Praise for Villa man is classic Sherwood smoke and mirrors

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Tim Sherwood talks. He talks about himself and his infamous win percentage. He talks about his players and how good they are. Sometimes he talks about how bad they are. And now he’s talking about stats.

Tim Sherwood doesn’t like stats. He’d rather trust what he is seeing with his own eyes to gauge a player’s performance, rather than let a sheet of data lead him down a misguided path.

The former Tottenham manager’s outlook should play right into the hands of Tom Cleverley, who Sherwood claims is finally gaining credibility after a prolonged period of mediocrity.

“I think he has come in for a little bit of criticism but he is really getting appreciated now. He covers more ground than anyone on the pitch,” the Villa tactician said.

Here’s where things start to go awry though. Because while Sherwood sees Cleverley haring about the pitch, eager to impress like an overly polite future son-in-law, the stats bods know the truth.

As a one-time successor to Paul Scholes, the temporary Villa midfielder’s prime role in any side should be that of pass-master.

In that regard Cleverley has not made any progression.

He has completed the most passes of any Villa player this season, but has the shortest average pass length of the four central midfielders on the club’s books.

So while his reputation as the footballing equivalent of a crab with the ball at its feet has not waned, neither has his influence at the attacking end of the pitch.

Cleverley hasn’t scored a goal in any competition since December 2013 and hasn’t registered an assist for the Villans this term.

Whether the on-loan man has improved or not, the club are still locked in a relegation battle, as 4/1 shots to go down with Ladbrokes.

Sherwood is going to need more than just a bundle of midfield energy if Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor are to be provided with enough chances to score the goals that will keep them up.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.