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.

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

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A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

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Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

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Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

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The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.

Report: Blatter to attend Portugal vs. Morocco as guest of Putin

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is still in the middle of an eight-year ban from the organization he once ran.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on some of the World Cup action, live in Russia.

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BBC journalist Richard Conway reported early Tuesday that Blatter is set to watch Portugal vs. Morocco in Moscow as a guest of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 82-year-old would normally not be able to sit in the presidential box due to his FIFA ban, though he likely could attend matches with a regular ticket like the vast majority of soccer fans.

Just four years ago, Blatter was president during the 2014 World Cup, one that was marred by corruption scandals in addition to the corruption scandals surrounding the World Cup bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

His reign of power at FIFA finally came to an end on June 2, 2015, when he resigned following an embarrassing month for FIFA in which many of its members were arrested in a joint-raid between the Swiss authorities and the FBI.

Blatter was eventually handed an eight-year ban from FIFA’s ethics committee for an “unauthorized payment” of $2 million from Blatter to Michel Platini, the former France star and FIFA vice president who was also handed an eight-year suspension.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)