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This Worm Has Turned

By Sam Morrison :  30/11/2010 :  Comments (17) :
I?ve been a fairly ardent Moyes supporter over the past eight years. I recognised he had flaws but the evidence for his positives far outweighed them and I would argue with anyone who felt that taking things on balance made me an ?apologist?. Despite his drawbacks, he had done so much for the club. And that remains true. Just to counter-balance what I?m going to go on to say, let?s briefly re-list his achievements here, in case anyone has just landed from Mars. If you can?t bear to go through it again just skip the next three paragraphs?

Moyes took an aging, mediocre squad and transformed it into a younger, more dynamic side. He made great signings at low costs and achieved the transformation from perennial relegation-strugglers into a team that regularly challenged for Europe.

The details and intricacies of how he did this tell of his drive and ambition, his skills of motivation, his eye for a player who fit into a hard-working team-ethic while slowly evolving into a team who were more capable on the ball as individuals. Marcus Bent traded in for Louis Saha (not directly I know, but over time). Alessandro Pistone for Leighton Baines. Scot Gemmill for Mikel Arteta...

And as we were all getting tired over the prosaic style of play, he began to implement a different style to the team, with more emphasis on passing and possession.

All this and more has been detailed many times over the years, and better than I ever could, but in summary let?s just say that he has done Everton a lot more good than harm. And for that I remain grateful and unapologetic. However?

A common perception of the major Moyes flaws are: too defensively minded when it comes to formations (my personal take on 4-5-1 is that it?s not a defensive set-up unless you allow it to be ? it?s a 4-5-1 in defence, a 4-1-3-2 in attack, or whatever formation you like as long as the players are all on the pitch and have the confidence and wherewithal to attack with fluidity); he?s tentative with substitutions in terms of whom he replaces and the timing of it (ie they?re usually reactive rather than proactive); and he favours particular players to the detriment of the team (here we get into a very subjective argument about individual player qualities, so it?s difficult to address it definitively).

All of which can ultimately be forgiven if the results justify it, and obviously this season this isn?t the case.

I?d add two more major criticisms though which I believe go above and beyond the oft-quoted three above. The first is that the team moves to the rhythm of Moyes?s moods, and too often we find that his mood is bleak. His drive can never be doubted, but it does not manifest itself as the infectious enthusiasm of someone like Owen Coyle or the tactical adaptability of a Jose Mourhino. It's closer, by accident or design, to the ?Generalissimo? approach of Alex Ferguson, where the leader commands (or hopes to) such respect that the players would do everything for him, a leader who protects them to the extent that after dressing a player down for a shite performance he?ll tell a journalist who shares his opinion that he?s talking bollocks.

Moyes certainly seems to be aiming for this kind of leadership, but he will occasionally criticise or ?temper? individuals (Coleman and Beckford most recently) and this can seem mealy-mouthed. Without the years of success, not to mention presence, that Ferguson has had, Moyes?s temper can seem like a sulk. And while his ?no carrot, just stick? approach gets some thriving, it is not for everybody. I think if Moyes showed a bit more flexibility in regards to massaging certain egos in the squad (and I mean 'ego' in terms of confidence on the pitch) it would actually increase his hold on the club, not weaken it, but he seems not to agree.

The other major drawback is one that is actually a positive taken in isolation. Moyes seems to work best with his back to the wall. We often turn in a disappointing performance against a team we?d hope to beat when we have a full (or close to it) squad to choose from, while we get our best results against the big boys when key players are missing.

Examples: during our great run of last season we beat Chelsea without Fellaini and Pienaar, Man Utd without Cahill or Fellaini, and Man City without Arteta. If memory serves Jagielka was missing for all of them. This in itself is admirable ? and in the grander picture of slumped expectations when he arrived here, makes me eternally grateful ? but set against the thirteen draws (last season) against mostly-average teams, it can be frustrating. If Moyes can gee the players up for these massive contests when the expectation is against them, surely we can hope to expect even better when all players are available and we?re at home to say, Stoke... Or Wigan... Or West Brom.

