After Tottenham’s annihilation at the hands of Liverpool at White Hart Lane Lane, Andre Villas-Boas was sacked and many asked, who next?
The usual suspects were of course all mentioned: Michael Laudrup, Guus Hiddink, Louis van Gaal, Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle, but most were either already in a job or unrealistic prospects.
However, few could have predicted what chairman Daniel Levy did next. Throughout the saga preceding AVB’s sacking, Tim Sherwood took over as interim manager and slowly but surely built up the squad's confidence and the results improved. Many did not take him that seriously in the running for the head job, but it really was that simple in Sherwood’s appointment.
Since taking over, Sherwood has made a fundamental change to the way that Tottenham play, altering the attack and bringing Emmanuel Adebayor back in from of the cold. Whilst AVB favoured a 4-2-3-1, Sherwood took things back to a 4-4-2 which gave the misfiring Roberto Soldado a support man to link up with, something he clearly lacked in a 4-2-3-1.
This paid huge dividends and since taking over, Sherwood has won 10 out of a possible 12 points and revolutionised the way Tottenham have played. So what else is it that Sherwood has been doing right? The 4-4-2 leaves Tottenham more open but their defensive record has improved.
Clearly the players all hugely respect Sherwood and he has greatly motivated them. For proof, look no further than Adebayor, who has been a changed man since returning to the fold, altering the way they play to a 4-4-2 to accommodate for both Adebayor and Soldado. Sherwood has been at the club since 2008 and knows the club inside out.
However, the 4-4-2 clearly has its faults and whilst the win at Old Trafford was riveting and a huge result for Tottenham, there was a sense that, at times, Tottenham rode their luck against Manchester United, where key performances from players such as Adebayor and Christian Eriksen drove them to the win.
Ultimately, against Arsenal in the FA Cup, the tactical inefficiencies were found out.
Arsenal, as usual, packed out their midfield with a 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 formation and overran the Tottenham midfield, getting in the huge gaps between defence, midfield and attack. This isolated both strikers from the game, meaning they were pinned back giving more of the ball back to Arsenal.
This was clear from the first goal, when Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson will have been more upset that they didn’t do better, which was partly due to the lack of cover which would have been given in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
This is not to say that the 4-4-2 has no place in football. Tottenham’s results show that they can prosper under this formation, however Sherwood will surely improve on other formations to give Tottenham more fluidity and versatility whilst playing different teams.
It is clear Sherwood is a young coach and has a lot to learn in the Premier League, but the signs have been very encouraging and, as they say, sometimes you learn more in defeat than in victory and this will most certainly be the case for Sherwood. If Tottenham continue similar form in the Premier League, it will be impossible to ignore them for European qualification.
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