Are Villa Taking a More Traditional English Football Approach with Tim Sherwood?

I quoted from the below Tim Sherwood coaching report in an earlier MOMS article on Tim Sherwood and what he brings to the Villa Park party, but I have since got the permission to republish the entire report that looks at Sherwood as a manager in the context of modern day football and the European tactical influence, while he was at Spurs.  I thought it would make for an interesting read and insight beyond the winning ratio, gillet and ‘Oh, he got Emmanuel Adebayor to play’ analysis doing the rounds. Thanks to Matt Whitehouse who as well as being the author of the report on his blog The Whitehouse Address is a Youth Development football coach.

The article is even more poignant when you consider Tim Sherwood is Villa’s first English manager since Graham Taylor ended his second spell in May 2003. Taylor’s second coming was the last of a run of four English managers (John Gregory, Brian Little and Ron Atkinson), who all directly followed Doctor Jo Venglos, the first manager born outside Britain or Ireland to take charge of a top division club in England.

Are Villa, once pioneers with Venglos (and perhaps ahead of their time), now taking a more traditional route?


Tim Sherwood: The Classic English Coach

By Matt Whitehouse

Honeymoon periods tend to be positive and often give the impression that management isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. Inheriting a talented side lacking in confidence tends to deliver positive results. And so it has been proven at Spurs under Tim Sherwood. He has done such a good job that he has been given an 18 month contract. Yet is he really of the quality Spurs want or need to help them push into the top four and beyond? Or is he proving that English coaches deserve their opportunity at the big clubs. The Whitehouse Address discusses.

There is little doubting what Tim Sherwood and his staff of Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsay have achieved since they took over the reigns of Spurs first team. Previously working with the U21 development squad these men hav become a key part of Spurs behind the scenes.
The youth setup at the club is excellent and with new links with Swindon with their ‘feeder club’ project, of which Sherwood and Ferdinand helped support, the club clearly wants to make the most from their youth academy and sees Sherwood and Ferdinand as the driving force behind it.

Powerpoint overloads

There is no doubt that Spurs have prospered under the new management team; they now look happier, freer and expressive. Andre Villas-Boas was perhaps as different to Harry Redknapp as any other coach available. It was probably what attracted Levy to him at first.

Where Redknapp was a man who allowed players to express themselves, not seeking to give them too many tactical instructions as such, Villas-Boas was the opposite. He was structured, organised and precise in his tactical details. Powerpoint presentations regarding the opposition, the system and players roles were a norm for the Portuguese coach. Nothing too dissimilar to his mentor Mourinho and Rodgers, another Mourinho ‘disciple’.



The problem was his ability to convey the information, to motivate and to inspire his players. AVB was an intelligent and knowledgeable coach who appeared to lack management skills to succeed in England, both with his players and the media.

English football is different to other nations in terms of the style and culture. The ability to control matches is not as typical and simple as in other leagues and AVB struggled both at Chelsea and Spurs for this reason. Gareth Bale helped him to have a good season yet the new arrivals and Bale’s departure appeared to damage his vision or ‘project’.

A failed rotation policy led to a lack of fluency and intellect between the team and they looked mentally weak in the big games. AVB perhaps had overworked the minds of his players, taking away their creativity and giving them too much to think about.

The new ‘Arry

Perhaps it was strange that Levy replaced Redknapp with AVB yet there appeared a desire to have Spurs challenging higher in the league than 4th and that the free playing, information underload was seemingly not going to help the side progress. Levy was right. Yet he was wrong to think that AVB the right man to help Spurs make that step forwards. On paper perhaps he had the credentials yet he lacked the human touch to make theory into action.

To opt for Sherwood highlighted a few things; firstly that an AVB type coach wasn’t seen as the way forward for the club, he had numbed the creative minds of the players and this was not helping performances. And secondly it seemed clear that in the year before the World Cup there was a lack of candidates available.

Levy appointed from within and chose a man who would help them express, enjoy and play with a freedom not seen since…Redknapp. In Sherwood Spurs have their younger model of the man who many Spurs fans still pine for.

Sherwood is evidently one who wants his sides to attack as his team selections point to. His work with Adebayor has been impressive and he has been rewarded with great performances. In fact many of those players under AVB look very different, more like what Spurs bought. Sherwood’s style is bringing results and he is proving that sometimes less is more.



However, under this style Spurs will come unstuck against the better sides, they look tactically naïve as was proven against Arsenal in the FA Cup. An attacking 4-4-2- formation does appear to give the players freedom to express and Sherwood appears intent on using as many of his attacking threats as possible. It is ambitious and positive.

However although the 4-4-2 has come back into the modern game and with relative success, the personnel is key. Spurs suffered from not improving their defence in the summer. Dawson is not good enough for a top four push and if the side is to be more open then the defence needs to be excellent. That is not the case.

Sherwood has benefited from inheriting a side lacking in confidence and needing a lift as well as been given a relatively easy schedule on which to build from. Yes his ‘English’ approach has helped him start well yet it will not bring what Levy wants and this is the downfall with English coaches.

Spurs overloaded the attack and midfield positions and they have suffered for it. Against the bottom half of the league Spurs will have enough in attack to create and score goals yet versus the better sides under this system they will be exposed by smarter and more talented players. After decades it appears English coaches cannot move away from the 4-4-2.

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  1. Great article. I wonder if things go badly, fans will begin to moan about Tim’s cockney brogue like they did about Lambert’s Scottish mumble. English sminglish if that happens. Made me laugh to listen to folk picking on Lambert’s accent. Because Busby, Shankly, Stein, and Ferguson were all rubbish too. Lets be honest here – Villa fans criticising anyone’s accent is a bit rich.

    Still – 442 – I think it may well prove to be a Scottish manager who made the most of that – though having Giggs and Beckham may have helped. Jesper Gronkaer anyone?

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