By Adam Keeble
Tim Sherwood divided fans before his appointment, but united them after merely turning up at Villa Park and inspiring the team to victory. What else did Aston Villa fans learn from Sherwood himself and the Leicester City FA Cup game?
After a dull-as-dishwater pre-match interview with interim boss Stuart Marshall, his vow to follow in “The Boss’s” footsteps and mimic the late Paul Lambert’s tactics, formation and attitude led to a dull-as-dishwater first half against Leicester.
It’s fair to say Sherwood’s presence in the stands subdued the boos at half-time as fans knew, regardless of what they thought of his appointment, surely the days of such wretched football were coming to an end. In fact the atmosphere in the ground was as it should be for a cup time – excited, electric and loud.
If the first half was poor, after Sherwood visited the team at half time, and added his thoughts to Marshall’s, the boys came out looking like they were on a mission. It was subtle tweaks that made the difference: Delph more involved in the attacks, Benteke’s movement more threatening, plus even Cleverley had a decent game adding vital industry to the middle of the park. In fact, there was added energy all around
Look at all those shots on target! Look at all those chances! Even on the occasions when Lambert’s teams came out at half-time looking more interested, they didn’t look this threatening in front of goal. The ball was in the back of the net four times (twice disallowed). How often have we seen that?
Again, regardless of what you think of Sherwood’s appointment, and how much credit you can give to him for his half-time chat, this was much more like what fans wanted to see.
If it hadn’t been Sherwood and instead had been Hoddle, Clough, Klinsmann or Howe, the excitement generated by ANY new appointment will often light the blue touch paper and set the fireworks off. Sherwood will have a honeymoon period, and if he meets his target of six wins from 13, everything else is gravy. And safe to say he will win over any doubters if he can keep us up and keep us smiling.
THE “F” WORD
It made me laugh out loud when Sherwood’s comments that Villa would be “fine” were so much more reassuring than when Lambert said it as we dropped into the bottom three after the Hull disaster.
When Lambert said the “F” word it was after one of the worst performances of the season against a team we should have been beating and outwitting in our sleep. His “fine” meant “we’re going to keep doing this same old stuff – or get even uglier – and hope there are three teams worse than us in May.” But for Sherwood to use the same word and get such a different response (from the fans and the press) is a great piece of rhetoric – using Lambert’s own words to prove that the new guy can be believed.
Sherwood’s “fine” meant: we are NOT going to carry on doing the same old stuff because that’s what put us in this position in the first place. And all he has to back it up are his games as Spurs’ boss and a near-mythical half-time speech that saw us into the quarter-finals against the Baggies. But that was enough reassurance for the majority of fans.
BACUNA AND N’ZOGBIA
Bacuna was pretty bloody awful in the first half against Leicester. Even last season when he scored a big goal or two, he’s been a luxury carried by the other 10 players on the field. He can’t tackle, he certainly isn’t a right back, and he very rarely chases a ball once he’s lost it. But then he goes and pulls out a cracking opening goal (sparing his substitution by a few minutes).
Sherwood has been lauded for his work with young players and Bacuna could be a huge beneficiary of his new boss. Never mind what he could do for Grealish: Bacuna could finally find his position and place in a Villa best XI with a little help and a lot of hard work.
Sherwood’s comments that no player will be bomb-squadded will be music to Charles N’Zogbia’s ears. Lambert got him back out of the reserves but, presumably, he looked lost, lazy and frustrated with the ex-boss calling the shots.
Like Alex McLeish yelling at Darren Bent to chase back, Lambert may have been restraining N’Zogbia with his tactics and generally defensive outlook. If Sherwood can bring out the best in Adebayor, why can’t he do the same for Charlie?
That’s a far better comparison that asking what Sherwood can do for Benteke. And if Sherwood can work his magic on Charles, he might finally look like the replacement for Ashley Young he was always supposed to be. When Sherwood said: “We’ve got good players who can play off the cuff – and they have 1 v 1 individual ability. We need to get them on the ball in the right areas of the field” he could easily been talking about Gil or Grealish or (as the official site is suggesting) Benteke. But it could also have been N’Zogbia or even Agbonlahor. Wouldn’t that be something?
STOKE-ING THE FIRES
While the FA Cup tie against WBA is a cracker to look forward too, fans will learn an awful lot about the real Tim Sherwood from his team selection and formation against Stoke on Saturday. Traditionally he favours the 4-4-2 and that will be another welcome breath of fresh air for fans frustrated by Lambert’s 4-3-3.
From his first games, Lambert was determined to play his 4-3-3 despite the fact he didn’t really have the players to fit it very well. With Gil and Sinclair (a parting gift from Lambert) fit he has his wingers but more importantly room for a striker to play off of Benteke which can only be a good thing.
The Stoke game will be as hotly anticipated as any under Lambert’s reign and could be a defining moment in the short-term future of Aston Villa FC. The fans should be licking their lips for this one. UTV
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