10 Things Tim Sherwood Does Better Than Andre Villas-Boas
Since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas in December, Tim Sherwood's time as Tottenham Hotspur manager has been eventful to say the least.
Formerly the club's technical coordinator, Sherwood has divided opinion among Tottenham fans and outside observers.
The North London club remain in contention to fulfill their chief season objective of finishing in the Premier League's top four.
Coming under so much scrutiny, an uninformed onlooker could be forgiven for thinking the 45-year-old is completely fluffing his job. In reality, he has done some things rather well.
As a point of comparison, the following article looks at the things Sherwood has done better than his predecessor Villas-Boas.
To be honest, based on Spurs' results since then, you could argue there not being a lot of difference between the two quality-wise. Essentially, this is an excuse to look at the qualities of a coach who is having a tough time of it (depending on your viewpoint, fairly or unfairly).
Amongst the more genuinely viewed ones (on this writer's part at least), a few light-hearted improvements instigated by Sherwood are also reflected upon.
Spurs Are Scoring More Again
The chief criticism of Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham this season was over the team's dour playing style, shown most notably by a lack of goals.
Spurs' progress since then under Tim Sherwood has not extended to results. For the most part, though, the on-field product has been easier on the eyes.
Goals have been more plentiful too.
Having each been in charge for 16 Premier League games this season, Sherwood's Spurs scored 25 times compared to the 15 in Villas-Boas' final few months.
Sherwood Has Got the Best out of Adebayor
A significant reason for the increase in goals has been Sherwood's restoration of Emmanuel Adebayor to the Tottenham starting lineup.
Disagreements with Villas-Boas led to the Togo international being left out of the first-team picture save for a substitute appearance away at Manchester City in November.
The Portuguese had struggled to get the best out of Adebayor even prior to their falling out.
Albeit exacerbated by injuries and a lack of fitness resulting from no real preseason after completing his move from Man City, the striker largely underwhelmed in 2012-13. Though his form picked up later in the campaign, his eight goals in all disappointed compared to the 18 the season prior.
Since returning to the first-team rotation in December, Adebayor has scored 13 times. Sherwood has benefited from being the coach to bring him back in from the cold. But perhaps this would have been the player's response regardless.
Adebayor has not been shy in praising his manager's work. Speaking to Sky Sports after the Sunderland win, he said:
I'm a player, he's picking me and I'm scoring goals, so I hope he stays. But I'm not the chairman, I'm not the owner of the club, so no matter what happens I will focus on my football and doing my job for the club.
But he has been a big thing in my life. When everyone forgot about me, he gave me back my life. I'm very grateful and owe big thanks for that. I keep saying it. No matter what happens to the manager, I respect him as a manager and as a footballer.
Less Rigidity and Letting the Players Get on with It
A double-edged sword, this one.
Tottenham have favoured a more relaxed approach tactically under Sherwood compared to Villas-Boas. Players naturally still have defined duties, but a little more flexibility in how they apply them.
Spurs are less rigidly adhering to a specific system too, and have moved between adaptations of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations.
This has not always worked well. In the losses to Manchester City and Liverpool, the well-drilled title challengers were able to expose the looseness—flimsiness, even—of the Spurs lines of setup. There were elements of this too in their going behind at West Brom last week.
Oppositely, Spurs' attacking players have benefited from a little more freedom.
Christian Eriksen's deployment out on left wing has left Spurs lacking balance sometimes. On other occasions—at home to Dnipro in the Europa League and most recently in the thrashing of Sunderland—his license to roam and dictate possession has resulted in greater production creatively.
The previously mentioned Adebayor has relished being able to operate across the front line as he sees fit. Others like Nacer Chadli and Gylfi Sigurdsson have enjoyed their chances to play centrally rather than consigned to the flanks.
Sherwood's selections and tactics would certainly need refining if he is still in charge next season. But the general concept of letting the players play—not far removed from the mantra of his old boss Harry Redknapp—is no bad thing if properly applied.
The Club's Youngsters Are Getting Chances
After bringing Adebayor back and moving to a loose 4-4-2, Sherwood's next big decision as Spurs boss was promoting Nabil Bentaleb to the senior squad.
The 19-year-old midfielder came on in his manager's first game in charge against Southampton and has since started 14 games.
Selecting Bentaleb ahead of more experienced players at the club has not pleased everyone. It is fair to say the Algerian was persisted with for a game or two too many late into winter.
Bentaleb has already improved during these fledgling experiences, though. His passing was his most obvious attribute initially, but he looked less assured defending. Away at Benfica he did strong work in a deeper role in midfield, showing a better sense of maturity and discipline than had previously been seen.
Come next season, Bentaleb is likely to have benefited from the unexpected learning on the job he has received of late.
Harry Kane has also been handed his chance this past month, scoring twice in his first two starts for Spurs.
Villas-Boas was gradually involving the 20-year-old striker more into his plans, but as of last October was still considering sending him out on loan again if the right situation arose—per Sky Sports.
Sherwood too had preferred more senior options up front until recently, but with Roberto Soldado injured, he has tried Kane out with positive results.
In his previous role as a youth team coach and technical coordinator overseeing the club's young players, Sherwood knew well of the talents of these players.
While Andros Townsend forced himself into the first-team picture over 2013, it was less a given Bentaleb and Kane would get their opportunities. Sherwood's decision to do so looks like paying off in the short- and long-term.
