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Sherwood's midfield failings away from home could haunt him at Newcastle

Tim Sherwood may have left Spurs with a 59% win record but, as fans will tell you, there was plenty of room for improvement away from White Hart Lane.

His desire to play a very direct, attacking 4-4-2 on the road led to just 14 points from 10 away matches; eight in his final eight.

There is no doubt Sherwood's tactics are adventurous, but the consistency with which he fields two central midfielders – creating an oft-porous midfield that can be overrun in the Premier League – is cause for alarm, particularly when the opposition contains the pace and power of Moussa Sissoko and Remy Cabella.

We have only one Sherwood-led Aston Villa match to analyse for clues, but already a familiar tactical pattern is emerging. Against Stoke, Villa's system was more 4-2-3-1 than 4-4-2, although Carles Gil and Gabby Agbonlahor's high positioning still left Carlos Sanchez and Fabian Delph with a significant proportion of the defensive burden.

The attacking system was predictably direct, with Villa hitting only a 67% pass accuracy and completing 259 passes (compared to season averages, this would be the second-fewest in the division). Villa's chief creator, Delph, fired plenty of long balls forward for Christian Benteke to challenge for.

Delph's pass accuracy fell from a season average of 85% to 72%, as he launched balls forward for Benteke, who was forced into 26 aerial challenges.

This style will generally be well suited to away games, but Cabella's and Sissoko's driving runs could be too much for a Villa midfield light in numbers. It is telling that Villa made 11 tackles against Stoke, down from a season average of 16, which was already joint-fewest in the league.

Delph's defensive contribution may not be good enough as part of a midfield two.

John Carver has exaggerated the counter-attacking strategy of Alan Pardew, with Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita instructed to distribute the ball to their quicker, more direct team-mates; only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea have completed more take-ons this season.

Against a stretched Villa midfield weak in the tackle, these driving runs could be very successful.

There is no reason why a motivated Villa can't win at St James' Park, but it's worth keeping an eye on the central midfield battle as this could be the area of the pitch that makes or breaks Sherwood's Villa career.

Newcastle vs Aston Villa LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone