Sherwood suited to Aston Villa's short-term survival needs, but his long-term planning needs serious work
When Tim Sherwood took over as interim manager at Tottenham Hotspur, the club had just been torn apart by Liverpool at White Hart Lane.
"I didn't watch the game back," admitted Sherwood before his opening match in charge away at Southampton. "I was too scared to. You don't learn anything from games like that."
It was a startling admission from the former Blackburn Rovers captain. How could he possibly begin to rectify the mistakes of the previous regime if he didn't know where to start? He still made six changes to Andre Villas-Boas's final team, which suggests he was either not entirely truthful or wanted to galvanise the team with players who hadn't been given much of a chance under the Portuguese tactician.
This was Sherwood's way of proclaiming a fresh start to all those involved, and as he built relationships with some of those frozen out by his predecessor, it helped generate an initial feel-good factor. Tottenham went on to win five of the next six league matches, including against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
With Sherwood arriving at Aston Villa last week to replace Paul Lambert, he has had little chance to build any preconceptions about his new squad's capabilities and personalities. This will work as a positive for the players, but will mean Sherwood must learn fast at Villa Park.
Sherwood divides opinion. For some he's a straight-talking, honest manager who simply wants his team to work hard and doesn't complicate things on the pitch; for others he's arrogant, with a limited understanding of a modern ethos. The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in between.
All managers need to display a confidence in their ability; otherwise, expecting players to subscribe to your methods is hard. "I would never criticise anyone for playing badly," Sherwood told The Independent last March, after lambasting his Spurs side's second-half capitulation at Stamford Bridge.
"I don’t think that’s right. The reason for doing it at Chelsea was that it had happened under Andre too. You cannot capitulate like that."
His association with Harry Redknapp has led to many assuming that he has a similar management philosophy and, in fairness, he hasn't exactly gone out of his way to disprove the theory.
As a player he has been coached by numerous British managers, which has clearly had an influence on how his teams play and how he deals with individuals. George Graham, Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson are just some of those who have made an impact on the 46-year-old.
"My plans for the next few months are different to my plans for the future," Sherwood announced at his Villa Park unveiling. His style is suited to gaining the results Villa need to steer out of the relegation zone, but doubts persist over his long-term suitability to the job. His five months in charge of Tottenham are only a small sample size, but there's still plenty of information that can be obtained from that period.
Like Redknapp, his relaxed attitude to tactics was initially welcomed by players who had become tired of the methodical Villas-Boas, but at times his Spurs side were a little too gung-ho and lacked control. Yet this is an area that will instantly give him credibility among Villa fans after the team's woes in front of goal.
Sherwood's Spurs scored 40 goals in his 22 league games, which will be a relief to the fans from Birmingham. Lambert was sacked after one win in his last 10 league matches, Jores Okore scoring Villa's first league goal in 659 minutes in the defeat to Chelsea, the fourth-worst run in Premier League history.
"They’ll be quite simple instructions, so everyone who goes on that pitch will know exactly what I want from them," said Sherwood. "They’ll all play in their correct positions, nobody playing out of position, and they’ll know their jobs. They know what they’re capable of doing, otherwise they wouldn’t be at this big club. And if they don’t deliver it, they’ll be out of the team. What I can’t tolerate is a lack of desire and effort."
It's an old-fashioned way of thinking from Sherwood, but he will need a greater plan if they are to fulfil their overall potential. His preference for a 4-4-2 formation could see Gabby Agbonlahor partnering Christian Benteke, with Carles Gil and Scott Sinclair delivering crosses into the box. Benteke scored against Manchester United earlier in the campaign when alongside Agbonlahor, and the two have linked well as a strike force. The lack of support for Benteke has led to the Belgian forward struggling for confidence.
Villa's deficient creativity under Lambert had a lot to do with their three central midfielders not showing enough invention. When Ciaran Clark contributes directly to more goals than Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley, Carlos Sanchez and Ashley Westwood combined, it's not hard to see why they have had such issues. All of the midfielders fail to provide any penetration in their passing and often play too many sideways balls.
Christian Eriksen has thrived under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham this season, and his most productive form has been as a No.10. Yet Sherwood was reluctant to utilise him in this position.
When he did plump for a 4-2-3-1, he opted for Aaron Lennon in the hole behind the striker. This indicates we will likely see Andreas Weimann or Agbonlahor in such a position in the future rather than Gil, which would be a huge shame for the former Valencia and Elche attacker's development.
That's not to say Sherwood won't be good for the young players at Bodymoor Heath, with the likes of Jack Grealish expected to be given more of an opportunity. "You have to educate the fans to take a step back. I have always believed that your best players are your homegrown ones," declared Villa's new boss. His short spell at Tottenham saw Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane all promoted to the first team.
Sherwood is a pragmatic coach and certainly less reactive to the opposition than Lambert. He has the mindset to keep Aston Villa in the Premier League, but he will need to show a greater tactical nous if he's to succeed during his tenure at the club.