#1: Creating the poor start he originally avoided
Long before David Moyes hasn’t-but-probably-should resign from Sunderland AFC, there was a time when he didn’t want to even come to Wearside and that was a really, really good idea.
In October 2016, Dick Advocaat clocked on to Ellis Short not having the minimum £60 million he usually requires to achieve in league football, and so walked out into what would be his fifteenth retirement from club management. In his stead, came David Moyes.
Or not, as it turned out. Instead Moyes, then sounded out for the vacant merry-go-round that is the SAFC managerial throne, took a glance at Advocaat’s one-point-in-nine-games cluster-f**k and deemed his vast experience in management to be insufficient in steering the Black Cats out of relegation.
One year later – this season – Moyes would coach this very same club to just two points from the same number of opening matches. So . . . if he thought he couldn’t save the club last season . . . and contributed to a similar situation this season . . .
#2: Leaving Khazri’s friend request at “pending”
You all know this one. £10.3 million Tunisian playa-mayka Wahbi Khazri arrived at Sunderland in January 2016 as – quite literally – the second-best-set-piece-footballer in Europe. Only Mesut Őzil ranked better. We wrote a whole article on those stats, which clearly David Moyes didn’t read.
#2A: He doesn’t read Roker Report
No matter what you think of the on-off-tubby Tunisian, Khazri displayed enough last season to suggest he could take up the mantle of that tekkers-galore drifter, Stéphane Sessègnon. Sam Allardyce heaped similar praise on the midfielder at the close of May 2016, referring to each of his winter-window signings as “big contributors” to the team avoiding relegation; specifically referring to the forward combination of Khazri, Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe.
So somebody should really be asking David Moyes why this same player has had fewer starts than the perennially-injured Jan Kirchhoff this season. Yes, seriously.
Not only has this contributed to the “negative approach” many supporters have beaten Moyes with since his arrival in August last year, but Khazri’s descent into anonymity has inadvertently poured all sorts of frustrated hell-fire over his underperforming counter-part, Adnan Januzaj. It’s not Januzaj’s fault that his passing and ball retention has a touch of weapon’s grade horse-s**t about it, or that he has the physical presence of a knitted scarf, but he’s still the loanee keeping the contracted player off the pitch.
And what’s all that about, anyway? You’ve got a £10m-rated midfielder on your books, and you don’t at least keep playing him for the sake of upholding that value? Sake, man.
#3: Being a Doom Merchant
This was the beginning of the end for most supporters. You can see why, too. This is less about what David Moyes said back in August 2016, but rather how it’s contextualised against the statements of his peers and predecessor just three months earlier. Here’s Moyes talking ever-so f**klustriously after that home defeat to Middlesbrough:
Fans would be right [if they feared relegation] because that’s what we’ve here for four years. Why would it suddenly change? I think we will be in a relegation fight. People will be flat because they’ll be hoping something can dramatically change, but it can’t.
And damn it, he was right about all of it; from the relegation “fight”, the people being flat with apathy, and the historical backlog of struggle. The only problem with our manager’s suggestion, however, is that something did change. Perhaps not dramatically but, well, Niall Quinn put it best:
Sunderland has developed something ... they’ve been used to escaping but there’s something different ... you feel there’s something really strong to build on [that] I think could last for years.
Jamie Carragher, on that same night in May 2016, spoke similar optimistic sentiments:
This Sunderland team will get back to the days of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips under Peter Reid, when they were comfortably in the top ten.
These quotes were said just three months and three competitive fixtures prior to David Moyes’ relegation-prophesising statement; spoken on a night that was the culmination of a long and arduous effort by Sam Allardyce and his team to make change happen at this club. Without blowing smoke up the guy, it’s fair to say that Big Sam has been the only manager in recent years to step into an unsalvageable struggle, and create a team capable of coping in the Premier League. And he did it when David Moyes himself – again – believed he himself could not.
Come to think of it, Moyes was right after all. There was a dramatic change. And he’s overseen it.
#4: His one-way system game plan
I’m no good at metaphors, but here we go. David Moyes’ tactics and strategies...
