Sherwood's Gung-ho Approach Shot Down in Flames by Wenger - The New Indian Express

Sherwood's Gung-ho Approach Shot Down in Flames by Wenger

Published: 05th January 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 05th January 2014 11:37 AM

Tottenham's apprentice manager given harsh tactical lesson as his men are overrun in midfield

Sherwood's really big idea - two strikers on the pitch at the same time - will probably work in most games, certainly against less glamorous opponents | AP
Tim Sherwood is learning that you need more than a gung-ho spirit to deal with the likes of Arsene Wenger. Youth, self-confidence and an unashamed faith in 4-4-2 alone will not carry the latest Tottenham Hotspur manager to safe ground beyond his current 18-month deal.

Wenger has now faced 10 Tottenham coaches in his 18 years at Arsenal. He has outstayed them all, from Gerry Francis through Jacques Santini and Juande Ramos to Andre Villas-Boas.

Among the assets Wenger can bring to north-London derbies is continuity of purpose. The modern Arsenal way has evolved over two decades. The only thing Tottenham really know is that they boast an attacking tradition but have struggled to find a manager to shape it for more than a season or two.

Understandably Sherwood came here looking to extend the promise of last week's win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. His players were re-energised, Emmanuel Adebayor is rehabilitated and Sherwood radiates extraordinary self-assurance for one with so little actual experience. And why not? The Premier League is no place for Uriah Heep. But a sharp eye and a clear voice in news conferences cannot disguise the scale of the challenge, which is the one that defeated Villas-Boas.

Post Gareth Bale, the problem has been one of mass integration. By the end of AVB's time, Spurs had grown slow, stodgy, cautious. Sherwood knew he could lift that cloud by restoring the team's pace and ambition. But he went much further, redrawing the team's structure.

Walcott Adds Insult to Spurs' Injured Pride

Sherwood's really big idea - two strikers on the pitch at the same time (a virtual heresy these days) - will probably work in most games, certainly against less glamorous opponents. We all love a bit of retro and we certainly all like goalscorers. However, in the first-half here it looked the wrong trick to try against Arsenal, who packed their midfield and deployed Theo Walcott as a lone centre-forward.

You could argue that Spurs are really a 4-4-1-1 side now, with Roberto Soldado behind Adebayor, but the outcome is the same when two central midfielders have to cope with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla, not to mention Serge Gnabry darting in from the right.

The two sentries in front of Tottenham's back-four were Moussa Dembele and 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb. "I trust that kid," Sherwood said of Bentaleb after his debut. It was encouraging for Spurs fans to see a youngster promoted and a memo sent to the new signings: the settling-in period is over, results are required.

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger | AP
The theory was fine but the reality weighed heavily on Dembele and Bentaleb as the Arsenal quartet played their jazz. With Olivier Giroud injured and ill and Lukas Podolski rested, Wenger elected to employ a midfield surge behind Walcott, who combined with Gnabry to test Hugo Lloris after 13 minutes and curled a shot round the Tottenham post moments later.

If the arrival of the team-sheets suggested a relaxed approach to this tie from the Arsenal end, Wenger again demonstrated his skill at varying his formula from a base of good midfield passing. First Gnabry - a fine prospect who may yet make Germany's World Cup squad - darted inside to feed Cazorla on the left, then, on 61 minutes, Danny Rose lost possession to Rosicky, who ran half the length of the pitch and chipped Lloris.

Sherwood had seen enough of 4-4-2 for now and withdrew Soldado in favour of Nacer Chadli, with Christian Eriksen now the most advanced of Tottenham's five midfielders.

Many will have felt Adebayor was the more likely candidate to come off, especially after Sherwood had spoken in midweek of the player's aches and pains after the United game. In fact he made him sound like El Cid, who would be strapped to his horse and sent out to face his old club.

With a 2-0 lead Wenger could afford to send on Mathieu Flamini in place of Wilshere, though Mesut Ozil replacing Arteta restored the creative balance.

On the face of it we were watching one immensely experienced manager who knows every detail about every one of his players dish out a tactical lesson to a promising rookie who will not be able to expose his central midfield to such numerical inferiority against opponents of Arsenal's quality.

Hardly surprising. If Sherwood were at Wenger's level after a handful of games we would have to open him up to check for electronic circuitry. Nor is the identity of Tottenham's best starting XI anything like clear.

Plainly they missed the injured here and asked too much of Bentaleb, in this formation, however promising he is.

The pain of defeat was too much for a tiny number of Spurs fans who taunted and threw plastic bottles in the direction of Walcott as he left the field on a stretcher with seven minutes left. Reports suggest Walcott first goaded Tottenham's supporters with a 2-0 finger gesture.

Sherwood's enthusiasm will not be washed away by this emphatic defeat but he will not enjoy the reviews. They will point to the need to be tactically flexible at this level as well as the lack of clarity about Tottenham's pecking order. For him there were bound to be days like this after such a dramatic rise.

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