Tim Sherwood Has Silenced the Doubters in Rejuvenation of Spurs

Simeon Gholam@@simo28Correspondent IIJanuary 20, 2014

It's time to admit it. Tim Sherwood is doing a pretty good job in charge of Spurs. 

Disappointing results in the cup competitions aside, the new man at White Hart Lane has collected 16 points from six Premier League fixtures, steering his side right back into contention for one of those highly coveted top four finishes in the process.

Credit where it's due, then. Sherwood deserves praise for what he has achieved so far. It's time to throw some at him. Here are a few of the things that he has done extremely well in the infancy of his managerial career.

Sherwood's 4-4-2

The 4-4-2 system that he deployed (quite successfully, I might add) in his first five Premier League games in charge was heavily criticised at first for being slightly archaic, a bit rigid and a bit too obvious. 

It has become an infamous quote, when in 2012 Sam Allardyce suggested that: "I won’t ever be going to a top-four club because I'm not called Allardici, just Allardyce."

A tongue-in-cheek remark it may have been from the West Ham boss, but it could be argued that, whatever shortcomings there are in English coaching (very much a topic for another day), there is an element of truth behind his words.

Sherwood's image suffered in his early interviews because of his persona as a straight-talking, hard-tackling Englishman. He was seen to possess the kind of qualities you would have wanted in a 20th-century midfield general, but not those that are desirable in a cultured, modern-day Premier League manager.

When he spoke about 4-4-2, you often found your mind wandering to thoughts of Mike Bassett: England Manager.

In reality, though, Sherwood's system was not too far flung from the formation that Manuel Pellegrini deploys at Manchester City. Four defenders, two energetic central midfielders, a left-sided midfielder who cuts in (Christian Eriksen/David Silva), a right-sided midfielder who stays wide (Aaron Lennon/Jesus Navas) and two out-and-out strikers.

The major difference between the two systems was that one was deployed by an Englishman, the other by a cultured, flamboyant and elegantly named Chilean (and City have much better players, obviously, but that can't be helped).

Therefore one was disregarded as your basic, stone-age 4-4-2, the other a wonderfully fluid 4-2-2-2. As the Spain coach Vincente Del Bosque once wonderfully put it, "The 'system' is a photograph, and then the players develop it." 

Quite often, formations are seen how people would like to see them.

Sherwood's 4-4-2 came in for its most significant criticism after their 2-0 FA Cup exit at the hands of Arsenal earlier this month. He was derided for his decision not to play three in midfield, which led to his side being completely overrun in the centre by Arsenal. 

In response to some pretty fierce questioning of his tactics, the Spurs manager offered up this rather inarticulate quote to Skysports as a retort:

"They outnumbered us in the middle of the park but we outnumbered them out wide. They can't have it all ways. I think we were fine. We didn't lose the game because we were outnumbered in the middle of the pitch."

To put it bluntly, this wasn't true. The fact of the matter is, Spurs were outnumbered in the middle, and that is probably one of the overriding factors as to why they lost the game.

But, contrary to some modern beliefs, it is possible to be outnumbered in the centre and still win a football match. And that is what I believe Sherwood was trying to say. There was no way his side would be able to compete with Arsenal in central midfield, their strongest area, so why not try to play to their own strengths and win the game elsewhere?

It may not have worked on the day, but there is nothing wrong with the theory.

Try to play Arsenal at their own game on their patch, and you're going to get beaten. Simple as that. You wouldn't try and keep possession against Barcelona (even Bayern Munich didn't try that), so why try to compete in midfield against the Gunners?

Unfortunately for Sherwood, his wingers and strikers didn't perform well, and Spurs were convincingly beaten. But as all good managers do, he quickly learned from his past mistakes...


Tactical Nous

Because just as you thought we would only ever see Sherwood's famous 4-4-2, he goes and pulls a fast one on all of usdropping Roberto Soldado and switching to 4-2-3-1 for the 3-1 victory away at Swansea on Sunday. A successful change that allowed Spurs to compete in midfield with another possession-based side (see, learning from his mistakes).

He has also done what every good manager does, and what Andre Villas-Boas epically failed to do (at both Chelsea and Spurs): play a system that suits the players you have at your disposal. Trying to force your players into roles that they are uncomfortable with doesn't often work. 

