Spurs: Is Sherwood Lucky Or Not As Dumb As He Looks?
Tim Sherwood’s appointment as Spurs manager last month was not greeted with with widespread glee among the fans. The ‘project’, headed up by the suave and cerebral Andre Villas Boas and staffed by a hundred million quid’s worth of fresh continental talent was supposed to deliver Champions League status and a chance for THFC to be taken seriously at football’s top table. But with AVB’s ignominious demise came a horribly familiar degradation. If there’s one thing worse than losing matches it’s being perceived as ‘two-bob’ and in appointing the rough-hewn Sherwood from the back room it seemed Spurs had once again clambered half way up football’s greasy pole only to end up back on their arses.
But six league games and seventeen points later, it appears Sherwood may not be as stupid as he looks. Yesterday’s victory against Swansea, built on the kind of potent attacking play that became increasingly rare under AVB, was admirable not just because of its emphatic nature but because it demonstrated Sherwood’s developing tactical flexibility after early signs that he was dead set on an anachronistic 4-4-2. In the present day, almost every team in first class football plays with a partnership of centre forward and withdrawn ‘number ten’, its success dependent on the quality of the component players. The perfect modern centre forward - big, strong, quick, tricky and clinical - has been on Spurs books for some time in the shape of Emmanuel Adebayor. The quintessential number ten - mobile and creative with a subtle range of unpredictable passing - arrived in the summer in Christian Eriksen. Yesterday, for the very first time, they lined up one behind the other and the results were exhilarating.
Quite why its taken a combination of AVB and Sherwood over half a season to come up with this combo is a moot point but its arrival felt like a major breakthrough. At times it was beautiful to behold and, backed up by the tenacious and classy midfield pairing of Dembele and Bentaleb, it had the hapless Swans in a constant flap.
Of course, modest tactical shifts notwithstanding, it could be argued that Sherwood has simply been lucky so far. He has had injuries to contend with but in Adebayor he’s effectively had a brand new 30 million pound centre forward that, for one reason or another, wasn’t available to AVB. And it stands to reason that the new players’ settling in process was at a more advanced stage when Sherwood stepped in - players like Eriksen and Chiriches now look fully integrated.
But the doubters’ most compelling argument is that the opposition encountered on his six game run has been modest, (it’s becoming increasingly clear that winning at Old Trafford isn’t quite the feat it used to be), which is why the next game against Manchester City, the team widely regarded as the best in the land, will be of special significance. If Spurs are outclassed, like they were at Arsenal in the cup, we will know that the top table remains a distant dream. But if Sherwood can do what AVB did last season and conjure a victory against City at the Lane, maybe he will start to assume a little of the gravitas that Spurs fans crave.
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