It’s been a turbulent time for Tottenham in recent weeks. Thrashings at the hands of West Ham United, Manchester City and Liverpool signalled the end for André Villas-Boas. Many Spurs supporters were baffled by Daniel Levy’s decision to sack a man still in the process of moulding his squad. Some felt it was time for a change. But very few could have predicted his successor, Tim Sherwood.
Questions were raised immediately in regards to Sherwood’s demeanour off the field. A self-proclaimed Arsenal fan who “bleeds” Tottenham colours is not something you see everyday. But you’d be foolish to think that his heart isn’t in it, having described it as an “honour” to be appointed head coach. For the moment at least his loyalties lie with Spurs.
Despite this, many have accused Sherwood of being a treacherous character. Rumour has it he leaked negative stories to the press, undermining AVB and causing conflict within the camp. As I say, they are just rumours. Even if they were to be true, history has shown that being a nice guy doesn’t necessarily make you a successful manager. Just look to some of the most arrogant men in the game for proof of that.
The decision to appoint Sherwood on a full time basis came as a surprise to many, not least because the 44 year old lacks any real experience of top flight management. In fact, Sherwood is yet to complete his Pro License qualification – a necessity for all Premier League managers. Is that a reason to dismiss the him as a credible replacement for AVB? Not in my eyes. Since being appointed technical co-ordinator in 2010, Sherwood has proved to be a valuable asset to the club – managing the development of youth team players and monitoring the progress of loanees. There’s evidence to suggest Sherwood has made a positive contribution in the youth set up. Andros Townsend, Steven Caulker, Tom Carroll and Jake Livermore have all broken into the first team at some point in recent years. The most recent talent to profit from Sherwood’s youth policy being French U19 defensive midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.
André Villas-Boas was widely criticised for his conservative style of play, mainly focussing on ball retention rather than fluid distribution. By his own admission, Sherwood is a much more of a traditional coach in the mould of Harry Redknapp. He encourages a quick-tempo game which demands a high level of fitness from the players. In his recent programme notes, Sherwood stated that he is not one to complicate the game – “I like attacking players to attack, defenders to defend and midfielders to do a bit of both”. The early indications suggest Sherwood’s preferable formation is 4-4-2. Conventional wingers such as Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon will be key to this system, providing the team with width and the ability to stretch defences – something the team lacked in the recent 1-1 draw with West Brom. Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor will surely benefit from the chances being created down the flanks. One downside to this expansive style of play is that the defence will be vulnerable to conceding. It is of paramount importance that there is a ball winner in centre midfield, be it Sandro or Etienne Capoue. Sherwood showed his first signs of tactical naïvety by starting a midfield pairing of Christian Eriksen and Lewis Holtby against West Brom. We can only hope that he learns from his mistakes. After all, that’s what becoming a good manager is all about.
In all honesty, it’s the uncertainty which excites me. I find it refreshing that one of the biggest clubs in England has put their faith in a young English manager. Sherwood could turn out to be a monumental failure or a masterstroke of an appointment.
Let’s hope it’s the latter.