A look into the management style and decision making of David Moyes during a nightmare 10 months at the Stadium of Light.

David Moyes was named Sunderland boss on July 23rd 2016, replacing Sam Allardyce who had surprisingly steered the Black Cats to safety at the end of the 2015/16 season. Many saw the appointment as quite the catch for a side who had been on the brink of relegation for four straight seasons. It would prove to be far from it as Sunderland ended the season rock bottom on a paltry 24 points.

So how did this happen? Where did it all go wrong for the ‘Chosen one’ who replaced Sir Alex Ferguson in the dugout at Old Trafford?

1) Recruitment

Moyes’ recruitment strategy was crystal clear as the following packed their bags and headed towards the Stadium of Light:

  • Victor Anichebe (ex-Everton)
  • Darren Gibson (ex-Everton)
  • Steven Pienaar (ex-Everton)
  • Bryan Oviedo (ex-Everton)
  • Joleon Lescott (ex-Everton)
  • Donald Love (ex-Man Utd)
  • Paddy McNair (ex-Man Utd)
  • Adnan Januzaj (ex-Man Utd)

Notice a slight trend? Yes, Moyes embarked upon signing past players who were sitting in the reserves of their respective teams. Instead of identifying the needs of his squad he went for names he had worked with and believed could do a job for him, regardless of how they would fit into the squad.

As ex-Premier League player Chris Sutton commented, he was practically playing “Everton Reserves”. A lack of understanding of the current environment and suitable tailored strategy to meet the needs of a side with a very different culture to Everton – was an immediate mishap.

In fact, in one of Moyes’ first interviews after taking the job he said how “this reminds me of Everton when I took over”. However, 15 years on from the job he took at Goodison Park, Sunderland would prove to be a very different can of worms.

2) Negativity

The feel good factor of edging local rivals Newcastle and staying in the promised land of the Premier League should have given the club a huge boost. A positive pre-season in terms of results saw the Black Cats go undefeated in all six games, even drawing with Champions League outfit Borrusia Dortmund. This should have added yet more reason for optimism. However, come opening day there appeared to be no positive signs as Sunderland went their first 10 league games without a win, whilst also getting dumped out of both cups at the first time of asking.

Some point the finger at one particular press conference. Following their first home game of the season, a narrow defeat to Boro, Moyes spoke openly about being in a relegation scrap. To say this after two games must’ve knocked any hope out of Sunderland fans hoping for a more positive season and planted the seed of doubt in the minds of his players. Some may commend his realism and honesty, but to breed a culture of success requires a positive mental attitude, something Moyes will regret being unable to capitalise on.

3) Failure to build on results

On February 4th 2017 Sunderland produced one of the best 45 minutes played by any team in the 2016/17 season. The Black Cats found themselves 4-0 up at relegation rivals Crystal Palace, a score line that would remain the same come the final whistle. The result moved them level on points with Palace and offered a real chance to kick on with just over a third of the season remaining.

Instead of instilling confidence, the result seemed to have the opposite effect. Sunderland not only lost their next game at home, they were absolutely thrashed by Southampton and started a 7 game streak without scoring a goal.

Palace would go on to stay up, finishing a huge 17 points above Sunderland.

So what happened? Why did such a good result lead to such a barren run?

The blame must go to Moyes for his lack of ability to use the result as a springboard. At home against Southampton, a team who at the time had lost 6 in 7, the stage was set to attack, create a buzz and instil hope into the loyal Sunderland fans. In actual fact, the game would have the reverse effect and once more resign the fans to the reality of Championship football.
During the entire season Sunderland’s longest unbeaten run was 2 games, which occurred on just 2 occasions. I think that says it all.

A solution by Intelligent Football

  • A varied management style is crucial to a team’s success. What is clear with David Moyes is he appears to have “a one fits all” style.
  • At Intelligent Football our work comes with a “100% guarantee,” in terms of an immediate and long-term improvement in a team`s performance, results and development.
  • Our brief from the decision makers, “please assess the players, management and coaching staff, present your findings with a solution which ensures the team are not relegated.”
  • We call a meeting with players, coaches and management and ask them targeted questions which lets us know the competency and skill level of the group and understand the issues which are causing poor results. We also gain buy in from all concerned (2-3 hours).
  • Two separate brainstorming sessions are organised. One with the players and one with the management and coaches. These are crucial in underpinning where each individual needs to improve his or her skill, competency level and performance. A plan is developed during these sessions (2-3 hours for the players, 1-2 hour for the management and coaches).
  • Within 8 hours, personal development plans and a team development plan are introduced using the 10 steps of Intelligent Football process.
    We report back to the decision makers on our findings and improvement begins.