Imagine you’ve built a machine and you yourself wrote the instruction manual for how to power it. You’ve decided that this machine needs eleven AA batteries or the machine won’t work. That’s it, you know that will power the machine, so you don’t need another way to do it.
But you’ve only got six AA batteries. The rest are AAA. Your machine won’t work. You could just insert a power source for the AAA batteries but you like how it looks with just AA batteries. You’ve got a plug socket that also happens to be the second-best-set-piece-taker in Europe, but this is supposed to be a battery-operated machine.
All you can do is force AAA batteries into a AA battery power source while you asphyxiate yourself with the power cord and reminisce about how your last machine – which you made inside a AA battery factory – worked for a decade.
The point is, you can’t force AAA batteries to be AA batteries. You’ve got to accommodate for the versatile tools you have at your disposal.
Jermaine Defoe is not Victor Anichebe. He’s not that tall and he’s not that tough.
If David Moyes only trusts AA batteries (or, in this case, ex-Everton players who know his one-way system) and only trusts an approach that lacks the versatility of unique and differential playing styles, then that is the most damning criticism of all.
And we have seen 30+ worth of fixtures to know by now that there is no alternative plan here. And for a manager of David Moyes’ experience to not know any other way than the one method that worked for just one month here (when he had the players he needed for it) is a terrifying prospect to take into a lower division that is littered with young managers determined to outwit their older peers.
#5: His “Sunderland Must Rebuild” narrative is FAKE NEWS!!!
Remember the good ol’ days when we could bitch about bone idle players and overpaid failures that needed shot of? Remember how we were just waiting for that one manager to finally come out and say that what he had at his disposal was not good enough and an overhaul was required?
Well, that is exactly what we have now. And that’s okay. Just we didn’t need it anymore.
Because, by the end of last season, that all was all effectively a job done. The dead wood was gone, average players became part of a good bench, good players became occasional game-changers, and the remaining newer recruits did much to transform the look of our starting eleven. We had a team that was exactly what we had been lacking: square pegs in square holes.
We lacked possession in midfield? There’s Jan Kirchhoff. Seb Larsson’s not at the races anymore with set pieces? Wahbi Khazri may-or-may-not-be the second-best power-cord set piece specialist on the continent. Our defence was leaking like Podesta e-mails? Lamine f**king Koné knocks owa Touré’s for kicks.
Just ask yourself, after years of saying it, what did we actually need to “rebuild” here?
We looked like a team with (wait for it) . . . stability; or, at least, a decent foundation to build upon, not to knock down and rebuild over. What was it Sam Allardyce said again?
We turned into a team that is difficult to beat [and] that didn’t like losing ... [that is] developing into a side difficult to break down ... it’s how wise we spend [transfer funds], and what we do to find the players we need. The next set of recruitment is crucial.
That makes sense. But, here we are, the length of a pregnancy later, with a multi-million record signing getting dropped for being both the wrong nationality and the wrong height (like that time Messi got dropped against Chelsea ‘cause he’s too small and too Argentine to go on the fairground rides).
But wait – there’s more! Here’s David Moyes on the subject of building upon that good foundation:
I want to see if there are better players than that available, or if there is better value.
Remember who he’s talking about here? Yep, DeAndre Yedlin and Yann M’Vila. You know these players today as Billy Jones and Jack Rodwell.
Don’t be fooled. “Rebuilding” is a buzz word used for and by David Moyes himself to justify the cover-up-cock-up the club made of what should have been reasonably straight-forward transfer business this season.
The need for a rebuild was okay in 2013 and 2014 and 2015, when it truly was a justified argument shared by the supporters. Yet now, sorrowfully, Moyes has created yet another self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby we actually do need to rebuild again. And the reason is because somehow, in just nine months, recruitment and departures were handled so bad that we have come full circle again!
The add-on purchases from last summer (meant to compliment an already-competent squad) are now Moyes’ groundwork for a Championship “rebuild” plan that the manager himself created by botching his go at building on the foundations Allardyce left for him in the first place. Read this paragraph again and again and again forever.