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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sherwood's Master Plan.

Fresh off of consecutive wins at Old Trafford we arguably approached the Emirates with a false sense of confidence and a not so much a 'renewed' but a brief 'revitalisation' of the limited optimism that had dragged us through the season so far. Possibly unwanted. We'd just about scrubbed away the expectation. The brief strangle hold of financial net spend and squad settling issues keeping us from scenarios involving dark rooms and brandy. It's our defence mechanism. A mechanism I sincerely hope we lack next season.

I'm not knocking it, it's fact. Tottenham Hotspur: forever the 'next season' team. Not quite the soundbite notoriously heard at Anfield at the start of every season but you get the gist, it's frustrating. With Bale leaving and 7 players unknown to the Premier League, this year was always going to have atleast an element of settlement required. With AVB gone who knows how long it'll be before we can have a season with little change.

Confidence at your own peril. The DNA of Tottenham never changes, you never know what you'll get with us. The Enemy at their place on the back of Christmas was probably one fixture too much for us. The same 11 feeling the effects of 6 games in 17 days. Feet up and cotton wool were probably needed for the week preceding the win at Old Trafford, they deserved it.

Sherwood, not wanting to alter a short-term winning formula and a lack of options, was limited in selection and picked the strongest available names - bar arguably Bentaleb. Fatigue likely ripe within. We could see the car-crash on the horizon. Yet we remained hopeful. Somehow, someone would step up and become a hero. Contrary to our boss, we were overrun in midfield. Dembele given the job of three at the worst of times. Dropping Soldado and putting Capoue in alongside Dembele and Bentaleb would've given the protection the back four needed. What was more worrying was we could foresee this although our manager seemingly couldn't.

When in possession we were pressed high up the pitch, as expected. Walcott making up extra numbers in midfield. Arsenal were relentless without the ball. Again though, as expected. Sitting deep to counteract Walcott's pace made sense although as a result we couldn't press the ball as often as we may have liked. Eriksen was forced to stay out left far often than he'd have liked and we didn't set up as we should've done until after Rosicky had capitalised on our second defensive error of the night. Given, we sought to make the change before that blunder.

But it is how it is. Neither side were at their strongest. It's frustrating, of course it is. We made individual errors but, if anything, this game should encourage us to operate a different system. The short term under Sherwood made us far more unpredictable, as did 4-4-2, but it's so quickly sussed out & an easy system to play against with a rampant midfield. The space in front of the back 4 left Dawson and Chiriches with little protection but also fewer options to play the ball when in possession.

Hindsights a wonderful thing. It's perfection. We always question our decisions to lavish any hope on a performance at the Emirates worthy of 3 points. It's the hope that keeps us sane, but it's the same hope that can push you over the edge. You appreciate the smaller things in life and turn your back on football momentarily after a defeat.

Soldado reportedly came off with a knock. He's remained a regular fixture in the side despite the recent flurry of fixtures. He's looked better without quite turning it on just yet. If When he's not scoring he's contributing. There's a real ball of fire in him, but we're seeing just a flame so far. The tip of the iceberg. Time obviously not on his side but it's more promising than it was 4 months ago. But this knock may provide us the opportunity to tamper and test the 4-2-3-1 that Sherwood finished the Arsenal game with, albeit with different personnel.

Sherwood: When you lose the ball you are always going to be out of shape - otherwise you are going to be a rigid, boring team". You understand his point but that statement is incredibly naive. Eriksen's recent growth in confidence has allowed him more expression on the pitch. Taking away those final shackles pinning him to cover left midfield will grant him the freedom he so desperately craves in that number 10 role. With Dembele & Sandro sitting in behind him offering support in possession, we could still play with the same flair but have the stability we've arguably lacked under Sherwood. Ie. we could keep our shape though operate it a little deeper when not in possession.

Regardless of how this season turns out, you still get the impression we lack a long-term plan. Sherwood's steered the ship back on course in the Premier League but we look every part as likely to steer it back off it again. We've one competition left in which to compete for silverware and I hope we give it a go (again that word 'hope'). A fully fit squad will allow us to. But that's a feat rarely found but desperately craved in football.