Spurs vs Aston Villa in the Premier League is next up at White Hart Lane, so let’s look at how you break down Tim Sherwood’s side.
After being sacked in the summer, we always knew the day would come when Tim Sherwood would return as visiting manager to White Hart Lane. After many clubs passed on his brash self-loving persona, it was Randy Lerner who took a chance on the man still studying for his UEFA pro licence.
Sherwood has had his ups and downs following in Paul Lambert’s footsteps. He revelled in taking the Villains to Wembley for the FA Cup Semi-Final. But he has also only garnered 1 point from their last three Premier League matches, as they risk being sucked in to the bottom three.
So, let’s take a look at what his side are about and what we can expect in Spurs vs Aston Villa this time.
1. Where Aston Villa concede
Under Paul Lambert, Aston Villa were very porous through the centre, even more so when he was without Ron Vlaar.
Since Tim Sherwood has taken over, the gaps are most definitely down the sides for teams that can get at and behind their full backs.
In their last away Premier League match, up at Old Trafford, Man Utd were brutally efficient at getting in-behind here and scored all three of their goals in this way.
Ander Herrera opened the scoring after nice work by Daley Blind caught right back Matthew Lowton pinching in to the rest of his back four.
The Red Devils then made it two as Angel Di Maria got in-behind through Lowton’s right back zone. This caused one of the centre backs to be dragged out, leaving Di Maria to cross for Wayne Rooney to rifle home.
Two became three as Rooney again tore forward and fed Juan Mata, who had got outside him on the overlap beyond the left back this time. The Spaniard’s pull back saw Herrera casually slot home his second of the afternoon.
Three goals, all from abusing the positioning of Aston Villa’s full backs.
But it’s not just Man Utd who have opened them up through here. In Aston Villa’s previous Premier League match, a 1-0 home loss to Swansea, Gary Monk’s side also scored the only goal of the game by getting beyond the right back.
Jefferson Montero raced on to a ball played down the outside and curled an exquisite pass for Bafetimbi Gomis to prod home.
What’s more, In Aston Villa’s last Premier League match, a 3-3 draw with QPR, the Ranger boys struck two of their three efforts from getting in to the full back zones.
Despite papering over some cracks since coming in, Tim Sherwood’s side are extremely vulnerable to teams getting in and beyond their full backs. The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Aston Villa this Saturday need to focus on moving the ball out wide and in-behind here. Andros Townsend as a natural winger on the left would be a good call.
2. Countering the counter attack
Aston Villa were always set up to be a counter attacking side under Paul Lambert and they continue to be this way under Tim Sherwood. Even in tearing Sunderland up 4-0 at the Stadium of Light, Sherwood’s side very much played on the counter, driving forward with speed and precision from deeper positions. Sherwood used the pace of Agbonlahor, Benteke, N’Zogbia and Sinclair to jet up the pitch when they created turnovers after inviting the Black Cats on.
It is countering this counter attack that Mauricio Pochettino will need to consider and his best way may well just be giving the Villains enough space to hang themselves. That is not by playing a full-on high press, but engaging the ball when it enters the middle third and looking to spring in to the spaces that appear.
As you can see from the examples above, two of Man Utd’s goals, Swansea’s winner and one of QPR’s goals came from counter attack situations. Louis van Gaal’s side were extremely ruthless at breaking on Villa when they got caught with men forward. Gary Monk’s team scored their goal, but also created other chances, after the Villains were caught unbalanced.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Aston Villa would see us do well to just give Aston Villa enough space to come out. Engaging the ball as it enters the middle third would then give room to run in to rather then hemming Aston Villa in and trying to break down a deep-lying team.
3. Sherwood’s shape
Tim Sherwood has some new ideas, but he has carried a number of things over from his ill-fated time in charge of us.
One of those things is his shape and set-up. Although on paper and in the defensive phase it looks as though he is playing 4-4-2, when Villa have the ball, it opens up in to a 4-3-3. A midfield runner will burst forward and join Benteke and Agbonlahor across the frontline as Villa seek to work crossing positions. Both Scott Sinclair and Charles N’Zogbia have performed this role so far, but without the pair in Villa’s last two matches, Sherwood has used Andreas Wiemann and Jack Grealish.
Just as with us, Sherwood has set his team out to be a crossing side. Despite only averaging 48% possession during his time in charge, Villa have attempted the sixth most crosses in the Premier League during his tenure.
With a very good aerial and hold-up player in Christian Benteke he has just the man to aim for. Containing him will be a big factor in Spurs vs Aston Villa this Saturday.
4. Containing Christian Benteke
It’s no coincide that Tim Sherwood brought Emmanuel Adebayor in from the cold and made him the focus of our offensive play to get the Togolese forward firing. He has done the same with Christian Benteke who had just 2 Premier League goals to his name under Paul Lambert. He now has seven in seven Premier League matches for Sherwood.
Just like with Adebayor, Sherwood is using a big front man to be the focus for moving the ball quickly forward. These can be passes in the air for him to bring down or across the deck in to his feet. The key is to shift the ball forward quickly and keep the central striker involved in the game by continually getting him touches.
Sherwood likes his teams to counter attack and this can mean that they are quickly out on the run – see Benteke’s second goal against QPR for an example of this. If the break isn’t on, then the Villa boss likes his big man to lay it off and then work it in to crossing situations. Benteke is a force in the air and extremely good at finding the target with headers.
Containing Christian Benteke will be key to Spurs vs Aston Villa. It requires defenders who are both strong physically and quick across the ground. Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier both have the skill sets to do this, but having Vlad Chiriches at right back instead of the injured Kyle Walker may just be a blessing in disguise. Having a third centre back with the size and enough speed to deal with the Belgian will be extremely handy as Benteke often drifts to this side.
5. Set pieces
Set pieces will play a big part in this one. Since he has come in, Tm Sherwood is trying to get his side better at dead ball situations and it is paying off. Christian Benteke netted directly from a free kick against QPR and he also scored from a corner against Man Utd. Tim Sherwood’s side have three goals from set pieces during his seven Premier League games in charge.
Although Aston Villa are creating chances from set pieces, they are also conceding them. Since Tim Sherwood took over, only QPR and Crystal Palace have allowed more shots at goal from free kicks and corners. What’s more, they sit fourth in the table amongst the most fouling teams during his time in charge.
Christian Eriksen’s free kicks have been a thing of beauty this season and he should get some more opportunities here. Aston Villa also conceded from a corner against QPR, once more highlighting their poor marking, and the Dane’s deliveries could lead the way to more set piece goals.
Spurs vs Aston Villa outlook
After running his mouth off for most of the week, there will be plenty of motivation to put one over on Tim Sherwood. His loud-mouthed style caused friction with a number of players during his time in charge and putting on a performance would prove a great way to shut him up, for a while.
Spurs vs Aston Villa prediction: Spurs 2 Aston Villa 1.
Spurs vs Aston Villa betting
After last weekend’s flat and lifeless performance, I’m expecting some more zip and fire to this game with early goals and, of course, a Spurs win.