After a promising start to life in charge at Spurs, it’s slowly capitulated for Tim Sherwood and his old school management style.
While he prefers to focus on energy and effort, we’ve consistently seen tactical errors that have undermined the team.
1. Space between the lines
Whilst occasionally flirting with a holding midfielder, Tim Sherwood has consistently gone with box-to-box players in his midfield set-up. He prefers two-way players that can do a bit of both attacking and defending, rather than one that can only offer the latter.
“I like players to understand that, if one goes forward, the other one tucks in for them. I don’t want someone who just sits in front of the back four and doesn’t go anywhere.”
Whilst this might seem good on paper, specialists are needed as part of every team. This is an area where we have suffered as a result of not having a dedicated player to break up attacks.
You can get away with box-to-box midfielders dropping in for one another against sides like Newcastle or Cardiff. The top teams however, the ones that “our performances against have not been good enough” will make you pay all day long for leaving space between the lines.
Arsenal have done this to us twice since Tim Sherwood took over. This example was from the FA Cup tie at the Emirates, where the Gunners got three players in to the space between our defence and midfield.
Manchester City also had a field day in beating us 5-1 at home. Although we were down to ten men in the second half, both of these examples were from 11v11 before the interval.
David Silva was afforded the freedom of the Lane for much of the match. With space like this it’s no wonder he had time to pick out Aguero for City’s opener.
Later, Sergio Aguero, whose withdrawal with an injury prevented a cricket score being run up, was also afforded far too much space between the lines.
There is a time and a place to be aggressive with team selections and whether to gamble on giving up space to get more attack minded midfielders in to the team. With this approach, it’s no surprise that we have a poor record against the current top four.
2. Drifting wide playmaker
The tactic to use a wide playmaker that drifts inside to create overloads in the centre was a good idea when it started.
David Silva had been playing a similar role at Manchester City and the move by Tim Sherwood seemed to be inspired by the system of Manuel Pellegrini.
It initially worked.
Manchester United were caught out in the first match the tactic was unveiled. Christian Eriksen created one goal and scored the other in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Crystal Palace fell victim to it in our next Premier League match, as Eriksen scored and played a major part in a 2-0 win.
However, once you’ve shown your hand, then opponents can scheme for it and wise up how best to counter it. They seem to have done this in two ways.
The first method has seen teams congest the centre of the pitch by trying to get four men in to a central area.
Everton were the first opponent to wise up to this, by making their midfield extremely narrow. Benfica also adopted this approach in our Europa League match, which stifled us and Eriksen all evening.
The second method to counter it is by launching attacks down our left side after the ball has been turned over and Eriksen is out of position. This has either left Danny Rose to defend on his own or he too has been caught out of position.
Arsenal’s early goal in the most recent North London Derby highlighted this perfectly.
Thomas Rosicky had the freedom of the flank after the ball was turned over in the middle of the park, which Arsenal had congested with extra bodies. This quickness of the turnover left both Eriksen and Rose out of position.
Liverpool’s first goal at the weekend also showed Eriksen’s other weakness, his lack of willingness to play defensively. This was highly evident as he was slow to track Glen Johnson.
It’s interesting how Manuel Pellegrini has moved David Silva back in to a more natural number ten role behind the striker recently. Maybe Tim Sherwood should do the same with Christian Eriksen. He would be afforded less defensive responsibility and the team would be better balanced to leave less space down our left to be attacked in transition.
3. High defensive line
The flirtation with a high defensive line by Tim Sherwood is almost as curious as the one to go without a natural holding player.
Playing high can work and be very effective, but it has to be part of the entire footballing philosophy with which the team plays, not just something to try out.
For all of our laboured build-up play, AVB had success with high line at the start of the season because he was committed to it. For him, it was part of a greater possession and ball recycling game that condensed the playing area for the opposition. In our first ten Premier League matches we kept seven clean sheets and had one the stingiest defences in the division.
The key to its operation for AVB was in deploying three midfielders who were big, physical and pressured the ball in order to win it back quickly. This saw us dominate possession in games, whilst also limiting the opponent’s chances.
For Tim Sherwood, it has become an increasingly used tactic, but his choice to go with box-to-box midfielders is where it is let down. This sees us have less pressure on the ball and opposition teams have had time and space, especially between the lines, to get their head up and pick out a pass.
Southampton at home recently was a very good example of this. Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and even Ricky Lambert got in time and again. There was no pressure one the ball, so the runner could just be picked out, just as Lallana does here.
Tim Sherwood has to decide how committed he is to the high line and how it shapes his entire football philosophy, then select his team accordingly.
4. Defensive Errors under Tim Sherwood
Whilst not being a tactic, under Tim Sherwood we’ve seen a massive rise in defensive errors. The high line and exposing our left side are partly to blame, but what we’ve seen is a rise in individual blunders.
Recently, all four goals conceded at Chelsea were the result of individual mistakes. Both goals allowed at home to Southampton were from misjudgements. Then against Liverpool, we gave them a two-goal head start from individual miscues.
During AVB’s 16 Premier League matches in charge, we made 11 defensive errors, of which 6 were turned in to goals.
In the 16 Premier League matches that Tim Sherwood has been at the helm, we’ve committed 15 errors, leading to 11 goals.
Over the same number of matches, this is a 45% increase in the number of defensive slip-ups. More worryingly, it’s a massive 83% increase in the number of goals scored from errors.
We’ve made quite a few huge defensive mistakes recently e.g. Vertonghen’s back pass straight to Eto’o. These have lead to better quality chances for the opposition and are being more readily punished.
5. Long balls from Hugo Lloris
One of the most alarming tactical changes since Tim Sherwood has taken over has been our distribution from the back. This all starts with a role change for Hugo Lloris.
Under AVB, the French number one was distributing the ball short to his centre and full backs to build play, only kicking long downfield when under pressure.
Against Hull and Swansea, we can see how his supply of the ball was mainly short. There was the odd kick downfield, but these usually came from dead ball goal kicks.
For comparison, in the reverse fixtures against Hull and Swansea under Tim Sherwood, we can see just how much more often Hugo Lloris kicks long.
The new manager likes his goalkeeper to look for Emmanuel Adebayor in order to win headers and bring the ball down. This is so that play is moved more quickly forward, but it also takes advantage of the Togolese striker’s height and leaping ability.
Without Adebayor, Tim Sherwood has used Nacer Chadli playing off the smaller Roberto Soldado. The Belgian has been used as a central winger by the new manager in order to create overloads on the flanks. However, he is also in the side for his height, despite the fact that he is not the strongest in the air, even with his sizeable frame.
This didn’t stop the tactic of going long from the back against Liverpool, as Hugo Lloris’ kicking chart shows. The problem, as it was even with Adebayor in the side, was that more often than not these kicks downfield were unsuccessful.
While Tim Sherwood wants to move the ball forward quickly, he also needs to do it effectively. The long balls sent downfield by Lloris are not a way to do that.
Tim Sherwood hasn’t promted himself as a tactical visionary in the media, but he is making consistent strategic errors. He is proving himself to be an impact manager. Someone who preaches graft and energy to get a short term performance spike, rather than one who has a long-term vision of how the game should be played.