Can Real Sociedad's first win of the season give David Moyes lift-off?
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 23/09/15 3:32pm
Can David Moyes build on Real Sociedad's 3-0 win over Granada after a poor start to the season in Spain? Nick Wright takes a look with the help of Steve Round, his former assistant at Everton and Manchester United…
It was nearing make-or-break time for David Moyes. Two goals and two points from Real Sociedad's opening four La Liga games was a dismal return for a side chasing European qualification, and anything less than a victory at Granada would have only intensified speculation surrounding their manager's future.
Moyes' men produced the perfect response, as long-serving striker Imanol Agirretxe rounded off a hat-trick with a fine run and chipped finish over Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez to wrap up a comfortable win in Andalucia.
"We were very good tonight," said a relieved Moyes in his post-match press conference. "I walk away happy because we deserved to win, like in the other games where we have deserved it too, but today we scored the goals."
The win lifts La Real up to 10th - albeit temporarily - and gives Moyes a much-needed boost ahead of Saturday's Basque derby against Athletic Bilbao. The same questions will resurface if they fail to beat their rivals at the Anoeta, but the situation doesn't seem nearly so precarious.
Steve Round was Moyes' assistant at Everton and Manchester United, and he insists the Scot has kept a cool head despite the poor results. "He's not had a great start, but talking to him last week he was quite relaxed about it," Round told Sky Sports. "He thought the team were better than they were showing. He just thought he needed one win and a bit of momentum and they would really kick on."
When Moyes took over at Real Sociedad in November last year, they had taken just nine points from their opening 11 games. The undoubted highlight of his first season in Spain was a famous 1-0 home win over Barcelona, but their improvement was steady rather than spectacular, and they finished the campaign in 12th place.
He'll be working them very hard on the training ground to get the cohesion and teamwork that they need to move forward.
Steve Round on David Moyes
Expectations are rather higher this time around, so what will Moyes be doing to change their fortunes after a stuttering start? Round says no stone will be left unturned on the training ground. "He's a stickler for detail," he said. "His attention to detail is phenomenal. He'll be working them very hard on the training ground to get the cohesion and teamwork that they need to move forward."
La Real were inactive during the January transfer window, but Moyes was backed to bolster his squad in the summer. The return of midfielder Asier Illarramendi from Real Madrid was the most high-profile signing, and they also bought Brazilian striker Jonathas from Elche after 14 goals in 36 appearances last season.
Despite those additions, however, Round feels it was a summer of frustration for his old friend - who had previously admitted he was eager to recruit players from the Premier League. "I don't think Sociedad recruited as well as he would have liked," said Round. "He obviously wanted to push on. He took over last season when they were really struggling and he got them up towards the realms of Europe and then they just fizzled away at the end.
"I think he wanted to kick on. It's very difficult because they have a recruitment philosophy where only so many players can come from outside the Basque region. So it was a difficult summer for him to attract the players he wanted. Now he's going to be looking to coach his way forward."
Moyes described Illarramendi as the "best player on the pitch" against Granada, while Jonathas scored his first goal for the club in their 3-2 defeat to Espanyol last weekend. There are encouraging signs, and Round hopes Real Sociedad will give Moyes the time he needs.
"Everybody needs time, that's the important thing," he said. "Real Sociedad aren't Real Madrid. You need to be able to build a team, build a philosophy, build a culture, and build a winning mentality. That does take time.
"Last year was a bit like fighting fires early doors. You get through that and now you have to put your stamp on it and move forward. It's not about knee-jerk reactions, you've got to stick with the coach and stick with the plan. That's all he'll be asking for. He's a proven manager, he knows his stuff, he's a very talented guy and I'm sure that over the next few games they'll start winning.
"The Bilbao game is going to be massive," added Round. "As a manager or a coach, you're always under pressure if you don't win. That goes with the territory. He will feel that his team deserved a little bit more out of one or two of the games that they've played. But if he can get two wins and move forward, everyone will relax and just get on with it."
Watch Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 7.25pm on Sunday