Tim Sherwood’s brief spell in charge at Tottenham has gone remarkably well. In the Premier League Spurs have won five of their six games and taken 16 points from a possible 18 to move level on points with Liverpool. The players have shown a willingness to compete and battle for the points as they displayed at Southampton, Swansea and Old Trafford and with a greater freedom in their play have found goals easier to come by.
The fixture list, to date, has been reasonably kind to the new manager in his opening run of games with a number of matches Spurs would have expected to win. The team, however, stepped up at Old Trafford and took advantage of a poor United team. Sherwood who had previously opted for a 4-4-2 formation then showed a touch of tactical guile to alter what had been a successful system for him by playing 4-5-1 against Swansea.
The game against Manchester City will provide Sherwood with different issues.
Facing Top Quality Opponents
On Wednesday evening, however, he steps into his first game as manager against a top-rated team. Manchester City are in form, have star players producing for their manager and are unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions. It has been in these matches that Spurs have struggled to make an impact this season – unable to produce a performance against high grade opposition.
Under Andre Villas-Boas we had the first indication against Arsenal at the Emirates at the beginning of September. The team simply didn’t perform as had been expected and was put down as the new signings needing time to come together as a team. On that occasion Arsenal recorded a comfortable one goal victory. At home to Chelsea after a good opening half, Spurs simply couldn’t sustain the performance for the full ninety minutes. Then came the debacle at the Etihad Stadium where City went ahead in the opening seconds and it just went from bad to worse for the remainder of the game. After a recovery against lesser opposition it was a similar story against Liverpool at White Hart Lane. The FA Cup defeat to Arsenal under Sherwood brought further disappointment – an untroubled home win with little sign that Spurs could cause Arsenal any difficulties. It’s hard to know what tactical plan Sherwood was wanting his team to follow in that game but whatever it was, it didn’t work.
Now, Tottenham and Tim Sherwood are faced with the power, strength and skill of a City team who are still in contention for the quadruple of League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup. It is quite a challenge for the manager and players, knowing that they lost by six goals to City only two months ago.That day in Manchester, none of the players performed at an acceptable level – from Hugo Lloris who set the tone of the Tottenham display with early mistakes right through the side. Sherwood’s first task will be to ensure every player he selects is up for the game and totally committed for the ninety minutes so that they produce an acceptable performance to carry out whatever tactical plan he and the coaching staff deem best to stop a City team who have scored over 100 goals this season and are able to take advantage of any defensive weaknesses.
Since taking over, Sherwood’s selection options have been restricted by a number of long-term injury problems to top players. He now faces the dilemma, as manager, as to how and when to re-introduce those players into the team. Jan Vertonghen, Sandro, Paulinho, Andros Townsend and Younes Kaboul are nearing full fitness. Not all will be ready for the City game but who should be brought back and who should be omitted from the team which has seen Spurs claw their way back up to 5th place in the League and again challenging for a Champions League place, will be a new problem for the manager to ponder.
The management game has suddenly stepped up a level and become much more difficult for Tim Sherwood. How he comes through this match and a number of difficult games in the month of March could go a long way in determining his long-term future at Tottenham.
One ray of hope for Sherwood and Tottenham is City’s inconsistent away form which has seen them lose 4 league games this season at Cardiff, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Sunderland who were the last team to beat them the week before they defeated Spurs. On the reverse side, however, they have won in their big games against Arsenal and Liverpool although they were at home. They also won away to Bayern Munich in the Champuions League.
A night game at White Hart Lane with the crowd behind Tottenham could provide for an interesting match if Spurs can get their game together and unsettle a City team who have played twice since Tottenham defeated Swansea ten days ago.