I saw a tweet earlier saying that Sherwood is toxic for our club. He isn’t, but the current ill feeling certainly is, and something has to change.
Sherwood has to go. Not because he’ll never be good enough (we’ll never know if he will or not), but because the fans have not and will not take to him. To achieve success, the club needs the fans onside and the majority are patently not – nor will they ever be with Sherwood at the helm (rightly or wrongly).
Predicting that a Spurs manager will fail is not the boldest of predictions; arguably they all have to varying extents since Burkinshaw in the early 80s, aside from a couple of cup wins. Jumping up and down at every questionable decision that the current incumbent makes, and then celebrating ‘being right’ when he inevitably does fail is not, in my opinion, the role of a fan. Instead why not be open-minded and try to create a more positive environment for our players to play in? Criticise, of course, when it’s due – heck, there have been some abominations under Sherwood – but try to be broadly supportive. That’s my position, and that’s why I’m willing to give him a chance until he does something damaging to our club’s reputation, as with Redknapp and the England manager’s job.
I’ve been accused this season of being a Tim Sherwood apologist, much like I was accused before that of being an André Villas-Boas apologist. I’m not, of course, but I am a ‘new manager’ apologist. I have no particular love for Sherwood – I didn’t admire him as a player, and he’s not ‘my cup of tea’ (using his words) as a person. But I could see traces of logic behind his appointment (especially from a continuity POV) and I think the mitigating circumstances surrounding his tenure mean he should be given more leeway from our fans, who are as divided and angry as I ever remember.
For anyone coming in to take over after the final few thrashings under AVB, it was a tough job. We had an under-performing squad with a lot of new players who hadn’t shown signs of settling in any time soon. We’ve also had (surprise, surprise, we’re Tottenham), a ludicrous number of recent injury concerns.
The vitriol towards Sherwood has been far worse than it probably would have been for anyone else. Probably because he’s a Gooner, probably because he’s got an accent which reminds people of the many uncomfortable Harry Redknapp press conferences and interviews and probably because he is, quite literally, unqualified for the job.
Sherwood’s job has, of course, also been made more difficult by the fact that he has no prior experience of managing a football club, and so was always going to be learning as he went along. And he has, sometimes, showed signs of learning: adapting from a 4-4-2 to playing with one forward when necessary, for example, or changing things at half-time against Southampton to ensure we pressed the ball to complement the high line.
Today against Liverpool his hand was forced. Missing our two best players this season – Adebayor and Walker – as well as Chiriches, Capoue, Lamela, and Paulinho and with Sandro (who has been playing with painkilling injections) and Dembele (who looked so unfit last week) seemingly not fit to start, he was “down to the bare bones” and even had to include rookie Harry Winks on the bench. His team selection looked gung-ho on initial inspection, before you realised that – short of going three at the back with Dawson brought into the side – he had few other options.
Add to that that his game-plan – “stay in the game for as long as possible and hopefully it will open up for us later on” – was out the window after just over a minute, mostly due to individual errors.
Sherwood’s been criticised for playing Eriksen wide on the left, but mostly because people feel he’s less effective offensively there. Today, though, he showed his defensive frailty in the first minute. Of course, Sherwood could have opted for a slightly more defensive player on the left to combat Johnson’s runs, but a man with the experience and intelligence of Eriksen should be able to track a fairly obvious run and to stop a cross coming in. Vertonghen scuffed his clearance, the ball awkwardly ricocheted into Kaboul’s instep, and Sherwood needed to think again. It was 2-0 when Dawson played a sloppy pass and then couldn’t catch Suarez.
But here’s where Sherwood could do more. For the rest of the half, our approach play was reasonable and we managed to give both Eriksen and Chadli the ball between the lines, only for them to waste opportunities to create. He didn’t change anything, though, to improve upon this – no personnel changes, no tweaks. And, before long, Liverpool snuffed out any opportunities we did have, restricting our creative players and stopping them from receiving the ball in the areas they had been in the first half.
Then came goal three; Lennon didn’t chase Flanagan back, meaning Bentaleb had to close the ball, leaving Coutinho in space to receive it and get a shot away. We defended too deep at the set piece from which goal four stemmed; Sherwood could be accused of not organising his troops for these situations, but the players need to more accountable for all four goals today.
But I digress from my central point, which is that whilst I don’t think Sherwood is an ideal management candidate, he is our manager (Head Coach), and yet another change does not guarantee improvement. Managers and coaches need time to work with their squads and develop a pattern of play, a defensive structure – an identity. This is why I’ve not wanted to judge our coach too soon; to write him off.
Brendan Rodgers was widely-derided last season, as was one of his favourites, Jordan Henderson. Yet this season he has Liverpool organised, motivated and, importantly, confident. Henderson’s been exceptional and will likely start for England in the World Cup. It might be wrong to compare Sherwood and Rodgers, since Rodgers had four years of managerial experience (including another Premier League job) before taking on his role at Liverpool, but they do share youth coaching backgrounds. Sticking with Rodgers, investing in his player choices, and giving him room to implement his ideas has worked wonders.
Divided since Redknapp’s sacking, the only move that would seem to unify our fan-base is the appointment of someone who seemed previously totally unattainable – Louis van Gaal. And, thus, the revolving manager-door continues.