Pitchside Europe

How Sherwood revitalised Spurs’ push for the top four

When Andre Villas-Boas was given his marching orders from White Hart Lane, many Tottenham fans were wondering who could take over and help the side push for the top four. But four games later, few are doubting that Tim Sherwood is the right man for the job.

With three wins in his first four games, including impressive away victories at Southampton and Manchester United, Sherwood has instilled some confidence back into a side that had only taken eight points from their previous seven Premier League encounters.

The key to this success has been a change in formation. Villas-Boas stuck rigidly to a system using one striker, but Roberto Soldado was not having much joy in front of goal and often found himself extremely isolated, meaning he would have to drop deep to collect the ball and leave no one high up the pitch.

Now, with the reintroduction of Emmanual Adebayor, Spurs have a more potent attacking threat and the midfielders have plenty of options going forward.

The Londoners pose more problems for their opposition, having scored nine goals in Sherwood’s four games in charge, compared to just 15 in 16 under Villas-Boas.

The question is whether this is the much-touted “honeymoon period” for a new manager, or whether Sherwood’s alternative brand of football is the right fit for Spurs, and so far it looks like the latter.

Defensively, Michael Dawson appears to be forming a strong partnership with Vlad Chiriches in the middle and, while Hugo Lloris is prone to the odd moment of rashness, the Spurs back line looks more solid already.

Chiriches is only 24 but is showing signs of real maturity and awareness, especially in his last two performances.

In the win at Old Trafford the Romania international made nine successful clearances out of nine and, although he had a close run-in with Danny Welbeck for a potential penalty claim (which was seen by many as a dive), he has stepped up in recent weeks, meaning Jan Vertonghen may find it very hard to get back into the side at his preferred role of centre-back when he returns from injury.

The Sherwood effect, then, is clearly paying dividends despite what many hailed as the premature sacking of his predecessor and hiring of an as-yet unproven coach.

The new Spurs boss’ next challenges are to maintain the form on three fronts, with a huge FA Cup clash against Arsenal on Saturday, a Premier League clash against Manchester City coming up, and the last 32 of the Europa League to contend with next month.

As well as this, Sherwood faces the prospect of the return of many injured players, including Paulinho, Lewis Holtby, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend. With so many calls to make in midfield, the 44-year-old will have to strongly resist the temptation to tinker with what is currently proving to be a winning formula.