New West Ham manager David Moyes part of a wider conservatism in a league with entertainment at its core

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  • David Moyes knows what it's like to replace a long-serving manager.

    Although Karren Brady has been involved in football for 24 years, she is arguably more well known for her place on the UK version of ‘The Apprentice’.

    For those not familiar with the format, the BBC show, involves herself, Sir Alan Sugar, Claude Littner and a host of guest experts whittling down a group of Britain’s bright young things from the business world to find the apparent heir to Sugar’s throne.

    Of course, it is fundamentally about entertainment, and the credibility of a number of the candidates has to be taken with a pinch of salt, but the overall message and theme is one of youth, new ideas and looking to the future.

    Earlier this week, the club which Brady has served as vice chairman for almost eight years, appointed David Moyes as its manager, initially on a six-month contract until the end of the season.

    Tasked with keeping the club in the Premier League it gives the Scot a chance to rebuild his reputation after three failures, of varying degrees, at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland, who were relegated from the top flight in May on his watch.

    There is an element of common sense to the appointment with Moyes being extremely experienced in English football and he should know West Ham’s squad extremely well. But for a club of West Ham’s apparent stature, it has proved a deeply underwhelming appointment.

    Not that the mood of fans should dictate who’s right for the job and who isn’t, but Moyes’ recent record, his known brand of football and a catalogue of uninspiring missteps in the transfer market since moving to Old Trafford in 2013 offers precious sign of youth, new ideas or looking to the future.

    Which isn’t a million miles away from ‘The Apprentice’.

    The West Ham hierarchy will, understandably, argue they are in a position where they have to play it safe and outside of returning to Sam Allardyce with a begging bowl, there is no safer pair of hands than a man with the experience of Moyes.

    But it has sought to highlight a wider conservatism in the Premier League; the richest, most entertaining and most competitive (only one of those statements is objective) league in the world but one in which clubs are increasingly adopting minimum risk, minimum reward strategies.

    Bournemouth can spend £20m on a player, while West Brom’s wage bill is nearly the equal of Atletico Madrid’s, but these riches are not translating into any kind of lavish football.

    Outside of the top six, only three clubs so far this season have scored more goals than games played – Watford, Leicester and Stoke. In fact, the average goals per game of those 14 clubs is a paltry 0.9. At this stage last season, eight teams had gone beyond 11 goals with an average of 1.11; in 2015/16 it was 10 and 1.17 and in 2014/15 10 and 1.14.

    Ignoring the club you support, which team outside of the ‘Big Six’ of Manchester City, United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal or Liverpool do you actively look forward to watching? Watford, maybe. Huddersfield or Brighton for novelty value. That’s probably it. Serie A was forever mocked for being a defence-first league but the Premier League, outside of the treats being served up at the Etihad Stadium under Pep Guardiola, is increasingly becoming the thing it so apparently hated.

    As the money in the top flight increases with each new TV deal, so does the cost of failure and relegation.

    Balance sheets dictate that new ideas and expansive football are too much of a financial risk.

    At the higher end of the scale, Everton, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle can’t break into the Champions League – the Leicester miracle as big an outlier in sport as you’re going to get – so their role is, essentially, to just exist.

    It’s the reason why Moyes gets the West Ham job, Crystal Palace turn to Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce remains such a considerable commodity in England.

    That’s not to doubt their careers or credentials but you know exactly what you are getting in terms of the football served up. And it isn’t the second coming of Rinus Michels.

    We may be told the Premier League is entertaining but, when you strip away the soap opera-like intrigue of what Jose Mourinho says, or if Antonio Conte will be in a job tomorrow or Arsene Wenger’s latest excuse, what you’re left with is a small handful of genuinely good and impressive competitors and an awful lot of predictable fare.