On Saturday evening after his sides 4-0 defeat by Chelsea, an altogether flattering result for the home side, Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood called on his players to stop being so friendly with each other in a post-match interview with about as much life as his team’s second-half display.
Yes, his players made mistakes that they should be penalising each other for, as Sherwood said, and there is no use being molly-coddled at this level of football, but it was his tactical decisions that led to those mistakes in the first place, was it not?
Spurs haven’t won at Stamford Bridge for 24 years, and under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho, the Blues are unstoppable there. So you would think Sherwood would field a solid side able to attack Chelsea with the sort of rugged determination that has been missing from Spurs so often this season? Well, you’d be wrong.
Sherwood put England international right-back Kyle Walker on the right of the attacking midfield three, with Kyle Naughton at full-back exposing him to the ever-dangerous Eden Hazard.
To Naughton’s credit, Hazard was kept quiet in the first half, as the England man limited his impact on the game; but it was a different story in the second as he found space time and time again. In the build-up to the Chelsea penalty, Hazard found acres on the wing before drilling across to Samuel Eto’o who fell under Younes Kaboul’s contact.
This leads me nicely on to my next question; why is Kaboul at centre-back when Jan Vertonghen is available?
Vertonghen is Spurs’ best centre-half, yet he continues to be fielded out of position week in week out. Yes, the Belgian was at fault for the first goal when his desperate back pass was intercepted by Eto’o when he should’ve cleared into touch, but he shouldn’t have been out there in the first place.
The final chapter to this sorry read regards Aaron Lennon; the Aaron Lennon who is renowned for pacey runs past full-backs, getting to the by-line and drilling the ball across the penalty box.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do that on Saturday evening as he lined up as Spurs’ number ten; a role that consists of picking the ball up and heading towards goals, shrugging off the tackles of the defensive midfielders and centre backs before spreading the ball or having a shot at goal.
In this case he had to shrug off Nemanja Matic, Chelsea’s new 6ft 4” man mountain, and the impenetrable partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill. Of course the tiny speedster had no chance and was virtually non-existent.
My solution would have been to switch Naughton to left-back, to deal with the less dangerous Andre Schurrle, moved Vertonghen in the centre alongside Michael Dawson, and dropped Walker to full-back.
Going forward, he should have shifted Lennon to the right-wing where he is most dangerous and filled his spot with the benched Paulinho, who is more than capable of playing in that position, and has been one of Spurs’ few stand-out performers this season.
I agree with Sherwood in his criticism of the over friendly nature of his squad when so much is at stake, but I don’t think he can blame his players for Saturdays game, this one’s on him.