Yesterday, Gabriele Marcotti wrote a piece on ESPN FC about how difficult it is to evaluate managers. How a few lucky bounces can change the course of a career. How a wrong turn can leave can leave you marginalized, struggling to rebuild your reputation. He used the example of David Moyes, who until 18 months ago was “probably the highest-regarded British manager in the Premier League”.
Secondly, while being “probably the highest-regarded British manager in the Premier League” is not actively an insult, it falls somewhere close to “probably has bigger lips than Garry Monk” on the spectrum of damning by faint praise.
Nonetheless, it got me thinking that maybe it was unfair to judge Moyes against vintage Alex Ferguson, whose 2012/13 masterpiece (lucky or not) is starting to look like one of the best managerial performances in Premier League history.
Maybe that’s too high a standard.
Pair that with the fact that he inherited ‘Dad’s Army‘, and you start to see Marcotti’s point. Besides, it’s not like Moyes’ own successor has been lighting worlds on fire (despite a good deal more investment).
So I’m going to compare him to Roberto Martinez, and I think it’s a pretty reasonable comparison. Sure Romelu Lukaku is nice to have if you’re Martinez, but don’t forget how dominant Marouane Felliani looked in his last season at Everton. Other than that, the 2012/13 and 2013/14 Everton squads were, on a talent level, pretty similar.
What I’ve done is make ‘shot chart’ graphics for Everton’s last year under Moyes and its first year under Martinez. I employed the same technique that Kirk Goldsberry uses for his basketball shot charts, except instead of just showing the shots of an individual player over a certain period, I’m showing the shots taken/shots conceded by the entire team. Just a few of things in case you don’t know the drill.
1) More hexagons = More shots taken
2) Bigger hexagons = More shots taken
3) Color depends on efficiency, which I based on shots/shots on target. Blue is bad, red is good.
So first a look at the defence:
Click to make them bigger…
Both Evertons were pretty good at limiting the opposing team to average or below average shooting from most areas of the pitch. Martinez’s Everton benefited from opponents converting poorly from within the six yard box, perhaps because of Tim Howard’s late-career emergence as the Great Wall of China, or perhaps due to plain old luck (it’s probably a bit of both). But basically, things look kind of similar, which makes sense, because things haven’t changed that much at the back. Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman started pretty consistently for Everton both in 2012/13 and 2013/14. Only this season (2014/15) has John Stones destabilized the situation by soaking up a lot of Distin’s minutes at centre-back (and perhaps it shows in Everton’s increased profligacy).
If you take a look at the numbers on the left-hand side of Martinez’s chart (click on it to make it bigger), you can see just how similar these defenses are even in just in terms of how many shots they gave up all together.
But this is where it gets interesting… In his article, Marcotti quoted some of Giovanni Trapattoni’s most famous words,
“A good coach who gets everything right can make a team maybe five percent better, a bad one can make it 30 percent worse. Sometimes more.”
I wouldn’t consider Moyes at Everton a bad manager, in fact I’d say he was quite a bit better than your average. Sure he had his issues game-planning for big matches, and yes I always felt like he rode his players a little hard – leading to a seemingly perpetual injury crisis at Goodison Park. But generally, he sent out well-organized and motivated teams, which is what makes the charts below so interesting.
Take a look…
That’s a pretty big difference!
Martinez’s Everton TOASTS Moyes’ Everton in attacking efficiency. Even if you forget about the red-hot shooting from inside the six-yard box, it’s pretty easy to see that the 2013/14 Everton team shoots more efficiently than their 2012/13 counterparts from almost everywhere. They get good shots from outside the box, and while they’re still just about average from the heart of the box (that big yellow part), it’s a significant improvement on where they were a year back, wading around in all that BLURRGH (blue). Again that sort of makes sense when you think about how both managers set up their teams. Moyes’ attack revolves around a lot of crossing from wide/deep positions. That means a lot headers and tricky volleys, which are difficult to put on target. It’s a tactic he brought with him to Man United where his team famously crossed the ball 81 times against Fulham’s 6ft 7inch Brede Hangeland.
Martinez’s team rely more on throughball tactics, which lead higher-quality chances inside the box, and more shooting space outside it.
Moyes isn’t a bad manager, but maybe this is what “5 percent better” looks like.