Tim Sherwood column: Liverpool wisely sorted their transfers early and Fabregas is a smart buy by Chelsea but Spurs need to cut numbers

In his exclusive column for The Independent, Tim Sherwood looks ahead to the new season

The season starts on Saturday and already the Premier League has lost its first manager, in Tony Pulis. He did a brilliant job at Crystal Palace last season but modern management encompasses a lot more than just what happens on the pitch. I know that from my own experience.

I have no knowledge of what happened but if managers were only judged by what happened on the pitch I would like to think I would still be at Tottenham Hotspur. It will be interesting to see what details emerge about Tony and Palace’s decision to part company. All I can say from the perspective of a manager is that he did a wonderful job. He has the admiration of the coaching fraternity.

I have spent some of my summer working on my Uefa Pro Licence on the course run by the Welsh Football Association in Cardiff. It has been rewarding going back to studying. It wasn’t that long ago that I was speaking to the previous group on the course about my experiences at Tottenham Hotspur, when I was still in the job.

Also working for the qualification on this current course are Les Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and Craig Bellamy. We could put together a decent five-a-side team if called upon.

Tony Pulis left Crystal Palace on the eve of the season Tony Pulis left Crystal Palace on the eve of the season The first day of the campaign is an exciting time for a manager when everything seems possible. They will have put the hard work in over pre-season, and the happiest among them will be those who have done most of their transfer business by the time it all kicks off. I understand why clubs wait until the last day of the transfer window to do their business. From a football point of view, though, it makes life difficult.

In that respect I give great credit to Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers, who have not messed about, either in selling Luis Suarez or in bringing in their new players. I like the look of Lazar Markovic, who we faced at Spurs in the Europa League when he was playing for Benfica last season. Liverpool did not wait until the last day of the window to try to wring the last penny out of the Suarez deal. They got it done, started investing the money and now have most of their squad in place.

It means that Brendan will have had a chance to work with his players extensively in pre-season, as much as you can in a World Cup year. They will have got to know him and his methods as well.

I would have tried to sign Adam Lallana if I had been given another season at Spurs. I like the fact he is one of only a few modern players in his position who is prepared to run without the ball and get himself in positions where he causes opponents big problems. Too often these days you see players who demand the ball to feet all the time and are not prepared to make those forward runs to give others the option to pick them out.

 

Lallana has great energy and he will get goals. I accept that Liverpool may need another striker to be title contenders but when you look at the side that did so well last season, all those young players, like Raheem Sterling, are a year older and more experienced. Brendan has established himself as a manager who gives young players a chance. Were I the father of a promising teenage player, I would be looking at which managers are prepared to do that.

The 3-5-2 debate is an interesting element to the new season with Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal set to play that way this year. My problem with the formation is that unless you have players who are confident and able to do it, the back three can quickly become a back five. You have to be bold to push the wing-backs on. The three centre-backs have to be confident enough to defend on their own.

Not every player can cope with that. I regard it as a very attacking system and players do tend to revert to what they know. A team can have the most talented coach, but unless he has the players in his team who can play that way, it will be difficult for them to do it successfully.

 

Manchester City are the defending champions and I don’t look any further than them or Chelsea for the title. I felt that City won the title last year in second gear. They seemed to blow up a bit in the second half of last season, having been ridiculously good early on. If they play as well as they can, they could be out on their own and clear of the rest come April. Vincent Kompany and Yaya Touré are key to City. They have to keep them fit.

As for Chelsea, some people seem to have forgotten what a good player their new signing Cesc Fabregas is. He has been criticised for not holding down a place in the Barcelona side. Look at who he was up against there. And I have always felt that even as a substitute he has been capable of coming on and affecting games. He scores goals, he makes things happen. He is a winner.

Having won the FA Cup, Arsenal have got over one big hurdle. I like Calum Chambers, their signing from Southampton. He reminds me of a young Gary Cahill. Earlier in his career, Gary often played full-back if he was needed there. Like Gary, Chambers is naturally very, very powerful and he has that athleticism that allows him to deal with difficult situations.

Manchester City defend their Premier League title Manchester City defend their Premier League title  As for my former club Spurs, the criticism has been that they have not bought enough yet. Fair enough, but my concern would be they have not trimmed the size of the squad by selling players. Once Mauricio Pochettino has to start naming his teams for match day he is going to find it very hard to keep all of them happy.

Someone reminded me of what Pochettino said when Southampton lost to my Spurs team in October. Apparently, he said that while Southampton were a “young team”, Spurs were “equipped to win the Premier League”. Given that he has not had to sell any big players this summer, in the way that the club lost Gareth Bale a year ago, and the seven new signings have had a year to settle, I can only presume he believes that Spurs can win the title this season too.

Another big challenge at Spurs will be cutting out individual errors. They made 21 errors that led to goals last season; the next highest was Liverpool on 11. It cost the club badly. Like all 20 teams in the Premier League, the next three days will be an indicator of where they stand. The best time to reshape a squad is not in the last two weeks of August.

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