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A simple plan: Did Tim Sherwood’s tactics cost Tottenham on Sunday?

Feb 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

Is Sherwood's time up at Spurs after three months? The English manager hasn't done much wrong, according to Arlo. Getty Images

The debate about the benefits of tactical sophistication has again settled on Tottenham Hotspur, who saw a distinct change in fortunate this winter after Tim Sherwood was given the manager’s job. Forgoing an André Villas-Boas approach which, while certainly sophisticated, often seemed to stifle players, the former Spurs midfielder instilled a simpler philosophy which resulted in more freedom. The results have seen Tottenham pull itself back into the race for fourth.

But that simplicity may have resulted in naiveté today at Norwich City, however. According to The Guardian’s Michael Cox, “It was simply not clear how Spurs were attempting to breakdown the Norwich back line …”:

Norwich were unspectacular but they had an obvious game plan. The same cannot be said of Spurs under Sherwood and, though his overall impact at the club has been positive, a performance and result like this had somehow been on the cards.

Spurs were a major part of a similar, ‘how are important are these so-called tactics’ dialog before Harry Redknapp‘s departure just over two year ago. Redknapp seemed to assert a mild disdain the more complex tactical discussions that have taken hold over the last five years, even if his in-match decisions often portrayed a more nuanced tactical mind. Qualifying his team for Champions League and getting Spurs into the competition’s final eight, Redknapp seemed to land a salvo against the emerging primacy of tactics.

As Cox notes in his breakdown, on Sunday, Sherwood seemed to lack some of Redknapp’s acumen. Against a team that set up with a near-identical approach (both teams playing lone strikers, two wingers, and a three-man midfield), the new Tottenham boss was unable to orchestrate a goal. Neither his initial plans nor the substitutions he made a Carrow Road prevented an upset, one that leaves his team six points back of fourth place Liverpool.

We have three months to see how this story plays out, but this may be where Sherwood’s lack of experience comes through. Whereas the first-time boss’s approach proved refreshing in the wake of Villas-Boas, his lack of games on the sidelines may prove debilitating as Tottenham tries to claim a Champions League spot.

  1. el timo - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    No amount of tactical sophistication can overcome defensive lapses like those of Dawson, Vertonghen, Bentaleb today. Nor can it make Soldado or Ade hit the target. I will say, however, that Tottenham midfielders like Paulinho and Bentaleb should be fined big bucks (sterling) each time they fail to move the ball upfield, choosing instead to play catch with their backline. Looks like they don’t give a #$@%.

    • lyleoross - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Agreed,

      I will in many ways take Sherwood’s simplicity. AVB had such a complex system that the players looked flat and uninvolved. The system was more important than the players, and the skills they might present.

      You do have to wonder about motivation, focus and player dynamics though.

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