Tim Sherwood vows that Spurs will take on Manchester United without fear
The new Tottenham manager's attacking formation has brought seven goals in three games
Tuesday 31 December 2013
Tim Sherwood takes his new Tottenham Hotspur team to Manchester United wondering whether he can afford to stick to his bold 4-4-2 approach.
The main feature of Sherwood's four-game tenure as Spurs head coach has been his releasing the team from the tactical restrictions of Andre Villas-Boas, going, as he puts it, "a bit more gung-ho". This is 4-4-2, with wingers, and certainly no designated holding midfielder.
Sherwood's new approach has brought seven goals in three games – Spurs had not scored three in a league match since they beat Manchester City 3-1 at White Hart Lane in April – but has left the new head coach pondering if they can do the same at Old Trafford.
"I think we can go to Old Trafford and have attacking threats on the field," Sherwood said, after seeing Spurs produce their performance of the season to beat Stoke City 3-0 on Sunday. "You have to be a little bit more cautious, obviously. The last thing you want to do there is concede early because then you are chasing the game and they have players who are world-class and can pick you off. But we've got good players as well."
There is a balance between positive attacking football and recklessness and Sherwood hopes that his midfield will, at times, know the value of patience. "We have got good players here with experience, and it's just about them recognising when to put their foot on the ball and kill the game to give us a bit of breathing space."
Christian Eriksen will be an important part of this, dropping in from the left-hand side and slowing the game down, although his own plan for the match would be to "just go there and play like we did [against Stoke]". That will not be precisely possible, though, after the news that Paulinho – whom Sherwood described as "immense" against Stoke – will be out injured for at least four weeks.
Paulinho was the victim of a studs-up tackle from Charlie Adam on Sunday, which forced him off, and Spurs confirmed yesterday that he had suffered "significant ligament damage to his right ankle".
The Football Association's three-man panel for unseen incidents has reviewed it but decided against charging Adam, who twice left Gareth Bale injured after tackles when the Welsh winger was at Spurs.
Spurs midfielder Sandro posted on Twitter and Instagram: "Charlie Adams [sic] – THE BEAST IS WATCHING YOU!!!"
The injury to Paulinho means that Gylfi Sigurdsson or Lewis Holtby is the likely midfield partner for Mousa Dembélé, who played brilliantly and scored an excellent goal on Sunday. Sherwood still hopes his team will "impose themselves" on the Premier League champions.
"We've just got to go to play and enjoy it. Old Trafford is a great arena to play in and we have to try to impose ourselves on them. They are the home team and the onus is on them. And that works out to make it a bit easier for us."
Sherwood must know that United are newly vulnerable at home this season, having already lost there to West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Newcastle United. Their form has improved recently, though, with four straight league wins, and they have now moved up to sixth place, ahead of Spurs on goal difference.
Their 1-0 win at Norwich City on Saturday came without Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie, and Moyes is hoping to have the former back to face Spurs.
"We'll need to wait and see with Wayne," Moyes said. "He didn't train [on Monday] so we'll assess it and see how he is. Robin's not quite ready but we hope he'll not be too far away."
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