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Monday, 30 December 2013

Change is good.

Those of you that actively follow me on Twitter or read my piece for Spurs Stat Man here would understand that I held immediate concerns and strong apprehension amongst Sherwood's full-time appointment. In the short-term he was the only real viable option and Levy had dug himself into a hole without an apparent long-term direction for the football club. I welcomed the introduction of Adebayor alongside Soldado although I strongly felt/still feel that the 4-4-2 previously being employed was not exploiting the talent that we have at our disposal.

The game against West Brom highlighted this. We were far too easy to play against and didn't look organised in midfield as well as being clueless in the final third. Although, against an admittedly poor Stoke side, we looked a fresh outfit. Sherwood's reaction as well as his acknowledgement to change the side and employ a more flexible system against Stoke was a strong positive to see.

 Dembele and Paulinho took turns to sit and advance, closing up any space Stoke had in the middle of the pitch and facilitating our attacks. In truth, this is where we exploit the best of Dembele and it's surprising that we don't see him scoring more goals than he does. Hopefully this license to drive from midfield as he did so well last year will enable us to be more clinical in the final third than we have been in general this season. The attributes are there, we just need him operating in his strongest areas of the pitch.

We're slowly seeing more of Eriksen as the season progresses and it's becoming easier to forget that the Dane is just 21. This side tended to drift away from the 4-4-2 operated against West Brom and Eriksen was given license to tuck in behind Soldado and to operate centrally. With Adebayor dropping in to an advance midfield role as we know he can so well, it was a pleasure to see him and Eriksen on the ball and feeding in others. Two players that fully appreciate the lack of shackles bounded around their ankles. The general consensus was that we were far more organised against Stoke, something we distinctly lacked against West Brom, and hopefully this is another building block to implementing a system and a regular first XI.

What brought about more confidence was the interview Dembele gave regarding Sherwood post-Stoke.

"He's not been with us long, but he's made some adjustments and he's talked with us a lot." - This suggesting Sherwood is still open to the idea of implementing a different system to suit the players who welcome the communication and the open-mindedness.

"He gives us confidence to play our own game and to attack while remaining organised." - In truth, the players seem to struggle with self-belief towards the end of AVB's reign and it's positive to see that the confidence is being restored. It'll be the reaction after a defeat from here on in that will be the biggest test. Also to note that Dembele has mentioned about the organisation whilst attacking, something distinctly missing against West Brom but evident against Stoke.

"We're playing in a very attacking way, but he makes sure we're organised. You can't all attack at once, so he explains it to us and we train that way." - More emphasises on the organisation of the side which will be given a huge test at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

It's frustrating to see us continually in a transition although it's positive to see an open and confident response to an unsettling two or so weeks at the club. Sherwood has sought to lay down the organisation in the side and the next step will be selecting a consistent XI and arguably finding how to best exploit Eric Lamela.

I'd be tempted to label our set-up against Stoke as a 4-2-3-1 with Adebayor dropping in the front three behind Soldado. His free role in the team makes it difficult for him to be picked up by defenders and also supports the midfielders in attack. Soldado's movement still lacks a real cutting edge but he's made notable improvements in the last two weeks under Sherwood and hopefully we'll see the best of him in 2014.

United and Arsenal will be two real tests for Sherwood that have arguably come slightly prematurely. He's stabilised the train and we no longer look to be falling off the rails. Although we've experienced some very poor performances under his brief time in charge and hopefully these have been addressed. Sherwood knows he's little to lose during his time in charge of the club and this was reflected in our last outing against Stoke as we played with far more confidence and conviction as well as looking far more settled and organised than we have done for a few months.

We'll need both discipline and ruthlessness if we're to get a sniff of a point on Wednesday. We've the personnel to over-power their midfield and create the chances although have looked a little suspect at the back at times. Grabbing the chances we do get by the lower regions and smothering United will be key but I predict a very open game.

It's hard to see how this side will approach the tougher fixtures that await us. The arguably reduced expectation can only be seen as a positive.

Ben - you can follow me on Twitter here

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


It's understandable that a part of us may begin feeling a little isolated and the feeling of disillusionment over the football club we've followed for the best part of our lifetimes is hovering over our heads just waiting to come crashing down, punishing every ounce of optimism that remains from a summer that promised so much.

AVB is gone. A victim of football's short-mindedness and an example of the hollow commitments that plague the modern game. A manager forever working to disprove the doubters, you always gathered he managed football matches with a weight tied to his ankles. A working struggle to communicate his methods, his passion was never thrown into doubt. As fans we're sold a long-term project. We're sold our new Wenger, Ferguson. We invest hope and expectation. Cutting short at the first sign of trouble seems an easy way out. Regardless of ability, dark patches will inevitably face the greatest of managers and their response to these unwelcoming patches could define a season. Our unwelcoming loss and the snatching of defeat from victory at Goodison saw a reactive change in training methods and a 3 month unbeaten run. We ended the season on record points.

Among hiring AVB, Levy stated the following: "He has an outstanding reputation for his technical knowledge of the game for creating well-organised teams capable of playing football in an attractive and attacking style." It was arguably the latter part of this statement that saw AVB's tenure at Spurs cut prematurely short. The league table didn't show a too discomforting position but that depends where the expectations lay. Belief seemed lost in both the players and the management, they began looking incompatible although I personally felt AVB could've provided the required solution.

Our project was cut short after 18 months, as was my belief that we're willing to give a manager time.

The division amongst our next appointment remained split and the appointment of Sherwood has done little to eliminate that division - nor has the choice to 'commit' an entire 18 months with him. Sherwood's already sought to stamp his authority on this Football Club. His evident opinionated and arrogant outlook could work in giving the players the overdue slap in the face that they've needed this year. His frank and honest views with the media almost create a Harry Redknapp 2.0.

It's fair to say we know little of what we'll get from Sherwood but the priority has to be a settled first XI. It's incredible that we don't know our strongest 11 whilst on the fringes of the half way point in the season. We've done little to allow players to settle into a position and we've tarnished the tools required to breed partnerships. 'The Spurs Way' is likely to do more damage than good to a manager. All I'd want is stability, although acknowledge that in the long-run we're still lacking this in regards to the management. At Southampton we seemed to employ little method but our technical players grabbed the game by the lower regions and played some nice football.

We've found positives thus far in a turbulent week. The shackles have been released from Ade and we're seeing the best of a very talented forward. This exponential effect of this was a better performance from Soldado on Sunday. A weight lifted from his shoulders. He had more chances engineered against Southampton than any other notable PL game this season and helped create two goals for Adebayor. A partnership that could blossom. The attributes are there, the belief just needs to remain.

Christian Eriksen also had a very promising game in a deeper role on Sunday. A long-term solution? I'm unsure but he looked tidy playing there. Of course the Dane is technically a very astute player, his ability remarkable for his tender age. He knows the passes to pick but wasn't afraid to stick in a tackle. Lamela showed more flair and fight this year, more building blocks towards the finished article. Nabil Bentaleb showed us that our youth team is something worth remaining optimistic about.

It's anyones guess as to how this season will pan out. We have stability in the short-term although our long-term plan is seemingly non-existent. We have a talented squad and the hope is that Sherwood's personality doesn't isolate them. Our chances of success are about as likely as our chances of failure, but atleast the enjoyment of watching Tottenham Hotspur may just have returned.

Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here