Tim Sherwood's mocking nickname ‘Tactics Tim' is an ironic one considering how heavily his tactics under Tottenham were scrutinised. Our esteemed colleagues over at Cartilage Free Captain have given us their view of his tactics, but how will that relate to Aston Villa?
Sherwood's system at Tottenham was regularly described as a return to the old dinosaur days of a 4-4-2, with a well publicised dislike of holding midfielders and tendency to lump it up to Emmanuel Adebayor. This led to attacking football, but with a tendency to get ripped apart on the counter as the central midfielders were caught too far up the field and with space between the lines.
A slightly more generous view would see him as preferring box-to-box midfielders running beyond a strong striker who drops deep to collect the ball in a 4-4-1-1. Sherwood himself argued that he wanted his midfielders to rotate into space, including from the flanks, to fill in defensive gaps. The onus is shifted onto the tactical intelligence of the players - which could be a sign of a properly demanding manager or a useful way to shift the blame depending on your view.
Likely to benefit
Christian Benteke - The real hope for Villa fans is that Sherwood can replicate his success with Adebayor at Tottenham with Benteke. The game against Leicester saw the ball start to go in early and often towards his head and while his form was clearly off, he still assisted Sinclair's goal with a lovely flick on. He will be called upon to drop back and take part in the build up play, which many of us have urged, but will also be relied upon to score goals. His performance will probably define Sherwood's reign for the rest of the season.
Carles Gil - Gil is clearly the most lively of Villa's midfielders right now, and might do well under Sherwood, most likely as a wide playmaker drifting inside. This was the role Christian Eriksen had under Sherwood's Tottenham, where it only worked intermittently - occasionally overwhelming an opposition defence, occasionally leaving him isolated. However Gil has played regularly on the flank in his career and would enjoy the freedom to roam. But he´ll need to retain a sense of when to come back defensively for the good of the team.
Scott Sinclair/Jack Grealish/Leandro Bacuna - Not all of them, but at least one of these players is likely to see opportunities in the team as Sherwood seeks width in the side and a supply for Benteke. Grealish and Sinclair may have the best shot due to the lack of a current left wide player in the Vila side but Bacuna can't have done his case any harm with his goal in the Leicester game.
Likely to suffer
Carlos Sánchez - One who might suffer from Sherwood's preference for box-to-box midfielders. Sánchez is Villa's most naturally defensive midfielder whose specialty is sitting in front of the defence and snuffing out danger. While he has shown some desire to go forwards, his tendency to lose possession via too many touches or wayward passes is likely to be exposed in a fluid system of the type Sherwood prefers.
Andreas Weimann - There's always the hope that Andi will rekindle his partnership with Benteke that we saw in 2012/13 but his best position has always seemed to be as a wide forward, where his clever touches can get involved in the build-up play. He may suffering from being seen as neither an out and out striker nor the kind of traditional winger that Sherwood has favoured in the past.
Is this a good thing?
While it hurts to say, the answer is that yes, this kind of tactical simplicity is probably what Villa need right now - and more pertinently, what they can handle.
I would love to see a Villa side that played great football in a modern style. One where we had a world-class defensive pivot, allowing our full-backs to bomb up the pitch, wide forwards to come inside and a trio of central midfielders play clever passing triangles while our lone false 9 floated into space. But this side simply hasn't got the confidence, creativity or personnel to do that.
What we do have is a very strong, big striker in Benteke, a natural box to box attacking midfielder in Delph, a talented wide playmaker in Carles Gil and a serious lack of direct, attacking football. We might get ripped apart by the top sides as those players go forwards - but we were ripped apart by those sides under Lambert and at some points we seemed to have four holding midfielders on the pitch.
As Alex said, we really need to beat four or five of Stoke, West Brom, Swansea, QPR, Everton, West Ham and Burnley at home. We can only do that by scoring goals. We may regret this a year in the future when Sherwood argues we didn't need a defensive midfielder after a 10-0 loss to Chelsea, but if we're in the Premier League, it'll be a sacrifice worth making.