So what’s going on? A state of managerless chaos in December with injuries adding up almost as fast as the goals against column is within a month transformed into a much more acceptable steady climb up the table with almost all of the belief and confidence dispelled by the six and five nil beatings dished out by the playthings of Abu Dhabi and Boston all but entirely back in place.
In the pub on Monday I heard an Everton fan, clearly unable to cope with the relative success of his side this season, exclaim at the final whistle – “we’re behind Spurs and they’ve got Tim Sherwood and they’re playing 4-4-2!” he might as well have added “those cheeky Cockney upstarts!”
So is Sherwood getting away with it and if so, what’s he getting away with? Was following Bill Shankly’s mantra that ‘football’s a simple game’ all that was needed to bring the best out of the disparate bunch of millionaires that make up our squad? Can it be that the game is so straightforward that geeing players up and then fielding them in their preferred positions is all that’s needed to make a success of this management game? We can’t be having that, not when you can invert the pyramid, have a false number nine or get Prozone to choose your team for you.
It’s odd that someone of Sherwood’s football experience somehow exudes such an aura of naivety, but he does. His commitment to an apparently almost childish (if you believe some of the somewhat hysterical views being aired about a system that is so unsuited to success that there’s a popular football magazine named after it) formation, his confession that he knew little of some members of his own first team squad (Capoue) or supposed targets (Pandev), give him a sort of Forrest Gump, Peter Sellers Chance or of course – and here we might be getting closer to the truth – Harry Redknapp air.
But what are we getting? Redknapp Lite or Redknapp Like? Harry never came across as naive, far from it – unless you’re an Old Bailey jury maybe. He always gave the impression that he knew more than enough, but that he was only going to let you know exactly what he thought you needed to know. Loyalty was another quality of Harry’s. As we all know, he had his friends in the media, in his coaching staff and amongst the players and he was faithful to a fault to all of them. We’ve yet to find out which, if any, of these characteristics Sherwood embodies but his promotion of Bentaleb for one indicates that if you’re good enough and he trusts you, you’ll do well by him.
Another Harry trait was his famous ‘arm around the shoulder’ approach and there’s been much speculation that Erik Lamela’s introduction into the Premiership would’ve been far more successful if Harry rather than AVB had been around at the beginning to help him through his lonely hotel period. The Argentine’s injury means that we’ve yet to see whether Sherwood likes him as a player and can get the most out of him, there is no doubt though that his handling of Adebayor compared to the previous incumbent is in a different class. What happens when Ade starts turning in some his more can’t be arsed rag doll performances we don’t know but with any luck we’ll never find out.
Motivation, tactics and the ability to spot talent are three of the major skills any manager should possess. In his brief career thus far Sherwood has exhibited all of these. He has got the best out of Adebayor, used a formation that has got us scoring goals again and when he gave starts to a youngster ahead of more experienced players was rewarded with a performance that contained more passes to a colleague than any other player in Europe was capable of that weekend which is quite something.
The massively pro British manager press will give Sherwood an easy time of it for a while, he’ll get a longer honeymoon than Benitez or Villas-Boas for example. He may need it; he’s new to this game after all. From what we’ve seen so far though, in answer to my previous question, I’d say we’re getting Redknapp Like – and that’s no bad thing.
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