David Moyes: Five things he should do to save Real Sociedad
Seven months after being sacked by Manchester United, David Moyes has made a comeback to coaching with Real Sociedad, who sit outside La Liga’s relegation zone only on goal difference.
It is a dramatic fall from grace for the Basque Country club, who qualified for the Champions League two seasons ago with French boss Philippe Montanier in charge and the Europa League last term under managerial novice Jagoba Arrasate.
Moyes inherits a Sociedad squad who stunned reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid last time out, so there is a fighting spirit to work with in San Sebastian. It will take more than this to revive their fortunes, however, so Coral football experts ponder what Moyes must do to save the club.
Pick a settled side
Prior to his sacking and before that subsequent sensational win over Atletico, when they were rudderless, Arrasate used 21 different players as starters in Sociedad’s first 10 La Liga outings.
In short, he had no idea what his best XI was. Star players Asier Illarramendi and Antoine Griezmann were sold in successive summers, which is the price the Basque boys have had to pay for their relative success.
What’s left behind for Moyes are loyal local names and the odd outlay made with the money received for selling Sociedad’s best and brightest. The Scot must find the right tactical blend and a settled side in a system that allows the remaining talents to flourish.
Use a diamond formation
A cursory inspection of the Sociedad squad suggests that because of a wealth of midfield players, the en vogue diamond formation would suit. Teams are very difficult to break down from central areas when the engine room is flooded with bodies.
Moyes would want the Basques to adopt the ‘tough to beat’ mentality his players had at Everton, and this set-up lends itself to that. A diamond might be the only way to sensibly fit former Real Madrid youngsters Sergio Canales and Esteban Granero (QPR fans will remember the latter) into the same system.
Build the team around Carlos Vela
Sociedad cannot rely on guileful winger Griezmann for goals anymore, nor Chile captain Claudio Bravo to keep them out at the other end, having cashed in on both. Moyes, then, would be well advised to make Mexico and ex-Arsenal forward Vela his main man.
Playing just off summer signing and Iceland international striker Alfred Finnbogason could see them form a potent partnership up front. Previous Basque tactics have relied on width, but club captain Xabi Prieto’s legs are ageing and a move infield to the head of a midfield diamond makes more sense.
Vela is a proven La Liga scoring, reaching double figures in each of the last three seasons. Supply into him from clever players like Prieto and David Zurutuza, and knock-downs from Finnbogason can ensure he gets the strikes that keep Sociedad up.
Seek January reinforcements
Moyes’ Man Utd tenure may have ended in ignominy, but he can still use his links with top Premier League teams to keep his new club up. Old side Everton could conceivably send Ivorian striker Arouna Kone out on loan in the winter window to help rebuild his fitness following a serious knee injury.
Although he was a Roberto Martinez signing, Kone also blossomed before the current Toffees brought him to Goodison Park, having worked together at Wigan Athletic, in La Liga with Levante. If current Sociedad stoppers Geronimo Rulli and Enaut Zubikarai aren’t up to scratch, Moyes might move to land Danish goalie Anders Lindegaard on loan from Old Trafford.
Make Inigo Martinez defensive lynchpin
Little more than a year ago, left-footed centre back Inigo Martinez earned a senior call-up and debut for Spain. It was thoroughly deserved off the back of his displays in the side that won the Under-21 European Championship is Israel in the summer of 2013.
Sociedad let in 15 goals in their first 10 La Liga matches this term. Doing the maths, it’s hard to win games if you sell your best players and then concede an average of 1.5 times per game. Moyes must make Martinez transform back into the defensive delight that helped the Basques earn a place at Europe’s top table.