Tim Sherwood maintained his unbeaten Premier League start as Tottenham Hotspur manager with victory in south Wales on Sunday but knows his fate will ultimately rest on securing Champions League football for next season.
Emmanuel Adebayor fired Spurs up to fifth, behind Liverpool on goal difference, with strikes either side of a Chico Flores own goal. It wrapped up a consummate display by Tottenham, who have now won five and drawn one of their six Premier League games since Sherwood was handed an 18-month contract after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.
Yet, even in his first senior managerial role, Sherwood is experienced enough to know he must find a way of matching the ambition and investment of the club’s hierarchy and fifth place is unlikely to do that. With Spurs finishing in that position or better six times in the last eight seasons, Champions League football is what is expected and what Sherwood must deliver.
“If the season ended tomorrow then the chairman wouldn’t be happy because we’re still fifth. The final league position has to matter because the expectation of the club is finish in the top four or it’s goodbye Charlie,” he admitted. “The club needs and wants to finish in the top four and anything else will be a disappointment. Realistically, we should be in amongst it but it is not easy. There are a lot of tough teams and no one is giving any leeway.
“Every week I keep looking at the fixtures and thinking someone will drop points, just as they probably thought we would here at Swansea, but no one is giving anything away. It’s going to come down to the games we play among ourselves in that mini-league and go down to the wire.
“I’m delighted with how it’s gone, it has been a good start for me, but there will be tougher tests to come.”
Swansea 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 in pictures
Swansea 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 in pictures
1/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates with Tottenham team-mate Danny Rose after bagging his second goal of the game against Swansea
2/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Emmanuel Adebayor rolls in Tottenham's third goal past the despairing Gerhard Tremmel
3/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Tottenham's Moussa Dembele battles Swansea's Wilfried Bony for the ball
4/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Tottenham's Kyle Walker celebrates his side's second goal at the Liberty Stadium as Swansea's Roland Lamah reacts with dismay
5/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Tottenham defender Vlad Chiriches and Swansea striker Wilfried Bony battle for the ball
6/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Swansea's Wilfried Bony unleashes a thunderous shot as Tottenham's Vlad Chiriches attempts to make a block
7/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Swansea's Alejandro Pozuelo takes on Tottenham's Danny Rose during the Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium
8/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Swansea's Alejandro Pozuelo tangles with Tottenham's Moussa Dembele during the match at the Liberty Stadium
9/9 Swansea 1 Tottenham 3
Swansea's Leon Britton plays a pass during his team's Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur
Key to that success has been finding a goalscorer who was always just under the nose of Villas-Boas despite the arrival of £26m signing Roberto Soldado. Sherwood has managed to rejuvenate Adebayor, who continued his latest renaissance by taking his tally to five in his last six games in the Premier League. Roberto who?
“I’ve just given him space to play as he hasn’t had that stage on which to play for a while,” said Sherwood.
“I haven’t just turned him into a good player, he has always been one at every club he has played for. He just needed consistency and if he keeps enjoying playing he will keep performing well.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, who must be wondering what ladder he walked under to deserve his current misfortune.
In the grip of an injury crisis that was borne out by the display yesterday of his patched-up but woefully inadequate midfield, Laudrup saw Jonjo Shelvey limp off with a pulled hamstring and Wilfried Bony thunder a shot against the bar. Bony was then denied a penalty after being shoved to the floor by Michael Dawson.
That stroke of luck proved the catalyst for Tottenham while Swansea have now gone eight league games without a win and are slipping closer to the relegation fight.
For Laudrup, the honeymoon period of his first season in charge that brought Europa League football is over, and he admits he now faces his toughest challenge at the Liberty Stadium to lift the slump.
“Right now it is easy to see that everything is black and negative. But we have to be positive and start again tomorrow and look for that win that we need,” said Laudrup.
“We may have lost another player to injury just when you couldn’t afford to lose any more because we are short in certain areas, especially in midfield, but the next four games will decide how the rest of the season will be.”
Swansea began with far greater urgency and purpose. Shelvey fired wide with both his right and left foot inside five minutes, and his third effort, after riding the challenge of Vlad Chiriches, forced a solid save from Hugo Lloris.
But there was a chasm at the heart of the Swans’ injury-ravaged midfield that Christian Eriksen, who grew up in Denmark idolising Laudrup, exposed. Eriksen and Mousa Dembélé did to Swansea what they usually inflict on opponents and it paid dividends.
The Dane released Aaron Lennon and then whipped in the return pass for Adebayor to head home Tottenham’s first effort at goal.
Nacer Chadli should have doubled the lead within a minute but lacked composure in the box. Adebayor then struck a powerful shot that was matched by Gerhard Tremmel.
The writing was on the wall for Swansea, though it took an unfortunate deflection to open breathing space for Spurs when Chico, under little pressure, put Kyle Walker’s cross into his own net. Sherwood punched the air and Swansea were floored.
Eriksen then released Danny Rose, who easily out-paced a Swansea defence tiring from an afternoon spent chasing. Rose squared his pass to Adebayor, unmarked on the penalty spot, where he had time to pick his shot past the hapless Tremmel.
The one glimmer of light amid the darkness for Swansea is the form of Bony. The powerfully built Ivorian caused Dawson all sorts of trouble and after an exchange that sent Ben Davies surging into the box, he finished Roland Lamah’s pass for his 14th goal of the season.
It was too late to deny Tottenham a fifth consecutive league win on the road for the first time since 1960. Just the sort of form to secure a top-four finish.
Swansea (4-2-3-1): Tremmel 6; Davies 6, Flores 5,
Williams 6, Rangel 5; Britton 6, Amat 5; Routledge 6, Shelvey 6
(Lamah 50, 5), Pozuelo 4; Bony 7.
Subs not used: Cornell, Taylor, Tiendalli, Vasquez, Richards, Donnelly
Booked: Amat, Bony
Tottenham Hotspurs (4-3-3): Lloris 7; Rose 7, Chiriches 6, Dawson 5, Walker 7; Bentaleb 6; Chadli 6 (Sigurdsson 67, 6), Dembele 7; Eriksen 8, Adebayor 8, Lennon 6 (Naughton 79).
Subs not used: Friedel, Soldado, Holtby, Capoue, Defoe.
Man of the Match: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)
Match Rating: 7/10Reuse content