Tim Sherwood’s Puzzling Substitutions Have Cost Villa Points

Are Tim Sherwood's substitutions costing Villa points?

Tactics Tim

Tottenham Hotspur fans used to have a nickname for Tim Sherwood that corresponded to them being puzzled at times by their manager’s tactical choices. ‘Tactics Tim’ was a good-natured moniker and judging by some of Sherwood’s puzzling substitutions so far this season, Aston Villa fans are starting to understand why Spurs fans named him so.

The first alarm bells began to ring about ‘Tactics Tim’ when fans saw his like-for-like substitutes in the FA Cup final, when Villa desperately needed to change things up and chase the game. Still, that defeat perhaps had more to do with the quality of the opponents and Sherwood never really had a plan from the get-go to challenge Wenger.

This season the first decision that got those bells ringing again was the substitution of Carlos Sanchez in the Crystal Palace game, when he was having perhaps his best game for Villa and was helping fend off a Palace team who were very much in the ascendancy.

At 0-0 with just over an hour gone, Villa, after having the best of the first half, were under the cosh due to Pardew’s half-time switches. In response to Palace taking control of the game, Sherwood took off Sanchez on 69 minutes, who at DM was helping cut out the Eagle’s waves of attacks, and replaced him with winger Adama Traore.

Yes, by all means bring on Traore, but surely swap him for Agbonlahor, who was having one of his worse games in a Villa shirt. Villa needed to stay solid at the back, but with the back four’s cover removed they conceded within two minutes of the change.

Yes, Traore set up the equaliser forcing a deflected own-goal, but Villa’s lucky equaliser didn’t buck the trend of Palace’s control of the game and the Eagles were always more likely to score the winner; which they did 10 minutes later with three minutes of the game left.

That switch was the only substitute Sherwood made despite a tiring Grealish, a misfiring Agbonlahor (Sinclair remained on the bench) and a seemingly lost Gestede.

Against Sunderland in the 2-2 draw that followed in the league, Villa let points slip although Sherwood was perhaps lacking in fit creative forward players on the bench, although Gil on for Bacuna was a decent enough move.

Où est Veretout?

The game was the second consecutive time where Jordan Veretout was an unused sub. Clearly Sherwood doesn’t see him as ‘Premier League ready’ yet, because he would have added something to the flat midfield of Gana, Sanchez and Westwood.


Recently against Leicester City, Veretout was again overlooked. Surely, if Carles Gil was carrying a knock or was tired (it didn’t stop him scoring moments before), you’d replace him with another midfielder ala Veretout and not a forward?

A Leicester City assault was about to come in earnest and Villa were replacing a player with good ball retention with a forward with little confidence in a Villa shirt.

Villa needed more presence in midfield. With Gabby, Sinclair and Ayew up front, they were left with a midfield of a tiring attacking midfielder in Grealish, an under pressure Westwood and a painfully off the pace Carlos Sanchez (what did he get up to on international duty?), thus making Villa’s backline woefully under-protected.

Gestede on for Gabby on the 75 minute, when Villa were 2-1 down, removed the team of the only player in the forward line who could hold play up, if you wanted to hit Leicester on the break. Still Veretout wasn’t thrown on to fill out the midfield. Another idea would have been to throw Clark in there as a DM to protect the back-four.

As soon as Leicester scored their first goal, it seemed inevitable with Sherwood’s lack of changes to directly meet the Leicester threat, that defeat was actually on the cards with a good 20 minutes left.

Too Early to Judge

Of course, Sherwood has had barely 40 games as a first team Premier League manager, so he will be prone to decisions fuelled by inexperience. Whether a club like Aston Villa should have taken a punt on an inexperienced manager was always a big question mark when they gave him the job, but in the short-term Sherwood’s vigour and passion were qualities perhaps more important to reviving the club last season.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it could be argued that his poorly realised use of substitutes has cost Villa an extra six points from the last three games (a possible draw at Palace and wins against the Black Cats and Foxes).

It’s early days of course and this is a team that is very much coming together with little preseason game time together. They are learning on the job, as is Sherwood to a certain extent. Certainly another five games will give us a better understanding about Villa’s predicament and whether Sherwood’s promise last season of no more relegation battles were just empty words.

