When Jagoba Arrasate was relieved of his duties from Real Sociedad last week, along with the second and third coaches Txema Lumbreras and Bittor Alkiza, it seemed indicative of the nose-dive the Basque club had taken this season.
Prior to their win over Atletico Madrid on November 9, Sociedad had languished in the cellar of the table and if things continued in the same direction, the club would no doubt be shaking hands with relegation. However, with former Manchester United boss David Moyes taking the reins, La Real have gotten a much-needed shot in the arm.
Monday was a day of will-he-or-won’t-he, with several reports emerging that Moyes wanted too much for the job, but ultimately he accepted the post. It is a perfect move for the Scot. Reviled at Manchester United, and while his time at Old Trafford was painful for all parties, his time at Everton has been all but forgotten.
The 51-year old Glasweigan, dubbed the ‘Chosen One’ when he took the United post in reference to the idea that Sir Alex Ferguson persuaded the United board to hire Moyes as his successor, was roundly reduced to a man with an L for loser on his forehead after being sacked by United after just 10 months. His sacking came as such a relief that the announcement raised the stock of United’s shares. Moyes was jettisoned after a disappointing run saw United out of the Champions League, out of the Capital One Cup after a semi-final defeat to Sunderland, and saw United lose six home games in the league, which left the Red Devils unable to secure Champions League football for the first time since 1995. It was rumoured that players had lost faith in him. His crimes were unforgivable.
The death knell was set in March 2014, when some supporters chartered a plane to fly overhead during a match against Aston Villa trailing a banner with the words ‘Wrong One – Moyes Out’ in seven-foot high red lettering.
For Moyes, the move to Spain is a smart one and will hopefully allow him to accomplish several aims. It offers a solid challenge and a chance at redemption. He has work to do, but he won’t have to do it with the constant barrage of criticism that he faced at Old Trafford. There are plenty of similarities to draw between Sociedad and Everton, all of which may suit Moyes just fine. It’s a solid job for Moyes and a return to grace – and it furthers relations between the Premier League and La Liga; something which fans of both leagues want to see.
In Sunday’s match against Atletico Madrid, Asier Santana, the coach of Sociedad’s reserve team, was at the helm. The victory, Santana’s commitment, and a lavishly supportive home crowd were all excellent advertisements for the club. But Sociedad is about more than just a win, or professional staff who step up when needed. The Anoeta side have produced big talent over the years – Asier Illarramendi and Xabi Alonso were both products of Sociedad’s youth system, while Atletico Madrid’s young Frenchman Antoine Griezmann also began his career at the club.
While those players have since moved elsewhere, Moyes will still have an array of talent to work with. Mexican forward Carlos Vela is a powerhouse, as he showed in his destruction of Atleti on Sunday. Xabi Prieto, Sergio Canales and Inigo Martinez are all impressive and will surely grow if the club are able to hold onto them.
No matter what the players or the club claim, typically, Sociedad sell. Last year Griezmann told the press that he was going nowhere and that he loved the club, but soon found himself in Madrid. The situation surrounding Illarramendi in 2013 was similarly handled. At the time, Arrasate said, “we are not going to negotiate for him. He is not for sale.”
Illarramendi is a perennial substitute at Real Madrid now.
The fans have adjusted expectations to meet the club’s financial realities, but are ready to support a new chapter in their history. Moyes has his work cut out for him, but I get the sense that he’s up for it. He has to hit the ground running, but the only place for both Moyes and Sociedad to go is up.