Last time Tottenham Hotspur played Manchester City, they were spanked 6-0 in a game about as one-sided as a FIFA 14 match up against your younger sister.
Spurs were woeful. Their defence, marshalled by the frequently out of position and cumbersome Michael Dawson, was non existent. The distribution of Hugo Lloris - usually a quality highly praised - was culpable for two of the goals.
The spine of the midfield, meanwhile, was about as tough as Tommy Carroll, and Sandro seemed to epitomise the mood of every watching Lilywhite when he paused to vomit up his guts on the pitch. The game marked the nadir of AVB's Tottenham career and persuaded Levy that the Portuguese had no future at the club.
Fast forward a mere two months and few are predicting another victory quite so comprehensive for City. There have been changes at Spurs, subtle and steady rather than headline-grabbing and grandiose, and under Tim Sherwood progress is being made. He might not be as suave as Villas-Boas, and his facial hair is not nearly half as impressive, but he's getting the job done.
Since taking over, Sherwood has accumulated 16 points from 18, all the while playing expansive, attacking football. His brief tenure has seen a return to a 4-4-2 formation much longed for at the Lane, as well as the recall of the ever-enigmatic Emmanuel Adebayor, a man so eccentric that he manages to make someone like Lady Gaga look little more than your average Stepford wife.
So far Sherwood's football has paid dividends in the Premier League, however the might of Manchester City represents his biggest test yet, and there are a number of tactical changes that he surely must make ahead of the game. The first of these is the formation he sets up with. Sherwood's Tottenham were caught short when they lined up with 4-4-2 against Arsenal in the F.A. Cup. Against the so called bigger teams, the formation is woefully lacking. In an era of 4-5-1 dominance, Tottenham's defence was left over-exposed against Arsenal, proving desperately weak against the counter attack.
The midfield was swamped from the offset, with Arsenal's numerical advantage in the middle of the park snuffing out Tottenham attacks, before the front two of Adebayor and Soldado could even threaten the Arsenal area.
These problems will only be exacerbated against City. In Agüero, City have a striker who delights in running directly against defences- bad news indeed for Dawson and Chiricheș- and with flair players such as Jesus Navas and David Silva at Pellegrini's disposal, the Tottenham back line will need their midfield to stand tall in order to remain competitive. This necessitates the presence of an extra Spurs midfielder, not least to contest the combative and marauding pairing of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure in the middle of the park.
For the first time under Sherwood, Tottenham lined up with a 4-5-1 formation last time out against Swansea, and if Spurs are to take anything away from this tricky fixture, you would expect Sherwood would have to curb his 4-4-2 leanings once again.
The next question for Sherwood, then, is which players to select to play in these all so important midfield berths. The biggest decision facing him in this respect is whether to stick or twist with 19 year old starlet Nabil Bentaleb. Bentaleb has looked composed in the majority of games he has featured in so far, and his progression is such that Sherwood appears to have approved the departure of Etienne Capoue, who was only brought to the club in the summer.
However, Bentaleb struggled to impose himself against Arsenal in the aforementioned clash, and he evidently lacks the experience in playing in such a significant fixture. Providing both recover from injuries, either Paulinho or Sandro could play instead; the former offering more than Bentaleb in terms of creativity, the latter offering a greater defensive presence.
Sherwood also has big decisions to make at the top-end of the pitch. Providing he does decide to line-up with just a sole striker, it would appear Adebayor would get the nod, especially after a series of match-winning performances, and a run of six goals in his last eight games. Adebayor might well be frustratingly unpredictable but on his day he is simply unplayable: no footballer graces stadiums such as the Emirates, Etihad and Bernabeu without possessing extreme talent.
His inclusion would relegate Roberto Soldado to the substitutes bench for the second time in as many games, with the £26 million man still looking about as lethal as plush club mascot, Chirpy the Cockerel. He could prove pivotal from the bench, however, especially if called into resurrecting his fledgling partnership in a situation involving Tottenham chasing the game.
Regardless of the line-up, Wednesday evening will quite clearly be the biggest test of Tim Sherwood's short managerial career, and will be an interesting yardstick to measure Tottenham's recovery since the demise of AVB.
Manchester City are a formidable prospect, and another humiliating defeat isn't out of the question if Spurs prove tactically naïve and inflexible. Nevertheless, with Sherwood's managerial nous growing steadily cuter, Tottenham have a real chance of deriving something from the fixture, and keeping themselves in the race for fourth place. Tim Sherwood, over to you.
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