Some view Tim Sherwood’s version of Premier League management – post-match interview rants, gillet throw-downs, touchline bust-ups with opposing managers, basic 4-4-2’s and all – as an incredibly refreshing approach amid the corporate, kid gloves climate the English gaffer racket now finds itself in.
As the Independent’s Michael Calvin has labelled the Tottenham manager; “Tim Sherwood was the gaffer reinvented as the geezer.” Through his actions thus far in the White Hart Lane hotseat, the 44 year-old has resembled a figure much closer to a Spurs supporter you might find in a North London pub than his overbearingly intellectual, almost emotionless predecessor, Andre Villas-Boas.
But let us not be fooled; the Tottenham gaffer’s apparently passionate, ‘signing-from-the-heart-not-the-script’ demeanour is sourced from nothing other than his immense naivety as a manager.
There’s a reason you don’t see Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho or Manuel Pellegrini screaming at players from the touchline and booting around water bottles on a weekly basis – because it’s incredibly unproductive and rage can only further cloud ones judgement.
Despite these three managers taking a far more subtle and distinguished approach in the dug-out in comparison to the apparently passionate Sherwood, would you describe any of them as having less enthusiasm for the beautiful game or desire for victory than the Spurs boss?
If arrogance is a poor man’s confidence, then chucking your body-warmer on the floor and flailing your arms in the air is certainly a poor man’s passion. A ten-minute discussion of Tottenham’s tactics would be a far more convincing show of lust for the job than any of Sherwood’s touchline or press conference dramas so far.
Premier League managers have already received a disturbing warning this season for all head coaches who can’t keep their temperament in check, in the form of Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. The Magpies boss already had a prominent wrap-sheet of touchline misdemeanours, but brought a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘losing your cool’ when he decided to try and go head-to-head with Hull City’s David Meyler earlier this month, in possibly the greatest showing of unprofessionalism the Premier League has ever seen.
Like Pardew, I fear that Sherwood’s ferocious approach to dugout administration makes him an accident waiting to happen. Unlike the Newcastle gaffer however, I fear that Sherwood’s touchline aggression isn’t sourced from a hazardous over-enthusiasm, but rather the understandable insecurity of being incredibly out of his depth.
At the start of the season, Sherwood was part of the development structure at White Hart Lane, imprinting his desire and love for the club on the next generation of Tottenham hotshots breaking through. By mid-December, he was suddenly in charge of a first team squad that’s meant to be challenging for Champions League qualification – the holy grail of club level football – and expected to turn £110million’s-worth of transfer flops into flagship performers.
Considering he’s been in the top level management game for just 100 days and counting, Sherwood can feel proud of the progress he’s made thus far. But that’s like judging victories over Olympiacos and West Ham as a great week for Manchester United. In context, yes. In the grand scheme of things, no.
It’s not only Sherwood’s touchline antics that suggests he’s struggling with the weight of the task at hand. His team selections are random and reactionary with seemingly little thought as to how his line-ups will actually influence the match, barring the knowledge that Emmanuel Adebayor’s physical presence in the final third is vital to the Tottenham game-plan of kick-it-and-chase-it 1990’s football.
He’s left the most talented playmaker in Tottenham’s ranks – Christian Eriksen – squandering on the left hand side. Although the Danish international has claimed a stunning six goals and two assists in eight appearances on the left flank, it’s an astonishing waste of by far the most intelligent midfielder at Sherwood’s disposal, who last year was ripping Champions League opposition apart in a No.10 capacity. Amid Erkisen’s absence in the attacking midfield hub, that role has instead gone to Nacer Chadli, Aaron Lennon and Harry Kane over the last few weeks, none of whom can compare with the 22 year-old’s grace, technique or intellect – but that’s not what Sherwood’s all about.
Rather, the Spurs manager’s faith has been bizarrely cemented in academy product Nabil Bentaleb. Sherwood saw this kid develop through the Lane youth ranks and clearly has high hopes for his future. Furthermore, the 19 year-old has put in a number of decent performances in his 13 Premier League outings to date.
Yet, Bentaleb’s showings have not been so almighty and inspiring that the Algerian deserves his place in the Lilywhites first team to come with a virtual guarantee. Sherwood has overseen 15 Premier League fixtures in the Spurs dugout and, despite having never made a single senior appearance in any competition for the North London outfit previously, Bentaleb, who dons an average rating of 6.74 according to Whoscored.com, has featured in all but three of them. That includes starts against Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as against Benfica in the Europa League.
Facing the two London rivals and the Portuguese outfit represented the most determinate week of Tottenham’s 2013/14 campaign. From the three contests, Spurs didn’t record a single win, unsurprisingly so when a rookie 19 year-old is chosen to bedrock the midfield over Moussa Dembele, Paulinho, Sandro and Etienne Capoue. Just for the record, that’s four established international midfielders that Sherwood has sacrificed for the sake of Bentaleb’s development.
Sherwood’s actions over the last 100 days – his public condemnation of the Tottenham roster’s lack of character, his gilet-slamming, abrasive touchline antics, his run-in with Benfica boss Jorge Jesus, and his team selections that strike a disturbing mix between vanity, arrogance and inexperience – don’t suggest a man in the know, or even a man who knows something remotely worthwhile.
The Tottenham gaffer is dangerously out of his depth; he’s a managerial accident waiting to happen. Daniel Levy’s chairman tenure in North London has been plagued by controversial appointments and knee-jerk decisions – sacking AVB for not getting the best out of a batch of prime transfer flops being one of them.
But axing Sherwood would not fall into that category. At this point, it would be like putting a headless chicken out of its misery – before it inadvertently crushes the golden egg.