Premiership Roundup and Weekend Preview: Arsenal vs Chelsea and Managerial Job Postings

Tim Sherwood realizes being Tottenham manager is not that much fun
Tim Sherwood realizes being Tottenham manager is not that much fun

I try to have a look at job websites at least once a week – just in case that dream opportunity comes up – and recently there have been some eye-catching openings at a managerial level in various places across the UK.  Here’s the most recent one:

North London club seeking to restore former glories, or at least make it into the top four so that the shareholders will make more money from Champions League revenues (hint, this is the only measure of performance we will be using).  Position is available for a maximum of two years and your staff will be changed twice a year, with your best asset being removed once every August, yet we expect you to improve nonetheless.  Buck-passers need not apply.

As was covered in my post on Monday, Tottenham’s board decided that following the 5-0 loss to Liverpool at White Hart Lane last Sunday, it was time to axe Andre Villas-Boas and look for an 11th manager in the last twenty years.  While I covered his departure, I did not talk too much about the game, which saw Luis Suarez score twice to take his tally to 17 goals in 11 Premiership goals this term, two more than the entire Spurs squad had managed in their 16 fixtures.  Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Rahim Sterling also found the net in a match that saw AVB’s final team ran ragged by a side who could exploit the high line of defense that was deployed, especially since Etienne Capoue – naturally a holding midfielder – was one of the two centre backs.  Tottenham were not helped by the sending off of Paulinho when the score was 2-0 for a high tackle on Suarez, but they already looked like a beaten side before they were at a numerical disadvantage.

On Wednesday, Tim Sherwood took charge of Spurs for his first experience of professional management and he was clearly intent on setting himself out as being the anti-Villas-Boas, using traditional English tactics of 4-4-2 and putting Lennon and Townsend on the wings, telling them to run at the defenders and utilizing a high-tempo style of play.  Up front, Sherwood opted for Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, the latter of whom had played only 45 minutes of football this season as he had fallen out of favor with AVB.  While that decision may appear to have paid off for the interim manager – Adebayor scored a cracking goal to give Tottenham the lead, stylishly finishing off a cross from Defoe – the overall tactics Sherwood used were rudimentary and lacking any sort of guile, not to mention that it did not suit the players he had his disposal.  In a 4-4-2 system, it is necessary to have two strong players in the middle of the pitch, with the more attacking players deployed on the wings, but with Sandro and Paulinho out due to injury and suspension respectively, Mousa Dembélé – who fits the bill – lined up alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson, a player who is much more effective when he lines up either on the left flank or behind a main striker.  While Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela have not found immediate success since their big money transfers, they still could have been viable options to line up behind either Defoe or Adebayor to link the play up between the midfield and attack.  As it was, just like the possession-focused approach of AVB, Sherwood’s team only had one tactic: get the ball to either Lennon or Townsend on the wing and send some crosses into the box.  One-dimenstional football, no matter what form that takes, will always be stymied by an opponent is able to adapt and that is exactly what Sam Allardyce got his troops to do, making them full value for their 2-1 victory and their second win of the season at White Hart Lane.

Tim Sherwood clearly proved he is not Andre Villas-Boas, but he also provided enough evidence in 90 minutes that he is not the man who should be in the dugout at Tottenham on a permanent basis.  However, former Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle let it be known through a website he co-founded (Zapsportz.com) that he is available should the powers that be at White Hart Lane come knocking, so I am doing the same – if they want to give me a call, I will be willing to give them some advice.  Actually – here’s some for free, this is the line-up that should be starting for Tottenham if everyone is fit:

System: 4-2-3-1 (with the full-backs overlapping on the wings)

GK: Hugo Lloris

RB: Kyle Walker

CB: Jan Vertonghen

CB: Vlad Chiriches

LB: Danny Rose

CM: Sandro

CM: Paulinho

LW: Gylfi Sigurdsson

RW: Aaron Lennon

AM: Christian Eriksen

ST: Jermain Defoe

Subs: Brad Friedel; Younes Kaboul; Erik Lamela; Mousa Dembélé; Lewis Holtby; Etienne Capoue; Roberto Soldado

