Perhaps the most depressing thing about Tottenham’s 0-4 thrashing at the hands of title candidates Liverpool was that it was in no way surprising. After a season in which they have invested £107 million in new players, sacked a manager and installed a rookie in his place, there can be no doubt that Spurs have spectacularly regressed to the point where they are no longer even a match for the best teams in the division.
This latest embarrassing loss for Tim Sherwood’s side leaves their aggregate score against the current top four this season at 2-27. In eight games against Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, Spurs have scored only twice, conceded an astonishing 27 goals and garnered just one point. For a side that was supposed to be challenging for the title after significant investment in the summer, this is unacceptable.
It would be an understatement to say that Spurs were a mess at Anfield. The writing was on the wall as soon as the Tottenham side was announced. With Nabil Bentaleb (an average player for whom Sherwood appears to have a bizarre fascination) and attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson in defensive midfield, Christian Eriksen marooned on the left wing, winger Nacer Chadli in the number ten position and a woefully out-of-form Aaron Lennon on the right, the line-up was an utter shambles.
When you add in the fact that £26 million striker Roberto Soldado has been completely toothless up front this season, and that Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose are championship-level fullbacks, it didn’t take a soothsayer to work out that Spurs weren’t going to win this game.
Spurs’ approach to the game epitomised everything that has been wrong with the Sherwood regime. Daniel Levy, Franco Baldini and Andre Villas-Boas should not be absolved of blame either, but after presiding over a 0-4 capitulation at Chelsea only two weeks ago, one might have thought that Sherwood had learnt something. He hadn’t.
Sherwood was quick to absolve himself of blame in his post-match press conference, suggesting that it is impossible to account for individual errors such as Younes Kaboul’s own goal and Michael Dawson’s foolish back pass, and the man has a point, but the plain fact of the matter is that with a line-up bordering on suicidal against probably the best team in the league on current form, Tottenham had effectively lost the game before a ball had even been kicked.
So what now for Spurs? With the top four merely a faint mathematical possibility, the North Londoners have precious little to play for, and by the looks of yesterday’s game, the lack of something tangible to motivate the squad is having a thoroughly detrimental effect.
Of course, the job of motivation should fall to the manager, and for that reason alone Sherwood should be dismissed from his post as manager with immediate effect. It is difficult to truly dislike the ex-Blackburn skipper, but the reality is that he is woefully out of his depth at this level. His line-ups, his tactical decisions and his stubborn refusal to respect superior opponents have all been ruthlessly exposed this season, and if Tottenham continue with a manager with such an archaic approach to the game, it will be a while yet before they are knocking on the door of the top four once more.
Sherwood has made all the right noises about wanting the job on a long-term basis, even suggesting that he is making plans for the summer and next season. One cannot blame for him this – after all he does still have around a year to run on his current deal – but the reality is that it would be a serious shock if Sherwood keeps his job beyond this season.
It is not Sherwood’s fault that he has been given the job. He was in the right place at the right time, and understandably he wants to stay in charge. But any football fan with half a brain can see that Spurs are not good enough under Sherwood. This is a club that has been knocking on the door for the last eight years. This is a club with ambitions of Champions League football and title challenges. For them to even have a chance of these things they need a top class manager, and unfortunately, that’s not Sherwood.
The trouble for Tottenham now is that they have an expensively assembled squad that has proven rather underwhelming. Spurs recruited seven new players last summer, none of whom had any Premier League experience, and few of whom have looked anywhere near worthy of their price tags. Whether they retain Sherwood or bring in someone new, their squad needs serious work, but it remains to be seen if the funds are available for more rebuilding after last summer’s serious spending.
The irony for Spurs is that their latest humbling came at the hands of Liverpool. Since 2010, Tottenham have finished above the Reds, last season accruing 11 more points than Brendan Rodgers’ side. This season, Liverpool are fighting for the title, while Spurs are in the doldrums. Liverpool’s absolute refusal to sell their best player last summer has seen them become genuine title contenders, with that particular player nine goals clear at the top of the scoring charts. Spurs’ absolute willingness to sell their best player has seen them capitulate, waste a load of money on average foreign imports, sack their manager and become the laughing stock of London.
Until Tottenham stop selling their best players, they’re never going to be a Liverpool. Sadly for Spurs fans, the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is slim to none.
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