Originally written on 07/01/13
Football fans have very short memories, don’t they? By our very nature, we are a fickle old bunch. By in large, being a football fan seems to be an extended sequence of knee-jerk reactions one after another. And, if something happened last season, it might as well not have happened, because it’s normally long been forgotten.
I was talking to someone earlier today who claimed that Roberto Martinez has done more in six months at Everton, than David Moyes did in ten years. This is pretty symptomatic of what I’m talking about. It’s fashionable to downplay David Moyes lately. It’s the ‘in’ thing to do. It isn’t a secret that Moyes has had a nightmare first six months since taking charge at Man United, but it seems to be the case, that this bad half year has made everyone forget just how good a manager he is. Or was. Or can still be.
The throwaway comment about Martinez’s first six months in charge already surpassing everything Moyes had achieved in a decade may have been flippant and not entirely serious, but it got me thinking none-the-less. A little bit of digging shows that Everton are only one place higher in the league than they were this time last season. That’s not to mention that all but 1 of Everton’s first 11 are either A. a Moyes signing or B. on loan. It also doesn’t take into consideration that Martinez inherited a consistent top 6/7 side whereas Moyes inherited an Everton team that had been fighting relegation for most of the previous decade.
I went and took an internet based trip down memory lane and looked at Everton’s final league standing for each season since 1992 through to 2002. Seeing as our man Dave took over in March 2002, I actually counted 2002’s final league standing as a season before he arrived. It’s my article, my rules. Deal with it. Anyway, it wasn’t pretty reading really;
Conclusions? Well, in the 10 years before Moyes took over at Everton they finished in the bottom half of the table 9 times, they were in a relegation battle for at least 5 of those seasons (arguably 7) and even just barely survived the drop by goal difference on one occasion.
So, to let’s have a look at the 11 seasons after “Dithering Dave” took over the reins at Everton;
Conclusions? Well, in his first full season, Moyes guided Everton to their highest points total in 13 years, in 9 of his 11 seasons, they finished in the top half of the table – a stark contrast to finishing in the top half only once in the previous ten seasons. They were also the first team to break that “Big 4” dominance and qualify for the Champions League. As a side note, they were pretty unlucky to draw un-seeded Villarreal in the qualifying round; a Villarreal side that would progress all the way to the semi finals.
The overall points tally for all teams during that 11 year period has Everton sitting 7th, with only Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and Spurs winning more points than Everton. Spurs notably had only won 13 more points than Everton during that spell, despite spending considerably more money and having gone through 6 managerial changes in the process.
Moving away from the tables above, there are other ways to contextualize Moyes’ spell at Goodison Park. For a start, Everton had a net spend of just £21.3 million since 2002/2003. Now, my math isn’t always the best, so I hope these figures are right, but compare that to the ‘elite’ clubs in the league, such as Chelsea (£517.5m), Man City (£424.7m), Liverpool (£206.8m), Man United (£195.1m), Spurs (£111.8m), and Arsenal (£32.68m).
If you were to do a league table based on a clubs net spend, or spending power in general, then you would assume that the ones who spend the most, are the ones who will finish higher in the table, and for the aforementioned teams, the top 5 is generally made up of the bigger spenders.
The rest of the league doesn’t quite follow suit though. Aston Villa (£103.5m), for example, have spent significantly more and yet had nowhere near the same level of consistency. Newcastle (£31.4m), have spent £10million more than Everton during that period, and have a Championship to show for it, but they had to endure a relegation first to get it. Newcastle also have a £35million, Andy Carroll shaped transfer anomaly helping their figures look a little more flattering. I mean, Jesus, QPR had a higher net spend last season than Everton had over 11 years and they got relegated.
There are other teams who are doing relatively well in England’s top flight at the moment who have a lower net spend than Everton; Swansea, Southampton and Norwich – but all have spent large portions of time playing in lower divisions, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison.
One stick that is regularly used to beat David Moyes and his Everton side, is that he/they never won anything during his managerial spell. Which on the surface seems like a fair enough point to make, but during Moyes’ tenure on Merseyside, only five clubs outside of the elite 5 have won a trophy during the same spell, that’s 22 trophies between the FA and League cup and only five times did the winners come outside the elite bracket; those clubs being Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Portsmouth, Swansea and Wigan. I assume you noticed that only one of those teams is still in the Premier League.
It seems that when you’re a team outside of the elite group, you may not always have the squad to mount a cup challenge while also taking care of business in the league week in/week out. I hate taking the romance out of football, but the cold black and white is, that doing well in the Premier League is significantly more important to the club (maybe not the fans) than a good cup run, or even a cup victory. Wigan and Birmingham were both relegated the same season they won a trophy, while Portsmouth were spending way beyond their means, their money bubble soon burst though and they entered the slippery slide into administration less than a year after their FA Cup victory.
It feels a little like Moyes’ achievements (and you can have achievements without actual silverware) at Everton are being a little undermined lately, and that Martinez is getting a lot of credit for essentially carrying on with the pretty solid foundations that Moyes left behind. For years, I’ve always felt Everton looked a dangerous team who just needed a quality striker, now they have one, it isn’t really a surprise they have a little more cutting edge. Even that striker is going to need replacing this summer, as he is one of the numerous loan signings.
I’m not here saying that Moyes the greatest manager of all time, or that he will definitely turn his fortunes around at Man United. He may fail at United, he may not be able to rebuild a squad there, maybe the players don’t believe in him, who knows? But whatever happens going forward for him at Old Trafford, he doesn’t deserve to have prior work rubbed off the chalkboard either.
by Andrew Furlong