Tim Sherwood’s tactical flaws cost Spurs at the Bridge

Tim Sherwood’s tactical flaws cost Spurs at the Bridge


On Saturday evening after his sides 4-0 defeat by Chelsea, an altogether flattering result for the home side, Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood called on his players to stop being so friendly with each other in a post-match interview with about as much life as his team’s second-half display.


Yes, his players made mistakes that they should be penalising each other for, as Sherwood said, and there is no use being molly-coddled at this level of football, but it was his tactical decisions that led to those mistakes in the first place, was it not?

Spurs haven’t won at Stamford Bridge for 24 years, and under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho, the Blues are unstoppable there. So you would think Sherwood would field a solid side able to attack Chelsea with the sort of rugged determination that has been missing from Spurs so often this season? Well, you’d be wrong.

Sherwood put England international right-back Kyle Walker on the right of the attacking midfield three, with Kyle Naughton at full-back exposing him to the ever-dangerous Eden Hazard.

To Naughton’s credit, Hazard was kept quiet in the first half, as the England man limited his impact on the game; but it was a different story in the second as he found space time and time again. In the build-up to the Chelsea penalty, Hazard found acres on the wing before drilling across to Samuel Eto’o who fell under Younes Kaboul’s contact.

This leads me nicely on to my next question; why is Kaboul at centre-back when Jan Vertonghen is available?


Vertonghen is Spurs’ best centre-half, yet he continues to be fielded out of position week in week out. Yes, the Belgian was at fault for the first goal when his desperate back pass was intercepted by Eto’o when he should’ve cleared into touch, but he shouldn’t have been out there in the first place.

The final chapter to this sorry read regards Aaron Lennon; the Aaron Lennon who is renowned for pacey runs past full-backs, getting to the by-line and drilling the ball across the penalty box.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do that on Saturday evening as he lined up as Spurs’ number ten; a role that consists of picking the ball up and heading towards goals, shrugging off the tackles of the defensive midfielders and centre backs before spreading the ball or having a shot at goal.

In this case he had to shrug off Nemanja Matic, Chelsea’s new 6ft 4” man mountain, and the impenetrable partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill. Of course the tiny speedster had no chance and was virtually non-existent.


My solution would have been to switch Naughton to left-back, to deal with the less dangerous Andre Schurrle, moved Vertonghen in the centre alongside Michael Dawson, and dropped Walker to full-back.

Going forward, he should have shifted Lennon to the right-wing where he is most dangerous and filled his spot with the benched Paulinho, who is more than capable of playing in that position, and has been one of Spurs’ few stand-out performers this season.

I agree with Sherwood in his criticism of the over friendly nature of his squad when so much is at stake, but I don’t think he can blame his players for Saturdays game, this one’s on him.

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  1. you cant blame sherwood for how we lost. this article is a waste of time. we did better until the individual errors that cost us than anyone at spurs expected us to.

    • Exactly.
      One individual error and then the referee rewarded a blatant dive with a penalty and a red card, thus destroying the game as a contest, before two more very late individual errors from a tired team.
      Until then, apart from the first few minutes, Chelsea were totally impotent whereas Spurs created some credible half-chances. Tactics were okay, referee, Eto’o diving and individual errors weren’t!

  2. Sherwood is tactically lacking in all departments, he doesn’t know how to deal with the press, the players and especially the opposition, we will be lucky to finish in the top six, even to get into the Europa league next season we will have to win it this season!! to challenge for the title or even a top 4 position we need an experienced manager, and for that reason I blame Levy for trying to take the cheap option when he got rid of AVB, who at least had a bit of experience, Levy should go and take Sherwood with him.

  3. This blame for tactical errors is nonsense. Nobody was questioning
    the format he employed for 55 minutes as it was plainly working.
    It was human errors that was to blame completely for our downfall.
    I agree with everything that TS said in his after match interview.
    The players let us down and they have to be accountable for the
    schoolboy errors – so unprofessional!!