Sorry Andros Townsend (who will be out for around four weeks with a hamstring injury he picked up against the Hammers), but shooting all the time and not providing a single assist all season, while scoring only once from a huge deflection, is not good enough to even make the bench with the players available.  Michael Dawson has been a great servant to the club, but he is too slow and vulnerable to quick, skillful strikers so would not make it ahead of the other three centre-backs.  Capoue is the hardest player to leave out of the starting XI of those on the bench (plus Holtby, whom I really enjoy watching for his enthusiasm and fantastic passing ability) but the pairing of Sandro and Paulinho has been one of the better parts of Tottenham’s campaign thus far.  So there you go Spurs, references are available upon request.

Another job opportunity from a week ago:

Club in suburb of England’s second largest city seeks manager to avoid return to second tier.  Applicant must improve on results which have included away draws at Chelsea and Everton, getting a point at home against Arsenal, and winning at Old Trafford.  Opportunity to work with Nicholas Anelka.

Although AVB’s dismissal got the majority of the attention, there were actually two Premiership managers who lost their jobs last weekend as Steve Clarke was shown the door marked “Exit” by West Bromwich Albion following their 1-0 defeat at Cardiff.  As I pointed out above (I know, disappointing but these postings are not actually real…) Clarke had led Albion to their first away victory over Manchester United since 1978 and had come within a soft penalty award in the final minute of beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.  However, over the course of 2013, the club have picked up an average of less than a point a game – which is relegation form – and it was this long-term trend which led the board to decide to make the change now as they sit only two points above the relegation zone.  There has been a level of stability at the Hawthorns that was not there in the previous decade, as this is their fourth consecutive season in the Premiership, whereas the club had been demoted in three of their four previous campaigns at that level (surviving only in 2004/5 on the final day).

One final posting:

South Wales club seeks manager who can work well with a hands-on owner.  Applicant must be willing to listen to advice on team tactics, not mind if his staff get replaced on a whim, not require any money to be spent on transfer fees, and love the color red.  Actually, owner has decided to just appoint a friend of his instead, do not bother sending resumes.

This picture totally convinces me that Tan and Mackay have a good working relationship
This picture totally convinces me that Tan and Mackay have a good working relationship

Yes, it seems that Malky Mackay’s reign as Cardiff boss will come to an end this weekend, as Malaysian owner Vincent Tan has reportedly told him to either resign or be sacked, which this Saturday’s game against Liverpool likely to be his last in charge.  This will be one of the most ludicrous dismissals in the Premiership for some time, as the Bluebirds who now play in red sit 15th in the league, closer to 10th (3 points) than the relegation zone (4 points) and they have earned four points in their home matches against the two Manchester clubs.  However, it does not seem that Tan is running a meritocracy and the chances of Mackay still being employed by Christmas are looking very slim.

One man who is not about to lose his job, despite his team’s recent stumbles, is Arsene Wenger, who last weekend saw his Arsenal side beaten 6-3 at the Etihad by Manchester City.  It was an incredible, pulsating game that was great entertainment and City deserved their victory – though they were fortunate on a number of decisions that went their way – but the Gunners should be heartened that they did not let their heads go down and continued to fight to the end.  This was a complete contrast to the capitulation of Spurs on the same ground, who conceded the same number of goals but failed to make a contest of it in the way that Arsenal did.  After falling behind to a Sergio Aguero strike – who was later forced to come off with an injury which could keep the Argentinian out for eight weeks – the Gunners equalized through Theo Walcott, before Alvaro Negredo restored the home team’s advantage five minutes before the break.  In the second-half, Fernandinho had extended the lead to 3-1 before Walcott scored again, then David Silva and another from Fernandinho made it 5-2 with two minutes to go.  That was not the end however, as Arsenal continued to fight and pulled it back to 5-3 through Per Metersacker, but the icing on the cake for City came through a last-minute penalty converted by YaYa Toure.  While they did not allow their heads to go down in that match, what cannot be ignored is that the Premiership leaders have now failed to win any of their last three matches (home to Everton, away at Napoli and City) and their advantage at the top has now been cut to only two points over Liverpool and Chelsea.  By the time they take on the Blues at the Emirates on Monday night, Arsenal could find themselves down to third in the table (if Liverpool and Manchester City win their fixtures) and a defeat to Chelsea could see the Gunners drop down to fourth by the time Santa makes his rounds.  However, as a Tottenham fan, I would not mind the “troubles” of having your lead at the top of the Premiership cut to a point where, due to the timing of fixtures, you may be temporarily be knocked out of first place before having the chance to move back there a couple of days later.

