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”.

Firstly, LOL.

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.

  • sean

    Good read, I disagree that the two Everton squads were of similar strength though. The only important player that Everton lost when Moyes left was Fellaini, they added Lukaku, McCarthy, Barry and Delefou the starting XI and squad as a whole was a pretty big upgrade.

    Obviously a counter argument is that Delefou and Lukaku might have been unlikely to join on loan were Moyes in charge but it doesn’t take away from the difference in quality of the two squads.

    Just out of interest, how do Everton this season compare to last season roughly?

  • Rich H

    First up, i like those shot charts, interesting vis.

    With regards to the content, to play devils advocate somewhat, could some of that improvement not be down to the forward line upgrading from Jelavic to Lukaku?

  • chuksi

    A few thoughts on the analysis:

    Its probably quite clear that Moyes is a ‘defensive’ coach and Martinez is an ‘offensive’ coach. Moyes’ teams are well structured and will always have a solid defense combined with ‘as good as we can afford’ attack. Moyes seemed to work his team pretty hard getting the defense in order. If we listen to rumours he also did it at United (and some players were unhappy about how defense-oriented the training sessions were). I think such defensive solidity that is trained into a team has an effect even after the manager changes. And because of that I would put quite a bit of that last seasons defensive solidity down to Moyes getting them organized. That doesn’t just disappear when the manager changes. I don’t have access to detailed stats but last season Everton conceded 39 goals(1,03 goals per game) and this season they’ve already conceded 18(1,64 goals per game).

    I think that Martinez is improving Evertons attack somewhat at the expense of their defensive solidity. I think comparing this seasons Everton against Moyes’ last season would give us a better picture.

    I also don’t think that the squads of 12/13 and 13/14 were that equal. Getting Lukaku and Kone in for the distinctly average Jelavic and Anichebe is a pretty big upgrade. McCarthy for Fellaini is probably a downgrade, but adding Barry as well in midfield, plus Deulofeu.. I think thats a pretty big improvement in terms of quality.

    Also – Hangeland didn’t play for Fulham against United. They did have Dan Burn in there though, who is also a giant.

    • Max Odenheimer

      Hey David! How’s Spain?

      Nah I’m kidding, those are all good points.

      1. Re: squads:

      McCarthy + Barry I think we forget how good Felliani was in that last Moyes season. He was a dominant player, probably in the league’s top 20.
      Arouna Kone has played 5 games since arriving at Everton – I consider that a wash
      Deulofeu at 19 was an exciting player who looked phenomenal in some big moments, but he generally came on mostly as a sub (sub effects) and ended up contributing 3 goals and 3 assists. By comparison, Jelavic scored 7 and 2 assists in that last Moyes season. GD is and will be the better player, but that’s not an earth-shattering difference.
      Lukaku >>> Anichebe – absolutely
      HOWEVER, would Lukaku or Deulofeu have signed (loans) for Everton under Moyes? Would Moyes have had the temerity to dabble in the loan market? Would Moyes have drawn as much from those two/ McCarthy as Martinez managed? (Naismith looks like a man reborn this season).

      2. Re: defence – read the speech bubble on the Martinez defence chart – but yes there are shades of Wenger inheriting Graham’s back four in this current Everton team, be interesting to see if Everton fall apart when Distin leaves for good.

      3. Cheers on the Hangeland point

      4. This piece includes data from the first 6 games of this season

      • Max Odenheimer

        *McCarthy + Barry < Neville + Felliani

      • chuksi

        Sorry for the delay in the answer, I hope you still check here and answer if you have points to make..

        I don’t really agree on the squad strength thing really. You discount Kone because of injury and Deulofeu as a squad player who don’t have a big impact. I don’t agree with that trail of thought. They didn’t play as much but they made the squad stronger, pushed the players ahead of them in the pecking order to perform better. They also did play a part. 3 goals and 3 assists in 900 minutes is still a pretty decent addition. Jelavic’ 7 goals and 2 assists in 2428 minutes is a much poorer rate. Even if Deulofeus stats have the sub effect there..

        Another thing to mention is that even if Fellaini had a massive impact in 12/13 then it was also somewhat of a hindrance to the team – most of their attacks went through Fellaini. I mean there is a cost to getting Fellaini to produce those stats.

        And as long as we are on the subject of stats – Lukakus impact last season was bigger than Fellaini if we just count goals and assists. Lukaku had 15 goals, 6 assists. Fellaini just 11 goals, 5 assists.

        If we assume that Jelavic-Anichebe-Fellaini had the same impact as Lukaku-Deulofeu and the injured Kone then Everton still improved their midfield with McCarthy and Barry. Because I wouldn’t say that Fellaini was a midfielder much that season. He was more of a number 10.

        Also worth mentioning is that this average guy called Barkley really grew up last season. I think that also made a pretty big difference.

        As for the question whether Moyes would’ve made those transfers, tried out the loan market etc.. Well, during the Moyes era Everton had a negative net spend I think. Martinez so far has a net spend of over 10m per season. I think its because of the new TV deal – after all they’d spent over 10m before selling Fellaini and buying McCarthy and loaning Lukaku. I would guess Moyes could’ve spent the money as well if he had stayed. He probably would’ve spent it differently and we can’t know how that would’ve worked out..

        As for loans – I think that overall they’re not really worth it because you spend money and the next seasons squad is one player short and you don’t have that money to spend either. Its a short term deal to sort of help a team over a tough period. Worth it for the teams fighting to stay in the league because.. falling out is financially so bad. For Everton.. well, the only thing that would’ve improved their incomes was CL football. They were likely to get to Europa League anyway and besides thats not really a great competition – so little prize money, so many games and the effects that those have on league performance. I have no idea whether it was a a deliberate and conscious risk that they took to loan those four players(Lukaku, Deulofue, Barry and Lacina Traore who got injured in his first game I think) and they thought that during such a weird season they’d have a good chance of CL football. Or they really thought this was great in long term.

        I think Moyes wouldn’t have done loan deals because for him it seems that the long term is the only thing that important. That said the Barry loan deal was great – for a small loan fee Everton got themselves into pole position to sign Barry on a free this summer. That was a great deal for them. Lukaku.. well, I never thought they had the money to buy him.

  • Peter Goldstein

    Good article–small correction, though. It was Dan Burn who was the giant in central defense for Fulham that day. Brede Hangeland didn’t get into the game.

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