On Sunday afternoon at Wembley Liverpool and Aston Villa face each other in the FA Cup for just the eight time in the competition’s history. Liverpool have had the better of things winning six of the previous seven meetings with Villa’s sole victory coming back in ’96 when they cruised to a 3-0 win. 1896 that is.
Meaning Tim Sherwood is going to have to lead Villa to their first FA cup win over the Merseysiders in almost 120 years if he wants to keep the fairytale going at full Cinderella pace. If anyone can do it then why not the gilet sporting cockney who appears to have a knack for this management lark?
Not only is he on course to keep Aston Villa in the Premier League but he has also managed to make them exciting to watch. Okay exciting is going too far but they’re undeniably more entertaining than they were under the uninspiring guidance of Paul Lambert.
A large part of the success Villa have enjoyed of late has been due to Sherwood’s ability to rouse another sleeping giant. Last season he enjoyed immediate returns from his decision to recall Emmanuel Adebayor to the Tottenham squad.
Yüzbaşı Adebayor / Komutan Sherwood pic.twitter.com/dxU1AIrm1j
— Tribun Dergi (@tribundergi) April 7, 2014
The inconsistent frontman scored three goals in Tim’s first two games and went on to bag 14 goals in 24 appearances. Helping Spurs to 69 points and 6th place in the Premier League. Under Pochettino this season Adebayor has 2 goals in 16 appearances and his side, currently in 7th place, will need to win 5 of their remaining 6 games to match last season’s points total.
This time around Christian Benteke is the man benefiting from a little Tim time. The Belgian had a paltry 3 goals in 19 appearances before Tim arrived at the midlands club but has been on fire ever since with 9 goals in 11 games, including 5 in his last 3 outings. A change in tactics has helped to make the most of Benteke’s talents, getting the ball to him earlier and utilising the pace of Agbonlahor to stretch opposing defences. However, tweaking tactics will only help so much and one can’t but wonder what sweet nothings he has been whispering in to the Belgian’s shell-like.
Whatever Sherwood has done or said it’s been working. Sitting third from bottom on 22 points when he joined the club, Aston Villa have clambered to 15th spot, 6 points clear of the drop zone on 32 points. A comparatively comfortable position from which the midlands club are looking good to secure their place in the Premier League for another season.
With the team gaining confidence and Benteke on a hot-streak Aston Villa are arguably a better shot than the current 9/2 on them to beat Liverpool in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final suggests.
Brendan Rodger’s side have recorded two wins and two clean sheets following consecutive defeats against Manchester United and Arsenal but they are far from being back to their best. The absences of Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho will be a concern for this game, especially when having to contend with the physicality of an in-form Benteke. Dejan Lovren is still looking uncertain and remains prone to mistakes and Glen Johnson, if he plays, is a defensive liability.
— Independent Sport (@IndoSport) April 13, 2015
Up front Liverpool are creating chances but the wasteful finishing of Raheem Sterling, amongst others, highlights Liverpool’s need for more potent options in attack. A few less bangs off of the nitrous baloon might help. Tim Sherwood will be happy to see Daniel Sturridge’s name missing from the team-sheet, should his hip injury keep him sidelined.
Villa already have a win over Liverpool this season , beating the Reds 1-0 at Anfield thanks to a Gabby Agbonlahor strike. In this year’s FA Cup the Villans have yet to fall behind in any game, spending 28% of the time in the lead and 72% all-square.
Keeping Villa safe and reaching an FA Cup final would make for a fine effort from Mr Sherwood and should at least guarantee he has a job to go to when next season kicks off. He’s no mug but how will he fare over the course of a full season?