Well, it looked touch and go there for a minute, but sure enough, Real Sociedad have announced David Moyes as their new manager. Hey, Moyes managed to not mess something up!
The Scottish manager's path to Spain has been fairly quick, if at times rocky. We first heard about Moyes's and La Real's mutual interest in one another in the middle of last week, and early yesterday, it appeared the Moyes hiring was all but assured. However, as the day progressed, the club and the manager seemed to reach a sort of stalemate based on contractual issues, and Pepe Mel was reported to be the new favorite. Ultimately, the sides came to an agreement late last night, and here we are.
Guillem Balague had more details on the inner workings of the negotiation process. He reported that Moyes had always been Real Sociedad's first choice, and the two were in contact for 10 days leading up to last night's announcement. Balague also said money or control over the club were not the sticking points delaying the deal, as reported elsewhere. Instead, there were just a few minor details to work out, most likely related to contract length (Moyes preferred a shorter agreement) and Moyes trying to decide if San Sebastián was the right place for his comeback.
So Moyes is back! We touched on it a little last week, but this really is as close to an ideal situation as ol' Moyesie was going to find. The club might be only three points from the rock bottom of the table, but the talent on the roster is much much better than that, and La Real can rightfully argue that their results haven't matched their performances. Their goal difference isn't great at -4, but that number looks more like what you'd see from a midtable side, not a relegation candidate. And after this weekend's 2-1 win over Spanish champions Atlético, they can claim a feat maybe no other club this season will match: earning victories against both big Madrid teams.
Stylistically, too, the move makes at least some sense. Instead of the expressive, free-flowing attacking play Moyes was unable to implement at Manchester United, Real Sociedad fans are accustomed to direct, counterattacking soccer. Offensive tactical strategizing was never his strong suit, and now Moyes can rely on the individual talents of his numerous creative players to carry the day on that end while focusing on defensive shape and structure, much like he did during his glory years at Everton. Plus, La Real already average the most crosses in La Liga, so no one will complain when he's shouting "Get wide and hook it in, my boy!"at Carlos Vela from the touchline
Let's not get too carried away, though. There are still risks. For one, La Liga remains a technical league judged primarily on styles going forward. The particularly British appreciation for cagy, defensive play that squeezes out tough draws and clips out narrow wins with muddy shirts and a fistful of yellow cards isn't something the Spaniards have too much time for. Real Sociedad were flying high the past couple seasons, and while it wasn't down to intricate passes and Guardiola-esque movement, they were still bagging goals left and right with the brilliance of Vela and the departed Antoine Griezmann.
Sitting back and letting a small-time club like Rayo Vallecano take the game to La Real while hoping to nick the ball off them and boot it long up to Imanol Agirretxe probably won't be a tactic embraced by many of the Sociedad faithful—which would be doubly true should Athletic come to town and ping the ball around and through their Basque rivals. It's no coincidence that more Spanish managers move from La Liga to the Premier League than British ones do in the opposite direction; the level of coaching is high in La Liga, and Moyes will have to adapt.
Having said all of that, the true fun in this experiment will be the culture clash. We can't wait to see what Spanish line his new bosses are rehearsing with him right now for him to bust out at the end of tomorrow's unveiling press conference. Will he take the time to actually get to know the language? The possibility of hearing his depressed mumblings after a close loss to Villarreal in broken Spanish with a thick Scottish accent is tantalizing. How will his players respond to him? At Everton, he was supposedly a strict disciplinarian, and we can imagine that his crinkly face and gravelly voice barking orders in a foreign language would put a scare in most of them. On the other hand, will even the players who do know English be able to parse that brogue for meaning?
And that's just at the club level. Picture it: Moyes sitting down at Arzak, picking up the menu, fingering nervously through page after page of dishes like "gerezi beltza arno gorriakin," "txipirones en su tinta," and "lengua a la Tolosana," trying to guess which words mean fish and chips. It's enough to send a man to the wine bar.
We can't help for root for the guy, though. As we've seen from this year's struggles, the problems at United weren't all his fault, and somewhere underneath the Moyesface, behind those eyes of either steel or watery blue—depending on his club's results—there's probably still a good manager there. If he pulls off the managerial renaissance perfectly, he's probably back to the Prem in a year and a half's time, at a biggish club pushing for the Champions League. If it doesn't go so well, maybe he's out on his ass this summer after a second abbreviated tenure should Sociedad fail to fight relegation. In any event, there's more fun to be had with the career of David Moyes, and we're excited for it.
Photo via Real Sociedad