When tasked with pulling together five things we’ve learnt from Moyes’ first four games, I was hopeful that there would be some positives to discuss. After all, fixtures against Watford, Leicester and Everton provided us with realistic opportunities to pick up some points.
But by the 94th minute of our trip to Goodison, it became apparent that those of us who optimistically believed the squad might experience the often-mentioned ‘bounce’ under our new manager, would be left deflated. So what have we discovered from Moyes’ first four games, and are there any seeds of hope for the games to come?
There are things that Moyes cannot change.
This is perhaps the most obvious of all the things we have learnt from our most recent performances. Under Slaven Bilic the side lacked pace, creativity, width and, when Hernandez was unavailable, anyone that can put the ball in the net.
It should come as no surprise then to anyone that during Moyes’ first four games we have lacked pace, creativity, width and a potent attacking threat. No amount of coaching and working on fitness is going to make our ageing team any quicker. Antonio’s injury has obviously not helped with these issues, but he was hardly the solution under Slav either. The reality is if David Moyes is going to save this team, January is going to be crucial.
Defensive errors haven’t been eradicated yet.
There are two things that I was optimistic Moyes would do. Firstly, get the players fitter and secondly, get the defence back to Sam Alladyce levels of organised. And whilst you could argue that the players have more energy (evidenced by the rally in the dying minutes against Leicester), you’d be much harder pressed to suggest that the defence is any more solid. Conceding two against Watford and the solitary goal against Leicester aren’t exactly major crimes.
But the drubbing at the hands of Everton highlighted that old habits die hard for our back four. Players were too rash and seemed to lack any real awareness. Couple that with Joe Hart having a few rushes of blood to the head, and we have a familiar recipe for disaster.
The levels of panic when we are being attacked contribute to the high number of individual errors we make. This is one of the areas Moyes should be able to improve, but as yet has failed to do so.
We are still unable to execute a game plan
Slaven was criticised for having no discernible game plan or philosophy. Players seemed to go onto the field without any kind clear tactical approach. Getting the ball into the box and using our one-up-top striker as a quick out ball was about the best we could muster. There doesn’t appear to be much change to that ‘tactic’ under Moyes.
To his credit, he has moved Masuaku into a more advanced role, ahead of Cresswell, which in theory should mean that we will create chances. His use of Arnautovic on the right should also mean the Austrian can get to the by-line and cross rather than checking back, allowing the opposition defence to get set back up as he does from the left.
However, this whole approach relies on Carroll being fit and being in the box rather than the edge of the area. Neither of these things are guaranteed and so the plan seems ill conceived.
He isn’t afraid to speak his mind
It may be that he’s only on a six-month contract. It maybe the Scotsman in him. But David Moyes doesn’t seem too bothered about endearing himself to his players. Many accusing voices claimed that Slaven was too soft on the squad. Upon his dismissal those rumours seemed to be confirmed by insiders at the club.
Days off after defeats, certain players arriving late for training without repercussions and an obvious reluctance to criticise the players in public. Moyes has no such concerns. In his short time at the club he has made it very clear that it is his way or the highway. Arnautovic was told if he doesn’t run, he doesn’t play.
Then when the record signing did run and put in a man of the match display against Leicester, Moyes said that ‘putting in effort’ wasn’t deserving of praise because it is a minimum requirement. Carroll has also been called out by the new gaffer, and he has also made it clear that he puts the bulk of responsibility on the players to pull us out of this mire.
The half-time reactions during the Leicester and Everton games also suggest that he isn’t afraid to let fly at them in the dressing room. Hopefully a healthy fear of the boss will pay off.
My biggest fear going to the Leicester game was that the disappointment over the appointment of Moyes and the anger felt towards the board, would mean a hostile and counter-productive atmosphere. Instead what I experienced was the best support I have felt at the London Stadium (except for Spuds and Chelsea).
Now it may be a stretch to give Moyes any credit for this but if the selection of Moyes as manager unites the fans, even if it is initially in defiance of rather than support for it, and brings that kind of atmosphere every week – then that could be the biggest positive we can take.