For all the great work that has been done since the former Spurs bosses arrival there have been a few red flags. It was put to me recently, by an objective party, that he feels that the ‘Tactics Tim’ effect is simply a dead cat bounce, new manager syndrome.
Sherwood has not been a manager long enough to see whether he can have a more long-term effect on positive results and organisation. Despite a positive start, the end of the season was still worrying. While the demolition against Southampton could be put down to post safety experimentation with a high line, the manner of the defeat is still unacceptable.
The following week against Burnley Villa never really showed up and lost 1-0 to the already relegated team. Yes, we were safe already but with two weeks to go in the season, Villa looked like they could finish as high as 15th. We finished 17th. Just one place above relegation. Maybe the players had one eye on the FA Cup final but it is the manager’s job to focus the players and to avoid complacency. If the players were saving themselves for the final it didn’t show.
The big day came and while Arsenal were admittedly a class apart at Wembley the failure to challenge or create a single chance is not good enough, regardless of the opponent.
The tactics were all wrong too, sacrificing any width at all isolated Benteke up front, and substitutions such as bringing on defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez at 3-0 down are hardly inspiring. Sherwood dropped the ball big time on this one.
While Sherwood lauded his own decision to identify Liverpool’s weaknesses and deploy two number tens in the semi-final, his lineup in the final showed some serious tactical naivety. Wenger simply sat his midfield back a little deeper in the opening 20 minutes to blunt any early exuberance from the opposition that almost unhinged his team in the previous season, then they simply took Villa apart.
To simply put it down to being beaten by a better team would ignore some glaring issues that need to be recognised and addressed. Villa managed no shots on target and didn’t even force one corner from Arsenal.
Getting to team to the final deserves praise and it gave the players and fans a lift, but becoming showpiece whipping boys has the potential to negate all of the positives of a good cup run.
It may be a blessing in disguise as the team is not currently equipped to balance Premier League and Europa League campaigns next season, but it’s difficult to celebrate such high-profile misfiring as the cup final demolition by Arsenal.
For all the good the new boss has done with Grealish, Delph, and Benteke, there are other players who he hasn’t dealt so well with.
Against Arsenal it was not just the tactical selection that were wrong but the personnel too. There have been games where selecting certain players has seemed to be obvious decisions to fans but Sherwood has decided against changes. The best example of this has to be Carles Gil. Gil was one of the few bright sparks under Lambert, his energy and preference for taking on players was, and is, something Villa sorely miss.
There is a feeling that this may be a political statement from the new boss, hanging Gil out to dry as a metaphor for erasing the memory of Lambert’s team. Sherwood suggested that some players just weren’t capable of the commitment necessary on the pitch. To anyone watching Villa it is clear that Gil brings a lot more effort and industry to games than Charles N’Zogbia, who Sherwood has regularly started in place of Gil or Sinclair.
Now that the season is over, and we are still in the dark over any definite movement in regards to new owners, there is only one thing we can focus on as a signal of next seasons intent, transfers. One of Tim Sherwood’s big selling points in the last few months, in his own opinion, is how well he has done in his short managerial career without ever even having a pre season or transfer window. There is an argument that this may in fact have worked in Sherwood’s favour, that he hasn’t had the chance to make any bad transfers.
Many Villa fans are worried that our recruitment this season will consist of a number of ex-Tottenham players who didn’t quite make the grade. This may prove unfair.
So Far, So Good
It’s early days but despite there being a few ex-Spurs boys mentioned, it seems like Villa are being linked with players who will fit the mould of improving the squad’s quality and desire. Micah Richards in and the likes of Weimann, Lowton and Sylla heading out, have certainly been proof of that. There could be cause for some real optimism next season, and not another false dawn that Villa fans have had to suffer too often in the past.
I’m still reserving complete judgement on the success of the Sherwood project until next season, but so far I have to admit that it looks promising. However, Sherwood’s lack of experience and end of season gaffes mean that we should be cautious.
While I might not have the same confidence in him as he does in himself, Sherwood has at least earned a chance to try take this club to the next level (regardless of the owner). Best of luck next year Tim, and please keep proving my initial hunch wrong. UTV
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