David Moyes Checks Out Of His Hotel, And Perhaps Out Of Real Sociedad


As David Moyes approaches 12 months in the job as Real Sociedad coach, the Scot is finally moving out of his luxury hotel and into a new city centre apartment, but he might be best advised not to unpack everything just yet.

There was a lot of excitement around the club and city of San Sebastian last November, when txuri-urdin president Jokin Aperribay eventually persuaded the former Manchester United and Everton manager to come and take over at the then struggling La Liga club.

And you could argue that he did fairly well to come in and steady the ship. La Real finished the season well clear of relegation worries, many of their defensive issues were straightened out, and a previously feckless team even started winning games away from home.

Last summer also seemed to go pretty positively. Young talent in goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli, centre-back Iñigo Martinez and Mexico international Carlos Vela remained at the club, former homegrown midfield star Asier Illarramendi returned from Real Madrid, and a proven La Liga goalscorer was signed in Brazilian striker Jonathas from Elche. It looked likely La Real could spend the 2015/16 battling for a Europa League qualification spot.

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Meanwhile Moyes himself talked regularly about loving life in the Basque country's culinary capital, enjoying travelling around Spain with assistant Billy McKinlay, and generally adapting well to the demands of La Liga.

But there remained a feeling that the 52-year-old Glaswegian had not fully settled. There was an unwillingness or inability to speak Spanish [let alone Basque] in public. The different approach taken by his former player and assistant Phil Neville, who started to tweet en español a few weeks after arriving at Valencia, was pretty noticeable.

More startling was Moyes talking in August about avoiding relegation, not getting into Europe, as his goal for the campaign. He also said the squad had been “designed by the club, not by the coaches” which looked a hint at tension with txuri-urdin sporting director Loren over targets and policy during the summer.

And then 2015/16 did not start at all well - with no goals until game four, and no win until game five. September 22's 3-0 victory at Granada remains the only victory after eight matches, and La Real currently sit just outside the relegation zone on goal difference with just six points earned.

Moyes has regularly said his team deserved more for their performances, while also not being shy about discussing other reasons why things have gone wrong.

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Back-up goalkeeper Oier Olazabal was blamed after he let in a late Espanyol winner on what was his debut for La Real. Defender Iñigo Martinez was singled out after the defeat at Malaga, having performed excellently in previous games. Players talk respectfully about their ‘mister’ in public, but there’s no real sense of a close bond having developed, again possibly also due to language and cultural issues.

Referees have often been mentioned at post-game press conferences. Moyes again pointed out the differences between Spanish officials and English officials after a late penalty call probably cost his side a point in last Sunday’s 2-0 home reverse to Atletico Madrid. It did look a bad call, but it also made him look still not yet attuned to how things work in La Liga.

The morning of that game had seen reports that Moyes would return to England to replace wobbling Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood. Asked afterwards, Moyes said he was not surprised by the attention but planned to stay where he was.

“I’ve been mentioned with clubs all last season, all during the pre-season, and also now,” he said. “It’s normal. People know the job I do back in England. But my intention is to remain at La Real. No other intention. You could see today the players fought for every ball, tried to run for every chance they had, but just did not get the goal that we deserved.”

Fighting for every ball, and running every metre, is all well and good. But fans, pundits and perhaps directors at the club are growing increasingly unimpressed by the team’s lack of good football and exciting attacking. They’ve scored in just three of their first eight La Liga games.

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AS’ well-connected man on the ground Roberto Ramajo claims that “patience is running out” in the Anoeta boardroom, and Loren spoke on Teledonosti on Monday night, making clear he was not happy with how the season had begun.

“We did not think we would have this number of points at this stage,” the former La Real club captain said. “The club has made an effort to put together a high level squad, with sufficient quality to win more games than we have done so far.”

Loren denied that he had started looking at potential replacements, but also rejected the idea that the Scot had not been involved in transfer decisions last summer. He added that he could not fault the dedication of either players or coach, but appeared to question the tactics being employed.

“We're lacking clarity, effectiveness in the final third, and clear ideas to open up defences,” he said. “Something must change. This team must have more options.”

Upcoming games against Levante, Celta Vigo and Las Palmas might allow La Real to click and start scoring goals and picking up points. But it already looks as if an amicable parting of the ways might soon start to look very appealing to both sides.

Should a Premier League job more appealing than Villa open up in the coming weeks, Moyes might be on the move again.

 

Read more from Dermot Corrigan