Tim Sherwood is the bane of every couch-bound football manager. His team selections illicit derision. His comments are cringe inducing. His tactics outdated.
And still Tottenham continue to win most football matches. It defies all logic. It makes one question their very existence. If everything I thought I knew about football can be so wrong, is there anything I can be sure of anymore?
Tim Sherwood has been the instigator of existential crises in young males up and down the country ever since his first Premier League game in charge against Southampton.
He only played two central midfielders, and neither of them could be described as a ‘ball winner’. He played Sigurdsson and Lamela as traditional wingers in a flat four. He played a ‘big-man/little-man’ combination up front, and sought to get the ball in the box as often as possible. He played ‘4-4-2’ for Christ sake!
And yet Tottenham won 3-2. Tim Sherwood had outwitted managerial hipster-God Mauricio Pochettino. Two games later he went to Old Trafford and won. And two games after that he comprehensively defeated Michael Laudrup’s Swansea. None of it made any sense – and who the hell is Nabil Bentaleb?
As if Sherwood’s old-school tactics were not enough, he would go on to break the managerial golden rule of not criticizing your own players in public. What’s more, his comments were nonsensical.
Following Tottenham’s 4-0 defeat to Chelsea, in which his team had made a string of individual errors, Sherwood didn’t blame bad luck, or lapses in concentration, or anything at all that seemed relevant to the manner of his team’s defeat. Instead, the manager attacked his team’s character.
Attacking the individual moral fibre of what is essentially a group of mercenaries strung together for £110m appeared to be managerial suicide.
Fergusson always blamed some sort of external factor for his team’s losses. And Mourinho was the master of deflecting attention from his players. Wenger, even Wenger, always protected his team from the flack. How could this inexperienced manager think that he could get away with berating his own players in public?
The reaction? They were delighted! Danny Rose revealed how the players loved working under Sherwood. Adebayor credited his manager for his return to form. And Christian Eriksen has spoken openly about how happy he is with training under Sherwood. The mind boggles.
It appeared that the manager could do no wrong no matter how hard he tried. But rest assured, it may just be that time and chance are starting to catch up with the Tottenham manager.
Spurs’ recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool felt like it was the continuation of a trend. Under Sherwood’s management, Spurs have lost every time they’ve faced a team who were above them in the league, apart from when they played Manchester United, who consequently now find themselves below Tottenham.
Essentially, every time Tottenham face any sort of decent opposition, they lose.
There is also the possibility that Sherwood has been riding his luck thus far. Tottenhan haven’t exactly been dominating the games that they have won, and certainly benefitted from the ‘rub of the green’ in their recent victory over Southampton.
As the level of analysis in football has increased, so has the relative importance attributed to the ability of the manager to influence results. And while good football managers tend to stand out in the long-run, we should appreciate that in the short-run, a lot of the game is down to chance.
Sherwood’s initial success as Tottenham manager did not mean that every team should revert back to ‘4-4-2’, and neither would it have been damning for the formation if he had lost all his opening games either. There is potentially for huge variability in the short-run, and therefore we should be reluctant to draw too strong conclusions from this.
In the long-run, the law of averages should catch up with the Tottenham manager. However, whether he’ll be in the job long enough to see if this happens remains to be seen.