Elsewhere last weekend, Manchester United returned to winning ways by beating Aston Villa 3-0, with Danny Welbeck scoring twice in the first 20 minutes to ensure that any nerves the Red Devils might have were quickly dispensed with; while Chelsea had a narrow 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, a game that featured Marouane Chamakh’s third goals in as many league matches, the first such streak of his career.  Everton continued their strong form by beating Fulham 4-1 at Goodison Park; bottom-club Sunderland earned a point away at West Ham, who will be wishing they got to play at White Hart Lane every week; Newcastle and Southampton shared the spoils with a 1-1 draw in the northeast; Norwich and Swansea ended the same way at Carrow Road; while Hull vs Stoke was unsurprisingly a goalless affair.

In the semi-final draw for the League Cup, West Ham were pitted against Manchester City, who got past Leicester City in midweek; while Manchester United – who knocked out Stoke 2-0 in a tie that was delayed for 10 minutes due to a hailstorm – will face Sunderland, after the Black Cats score a last-minute equalizer to force extra time against Chelsea and then won it with an 118th minute goal by Ki.  On Monday, the draws for the knockout stages of the European competitions were also made and in the Champions League, Arsenal will face holders Bayern Munich; City take on Barcelona; United were pitted against Olympiakos; and there will be a Didier Drogba/Jose Mourinho reunion as Chelsea meet Galatasary.  In the Europa League, Swansea have the daunting prospect of taking on Rafa Benitez’s Napoli, who were unlucky to finish third in their Champions League group with 12 points; while Spurs were drawn against Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, who are coached by one of Tottenham’s many former managers, Juande Ramos.

This weekend, alongside the aforementioned Arsenal vs Chelsea and Liverpool vs Cardiff; the Sherwood Spurs head to the south coast to face Southampton; West Ham will try to add to Manchester United’s recent woes at Old Trafford; Fulham host Manchester City; Chamakh goes for his fourth goal in a row for Crystal Palace when they play Newcastle; and Roberto Martinez takes Everton to one of his former clubs, Swansea.  Sunderland are consigned to being bottom at Christmas – a position that has led to the team being relegated in all but one Premiership season (2004/5 when West Brom were 20th when the turkeys were carved, but as mentioned above, survived on the final day) – regardless of their result against Norwich at the Stadium of Light this Saturday.  The other two fixtures see managerless Albion take on Hull, and Stoke meet Aston Villa at the Brittannia Stadium when a win for either side would take them – at least temporarily – into the top half of the table.

Predictions

Last week, 7-3; Season, 87-73

Home teams listed first

Saturday

Liverpool vs Cardiff – Home win

Crystal Palace vs Newcastle – Draw

Fulham vs Manchester City – Away win

Manchester United vs West Ham – Home win

Stoke vs Aston Villa – Draw

Sunderland vs Norwich – Home win

West Brom vs Hull – Draw

Sunday

Southampton vs Tottenham – Home win

Swansea vs Everton – Away win

Monday

Arsenal vs Chelsea – Home win

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