Sherwood Speaks Well About His Ideas
Since being handed a caretaker mandate following Villas-Boas' departure, right through his attempts to prove he deserves to manage Tottenham, Sherwood has spoken in detail about his ideas, methods and to an extent, his view for the club's future direction.
Speaking to The Independent's Sam Wallace back in December he was clear in his understanding of how "winning is very important. So it’s a fine balance between being attractive and winning games."
The general impression was of a realist, but one also willing to engage the decision-makers at his club in the best possible direction moving forward:
I know the football club, I know the demands of the fans and I know what players we have at the club. But whether those demands are what the hierarchy here want is a different matter. We have to determine what success is for a football club. That is something for the powers-that-be to decide.
In an interview with Wallace last month, he was just as open about his views on transfer policy and using young players.
Just about any interview with the ex-pundit is the same. If you care to ask him about something, he is willing to answer well, and that is refreshing in any manager.
A Natural in Front of the Camera
Villas-Boas was a better public speaker than given credit for. Quieter than most, he could speak intelligently and passionately about his profession, albeit it would be less of a show.
Sherwood is similar in the former, but is undeniably a more entertaining watch when it comes to how he puts across his opinions.
Whether he is cheerful but frank after a win, or just about anywhere on the wider range of emotions after a loss, the Spurs boss does not mince his words.
For evidence, watch the above interview with Sky Sports' Geoff Shreeves after Spurs' 4-0 loss to Chelsea.
It is not great viewing for Spurs supporters seeking to rid that performance from their memory. But as an example of a manager not pulling any punches about the result, his team's display and even the character of some of his players, Sherwood is not making any excuses for them.
As with many things with him, whether this is poor man-management or a coach giving his players a justified kick up the backside depends on your viewpoint. Either way, it is captivating television.
Sherwood Does Not Shy Away from His Emotions
Sherwood's emotional side certainly extends to the sidelines.
For football fans who like to see their managers engaged and showing their passion, he is among the more overt currently prowling the Premier League's technical areas.
In better moments for his team he is right there with the fans celebrating.
During tougher times, he is not shy in expressing anger or disgust with his players—as was the case in a bad start in the 1-0 home loss to Arsenal when he tossed his coat aside.
Opposition beware too, you do something to cross Sherwood and he will let you know about it. Benfica boss Jorge Jesus found that out when his pointed celebrating raised the ire of his counterpart.
Sherwood's emotion is such it partly informed his decision to take to the stands to watch the away leg against Benfica, and then at Liverpool.
That he had done so, as he also had initially in his first game against Southampton, was in large part because of wanting a better overview of his team—as he pointed out after the Reds' loss, as reported by the Daily Telegraph's Pete Oliver (and you undoubtedly get a much better idea of how a team is playing high up in the stands than pitch-side).
But while it partly drove Sherwood up there, it also brought him back to ground level. Not being able to affect his team at closer quarters was too much to bear.
Sherwood Is Reinventing Manager Style
"In his short time as Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood has made the gilet his own," so read the opening line of an article by The Independent's Joe Lamb and Simon Rice looking at items (such as Roberto Mancini's scarf or Brian Clough's green jumper) managers have come to be associated with.
If you had no idea the coat-waistcoat hybrid Sherwood has often been seen wearing (as pictured above) was called a gilet, you were not alone.
Whether it catches on as the latest item in manager style remains to be seen. That might depend on if Sherwood keeps the Spurs job and is able to make it fashionable.
Until Tony Pulis swaps his trademark baseball cap for a jaunty beret or Arsene Wenger trades his coat with the troublesome zipper for a leather jacket, Sherwood stands as the Premier League's current trendsetter.
It Is All About the Club
Managers being affronted or hurt by criticism is understandable—they are human after all.
Perhaps Villas-Boas got caught up a little in his own drama late in his Spurs reign, though, particularly with the public dispute with journalists from the Daily Mail.
Sherwood has not been totally immune to this, but one of the consistent themes of his interviews and press conferences—and you can look at just about any one of them for this—is how he has tried to keep things focused as much as possible on Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
This is partly a product of his job's circumstances. He is on an 18-month contract, trying to convince his superiors he deserves to fulfill that time, let alone earn more.
But it is nonetheless commendable Sherwood has striven to keep it about the club, both in the present and moving forwards. As well as—despite criticism from some quarters—repaying the supporters.
Sherwood Has Handled Speculation About His Job as Well as Can Be Expected
The intense media speculation prompted by Sky Sports reporting Sherwood would be replaced this summer unhelpfully came about in the hours before the Sunderland match.
Given his livelihood was being talked about, Sherwood could have responded in any number of ways.
He chose to speak calmly and with dignity, whilst still remaining strong in his self-belief.
All I was focused on was winning the game tonight, preparing the boys correctly. You've just got to be professional.
...I'm doing my best in every game to try and get this team high up the league and I'll continue to do that until the end.
With four matches still to be played this season, Sherwood is looking at more questions and more general reporting about his future (Bleacher Report included).
Sherwood's attitude may change before the current campaign has concluded. But if he carries himself as he largely has these last couple of weeks, he will have earned the respect of many.
In the meantime, he will hope to strengthen his own case with a strong finish to the season for Tottenham.