Hate the game, not the player
As Spurs prepare to face Stoke City at White Hart Lane, some fans seem to be almost be wishing for Tim Sherwood to fail.
He’s a Gooner.
Glorified PE teacher.
Not qualified for the job.
So angry are they with his appointment, that they are critical of every decision he makes: too many strikers, no balance, no defensive midfielder, no striker on the bench, no tactics, no clue, etc.
Tim Sherwood has been working with our first team squad for two weeks – two weeks – and yet he seems to be mostly being judged on the same criteria that AVB was after nearly 18 months.
Sherwood needs time to implement his ideas, time to work out what system he wants to play to get the best out of our players and, crucially, our best players back from injury.
Against West Brom we were missing, due to injury or suspension:
Not far off a full team, and a decent one too.
His options were limited, his team pretty much picked itself. The only real decision was whether to slot Lewis Holtby or Etienne Capoue in alongside Christian Eriksen.
Much has been made of the decision to play the ball-playing Holtby, rather than the defensive-minded Capoue. Personally, I think there were two issues:
Firstly, whilst Capoue has put in a couple of performances of note, I don’t think he has been consistently impressive so far, and I had no problem with the idea of having two players trying to get on the ball, move it quickly, and put us on the front foot.
Secondly, since returning from injury, Capoue has looked sluggish and unfit, lacking his previous sharpness. And that has been from central defence – a less ‘energetic’ position than central midfield. If he’s looked rusty at centre back, why would we play him in midfield until he’s back to his previous sharpness? In playing him for 45 minutes for the Under-21s, Sherwood seemed to suggest that he felt Capoue needed the game for fitness.
I personally I think that people are jumping on the central midfield conundrum in the same way that they were jumping on the inverted wingers under AVB; it’s a concept that doesn’t require much tactical knowledge to understand, and so stands out to the every day fan. In truth we’ve not exactly been ripped to shreds in our last few games despite having most of our best defensive players out injured. In fact, our main failing has arguably been our wide players failing to get good enough balls to justify starting two strikers… except against Southampton where we provided some decent crosses, and scored three for the first time since April.
And whilst I’m on my hobby horse, I’d just like to reiterate that 4-4-Tim is not 4-4-2 obsessed – it wasn’t a formation he used for the Under-21s in the U21 Premier League or for the Under-19s in the NextGen Series. He mostly preferred 4-3-3.
Sherwood generally used a natural holding midfield player for the Under-21s; often either Giancarlo Gallifuoco or Milos Veljkovic (who also plays as a centre back). Sherwood was a holding midfield player himself in a Premier League winning side so knows the importance of the role. I also saw Sherwood utilise Dean Parrett as a false 9 as we beat Arsenal 4-2 in the U21 Premier League last season, which illustrates that he’s not the ‘old fashioned’ type that some will have you believe. In terms of tactics generally, Chris Ramsey (as an FA coaching assessor) failed a young Villas-Boas when the Portuguese was taking his Uefa B license. There is tactical knowledge within the setup.
But I digress. The point I mostly want to make is that, whatever you think of him, Sherwood has not appointed himself. Daniel Levy has deemed Sherwood an appropriate choice and, until the end of the season at least, he will be our Head Coach/Manager. If you’re angry with this appointment, then surely Levy is the man to direct your anger towards – not Sherwood himself.
As I wrote in my ‘What a difference a week makes‘ article, though, there is a sense of continuity to the appointment of Sherwood, if nothing else:
There is a sense of continuity about the appointment, which I like and admire. Just as much as it gives a sense of satisfaction when a youth player gets a game for the first team – and I was very proud to see Nabil Bentaleb come off the bench on Sunday – there is a good feeling associated with an internal promotion. Sherwood might not have top-level management experience, but he clearly has a skill set which Levy has deemed transferable.
But – regardless of where you stand on his appointment – it would, surely, be best to put your tactical differences to one side. To accept that it’s going to take him time to work out a winning formula. To give him a chance to get his ideas across to the players. To wait until he’s got a fully fit squad to pick from before judging.
To unite behind our manager, and not give up just yet – there’s still plenty left to play for.