It?s these two issues that speak to me more than what formation we play, or whether Phil Neville is playing, or the fact that Moyes left it a little late to bring on second striker. All of these criticisms are valid, and yet all of them can be temporarily negated if Moyes can get the players playing as they are capable of, and maybe even permanently eradicated if Moyes takes the next evolutionary step and gets the team he built to attack actually attacking.

But I don?t think that will happen now. Unless the ownership of the club changes and our financial standing with it, I think Moyes believes he has faced all his challenges already and come up with his working methods for when they re-occur. I don?t feel like he is evolving any more.

I think he feels because something worked in the past he?ll stick with it, and our fortunes will be tied up in whether Moyes is going through one of his driven, bloody-minded, fighting-talk moods, or one of his bloody-minded periods of grim bleakness, where his post-game interviews are like some soulless Kafka-esque take on the human condition. We?ll still pull off the odd result against Man Utd/Chelsea, we?ll grind out some decent results, but in-between times we?ll struggle against teams who are well-organised defensively, and ultimately, it won?t feel like we?re progressing.

It?s sometimes hard to separate the issue of stewardship of a team from the financial strictures they work under, but despite his skills at working on a tight budget, I?m no longer convinced that Moyes is the best man for the club. Unless he can cast off his dead-eyed stoicism and fall in love with the game again, I think we will stagnate as the team he built to win things realizes they are not winning, and begin to leave. I?m still scared of all the possibilities of what happens if Moyes leaves, but for the first time I?m no longer optimistic about what happens if he stays.

Reader Comments

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David Price
1   Posted 30/11/2010 at 16:10:25

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Our problem is simple: We need a goalscorer. Not so simple in finding one, but from somewhere a proper No 9 would have got us 12 more points already.

We can rightly debate players out of position etc etc, but those chances go in and we'd be having a different discussion. That is the fine line we tread.

Lee Mandaracas
2   Posted 30/11/2010 at 16:09:43

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Amen on pretty much all counts. I adore what the man has done for this club BUT he is human and I know how it feels to lose your mojo at work.

I love my job and am very good at what I do. However, from time to time I hit a slump and I am not sufficiently long in the tooth to realise it will come to an end and all will be well with the world in a brief spell. If I stress about it too much (aside from the inevitable levels) it will only prolong the period of poor form.

I believe that is where Moyes is and where he has been for a while now. What he needs is a Kendallesque Oxford City moment. Something over which he has little influence but becomes a huge turning point to reignite passion. Without that, I believe the writing is on the wall for both him and us... and it needs to be very, very soon.

Steve Edwards
3   Posted 30/11/2010 at 16:33:27

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Good article, like Lee (2) I agree on pretty much all counts. I do thing that there is a new factor though which should be taken into consideration in regard to our form. That is after following the blues for over 50 years I can't remember a single season like this one.

You could start to see what was evolving with the league last season. From top to bottom there is little difference between teams. I know you will always get a freak result but we are getting these results almost every week now. Most teams in the league are playing pretty much to the way Moyes likes to play and they have got the results. The strange thing is we have abandond that way of playing to a certain extent. We now retain the ball much better, dominate most games in midfield but we are being undone by teams that play a more direct up-and-at-'em style of play. I think it is quite ironic really, we are in fact getting a taste of our own medicine.

This is a very dangerous league at the moment and just to stay up I think we will need to get back to what we did well. Wolves are quite capable of scrapping there way out of trouble. West Ham have probably got a bit of money available to them in January. I don't thing they are that bad anyway. Funny side Wigan, you don't know what you'll get from them, they can beat anyone on there day. Usually you can depend on two of the teams that come up to go down again. Well, I don't think that Blackpool look like relegation candidates. Same applies to West Brom and Newcastle.

I know some of you will disagree with me here but I will be very happy just to stay up this season. It's a very dangerous league so Moyes had better get back to what he does best.
Paul Loins
4   Posted 30/11/2010 at 17:12:22

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Let's keep behind the manager and our luck will turn. We have been playing well recently but toothless in front of goal so that will change with the number of chances we create. I am staying positive... In Moyes I Trust!!!
David Price
5   Posted 30/11/2010 at 17:11:37

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Ok, take that back, it might be simple after all. Via a scouting web site you can research your teams needs. Right then Davey Moyes, here is, for free, my findings.

