Cracks starting to appear in Tim Sherwood’s leadership at Tottenham

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The first three months of his tenure at Tottenham have been a relative roller coaster for Tim Sherwood, even if the wake of this weekend’s 4-0 loss at Chelsea represents only a relative trough. Sitting fifth in the Premier League, Spurs are still four spots better than their standing when André Villa-Boas was fired in late fall. While the post-AVB calm has receded, Tottenham is still a better than the team Sherwood inherited.

That isn’t the standard Sherwood will be judged against, though. For a team whose goals will make them top-four aspirants next season, the former Spurs midfielder needs to show himself able to challenge for Champions League. Though his team’s initial charge back up the table hinted he might be capable, Tottenham’s subsequent inability to keep pace makes results like Sunday’s all the more meaningful.

Perhaps that’s why the 45-year-old boss is starting to show his first signs of stress. At least, through the media he is. Having already accused his team of “lacking guts an character,” Sherwood defended his remarks by saying he’s not a “babysitter,” with the squad needing to understand their futures are being judged.

From the BBC:

“I’m just going to shoot from the hip. I’m a manager, not a babysitter,” he said ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-16 first-leg visit of Benfica.

“A lot here are playing for their future and they realise that now …”

“They are all men. They all appreciate that I am singing it from the heart, not from the script. I’m not an actor – I work on impulse.”

It’s a view with which it’s easy to empathize, but it’s not one that will endear itself to players, particularly from a man who has only been on the job for three months. While some players to appreciate a manager willing to take a squad’s slackers to task, fewer appreciate it being done through the press. Assuming your players want to be treated as you would was a mistake that undermined Roy Keane’s managerial career.

That Sherwood’s willing to do resort to this approach this early in his managerial career may itself is telling. While we do see other, successful managers use the media as an instrument to manage players, we don’t usually see it done so early into a new job. If Sherwood’s out of options this early into the Spurs job, where will he be in two months?

More from Sherwood:

“I’m never going to take a step back. They have that chance between now and the end of the season to prove they want to play for a giant club like Tottenham.

“I want players here who want to play for the club and they have between now and the end of the season to show that they are playing for their club and not for themselves.”

It’s the same situation Sherwood finds himself in as a coach, perhaps explaining his willingness to resort to this method. The first-time boss is only signed through the end of next season. If Spurs want to move on at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, one year of Sherwood’s salary is not going to prevent them from hiring someone else.

“I’m planning for next season,” he said. “There’s no point me planning if someone else is coming in. I have an 18-month contract and I expect to be here a lot longer than that …

“Everyone gets a second chance. I am never going to burn bridges with players. They are an asset to the football club.

All of this comes before Sunday’s visit from Arsenal, a derby in which a repeat of Sunday’s result is not an option. Any lopsided loss to Spurs’ biggest rivals could make up fans’ minds.

To this point, Tottenham supporters have been patient with a man who produced strong initial results. Show poorly against Arsenal, however, and fans will begin rumbling (louder, at least) about Louis Van Gaal.

Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

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Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Reus could miss at least six months after suffering knee damage ]

The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL clubs losing ground for Dembele and more

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With all the major leagues across Europe either closing or already have finished it’s the season of transfer rumors once again.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup win vs. Chelsea ]

Here are several of the juiciest pieces from Sunday:

Three London sides could potentially miss out on Celtic star Moussa Dembele as AC Milan has emerged as a favorite to sign the top-rated Frenchman. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all expressed great interest in the promising attacker, who scored 17 goals this season for the Scottish champions.

After struggling at times this season to keep goals out, Liverpool could turn to France as a potential outlet to fix the cracks in their back line. AS Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy already has significant PL interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp‘s side could also put up a fight.

West Ham is looking to bolster its attack this summer, and with Pep Guardiola likely making significant changes at the Etihad Stadium, Kelechi Iheanacho could be on his way to the Hammers ahead of the 2017/18 PL season.

Manchester City higher ups are keen on having Guardiola bring back goalkeeper Joe Hart from Torino this summer. Hart spent last season on loan with the Italian club after Guardiola sent him away from England early in his managing tenure at the club.

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

[ MORE: Arsenal edges Chelsea to earn FA Cup crown ]

The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.