As if being sacked in his second season in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, after signing seven players for a cool £105 million no less, wasn’t enough, Andre Villas-Boas has had to watch his successor enjoy immediate success in the face of impending doom. Despite the big names that were touted to replace the Portuguese tactician, Tim Sherwood was promoted to the managerial post at White Hart Lane and has hardly put a foot wrong.
The overwhelming feature of Tottenham’s season until then was their lack of sharpness in attack. Their inability to create chances and instead recycle possession monotonously in midfield went against everything the club stands for and naturally the fans weren’t too pleased. It wasn’t long before the 1-0 wins against lesser teams turned into 6-0 and 5-0 thumpings at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.
Incidentally, Spurs face the Manchester club at home on Wednesday night but are a completely different animal under Sherwood from the one that Villas-Boas led into the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season. The new manager has first and foremost moved away from the 4-2-3-1 system that the previous one lived by, and has instead operated with a 4-4-2 formation.
AVB was sacked as Spurs never clicked
Most questioned his tactics immediately given his decision to employ the outdated system but the team finally began creating chances and scoring more than just the one goal, notably from open play. Emmanuel Adebayor’s return from exile has had a big part to play as well with the towering striker finally keeping Roberto Soldado company upfront.
Sherwood has put faith in Adebayor and the former Arsenal player has rewarded him with 6 goals and 2 assists in 7 appearances. He’s also turned to 19 year-old Nabil Bentaleb who has been excellent in the middle of the park for Spurs. The youngster has helped raise the tempo and quality of their passing and has nailed down a starting place.
Even Christian Eriksen has sprung into life despite featuring down the left flank. Sherwood has helped out the defense by abolishing the high-line his predecessor was hell-bent on employing and the same one that got them dismantled when they played City away.
Adebayor has been reinvigorated under Sherwood
That decision has benefited Michael Dawson in particular, who isn’t the quickest. Overall, these significant changes made over such a short period of time have seen Spurs pick up 16 points out of a possible 18 in the league under the new boss.
However, it hasn’t been a flawless start for Sherwood. The north-London derby earlier this month remains a blemish on his brief stint so far. In an FA Cup tie, Spurs were beaten 2-0 away to Arsenal and were evidently overrun in midfield even though Sherwood refused to accept that as the reason for his side’s demise.
Against arguably the best midfield in England, the Spurs manager stuck to his guns and went with a 4-4-2 formation, ultimately paying the price. In truth, Arsenal were fantastic and may have won regardless of the formation they faced but Tottenham’s two-man central midfield made it all too easy. However, instead of making the same mistakes over and over again, something the previous manager was accused of, Sherwood quickly showed his flexibility and capacity to adapt.
Arsenal overran Spurs in midfield
When they travelled to South Wales to face Swansea City, he dropped Soldado and went with a 4-2-3-1 system against another side that thrives on possession. As a result, Tottenham were able to match up to their hosts in midfield and enjoyed a 3-1 win.
On paper, Spurs and Manchester City both employ a 4-4-2 formation but while Sherwood has been able to inject a bit of craft and creativity with his system, Manuel Pellegrini’s side knows nothing else. The Citizens have an incredibly fluid system that’s easy on the eye and impossible to live with. In fact, their system isn’t a run-of-the-mill 4-4-2 on closer inspection but a dynamic and exciting 4-2-2-2.
That’s the key difference between the two sides and the reason why Sherwood can’t expect to mirror City’s formation, in addition to the fact that The Sky Blues have superior players of course. To compete with the Premier League’s most devastating attack, Tottenham must turn to the 4-2-3-1 formation that bore fruit against Swansea.Sherwood has restored Spurs their identity by abiding by their philosophy of playing attacking football but as admirable as that is, it could well be suicidal against City. It’s another fantastic opportunity for the Tottenham boss to prove his tactical nous by making things difficult for City and scrapping for a result.
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