In those games though most supporters will feel that the Villa boss must be more practical in his use of substitutes. Previous managers like Paul Lambert and Martin O’Neill have been guilty of not making enough substitutes to gain more points. Sherwood makes them, but seems to lose points. This is a habit that needs to stop pronto.


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  1. Timmy just doesn’t know the capabilities of his players and it seems we (AVFC fans) know them better otherwise he would not be making such poor decisions.
    with the qualities of the current crop of players we have, we should not be lying where we are.
    Good mgrs get the most out of the resources available to them.

    Wake up Timmy,! U have the best team in the epl.

    • so the computer profiles of Villa’s players tells you every thing there is to know about them does it Kofi ? Or so it would seem from the comments of those such as you who claim to know everything about them except ,how they perform in their daily training sessions at Bodymoor which most certainly tells TS a lot more than can be known by the would be experts who only see the players on match day

  2. coliln, the bigger pictures always the trend with results over time. WIth Sherwood it was good when he first started but from the Southampton game onward the defence has worse. The new players, not that I blame Lescott yesterday, have yet to gell especially in midfield. We are now shiping more goals each time out. Bournemouth clean sheet. Man u one goal against. Two Palace and Sunderland. 3 yesterday. Luckily Baggies re not a high scoring side.

    Its the trend that matters, with naïve defending standard. Had we not lucky penalty v Notts county that would have been a 3-2 home defeat by a side two divisions below- and I would not have complained. they carved us apart. Sanchez had a nightmare.

    Contract length is a sign tthat Sherwood thought untried players were going to be here for 5 years. Bacuna is different, but is playing out of position. No manager gets all signings right, so Fox has allowed him to load our wage bill with players on spec

    You could not run a corner shop on that basis.

    The question about WIlkins is bank on the nail. Was he on the bench? If his experience is to make a difference, Sherwood must have him on tap all the time.

    Trevor Fisher

  3. It seems that many Villa fans have a lot more idea than Sherwood, and if they had his job, would have picked a perfect team, played a perfect game with the aid of brilliant tactics, made the absolutely perfect substitutions, at exactly the right time in the game, and we would have won 5 – 0.

    The fact that Leicester made a fighting comeback at 2 – 0 down, would be irrelevant, because the perfect fan manager, would have second guessed their manager, with pre-substitution substitutes.

    I highly recommend that all the above fans, approach Fox, ask him to sack Sherwood for not using their perfect system, and employ them, so we can at last win the Premier League in their first season as manager, and roll over all teams in Europe, piece of cake when you know how, eh?

      • But it doesn’t take a genius to spot that Bacuna was struggling, Sanchez was under par, the defence were being left exposed by the lack of a defensive midfielder – then make substitutions accordingly. At 2-0 up we should have been shoring things up, not putting two forwards on! I agree that you can’t anticipate what changes the opposing Manager will make but you should be able to see what is going on with your own team & react accordingly – Sherwood didn’t do that and not for the first time either!

        • yes Bacuna seems to be a regular target for fans complaints yet his counterpart on the left was giving away almost as many free kicks . It’s also easy it would seem for fans to stick labels on players and insist the manager conforms to those labels and play the players they want to see playing . But footie in the Prem is a squad game and a manager needs to be able to rotate the squad to achieve the best results and not just play fans favourites.But if players are to be capable of rotating they need to get match time and not just sit on the bench
          And rather than Tim learning fast it would seem some fans need to learn patience

  4. colin – you are not seeing the bigger picture which the original article flagged up. Its not just one match. Our record is appalling. One league win, one narrow cup win this season. Three clubs have scored 3 goals against us. Not just Leicester, which was premiership[, Nott county in division three. Add the friendly v Notts Forest. And goals late on. Leicester 3, notts forest 2, palace 2.

    Back to last season. 6 from Southampton. Relegatd Burnley beat us on our home patch. Arsenall…….