There are very few football fans in the country, or in fact the world, who wouldn't be able to tell you that if you have Michael Dawson (or previously, John Terry) in central defence, then playing a high defensive line isn't exactly the best idea.

Dawson is, after all, the only man in the world who has ever been beaten for pace by Olivier Giroud.

The way AVB set his defence up against Manchester City and Liverpool this season was nothing short of suicidal (in the footballing sense, of course), and he paid the ultimate price (in the footballing sense, of course).

Sherwood has come in, highlighted the error and rectified this problem. This is the sign of a good manager. Playing a deeper defensive line because it best suits the central defensive options that are available to him. Good sense, if you ask me.



Also, because he has managed to bring a certain Togolese centre-forward back onside, Sherwood can now successfully deploy the one-forward policy that AVB was so desperate to implement.

At his best, Emmanuel Adebayor is indisputably one of the finest lone strikers in the world, and he has been simply superb so far under his new manager. Against Swansea he excelled in the role that neither Soldado nor Jermain Defoe ever seemed fully comfortable playing under AVB. 

Up until Sherwood's arrival, he had been the (albeit extremely well-paid) forgotten man at White Hart Lane.

Under AVB, he had seen just 45 minutes of first team football this seasona second-half cameo when already 3-0 down at his former club, Manchester City, which seemed more an effort to humiliate him in front of his former fans than anything else.

However good he has been, though, it does remain to be seen how long the renaissance continues. After all, we have been here with Adebayor before. Over the last five years or so, he has only seemed to play at his best when there is a point to be proven.

His early form at Manchester City seemed only an attempt to prove a point to Arsenal (culminating in a certain, rather infamous, celebration), then his impressive first season at Spurs seemed an attempt to prove the same point to City.

Now, it looks as though he is targeting victory over AVB, trying to show him what he could have had if he had treated him in the right way. Even though, in truth, he was in utterly abject form for most of last season, despite being in the plans of his manager.

It remains to be seen whether Sherwood can convince his striker to maintain these performances past the point where there is no longer a point to be proven. That would be a major success.


Stray Observations

You may have heard a bit of talk so far this season about some of Tottenham's summer signings (the not-so magnificent seven) not exactly working out so far. 

One man who does seem to be coming into his own now, though, is Eriksen, who seems to be revelling in a less disciplined, more expansive role under Sherwood.

"He [Sherwood] says you have to enjoy it," the Danish midfielder said in an interview with the Guardian at the turn of the year. "Play positively. For me it's only good. Of course it was a bit of a different role for me than the other games, a bit more attacking. I like that more.

He had been deployed on the left of midfield for every game he had started under Sherwood so far, before switching to a more central role for the Swansea game last Sunday. In both roles, though, he has had far more freedom of expression than he ever did under AVB, with three goals and two assists in his last five league outings a reflection of this.

Then there is young Nabil Bentaleb. The 19-year-old who hadn't made a single appearance under AVB but was brought on for his debut in the second half of Spurs' 3-2 victory over Southampton

Significantly, this was Sherwood's first Premier League game in charge, and it was only 1-1 at the time he made his appearance. To throw a player into the mix for his first ever senior appearance at such a crucial time in such an important game for you personally is some show of confidence, both in the player and in yourself to make the right call.

Sherwood could have called upon Lewis Holtby or Etienne Capoue to replace the injured Moussa Dembele. Instead, the young Algerian was preferred.

And he excelled. Since then he has made a further two substitute appearances and started Spurs' last three games.

It is just another small showing that the manager is going to do things his way. And so far it is working an absolute treat.


    This Fire World Cup Squad Didn't Even Get Picked ✂️

    World Football logo
    World Football

    This Fire World Cup Squad Didn't Even Get Picked ✂️

    Sam Tighe
    via Bleacher Report

    Emery's Arsenal Deal Leaked By... Emery 🙃

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Emery's Arsenal Deal Leaked By... Emery 🙃

    James Dudko
    via Bleacher Report

    City Ready to Keep Arteta Long-Term

    World Football logo
    World Football

    City Ready to Keep Arteta Long-Term

    Matt Law,
    via The Telegraph

    Emery the Final Part of Gazidis' Meticulous Coup

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Emery the Final Part of Gazidis' Meticulous Coup

    David Hytner
    via the Guardian