The David Moyes reign at the Anoeta is over after the Basque club decided to terminate his contract on Monday. What always appeared to be a less than perfect marriage is over just one day short of its first anniversary.
Perhaps we should applaud Moyes for making a move few British managers make by taking a job abroad in another major European league, when despite his Old Trafford nightmare he would have certainly been a strong contender for many jobs in England’s top flight. His unveiling as the new Real Sociedad boss was largely welcomed by those in San Sebastian at a club that has had several British managers in the past.
The hope was he would be more John Toshack than Chris Coleman, however unfortunately for the Scot precious little went right during his time at La Real and there was a certain inevitability about his fate after another lackluster showing in a 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Las Palmas last weekend.
He can have few complaints with his dismissal. Moyes took over this time last year with Real Sociedad languishing in 15th place with just 9 points from 11 games. Given they’d finished 4th and 7th in the previous two seasons it wasn’t considered anywhere near good enough and as victories over Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid had demonstrated there was still plenty of quality in the squad.
The former Manchester United and Everton boss was expected to steer the side towards the right end of the table and build for a genuine challenge on the top six and a return to European football this term.
One year of Moyes on and Real Sociedad are in exactly the same situation that prompted them to dispense with Jagoba Arrasate and bring in the Scot in the first place. 11 games into the campaign, they again have just 9 points, unfortunate symmetry perhaps but the lack of progress that has been made under Moyes is strikingly plain for all to see.
The media in Spain hasn’t quite reached the level of Moyes-bashing that plagued his ill-fated spell at Old Trafford but it hasn’t been far off. His inability to learn the language has always been the easy criticism to throw at him. Certainly it made his task of getting his message across to the players and building relationships at the club more difficult and the occasional bumbling attempt to speak Spanish in press conferences only really aided his critics.
Even team-talks were delivered through an interpreter and although he is by no means the first manager in European football to take a job in a country without knowledge of the native language, such communication problems are easy to highlight as a probable cause when results don’t go well.
There where other issues too that plagued his spell in charge. Moyes had an excellent record for shrewd purchases during his time at Goodision Park but has struggled to improve the side despite a relatively sizable transfer budget this summer. Over 15 million Euros was spent bringing Asier Illarramendi back to the club from Real Madrid while the arrival of Jonathas from Elche was supposed to solve their goalscoring problems but hasn’t really paid off.
Tactical naivety was another frequent accusation in the local and national press with Moyes open about his intention to introduce a more fast-paced British style to the side. The personnel at his disposal didn’t really suit that kind of game though and he struggled to land targets who may have helped aid that change.
In amongst the disappointment there was the odd bright spark that suggested he may have been starting to get to grips with life in La Liga. A win against Barcelona just 2 months into his reign was a clear highlight. However Real Sociedad would win just 1 of their next 8 games as they struggled to cope without injured striker Carlos Vela.
An eventual 12th place finish last term was tolerable if a little uninspiring for the Real Sociedad fans and board alike. Moyes may not have quite won hearts and minds but the majority inside the Anoeta were still willing to give him a chance and see what he could do after a first full pre-season under his belt.
If his first 7 months in charge could be perceived as a par performance given the plight they were in when he took the job, the last few months have been an unqualified disaster.
Seven pre-season friendlies saw La Real score just 2 goals and the league season began in equally dull fashion with back-to-back 0-0 draws against newly promoted Sporting Gijon and Deportivo la Coruna. Already it appeared as though if anything Real Sociedad had gone backwards and defeats against Real Betis and Espanyol in their next 2 matches solidified those fears.
An Imanol Agirretxe hat-trick in a win at Granada briefly lifted the gloom as did a 4-0 win at Levante but woeful home form and successive defeats against Celta Vigo and particularly Las Palmas sealed the fate of Moyes just shy of year into his reign.
He leaves the club with a win percentage of just 28%, by some distance the worst of his managerial career so far and is unlikely to look back upon his spell in the Basque Country with much fondness. Moyes may still find work in the mid to lower end of the Premier League but his reputation in Spain and perhaps that of British managers in general is at an all-time low.