Debrief: Sherwood's gambles pay dividends, and more stuff we learned this weekend

Joe Brewin reflects on the Premier League weekend before Christmas, featuring Sherwood's roll of the dice, the understated Negredo and what Roy should do with the kids this summer...

Sherwood's gambles paid off

Let's be honest, they were risks. The stand-in boss held true to his word about bringing back attacking football to Tottenham after the departure of Andre Villas-Boas. It's exactly what the Londoners got, as Sherwood elected for two strikers in Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor and noticeable lack of a holding midfielder in a potentially disastrous 4-4-2 formation.

While it wasn't exactly the tactical masterclass it'll be billed as in the papers, credit must go to Spurs' caretaker boss. After all, his side bagged three - forgotten man Adebayor helped himself to two - as they secured victory despite falling behind to Adam Lallana's well-taken opener. Even when Mousa Dembele succumbed to injury five minutes after half-time, Sherwood chose to ignore the benched Etienne Capoue in favour of unproven Nabil Bentaleb. 

In this case it worked; Southampton, without three of their first choice back four thanks to the absences of Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw, and snubbed Jose Fonte, weren't strong enough to combat the visitors' prowess at the sharp end. For all their possession in safe areas (just 56 of their 411 passes came in the final third), only the excellent Lallana looked like making the extra midfield manpower count. The England man created a game-high four chances - all in central positions around the box - and laid on a wonderful assist for Rickie Lambert. 

But how sustainable are Sherwood's attack-first ideologies? It took fewer than 15 minutes for Tottenham to demonstrate how easily sides could expose them on the break, as midfield naivety helped Southampton open the scoring (Lamela drifting inside unnecessarily, Dembele caught upfield). And, while Soldado picked up an excellent assist for his strike partner's first goal, the Spaniard's familiar problems were evident in the first half as he received only 14 passes. Unlike previous games, however, he enjoyed three excellent opportunities in the space of five second-half minutes but failed to hit the target with any of them. Maybe, though, this is the new lease of life - and confidence boost - that Soldado needs. 

All in all, though, Spurs fans should go away happy. The entertainment tipped in their favour, Adebayor's man-of-the-match display was a huge plus, Christian Eriksen impressed in a deeper role (winning 5/6 tackles, a game high), Bentaleb slotted in seamlessly and, most importantly, they won for the third time in four games. A Boxing Day tussle against West Brom at White Hart Lane might give us another glimpse into a potential future.

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Alvaro Negredo is Man City's unsung hero

If you're anything like FFT, you'll have watched the assist for James Milner's goal at least 300 times (weekends are lonely, what?). It didn't come from David Silva or Jesus Navas, though, but the outer boot of former Sevilla goal-getter Negredo. 

The absence of Sergio Aguero means Manuel Pellegrini needs his summer signing more than ever to combat City's Achilles heel away form, but on Saturday the Spain man stepped up to the plate as the free-scoring marauders won 4-2 at Fulham. He didn't net himself, but that didn't matter. He's scored six fewer goals than Aguero in the league this season, but neither does that. City fans have taken Negredo to their hearts after recognising that the 28-year-old is more than just the poacher they thought they'd bagged from La Liga.

As he drove from his own half, beat a defender with some delightful skill and laid the ball off for Edin Dzeko to fire over in the first half (when a square pass probably would have resulted in a goal), the cry of "BEEAAST" was clearly audible from the away end at Craven Cottage. It also highlighted the difference between the two team-mates. Goals aren't everything. 

Importantly, the Spaniard is willing to do the unglamorous jobs on the edge of the box that help City's midfielders remain involved and dangerous. Much like Olivier Giroud at Arsenal, Negredo's hold-up play is excellent (as he particularly showed in the derby demolition of Manchester United) and it's this unselfishness that should help Aguero to keep firing for the rest of the season. 

Even those with a love for the cold, hard goal stats can't grumble - so far it's a goal every other game in the league and cup, and five in five for the Champions League. For City fans there's nothing to dislike and everything to love about the Beast of Vallecas bringing beauty to the party.

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The kids are alright for Roy

It's been a good weekend for the England manager. On Saturday Jordan Henderson continued his superb season form with two assists in the 3-1 win over Cardiff, a game in which Raheem Sterling started and scored in to cap another eye-catching attacking display from the 19-year-old. Ravel Morrison started against former club Manchester United at Old Trafford. On Sunday Ross Barkley's dazzling campaign continued with the winner - a beautifully struck free-kick - for Everton at Swansea. Jack Wilshere is fit for good.

Just for japes, grab a pen and some paper, and write down your England squad. Difficult, right? Well, it's the welcome decision Roy Hodgson will be forced to contend with when he decides who to take to Brazil next summer. The truth of the matter is that all of the above - and maybe more - have reasons for optimism. 

Although traditionally cautious, former Liverpool chief Hodgson has shown signs that he's willing to ditch the Old Guard with the recent inclusions of Andros Townsend, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana (slightly older at 25). And with so many young upstarts putting in performances that can't be ignored on a weekly basis, it's now almost impossible to see how the likes of Frank Lampard can be considered for the plane.

There's five-and-a-half months for them to shine - more than enough time for Hodgson to change his mind several times. Essentially they're now competing against one another for just one or two places. Greg Dyke might not fancy England's chances in the group (see cut-throat gesture at the draw), but looking beyond the obvious crop should be as exciting as it is unpredictable and scary. England won't win the World Cup in the usual way - it's time to take some risks.

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