    We have to ask not just why Sherwood cannot defend, but why Fox allowed him to sign players on 5 year contracts. I really do fear for the future of this club – I have no faith in the boadroom

    Saturday is must win


    • And what is this bigger picture that you talk of Trevor ? Under Lambert folk complained that we were too defensive now the complaint is we are too attacking . This is not a board game where players can be shuffled around and do as the computer program says they can do . They are real live players who get injured , need to learn etc. . But sadly some seem to think that spend enough dosh on the correct players & the results will happen but sadly in the real world that is not what happens,except perhaps in the world of Paper shufflers .
      As for contract lengths what has that got to do with anything apart from the world of buying and selling and the bragging rights of those who are more interested in such things than the skill of playing the game ?

  5. If that had been against ManU or Chelski would there be so much angst ? Like it or not the Foxes are 2nd in the league . That was very much a game of 2 halves with Villa going in at half time looking very much the winners . So clearly Sherewood’s half time team talk was about more of the same , whereas the Foxes had a complete change of tactics . Making such a drastic change needs planning and reacting to is not as simple as bringing on a few subs to shake things up . But it is easy to select players for individual critism and the manager for not making the changes fans might think would be good . Bringing Clark on at DM would have been a red card in the making as would matching the Foxes tactics as many of our players don’t have the experience to make the sort of challenges they were subjected to without getting penalised , and in fact Amavi got very close to being sent off on several occasions . Forget the result and focus on the fact that we controlled much of the game but were carved up on a few occasions . The team/squad is still learning and they do need to learn from their mistakes hard as that might be for fans wanting results, to take . But hopefully they will learn and we will start winning a few more games . But remember the foxes have out smarted teams that are aledgedly better than Villa to get 2nd place

  6. He must have thought the game was won when he brought on J. Ayew. Big mistake. Bacuna and Sanchez had been making mistakes themselves, so something should have been done about that, but manager logic sometimes doesn’t work that way. Tim may well be more of a poet than a tactician.

    It was always going to be a very difficult game, though.

  7. What is Wilkins doing In all this poor decision making , he does have the experience!

  8. Sadly you need to be looking at what goes on between the sticks, Guzan simply spreads panic, no one will convince me that Given would not have conceded 2 of the 3 goals yesterday. Added to this Gestede lacks basic ball skills and runs around like a headless chicken = simply not up to the mark

  9. Yes the Hutton for Bacuna was sensible, but did not stop their final goal as the ball kept coming through the middle. Big issue is the lack of defensive nous with Sherwood. Sanchez left alone as holding midfield player, OK Gana was injured but Clark was left on the bench all game.

    Bringing on Gestede and Ayew both forwards shows that Sherwood thinks attack is the best form of defence. Rubbish. Defence is the best form of defence. The back 4 needed another holding midfield player along side Sanchez, not sure what role Westwood was playing.

    Clark was the man to come on not a forward. Sherwood has to understand – the first priority is to keep a clean sheet. At 2-0 up and Gil playing well but possibly tiring – too many small lightweight players in this team – bringing on two forwards lacking confidence was kamikaze tactics.

    While Okore is injured he might not be able to play 3 centre halves which is what a wing back system needs – so don’t play wing backs Mr Sherwood – especially Bacuna who was indeed caught out, and is not a full back of any kind – but he could have played Clark in midfield alongside Sanchez

    if he does not do this against West Brom then the alarm bells will start to ring. Sherwood does not understand defensive play. The midfield was cut open time and again. Against Notts County, great game but appalling defending, villa attacked to victory

    It cannot be done in the Premiership, Attack is NOT the best form of defence. Stop the opposition getting into the penalty box.

    Trevor Fisher.

  10. You took the words out of my mouth! Sherwoods does not seem to have any understanding of what substitutes need using and when which, sadly, is sadly reminiscent of Lambert! The only change that made made sense was Hutton for Bacuna but it should have been made much earlier. But some of the players need to take a long hard look at went wrong too. Ashley Westwood spent most of the game too far forward – leaving an off the pace Sanchez to give the defence some protection, Bacuna is not a right back and is exposed time & again. I hope that we will soon see three across the back – Okore, Richards & Lescott with Amavi & Traore as wing backs, Clarke & Gana as defensive midfielders with Grealish in front of them and and Sinclair & Kozak (who seems to have been forgotten). Leaving plenty of options on the bench – Bacuna, Gil, Gabby, Veretout, Sanchez, Gestede & Ayew. We have the players to avoid another relegation battle but have we got a manager who knows how to use them? You need to learn & quickly Tim.

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