Wednesday 17 January 2018

Spurs respond to Sherwood optimism

Southampton 2 Tottenham 3

Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor

Henry Winter

Interim manager strengthens his job application by inspiring Adebayor to two-goal salvo as weakened Saints are exposed

This was an impressive job audition by Tim Sherwood, demonstrating his ability to motivate mercurial players like Emmanuel Adebayor, showing his knowledge of emerging talent like Nabil Bentaleb and also setting up the team in keeping with Tottenham Hotspur's attack-minded traditions. To dare is to do.

Sherwood meets the Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, at their Enfield training base today to discuss the managerial vacancy with the mood around the club lifted by this deserved win.

Due allowance must be made for significant absentees in Southampton's defence and Spurs would be inviting trouble to line up so open in midfield against better sides, but the club already feels more united, more positive about the future after Sherwood's few days with the first team.

They lost under him in the League Cup, but won some friends with their enterprising football.

An optimist by nature, Sherwood has nothing to lose, of course, so he could pick a team with five attackers and no natural holding midfielder.

ENTERTAIN

He could risk points at the end by sending on another forward, Jermain Defoe, for a forward, Roberto Soldado, rather than stiffening midfield and seeing out the game. Sherwood insisted that was his style, that he wants to entertain.

As the fans would argue, maybe it's just the time of year for going gung-ho-ho-ho.

Handing the job to the untried Sherwood would be a gamble by Levy, particularly when managers of the calibre of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle are being linked with the position, yet there is a logic to naming the 44-year-old for the remainder of the season and then assessing options during the usual busy post-World Cup market. Sherwood could even prove up to the task. He's not short of self-belief or strong views on how Spurs should play. He's not short of ideas with Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand alongside him. And he cares about the club.

Tottenham fans responded positively to Sherwood's adventurous approach, more than 3,000 travelling to St Mary's to fill the away section and also take up some places amongst the Southampton faithful, a situation that caused a few arguments.

Tottenham players are clearly responding to Sherwood's bold tactics and upbeat personality. Adebayor is relishing his chance. Out in the cold under Andre Villas-Boas, Adebayor is an essential part of Sherwood's team. At training last week, Sherwood cleverly appealed to the striker's appreciation of his own abilities, telling him he was a gifted footballer who had played for the best and to go and show that.

"I need you, get out there, play your football,'' Sherwood said to Adebayor. "I will not tell you anything. You've been around the block, Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, you know how to play." Adebayor rewarded the interim manager's faith with a strong display, scoring twice, his fitness levels high.

Villas-Boas' decision to ignore Adebayor looks even more of an expensive mistake now, although the Togolese attacker still needs to play like this week in, week out.

If Sherwood continues in charge, Bentaleb can expect more involvement. The French teenager was given his debut from the bench, Sherwood preferring a player he knew from Spurs' development squad to the £9.4m Etienne Capoue.

Born in Lille of Algerian extraction, Bentaleb joined Mouscron in Belgium before having a trial at Birmingham City and then signing for Spurs last year; the club think so highly of him that Bentaleb's deal runs through to 2018. Bentaleb slotted in smoothly, winning the ball, and driving forward, playing a part in Spurs' second goal as the visitors rose to seventh in the Premier League.

It needs emphasising that this was a flawed, crazy if highly entertaining game with neither defence excelling. There were 31 crosses, 24 attempts on goal and five goals. Southampton began well, guided by the outstanding Adam Lallana, who was being watched by Roy Hodgson's assistant, Ray Lewington.

Another England international, Rickie Lambert, was first to show, forcing Hugo Lloris into a save from a free-kick. Southampton attacked again, Danny Fox working the ball to Lallana in the centre after 13 minutes. Lallana should have been closed down by Vlad Chiriches, but the defender stood off.

From the edge of the area, Lallana turned and placed a low shot past Lloris. "He's off to Brazil,'' chanted the Southampton fans of Lallana.

Sherwood vacated his viewing station amongst the smart seats and hurried down to the dug-out. Shortly after he arrived, Spurs equalised.

Adebayor sprinted upfield, noting Soldado's journey down the left. Receiving possession, Soldado paused and checked on Adebayor's progress into the box. The cross was perfect, picking out Adebayor who slipped between Jos Hooiveld and Fox to score with a fine volley.

For all the praise deservedly bestowed on Adebayor, he should never have been gifted the space by the hosts' defence.

There has been so much to admire in Southampton's development under Mauricio Pochettino, but they miss the likes of Artur Boruc, Jose Fonte, Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne. On the plus side, the young Calum Chambers continues to acquire more experience that will serve him and Southampton well.

But holes reappeared in the Southampton backline nine minutes into the second half. Bentaleb had replaced the hobbling Mousa Dembele and soon made his mark, releasing Rose through Southampton's hesitant defence. Rose reached the bye-line and crossed the ball, causing panic, the ball hitting Hooiveld and going in.

Within five minutes, Southampton were level courtesy of poor tracking back by Spurs. Lallana attacked down the right, tempting Lloris into a strange excursion from his line, before cutting the ball back for the unmarked Lambert to slide the ball into the untended net.

Still the bad defending continued. Kyle Walker's throw-in from the right brought the ball to Adebayor, who shot low past Paulo Gazzaniga. "Adebayor, Adebayor; this is the best team you've ever played for,'' chanted the Spurs supporters as their celebrating No 10 auditioned for 'Strictly Come Dancing'.

Soldado should have ended the game as a contest, but managed to drag a great chance wide and then lift another over. Lloris preserved Spurs' lead, denying Lallana and Sam Gallagher while Lambert almost levelled late on.

But Spurs deserved this. Sherwood deserved this. At the final whistle, Michael Dawson led the players over to salute the supporters, before returning towards the tunnel, shaking hands with a proud Sherwood en route. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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