Grading Tim Sherwood's Efforts at Tottenham Hotspur so Far
Tim Sherwood's reign as Tottenham Hotspur manager moves into its second month over the next week.
Taking the job (initially as interim boss) in the middle of December allowed the 44-year-old a full schedule to sink his teeth into.
Including the two games prior to him being appointed as permanent manager, Sherwood has already led his Tottenham team into seven matches.
Over the following pages we look at his efforts so far, grading his performance in regard to the different aspects that make up his first senior-management job.
First up, the most obvious part, the bottom line of results.
The Results: A-
In praising Tim Sherwood upon his appointment as full-time head coach, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy also laid out his expectations.
"We have a great squad and we owe them a Head Coach who will bring out the best in them and allow them to flourish and enjoy a strong, exciting finish to the season," Levy told Tottenham's official website.
"We believe Tim has both the knowledge and the drive to take the squad forward."
One month in, Sherwood has done just about all that could have been asked of him in regard to the Premier League so far.
A 1-1 Boxing Day draw at home to West Bromwich Albion spoiled the mood of resurgence slightly. But three days later Stoke City were beaten 3-0 to record Spurs' first league win at White Hart Lane since October.
Thirteen points from 15 has kept Spurs in touch with the top four—they are currently placed seventh, two points out.
The two defeats the club have suffered since the change in management resulted in their exiting the Capital One Cup and FA Cup for the year. That they were both in London derbies—to West Ham United and Arsenal—has not allayed the fears that contributed to Andre Villas-Boas' departure, that Spurs do not have it in them to win big games right now.
It is more complicated than that, of course. Plus, beating Man United is no small achievement.
Still, Sherwood's ability to lead his side to consistent results, including against the division's top sides, will be tested first by Swansea City this weekend, and then Manchester City a week and a half later.
The Tactics: B+
Tim Sherwood's recalling of Emmanuel Adebayor to the Tottenham first-team fold brought with it a more attacking approach under the new manager.
Instead of deploying just one out-and-out striker—as Villas-Boas had preferred to—Sherwood decided to use Adebayor as part of a front two.
It immediately paid off with Jermain Defoe (against West Ham) and then Roberto Soldado (at Southampton) providing assists for Adebayor. In the latter game and since then, Spurs have generally benefited from having the extra option to search for.
The use of two strikers has also meant adjustments elsewhere in the team in the shape of the midfield. Spurs are now widely being recognised as playing a 4-4-2 formation.
Except, perhaps, if you ask Sherwood.
Following their 2-0 FA Cup loss to Arsenal, he and his team were derided in some quarters for their inability to resist the control exerted by the Gunners in midfield. Spurs being outnumbered with their flat four across the middle was a reason suggested by some.
"I didn't see us playing 4-4-2," Sherwood told the London Evening Standard post-match. "We just had 11 numbers on the field and tried to rotate and fill up every area of the field."
He added: "Our wide players funnelled in. I don't think we were ever two players in midfield. When the ball was on the right, Christian Eriksen tucked across into the middle."
Sherwood was not wrong in his analysis of his team's intentions, though their actual performance did not quite back up the stated plan.
Speaking to former Spur Garth Crooks on BBC Football Focus this past weekend, the Tottenham boss went into further detail about a tactical ideology that is pragmatic to say the least.
I like to play an offensive style. I like attacking players to play in attacking areas of the field and I like defenders to be responsible at the right times. I don't buy into formations too much. Players win football matches, not formations. I think that's where I try to put my point across to the players. It's not about how we set you out on the board, or on a TV screen. Its about what we're asking you to do on the field of play.
For the most part, Sherwood's approach has worked well. Spurs are scoring goals, have picked up a couple of clean sheets and most importantly are winning games. The grade cited at the top of the page is more to do with the uncertainty of how Spurs will fare tactically as the season progresses.
Sherwood trusting his players to do their designated jobs is admirable. Most of, if not all of them, are of sufficient quality that the trust is not misplaced. If enough carry on doing so Spurs will win more games than they lose.
Nonetheless, Sherwood and his coaching staff must continue to strive to prepare them for the different types of opposition that will come Spurs' way, not to mention identifying where changes need to be made in their own starting XI when form dips and others are lost to injury.
The Public Persona: A
When it came to dealing with the media and making a favourable impression, Andre Villas-Boas' first season with Tottenham was in marked contrast to his unhappy spell at Chelsea.
The Portuguese rarely needed to fight his own corner, and as a result spoke eloquently and sincerely.
In his second campaign in North London, his team's form did not match expectations placed upon it. Coupled with other incidents (such as Hugo Lloris' head injury at Everton and the public dispute with journalists from the Daily Mail), the peace of the previous year gave way to turmoil that played a role in his eventual leaving.
Unfair as it may be to men just wanting to do their jobs, the public persona of a manager is an integral part of the modern game.
As mentioned already, Tim Sherwood came under some questioning for his tactics versus Arsenal. Otherwise though, the winning form he has overseen at Spurs so far has allowed the former player to settle back into the public eye without much issue.
From a wider perspective, Sherwood's bluntness has certainly gone down well.
In responses such as the one he gave to BT Sport's Ray Stubbs following the Man United win—"I bet you're enjoying management aren't you?", "I dunno about that!"—he has not been far removed from the amiable but honest conduct with the press favoured by his former boss Harry Redknapp.
Sherwood is clearly his own man, though.
Spurs supporters may still be reserving full judgement on him for the time being. However, the clarity which he has sought to state his intentions has lent to the appearance of a man who knows what he is doing.
Prior to being installed as permanent manager, Sherwood spoke to the press in detail about elements of his managerial philosophy as it applied to Tottenham—as seen in this article by The Independent's Sam Wallace.
Like the tactics discussed on the previous page, it remains to be seen how all of this will stand up to the myriad challenges that are to come.