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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

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