As the dust settles on a turbulent season at White Hart Lane. Tim Sherwood will be looking to pick up the pieces of his short and somewhat controversial managerial career. Removed from his post as Spurs boss, as expected, at the end of the season. There are many reasons why Tim’s reign at Spurs has come to an abrupt end after only 6 months. His results against the big teams, poor handling of the media and his own playing staff, plus allowing a fan to take his seat during a match, to name a few.
But despite all of his media shortcomings, Sherwood has lost his position because he has not provided a style of play or footballing philosophy that the players and fans have been able to buy into. Sherwood was using phrases like “its an easy game” and “play to our strengths” during the early days of his management at Spurs and his only obvious change to the team was to introduce a 4-4-2 formation. The motivational speeches are all well and good, and can be useful to build up a bit of early enthusiasm, but once that enthusiasm goes, at the top level, Managers need to have a preferred style of play that defines how they manage and set up their teams. Whether it be a long ball game or a press and pass counter attacking style, a top club manager will usually adopt a particular preference to playing a certain way. Wenger has his pass and move philosophy, Pep Guardiola had the Tikki Takka at Barca, now the likes of Martinez and Pochettino have developed strong pass, move and pressing styles at both Everton and Southampton respectively. Even Sam Allardyce, with his more direct approach to the game, has a style he adheres to.
Successful managers develop styles of play that can be associated with the teams they manage, therefore providing a focus and a common goal for the fans and players to buy into.
At no point during his reign, did Sherwood seem to impart any particular style of play on his Spurs team. He clearly favoured a 4-4-2 formation and that was well documented, but the style of play within that formation was pretty much non existent. Contrast that to Rodgers at Liverpool and from the very early days of his reign, he had already singled out Carroll to be surplus to requirements. That was a bold move considering the club had recently paid well over the odds at £35m to acquire his services. But Rodgers had a style and a way he wanted his team to play, and that could not accommodate a player of Andy Carroll’s nature. Like Sherwood, Rodgers had some mixed results during the initial part of his Liverpool reign, one would argue his results were worse overall than Sherwood’s. Yet Rodgers maintained his belief in the high pressing, counter attacking style he wanted to play. As a club, the fans and players could buy into that and therefore forgive him the poor results as the transition took place, and now the club is reaping the benefits.
Sherwood was faced with a similar situation at Spurs, but when it came to the bad results, he had no philosophy or style to base his arguments on, he had nothing to defend himself with. So as he was attacked in the media, he hit back by blaming players and owners for their lack of ability and ambition, rather than questioning his own ideas and philosophies. He then became reliant on trying to build an image as a happy go lucky guy, who everyone could associate with. He failed miserably and now needs to focus more effort on developing his style of play, rather than his media popularity.
Sherwood now has to go away and consider what he wants to become identified for and develop a style he feels comfortable implementing. If he looks at the way Martinez has transformed Everton from a David Moyes “defend first” unit into a dynamic fluid attacking side and likewise the job Pochetino has done at Southampton. These are both examples of young managers who have developed styles of play from which their teams can be recognised.
Sherwood will get offered new roles in management, although they are unlikely to be as high profile as the Spurs role, not initially anyway. He will have the opportunity to rebuild his reputation as a manager. His commitment and enthusiasm are not in doubt. Media and player management skills are something that he can work on over time and will no doubt improve upon. If he can now adopt a style that will identify how a Tim Sherwood team sets up, could he have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Rodgers at Liverpool and become one of the new up and coming managers of his generation? quite possibly.
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