    • Looking back Norman I agree, although I felt the starting line-up was wrong, that was my original point and my personal opinion which I’ll stand by but it got lost in some unnecessarily harsh criticism on Sherwood. On reflection I know exactly why Walker was put right wing, so he and Naughton could double up on Hazard, something that worked so well in the first half, and I wished I’d focused on that positive in the article. But you have to agree Lennon against Matic was never going to work? Not sure if that ‘unprofessional’ comment is aimed at me or the players, but if it’s me then, yes I fully admit I got this one wrong and am new to this so am still learning, the feedback on this will hopefully help me develop as a writer.

  4. Players cost us the game not Sherwood. We looked excellent until the unraveling. I thought the lineup was bold and optimistic

    • Looking back I realise that it was the individual errors that cost you the game, I dropped the ball on this one and I apologise and looking back was unnecessarily harsh on Sherwood. Line-up was bold, if not a bit bizarre, surely you can’t agree with Lennon in the middle though?

    • I won’t weigh in on tactics with this point…but what I am thinking about was, sadly, something that Mourinho said, which, sadly again — because his smugness aggravates me! — seemed quite on point. In essence, he said that Chelsea were never too concerned, never too worried…that they were able to stay calm…because, even though they expected a solid Spurs side, this is nevertheless a side that, even looking back at the AVB part of the season, does not seem so threatening in the end. Lots of talent, lots of possession (though this is of lesser emphasis under Sherwood), lots of pace…but rarely much to show for it. Someone above mentioned “some credible half-chances,” which says a lot. Credible half-chances are good, but not good enough. To me, an “excellent” Spurs would have pressured Chelsea just a bit more. I loved that they were not only hanging with Chelsea, but were, really, the better team for most of the first half or so. But in the back of my mind I was concerned about the failure to create any real chances. Spurs were “good”…they looked good, and talented…but Chelsea was expecting them to be.

  5. I don’t get this article… Sherwood’s tactics were pretty good.

    Hazard was playing CAM… and when he dropped to the wings he had to deal with BOTH Walker and Naughton which was the plan.

    The game was lost due to errors, not his tactics. As soon as Chelsea scored his gameplan was useless (which was to go for the draw I thinks).

    The only player I would’ve liked to see on was Paulinho but I understand that Lennon was on for the speed on the counter which he didn’t end up needing since chelsea was conceding possession so easily in the first half.

    • Looking back I do admit I have missed the mark with this one, apologies. I just feel they lined up wrong, it was a bold move to go so attacking, but it wasn’t paying off but continued to use it. I know the errors what were cost them the game but I felt they had the wrong players playing. Hazard was on the left, as he usually is, and as I mentioned in the piece Naughton AND Walker did well with him in the first half but slipped up in the second. Lennon was never going to work in the middle up against Matic. I admit I got this one wrong, I now know that but it’s out there now unfortunately.

  6. If you think Dawson should have started before kaboul you either dont watch spurs or no nothing about football, unbelievable comment.

    • I don’t, they are both as poor as each other, if Spurs want to challenge then that’s something that will need to be addressed in the summer, but please don’t tell me I know nothing about football because that would be an unbelievable comment. I admit I missed the mark on this one, but it’s out there now.

  7. Spurs had a bad game approach by taking up at chelsea with a highly pressured game with too much energy at closing on at space with and without ball. It wasnt really their game format tradidionally. It was a pattern sort of as done by fulham in there earlier match that saw them curtail blues at the first half just to fall like a pact of card at the other half. Chelsea with a huge experience and a rarely stable team is tactically up to task to do that it did to an almost exhausted spurs side. The individual mistake was a function of the wrong tactical approach that surely has its life span. Its not just for fun that spurs hardly could beat the blues side at the Bridge for the long of 24yrs. The frightening record is enough to give spurs a nightmare and energise the bloes side. Etoos penalty was well deserved after iloris by the whisker of the lines men error denied him a Red card on his tackle at etoo¿ Sandro was another stop gap error who unbelievably survived playing for the full duration¿poor one for spurs at long run.

