A workable solution: What Tottenham’s choice of Sherwood implies about Villas-Boas’s shortcomings

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Though I was a bit skeptical of how Tim Sherwood was going about his campaign, there was always one quality in his favor as he sought the Tottenham job. As he showed on Sunday when passing over Etienne Capoue, selecting Nabil Bentaleb to replace Mousa Dembélé in midfield, the man who has signed on to manager Spurs for the next 18 months knows more about the club’s players than anybody  who’d been linked with the job. Who else would have know an 19-year-old French midfielder with no previous Premier League experience was capable of stepping into Dembélé’s shoes?

[MORE: Tottenham officially appoints Tim Sherwood manager]

“I’ve known [Tottenham] from the grassroots right up to the first team,” Sherwood said on Monday, having had the interim tag shed from his job description. “[I’ve] worked at every level of the football club and played here, so I know it better than most.

“Hopefully that will stand me in good stead taking this club forward.”

It’s an interesting proposition, the idea that Sherwood’s familiarity with the club will be important moving forward. The notion’s certainly an intuitive one, and unless he starts playing favorites (perhaps proving partial to players he’s developed an affinity for in the youth ranks), it’s difficult to see where familiarity will steer him wrong.

source: AP
André Villas-Boas carried a reputation of being prideful to White Hart Lane from Stamford Bridge, with speculation that had carried over into internal club dynamics coloring his Dec. 16 dismissal. (Photo: AP)

But what familiarity does Sherwood have with Erik Lamela? Does he have some special insight on Christian Eriksen, Roberto Soldado and Vlad Chiriches that André Villas-Boas lacks? And what does his time as technical coordinator at Spurs bring to bear on incorporation Capoue, Paulinho, and Nacer Chadli?

If Villas-Boas’s biggest undoing was his inability to mold a squad from Tottenham’s disparate parts, Sherwood’s familiarity with Spurs’ organizational dynamics is unlikely to prove better suited. But perhaps, in handing Sherwood an 18-month deal, Daniel Levy is tipping his hand. Maybe the biggest issue with “AVB” wasn’t the results on the field? Perhaps it was that combined with some deficiency in organizational acumen, and that won’t be a problem under Sherwood.

We’ve heard about this before with Villas-Boas – his pride and inability to work well with others being a potential failing. To this point, those faults remain speculative, ones that don’t become concrete with Sherwood’s hiring. Yet if you look at what Sherwood brings to the job — what he has that AVB does not — it’s not experience. It’s not youth, ideas, managerial achievement, or prestige. Given Villas-Boas had been at the club long enough to become intimately familiar with all its inner-workings, the distinct quality Sherwood seems to bring is an ability to mesh with the rest of Tottenham’s management team.

Beyond Villas-Boas, there are a number of candidates who’d bring a more accomplished managerial than Sherwood’s to White Hart Lane, and if the next six months are rocky ones, somebody like Borussia Möchengladbach’s Lucien Favre will surely be approached. (Or, if you buy into the speculation in the Netherlands, Louis Van Gaal may already have a handshake deal.) But in the interim, Daniel Levy’s apparently made a move for stability, and while that may not help Sherwood unlock the talents of Erik Lamela, it could ensure he stays on the same page as the rest of the organization.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.