play.

12/13: PLAYED 24; WON 3; DRAWN 10; LOST 12; FOR 18; AGAINST 37; POINTS 16

13/14: PLAYED 27; WON 16; DRAWN 7; LOST 4; FOR 33; AGAINST 17; POINTS 55

There’s no obvious reason why QPR have improved so much. The players they have are largely worse than the ones they had last season - they lost Loic Remy to Newcastle, for example. It really is then a matter of praising Harry Redknapp for this amelioration in their standings.


Shots and shots on target are the metrics often used by broadcasters and statistics analysts to start a discussion on how well players convert and create chances. These are affected by a number of events, such as the quality of the chance created, who is taking the shot, and from where the shot is being taken. Therefore, the two stats for shots and shots on targets do not tell the whole story, but they do give a handy basis to jump off from into deeper examination.

View gallery


The cloud on the left is Norwich’s shooting cloud, and the cloud on the right is Newcastle’s. You can see that the blue drops of rain represent a shot that is off target, and that the red drops of rain represent a shot that is on target. A yellow drop represents a goal, but fortunately nothing as crass as a goal happened last night. Now, isn’t that easier to understand than a jumble of numbers?


As a student of tiki-taka, Brendan Rodgers was asked what he thought on missing out on Juan Mata, and he offered his own nuanced tactical take:

“He was born in Ocon de Villafranca, which is a town in Spain. He also represents his national team, Spain, which suggests that he identifies with the Spanish nationality to at least some degree. He played for Valencia, a Spanish team, and speaks Spanish. Not all of these necessarily mean that he is Spanish, but for myself, he’s what I like to call a ‘Spanish player’.”

Alexander Netherton - @lxndrnthrtn

View comments (28)
Write for Yahoo Sport