After the most, breathless and eventful week of the season so far for Everton, Toffees supporters are in a understandably good mood. This is reflected in the first blog from another one of our new writers - Mike Goodman - who has written a tribute to the efforts of our manager, a certain Mr David Moyes.
It is a very very good week to be David Moyes. From tactics to transfers it seems that this week no matter what he does, Everton’s manager cannot put a foot wrong.
It must be a pleasant change for the man, who has spent the last few years presiding over a club that it’s been very hard to get excited about. Above him he has ownership that has handcuffed his personnel decisions, and around him he has fans demanding a better brand of football.
But, Moyes stoically persevering through it all has managed to do the unthinkable. He has given fans a ray of hope. It’s surprising for sure, but should it be? Looking at some numbers it actually seems that Moyes, despite some of his faults, is one of the best managers in the game.
This week isn’t a lucky one-off. It’s the product of the sustained excellence of a vastly underappreciated manager. But, don’t take my word for it; we’ll go look at some numbers:
First, bear with me during a basic recap of just how brilliant Moyes’ week was. From a tactical standpoint he got the Manchester City game completely right. He stuck Drenthe in there on the left, and despite a performance that was at times absolutely shambolic; Drenthe rewarded him by starting the move that led to the goal.
Even more impressive though, was Moyes’s decision to start Tony Hibbert in central defense over youngster Shane Duffy. It was a move that seemed completely daft at first. Putting a short RB in the middle of the field, in a position he is unaccustomed to against the most prolific attack in the league, what could Moyes have been thinking? Well, Hibbert was utterly fantastic. City seemed uninterested in attacking his height, and his experience allowed him to track Sergio Aguero well and keep him from imprinting his stamp on the game. Score one for Moyes, and one for Everton in a 1-0 upset.
It isn’t just tactics though. Moyes is responsible for all the excitement of the transfer window. He got rid of the albatross of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov upgraded Louis Saha to Jelavic, and managed to get Steven Pienaar and Landon Donovan to return on loan. That’s a lot of help up front for a squad who’s LB, Leighton Baines is tied for the lead in goals. And he did it all while working under severe financial restraints (I mean this is Everton we’re talking about after all, where some days it feels like a degree in forensic accounting is a prerequisite for following the club). It’s a great haul for Moyes, and nothing less than fans should expect.
It may not always seem like it, but Moyes is an elite manager. Last Sunday, in the Financial Times Magazine, journalist Simon Kuper and economist Stefan Szymanski (the authors of Soccernomics), put forth a study which examined what the impact of managers are on success (here’s the link).
The study examined the performance of professional teams in England since 1973. It started from the assumption that teams should perform to the level of their wage bill, and then ranked managers based on their ability to outperform that level. It turns out very few managers are able to propel their teams consistently above where their wages indicate they should finish. In fact, of the 251 managers who had managed at least five full seasons, only roughly a quarter of them managed to outperform consistently.
Szymanski made two lists, one comparing how managers performed compared to all the other professional teams, and one comparing how they performed when compared only against teams in their division. Only 19 men appeared on both lists. David Moyes, accounting for both his time at Everton and his time at Preston North End, ranked 5th when compared against only the teams in his division, and 25th in an overall comparison.
Now, certainly the study isn’t definitive (nor does it claim to be). There are lots of points that you could argue (and hopefully will in the comments) about the methodology of the study and how much it really says about managers.
For example, I imagine that focusing on wages, and not including transfer budgets, means the study is biased towards teams that have strong academies (surprise surprise Wenger and Ferguson are both in the top five on both lists), but I think it does make some specific points about what Moyes does exceptionally well.
Most importantly for Everton, Moyes has proven excellent at finding diamonds in the rough. Whether it’s plucking Tim Cahill from Milwall for 1.5 million, or Steven Pienaar for just over 2 million, or spotting Shane Duffy as a sixteen year old.
The second Moyes trait that I think this particular study highlights is his willingness to dump anybody who he doesn’t feel is going to perform up to his standards. For better (again, see Bilyaletdinov, Diniyar) or worse (obviously a certain Mr. Rooney comes to mind) Moyes will sacrifice skill for application. Obviously it hasn’t always worked out, but the result is that there are very few wasted wage dollars on the Toffee’s roster. Moyes clearly isn’t afraid to take a transfer loss if it means getting rid of a player he feels is dead weight.
And wouldn’t you know it, finding cheap talent, and getting rid of dead weight might be the two single most important traits for a manager in his current position. He’s squeezing every inch of talent out of who he has, and making every dime do a dollar’s work. So, it should come as no surprise that Everton’s manager has had a dominant week. Hopefully there will be more to come.