Tim Sherwood this week stated that Tottenham Hotspur were part of his life. His passion was genuine and if he can transmit any of that to his squad then all power to him. Cut him and he bleeds navy blue and white. Problem is, on yesterday’s showing against West Brom, his mission is to return in time to the Spurs team he played in.
Plenty of effort, decent players, busy-busy. It’s only after a while that you begin to realise, this isn’t going anywhere. Misplaced passes, opportunities lost as that ball doesn’t quite make it…you think the next one will, then it sinks in, the passing simply isn’t good enough. Players and crowd frustrated, the anxiety building as time passes and the half-chances are missed, the defensive cock-ups punished. Younger fans need to know, this is how it used to be! Narrow your eyes and you can almost see Sherwood himself in midfield, static and pointing in all directions. Ah, the good old days of midtable mediocrity, when you were spared the worry of CL qualification or winning trophies….
It’s not Sherwood’s fault that he has to learn on the job. My problem with his appointment isn’t personal, not to him at least. A club of our stature and ambitions should never be in the position of appointing a manager with no experience in that role, halfway through a season that opened with an investment of £100m on new players. A fine coach he may be, ambitious certainly and we need someone who is single-minded, but we should not be in this position, Mr Levy.
Levy of course has made the appointment in a characteristically equivocal manner. 18 months gives Tiger Tim a measure of security and means the compensation will be less in the summer if it doesn’t work and Levy brings in an experienced manager who is not available right now. Meanwhile, we mark time on the pitch when we should be pushing ahead.
It’s also not Tim’s fault that his appointment has coincided with an injury and suspension crisis. The lack of a DM has caused problems but to see his real intentions, we will have to wait until Sandro and Paulinho are available. The set-up will suit them both. Paulinho will benefit from the rest. Capoue meanwhile will be left to wonder what on earth is going on. He thought he was joining an upwardly mobile team challenging for Europe. now the under 21s get the nod ahead of him. What’s French for ‘call my agent’?
Sherwood is by no means the first Spurs coach in recent times to find his attacking efforts stifled by a rigorously organised defence. It was not until near the end when West Brom tired and Danny Rose was released down the wing that we found a way round their set-up. They played a flexible formation with three centre backs and two wide men, both full-backs by trade, who dropped back to make five at the back or pushed into midfield to easily outnumber our four. With one up front, this allowed them to insert one or two midfielders between our midfield and back four. They used this space well and Lloris was at his best, blocking and diving to keep them out. It helped that one great opportunity slid past the post.
This from a below-strength side managed by a coach promoted from within. I admire Sherwood’s mission to attack more – it is noticeable that we have numbers in the box these days as well as the obvious of playing two up front. However, yesterday he came out second best in the tactical battle of the new boys.
After a bright start when our players enjoyed the freedom of movement and worked off each other, the game settled down into a familiar, unwelcome pattern. We were pressed into making mistakes, had no space to work the angled passes and were constantly being caught with the ball. Chiriches was dreadfully profligate, giving away the ball in dangerous positions at least three times in the first half. Dawson too – we could not get it forward.
The breakthrough did come through a set-piece, a stunning free-kick from Eriksen, curled round the top of the wall and in off the bar. A real beauty – such a shame therefore that its memory will be tarnished by what happened next. Instead of consolidating, Eriksen gave away the ball and West Brom scored from the resultant free-kick. The cross was not cleared, suddenly a gap as wide as the parting of the Red Sea opened up in what should have been a packed defence and the loose ball was banged home. Ridiculous to concede so soon after scoring, and from a set-piece that was completely avoidable.
After the break, Spurs began slowly but were livened up by the crowd’s agitation at the news that Ars***l were one down. That’s how it was yesterday – score-flashes got us going. That soon faded. Tiger Tim brought on Bentaleb to lie a little deeper and keep the ball moving, which he does well and which allowed Eriksen to work further up the field. It’s good to see Eriksen more involved in the play – this was a criticism I had of the way AVB used him – and he certainly has an appetite for work. He finished the game exhausted, hands on knees and bent double. He and Spurs may benefit from a defensive midfielder, allowing him more freedom.
The forwards pushed up. Again, a familiar tale of waiting for passes that never came rather than working to move the defenders out of position. It was too easy for them to sit in their five. Adebayor had one his static days, seldom causing a problem, his control letting him down on the two half-chances that came his way. Also, despite our numbers in the box, we provided few decent crosses until Rose late on rifled several low balls across the box but just out of reach of forwards who were as frustrated as the crowd.
Another reminder of the old days was the barracking Chadli received, at least from where I sitting. An imposing, muscular figure yet he possesses the ability to disappear for extended periods of the match. This was good old-fashioned abuse, individuals leaping to their feet in pure frustration. Not seen that for a long while now.
In praise of Kyle Walker: he’ll never sort out his positioning or day dreaming but he’s got his strength and pace back to get him and us out of trouble. Every game, if we need a goal he’s driving forward. Not everything comes off but he gives all he’s got. Another bloke in front of me roared a volley of abuse in his direction as he was absent as West Brom countered. In fact, look up and there he was, filling in at centre half having hammered back 50 yards after we lost the ball.
If I may offer a suggestion – we do well away because we can counter effectively. Maybe set up the team in the same way home or away, draw out opponents, press and then counter. Just a thought. Sincere best wishes to Tim and his team as they try to sort it out. Hard work ahead.