Team, Levski Sofia, Bulgaria and Champions for two out of last three seasons, currently in 2nd place.

Top scorer in his first season:
Garia Dembele, aged 24, 6ft 1".French of Mali descent.
23 games, 26 goals, (4 pens and 6 yellow cards).
Began at Auxerre youth, moved to Denmark and Greece now in Bulgaria.

Web site report concludes: Clinical finisher bringing team mates into play. £3M should seal the deal. Can't be that easy can it? I'll be checking euro sport for the game v Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League next week. I know, sad and desperate..

Tony Cheek
6   Posted 30/11/2010 at 18:00:20

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David , regarding your first post... Yes, we need a goalscorer, but is it that simple? Beckford got into more scoring positions in 40 mins than Yak and Saha have done all season... True?

If his last 5 chances had gone in ? instead of inches wide ? yes, we have another ball game. But have we made that many chances, apart from Cahill's headers, which have been scored? No!!!

So maybe it's about tactics, team selection, and attitude ... Yes, you guessed it ?Moyes's job!!!

Stephen Kenny
7   Posted 30/11/2010 at 18:11:35

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You sum up how I feel far better than I would have.
John Brennan
8   Posted 30/11/2010 at 17:52:10

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Apologies, Sam. I have been very lazy this evening, and haven't read everything. My personal take is that the players we have just aren't good enough to win the Premier League or gain a Champions League place.

I think, whichever team you support, you like to think that your club is better than most others, or can take on the best and sometimes beat them. We can shout all we like about certain of our players, but we are really much of a muchness. Sky build the Premier League up to be better than it really is, but if you take away their bullshit, there are really only 2 or 3 teams that have a realistic chance of winning the league. Everton are not one of them.

I remember us winning the Championship in 1970 but simply cannot envisage anything like that happening again for a long time, if at all. It's such a complicated situation trying to explain how we go about rebuilding, re-energising, making something happen again, but these days, without major investment (yes, I know its' all been said before), we won't/can't win the league.

My biggest and most frightening problem at the moment, is that we really could get relegated this season. I don't like what I have been reading, or Moyes's comments about Beckford in particular. I get the sense/smell of defeatism and I dont like it.

As others have said, Moyes is paid over £3M a year, and, if he has anything about him, if he really is a "winner", well, then this surely is the time to begin to show it. If you find yourself on the canvas, then what do you do? Do you sit there and accept defeat, or do you draw on your reserves of determination and courage, and pick yourself up and make things happen?

Others have already indicated that we should be building around Fellaini and Rodwell. Agreed. I also want to give Beckford more time and also Coleman. I'm afraid I don't see much beyond that, other than Cahill, Baines and the ever imponderable Bily (whom I like) and Heitinga played in his right position. (If he leaves the club in January or at the end of the season, I can see him ? Heitinga... or maybe even Bily??? ? giving Moyes a real rollocking in print.)

If we lose to Chelsea, ok, but if Wigan beat us, we really are in the shit (and I don't normally swear)!!

Trevor Lynes
9   Posted 30/11/2010 at 19:38:37

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Personally, after watching Barcelona demolishing Real Madrid, I really dont think we are playing the same game!! By comparison, we are a bunch of plods.
John Crawley
10   Posted 30/11/2010 at 19:45:46

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There's an old saying in football which says you can only go forwards or backwards ? you can't stand still.

Unfortunately the current board of Everton have tried to stand still but the lack of finance that they have generated for the manager means we are going backward.

The manager, for all of his good points, has barely had a positive spend in the last 5 transfer windows. No matter how good anyone is as a manager, they can't work miracles with no funding.

It was clear in the summer that Moyes was trying to offload certain players to generate some funds for a striker as the board had completely failed to do their job, which is to raise money for the Manager to spend to improve the team, so we can win a trophy and or qualify for the Champions League.

