Why David Moyes, Not Villas-Boas, is the Right Man for Tottenham
Following the recent departure of Harry Redknapp from Tottenham Hotspur, attention has quickly focused on the search for his replacement. In recent seasons, the North London club has enjoyed spells of success in the Premier League and Champions League. Now standing at a proverbial crossroads, Spurs’ fortunes will rest largely on chairman Daniel Levy’s forthcoming managerial appointment, by far his most important to date.
Despite Tottenham’s interest in Andre Villas-Boas, the obvious choice — to me — for the job is Everton’s David Moyes. The Scot is almost perfectly suited to the vacant Spurs role, and was unsurprisingly the bookies’ favorite. After a decade in charge at Goodison Park, Moyes is universally considered to be one of the Premier League’s finest managers, and may well relish the fresh challenge of taking over at a club with genuine Champions League aspirations.
The last three seasons at White Hart Lane have been a remarkably successful period, especially for a club which spent much of the last two decades mired in mid-table mediocrity. Over this short yet eventful time in their recent history, there has been a slight, but definite shift in Spurs’ mentality.
For many years, Tottenham’s identity has been somewhat reflected by the famous Danny Blanchflower quote:
“The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish.”
Whether Spurs fans like it or loathe it, this is how they have become known to the world – as a football club who take pride in doing things the ‘Tottenham Hotspur Way’, the term given to what is believed to be the ‘right way’ of doing things. The philosophy, which seems more at home on the streets of Brazil than on the frozen football pitches of Britain, has been celebrated all over the world, in its many different forms.
The winds of change might soon be blowing down Bill Nicholson Way, however. The team’s ethos is undergoing something of a metamorphosis, as the ownership attempts to shift more emphasis onto results, thereby fostering a ‘winning’ culture within the club. Undoubtedly encouraged by the team’s recent fortunes, the Board of Directors sent its clearest signal of intent yet this week by sacking Redknapp. The veteran manager has been widely praised for introducing an exciting brand of counter-attacking football to the Lane, but has also come under fire for inconsistent results, especially towards the end of last season.
As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that this potential adjustment of the club’s style, while it might be initially successful, will probably be short-lived. Many managers, most memorably George Graham, have tried to impose their rigid tactics on the club, with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, none have ever stuck, and the ‘Tottenham Hotspur Way’ always seems to prevail.
Despite the current uncertainty surrounding the club, Tottenham Hotspur still find themselves in a relatively strong position. Yes, they missed out on a spot in next season’s Champions League, but the club’s last three league finishes have been an impressive fourth, fifth and fourth. It’s by no means mission accomplished, but it is a fine foundation to build upon. Looking at the quality in the teams who finished around them last season (Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle) you would have to say that the core of the team already in place at Spurs is definitely capable of maintaining their top-four status, year-on-year. Obviously, some additions may be needed in order to shore-up the squad, but the incoming boss won’t need to make drastic, wholesale changes. What he will need, to surely satisfy Levy’s requirements, is a reputation for consistency and Premier League experience. David Moyes has both in abundance.
More than anything else, Moyes’ track record conveys a noticeable theme of consistency and reliability. First, it is worth noting that he’s been in the same job for a decade. In the ruthlessly transient world of modern football, that is an incredibly long time, and a number of conclusions can be drawn from this fact alone. Not only has he maintained a high level of performance over his entire tenure, but he has also been able to withstand the considerable mental and emotional pressure imposed on Premier League managers. What’s also impressive is how Moyes has been able to remain focused on his project at Goodison Park for a long period of time, not to mention the loyalty he has shown to the club – all attractive qualities in a manager.
In the last six seasons, Moyes has guided Everton to fifth place twice, and finished no lower than eighth. In his ten full seasons in charge, he has only failed to finish in the top half twice. There aren’t many more consistent figures in the game than the Everton manager. This becomes a far more impressive record once you consider the extremely limited budget Moyes has had to work with at the club.
Between the end of the 2002/03 season and the start of the 2010/11 season, Moyes’ net transfer spending figure (gross sold subtracted from gross purchased) was £10.5million. That comes to a net spend of a paltry £1.3million per season. With the obscene amounts of money being pumped into football clubs these days, it is hard to fathom how David Moyes has been able to build such a strong team year after year on what is, comparatively speaking, pocket change.
His ability to create a team seemingly out of nothing is probably the most remarkable thing about Moyes. How his teams consistently out-perform some of their far wealthier rivals defies all conventional wisdom. Comparisons to Billy Beane, celebrated pioneer of sabermetrics in professional baseball, while predictable, are valid.
The Scot is a brilliant scout and shrewd businessman, but there is much more to him than that. He’s also a fine tactician who has always been able to squeeze every last drop of talent from his players. Unlike some coaches, who are married to a certain formation or system, Moyes is a master in tailoring his tactics perfectly to work to the strengths of his players. Given his extraordinary ability to get the very most out of Everton’s extremely limited budget, the thought of what he could achieve with Spurs’ considerably larger chequebook is an intriguing prospect.
Finally, Spurs should hire David Moyes because he has more Premier League experience than any other candidate, and that is really important to the club.
Most will agree that Spurs’ future plans must revolve around consistent qualification for the Champions League over the coming seasons. Not only is participation in Europe’s elite club competition a vital financial lifeline, it is also a crucial asset for any team looking to recruit top-level talent. One would think that if Tottenham are to ever be considered a ‘big club’ again, they will most likely reach that point on the groundwork laid by several Champions League campaigns. This is what Tottenham hope David Moyes can offer them.
People will discredit the Scot for his lack of Champions League experience, but to do this is to miss the point completely. In their search for a new manager, why would Spurs place much importance at all on experience of a tournament in which they are not participating? It’s all well and good to be well-acquainted with Champions League football, but it counts for nought if the team’s league performance isn’t good enough to qualify for the competition.
That’s why David Moyes’ unparalleled Premier League expertise more than compensates for his lack of European Cup success. At the end of the day, it is the domestic campaign that holds the key to Spurs’ future, and it is Moyes’ experience in this area that makes him the right man to lead the Spurs marching on. I’m sure that Daniel Levy is of the same opinion, and I believe an approach is still clearly on the cards. Would Moyes be tempted? That remains anything but clear.