  8. Woah, sorry guys I’m new to this and not used to such widespread coverage. Looking back I do think I was incredibly harsh on Sherwood, however I don’t think he is the man to take Spurs forward, assistant manager yes, but manager, no and I’ll stick with my opinion on that. Yes, the individual errors cost them the game, but surely people can’t agree with Lennon in the middle? This is only my second post on here and I’m still learning, it’s great everyone has an opinion, that’s what makes following football such a joy and I admit I missed the mark on this one. But thanks for the feedback, it has opened my eyes, as I say I’m still learning.

    • You shouldn’t be apologizing. You were right in the first place. Sherwood’s line-up was inept, and laid the ground for the personal errors that supposedly lost us the game. Sherwood continues to play his golden boy Bentaleb — a mediocre squad player and serial ball-loser who’s not remotely in the same class as Paulinho and Eriksen. And that ridiculous high-line defense? What was that all about?
      Really, the best thing that could happen right now is that Benfica knock us out and we finish 8th. That way, Tim will go in June and we can start afresh with van Gaal or Low, not have any second rate Europa matches to contend with next season, and maybe stand a better chance of winning something.

  9. Yeah,Chelsea were too strong for dem so i dont know d reason why some spur fans are complaining of referee error or dt Eto’o dive.a clear penalty nd wel deserved red card was given Kaboul.Sandro was lucky to stayed on d pitch for d 90 min duration.

  10. What a silly article. The author says Sherwood continually plays Vertoghan out of position at left back. Don’t be silly that was under AVB. This is the 1st time Sherwood has played Vertoghan at left back. stephenduffy, you don’t know what you are talking about!!

  11. I think we should give TS a fair go. He was absolutely right to lay into the players – certain results this season have been unacceptable. City 6-0 and 1-5, Liverpool 0-5 and now Chelsea 4-0. Professional players shouldn’t capitulate in this manner; certainly not against sides we are meant to be rivalling for top 4. For me Baldini should be held accountable – he has spunked £110 million quid and bought mediocrity. Paulinho a stand-out performer this season? Only in terms of how average he has been for a £17million signing. Oh and by the way Verts has not played left back week in week out. He has filled in when injuries or tactics have dictated but he had predominantly played centre back.

  12. This article reads like the author didn’t watch the game. Until the slip and suicidal backpass by Vertonghen that gifted Chelsea the lead and momentum in the match, Tottenham had contained the opposition comfortably and were looked extremely comfortable. We had better possession than the league leaders and looked more of threat on the ball than the counter attacking Chelsea. Granted, in the opening minute there was a fortunate offside decision, but again this was down to the Tottenham players not concentrating at the back, not something you can put down to tactical naivety from Tim Sherwood.

    Kaboul is regarded as our best centre half by many Spurs supporters and journalists that follow the club as part of their remit. Vertonghen is also a very accomplished central defender, but due to a lack of options at left back was put in this position for the Chelsea game.

    Arron Lennon career has petered out and hasn’t really lived up to the potential he showed years ago. In the past season or so, this hasn’t been the case. It appears that he has lost some confidence in his ability to take on defenders. However, I feel it’s more because he has had to adapt his game since Andre Villas Boas was first put in charge. The former manager prefered his wingers cutting inside to create opportunities, rather than beat defenders wide and cross, like Lennon was allowed to do under previous managers. Under Sherwood when he has been played in his more natural role, hasn’t particularly impressed.

    I was surprised that Paulinho didn’t start, but up until the first goal you can’t complain about the selection made by Sherwood. After the dubious sending off (the penalty less so), the tactics had to be changed, but again the following two goals were down to player error. This article really seems ill-informed, I appreciate it is an opinion piece, but it seems that you were watching a different game to everyone else.

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