In the space of four weeks Tim Sherwood has made a serious impression at Spurs, but Will Unwin tells us not all of the changes have been positive.
His side have won three times since he took the White Hart Lane reins in December, including an impressive victory over Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Sherwood has quickly found his best side, making only one change from Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford, with Nabil Bentaleb replacing Etienne Capoue in midfield.
Spurs legend Ledley King told ITV.com that Sherwood’s side are now operating with more freedom, but this has also seen them maintain some of their defensive frailties, which led to the Arsenal opener on Saturday evening. Kyle Walker has always offered more going forward than at the back, and his desire to roam from his position allowed Santi Cazorla the space to fire home in the 31st minute.
This liberal attacking football that Spurs are now offering will see many a team brushed aside in the league, but against the top six, they will struggle to limit chances, as Arsenal proved by having six scoring opportunities in the first-half alone.
Under Andre Villas-Boas Spurs averaged just over a goal a game in the Premier League this season, whereas Sherwood has seen his side score less than twice in only one of his four outings in charge.
Christian Eriksen - a summer signing from Ajax - has found a role on the left-hand side of midfield, which he is having to adapt to, rather than being afforded to luxury of playing behind one striker.
The reason the Danish playmaker has been forced out of his favoured position is that Sherwood has opted to change from Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 to a more classic 4-4-2 as he strives for more goals from the previously shot-shy Spurs.
This adaptation saw his side struggle to deal with the contest in the middle of the park, where Arsenal were allowed licence to play.
Skipper Michael Dawson and summer acquisition Vlad Chriches are forming a solid partnership in the centre of the defence, as the Englishman’s reading of the game is complimented by the Romanian’s natural athleticism - but it is on the flanks where Spurs look most vulnerable still.
Their evolution as a pairing is more impressive since they lost the extra midfield stability of Paulinho to injury. Neither Bentaleb nor Mousa Dembele were able to quell the high tempo attacking lustre Arsenal offered throughout the tie.
Walker’s full-back companion Danny Rose was at fault for the second goal, failing to pull off a turn on the halfway line, before being dispossessed by Tomas Rosicky who dribbled the ball to the penalty area, dinking it over a helpless Hugo Lloris. Sherwood will need to instil far more discipline into loose players for the rest of the campaign if they are to earn a European spot.
The former Blackburn midfielder made the tough call to bring Emmanuel Adebayor back into the first team fold, after his predecessor Villas-Boas left the striker out to dry, with positive effects on the scoring front, netting against both Southampton and Manchester United.
The returning Adebayor wasn’t at his scorned best, as he tries to prove Villas-Boas wrong on the pitch. The lack of action under the Portuguese head coach, meant his fitness issues began to catch up with him at the hour mark, but he didn't offer much before that anyway against former club Arsenal.
After the game Sherwood naively denied his side were overrun by the three-man Arsenal midfield at the Emirates, insinuating that he didn’t want his side to be ‘boring and rigged’. However, he will need to realise that in order to cope with a side who operate at the speed Arsenal do, they will need to learn a touch more solidity in the centre of the park.
Attacking football will excite the fans, and being easily beaten by your rivals won’t keep the supporters on your side for ever, but the signs are still positive enough for now.