If you look at the money that Spurs have spent since they finished in the top 5 for 2 years you will see they have spent a considerable amount. The effect of that is clear to see for all. I have no doubt that, if Moyes had been given a similar amount of money, he would also have got us into the Champions League places again. We can talk about the manager all we like but, until the current board goes, we as a club are going nowhere fast.

Peter Laing
11   Posted 30/11/2010 at 20:12:42

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Totally agree with your comments, John. Happy Hawry has been well backed (as always) by Daniel Levy and the board at Tottenham. Their balance sheet for last season reported a net loss of some considerable magnitude, however with this season's ECL success, increased turnover from TV and gate receipts, I expect that Spurs will be reporting profits / at least break even on this year's accounts.

Spurs are obviously speculating to accumulate, they have the financial backing to underwrite the debt and fair play to them they are making a good fist of it with entertaining football to full-house and in-demand White Hart Lane sell-outs. Until Kenwright grows some bollocks and finally disposes of his assets then unfortunately Everton being classed as the nearly-men will continue ad nauseaum.

Jamie Sweet
12   Posted 30/11/2010 at 20:02:54

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Spot on Sam! I was asked only yesterday by a friend who supports Spurs what my take was on the rumblings that Moyes days might be numbered at Goodison (he was very surprised btw). I wrote almost a carbon copy of this post... albeit not quite so articulately.

I now have a sore neck from nodding all the way through reading this. Time for a change in my opinion.

The only point I made above and beyond what you wrote, is that I don't think Moyes is actually going anywhere. Far too expensive to sack him (and I don't believe Bill would even be considering this option anyway). I also think he's far too much of a stubborn bastard to walk.
Jamie Tulacz
13   Posted 30/11/2010 at 20:15:55

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Sam ? good well balanced post and sums up where I'm at, at the moment. Have been a big Moyes fan over the years, though I'm starting to think that he may have run out of ideas this time, and the old ones are starting to be found out. Largely the same set of players who served us so well second half of last season, so I think it's as much getting them playing well as making huge changes.

John (10/11) ? agree completely that Moyes can't work miracles without funds which he just hasn't had. Interested to hear you say that Moyes was trying to offload a few during the summer to fund a striker. Not quite sure who you're thinking of there, as I wasn't aware of any strong rumours of getting rid of any of our players over the summer, aside from the usual tabloid speculation.

Think that keeping a stable squad has been a key aim of Moyes's management over the years, and has generally worked well for him, though now there seem to be too many underperforming players this year.

A lot of people coming on here saying that we should have got rid of certain players last summer, but hindsight's a great thing, many of these players were performing well last year and there would have been a big uproar at the time if we'd got rid.
Michael Kenrick
14   Posted 30/11/2010 at 21:09:05

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John Crawley (#10): "It was clear in the summer that Moyes was trying to offload certain players to generate some funds for a striker"

Is that why he resisted the sale of Saha for what... £8M? (Or was it because Louis had no interest in going to Turkey?)

Is that why he turned down the sale of Yakubu to West Ham for £6M? (Or was that because he was convinced the Yak was worth more and he was going to hold out?)

Is that whey he rebuffed the £15M overture from Wegner for Jags? (I believe he really didn't want to lose Jags ? he's a defender remember!)

Did he not also turn down overtures from Sir Alex for one J Rodwell?


The MInd of Moyes, eh.... Ach 'tis a wonderful thing I long ago gave up trying to figure out.
Jeff Armstrong
15   Posted 30/11/2010 at 22:01:50

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Michael # 14, pure speculation mate.

Do you know for a fact that these bids?

Came in and where then turned down?

Thought not....
John Daley
16   Posted 01/12/2010 at 03:12:34

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"Michael # 14, pure speculation mate,

Do you know for a fact that these bids?

Came in and where then turned down?

Thought not....."

Jeff,

Moyes himself stated in interviews that he received and rejected bids for both Saha and Jagielka. The size of the bids were confirmed on the clubs OS. Although the Saha bid was last year and not this summer.
Tim Keen
17   Posted 02/12/2010 at 10:15:07

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So the great minds of Toffeeweb would have sold Jagielka, Saha and Yakubu.

And bought in Messi, Villa and Ronaldo no doubt?

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