I had been champing at the bit to write about Tim Sherwood but after this last weekend, it feels a little more like a necessary procedure akin to having root canal treatment. Damn it though I’m an analyst, to some at least, and come hell or high water one must continue. Sherwood, despite widespread unpopularity amongst Tottenham fans dismissive of his win percentage, showed humility and decency in his special one-on-one Match of the Day interview. With a glint in his eye joined merrily by the tiniest yet most obvious smirk he may well have provoked a little ire but he brings a certain appeal that if not quite box office is certainly worthy of soap opera.
He has returned to our lives in the guise of Aston Villa manager and has quickly posted a 37% win percentage- an instant improvement on the 20% Paul Lambert accrued thanks to an aversion to creativity and goalscoring.
He’s back, he’s got his striker scoring again and as such Goal of the Month competitions have resumed at Villa Park, but what’s under the hood for our Tim?
Firstly, Lambert presided over one of the most miserable Premier League seasons in recent memory. A sub-five percent conversion rate meant that a proverbial grandmother could have come in and improved the situation. An ideal gig for a confident and confidence-orientated manager? For sure.
The most relevant thing about Villa under Sherwood to me is that their shooting numbers are solidly par. They are a roughly 50% team under his tutelage and it holds across a variety of other numbers including possession (49%), Finishing/PDO (1.02), total conversion (+0.01) and even goals for / against (1.5:1.4). How he is generating these numbers is interesting given that as a Tottenham fan, I have some insight as to how Tim Sherwood sets up his teams and how he attempts to generate results. And in this early analysis, there are some notable similarities to his Tottenham tenure. Samples are small, twenty-two games and eight but already we can pull specific likenesses:
A few choice numbers there but revealing, in particular when held up against league averages as shown. Each of these statistics I feel are a reasonable proxy for how Tim Sherwood sets up his teams and the way he approaches football matches. We can see that in both his jobs the conversion rates for and against have been high, the rate of shots created and allowed that are on target is extremely high and the goal totals in games have clearly exceeded league averages. To those of us who watched the back end of Tottenham’s 2013-14 season, none of these points will come as a surprise. Sherwood regularly entrusted 19 year old Nabil Bentaleb to a nominal defensive midfield role. Alone. Meanwhile five more attack minded players endeavoured to wreak havoc ahead. Some of these set-ups appeared naïve, or even ill conceived, and they provided mixed results. So much so that when combined with an over willingness to share in the media, his departure was not mourned widely. Sherwood’s methods appeared to sacrifice control at the altar of chance and his gung ho attitude was too nerve-wracking for supporters more recently acquainted with the prescriptive stylings of Villas Boas. He has found a similar scenario at Villa and seemingly approached it the same way.
Paul Lambert’s latter period was characterised by some extremely cautious, even negative, ball retention and Villa often played as if they feared losing. This is no longer the case. The reality of a 3-3 draw at home to QPR as Redknapp protégés slug things out shows where the football has headed for Villa. And weirdly, this might not be a bad thing. Whereas Sherwood’s methods ultimately fell short of requirements at Tottenham, they could well be exactly what is needed for a club battling relegation. “You win some, you lose some” is a hell of a strong maxim for a team that hasn’t been winning many at all and deserved to win fewer. His current early record of 3-1-4 will do them just fine if maintained and suggests that “having a go” is at least, a short term fix. It isn’t particularly technical, it might end in tears but Sherwood’s magic is simple: pump up your chest, glue your heart to your sleeve and get out there and play like you’re worth it.
So welcome back, Tim.
1. Chelsea are limping but what does it matter?
Since trouncing Swansea 5-0, Chelsea’s form has been decidedly less impressive. It will likely mean nothing as Arsenal and Man Utd have taken too long to flourish but with little impact from score effects, to have been outshot by a combined 52(17) to 29(7) in their last three away games against West Ham, Hull and QPR is head-scratchingly non-creditworthy. Taking all nine points from those fixtures means “who cares?” and the trophy engraving has likely been scheduled.
2. Newcastle are phoning it in
It happened last year, it’s happening again: Christmas lasts four or five months in Newcastle as regular donations of three points are handed out to all and sundry. I mean, they lost to Sunderland last week and that’s a team i’m sorely tempted to bestow with a “least deserving” award, so bad they’ve been. Competition winner John Carver has had a tough run of fixtures and has been scalded by a horrible opposition conversion rate: Newcastle are conceding 16% of shots faced compared to scoring 8% of their own. This can’t last forever but we saw the same utterly banal form the same time last year and a repeat was foretold by one of our sage analysts back at the end of January:
Our model gives Newcastle a 99.5% probability of finishing below 4th and above 18th in EPL. Mike Ashley will be happy with that.
— Colin Trainor (@colinttrainor) January 31, 2015
@Objectivefooty has also come up with a novel solution:
John Carver probably needs firing into the sun http://t.co/roPHOSpPWb - 13 gms - 0.92 Goal +/- p90 - 0.7 pts p90 - 39% SoTR - 32.4% Goal%
— ObjectiveFootball (@ObjectiveFooty) April 13, 2015
Maybe I’m being harsh? In isolation I’d agree but Newcastle are coasting once more and the blueprint does not include this kind of form early season, a potential situation which will surely require remedy over the summer. Won’t it?
3. Pulisball wobbles
We know Pulis puts up sub-par numbers. We know Pulis has defined inflexible methods that tend towards overachieving against them. What we don’t know is what’s going wrong at West Brom that has led his team to concede seven goals in two games against Leicester and QPR. He’s still picked up points at the same rate as Sherwood (1.25 a game) but what he hasn’t got coming any time soon is fixtures as nominally winnable as those last two. They may be able to beat Newcastle, but beyond that none of their remaining fixtures look winnable and one wonders just how much psychological damage was inflicted by a frenzied Man City that day. That’s not stats, I hear you cry, and I know so here’s a chart:
Sure, the City game ruined this, but it was heading for the rubbish tip anyway. Tough times at the Hawthorns.
Obligatory Tottenham Exhaustion
“You see, them lads down at Tottenham are young. And they’ve played a lot of games and worked hard all season. Lots of training, lots of games and now they’re knackered. And it shows. Danny Rose is their best player at the moment, Danny Rose! Their attack has given up and even the fans are questioning Pochettino. Is he up to the job? Well? Is he? We just don’t know. He keeps picking the wrong players. Week by week players disappear then return magically for a game or two then get dropped. Fazio rose from the ashes this week and got blamed for the goal. But he’s barely played in weeks. Paulinho gets slated every time he gets near the pitch but he’s not match fit. It’s a nightmare. Half the team are gonna get shipped on in the summer and a few of the rest probably aren’t up to it. You could drive a train through our defence at times, so easy is it for the opposition! At least we’ve got Villa at home this weekend though, be good to turn over Sherwood. Last thing we need to see is his grinning mug…”
Thanks for reading!
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