Tottenham: Dark clouds are building over Nuno Espirito Santo after latest London slump


Most Tottenham managers are given the same piece of advice when they first take control in north London. Whatever you do, make sure you beat Arsenal. If you can’t win against Arsenal, make sure you beat Chelsea. And do not – under any circumstances – lose to West Ham. 

Nuno Espirito Santo will have understood the importance of derbies when he was appointed, and – throwing in a 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace – he has now committed the cardinal sin of losing four of them and conceding 10 goals in the process. 

His Spurs side were ousted by another London rival on Sunday as Michail Antonio pounced to seal a 1-0 win for the Hammers, and just like every contest in the capital this season, it was another toothless display from Nuno’s men. 

Nuno Espirito Santo is under fire after his Tottenham side lost a fourth London derby this term

The 1-0 loss to West Ham means Spurs have conceded 10 and scored once vs London rivals

The 1-0 loss to West Ham means Spurs have conceded 10 and scored once vs London rivals

Tottenham were hammered 3-0 at home to their bitter rivals Chelsea in September

Tottenham were hammered 3-0 at home to their bitter rivals Chelsea in September 

And they suffered more humiliation as they were beaten 3-1 by local rivals Arsenal

And they suffered more humiliation as they were beaten 3-1 by local rivals Arsenal 

Slow tempo, lack of invention and a non-existent goal threat. Nuno’s men had a couple of half chances in the first half through Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, but in the second half they failed to record a single shot. 

The Portuguese coach was never a popular choice with fans, and was always going to be reliant on picking up results fast. After a ‘honeymoon’ period of three straight wins to kick off the season, things have spiraled quickly, with many supporters questioning the style he is trying to implement.

There was no recognisable game plan or strategy on show at the London Stadium, and Nuno even had the audacity to claim Spurs were the better team.

Spurs are lacking invention under Nuno and look toothless in front of goal after failing to register a shot in the second half at the London Stadium

Spurs are lacking invention under Nuno and look toothless in front of goal after failing to register a shot in the second half at the London Stadium

‘We were the better team, honestly,’ he said after the game. ‘I think we controlled the game, we had chances. We had possession. West Ham are a good team but they only created chances on counter-attacks and set-pieces. We played better, but this is football.

‘The last pass was there but we need to be more aggressive in our offensive game. We controlled the game. The whole game was under control.’

Unfortunately, having the lion’s share of possession doesn’t win you football matches if there is no end product, and there was nothing about this game from Tottenham’s point of view that suggested ‘control’. 

#NunoOut trended yet again on Twitter after the loss to West Ham, and even if the players do still believe in his methods, it’s clear to see that many fans have lost what little faith they had. In the boardroom, patience must be wearing thin too.

Spurs' miserable statistics in London derbies this season - courtesy of www.sofascore.com

Spurs’ miserable statistics in London derbies this season – courtesy of www.sofascore.com

Spurs were put to the sword in the last three London derbies, conceding nine goals in the process and scoring just one – a consolation against Arsenal. This was a different equation entirely. A close game that was there for the taking and instead of grabbing it by the scruff of the neck, Tottenham were pedestrian.

Nuno would no doubt say he needs more time to hammer home his philosophies. He would say that if you look at the Premier League table, his team are still in touching distance of the top four, sitting sixth and just two points off fourth with five victories – including one against Manchester City. But the stats do not flatter his side in the slightest.

Spurs have just nine Premier League goals – with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and even struggling Watford and Newcastle netting more. 

For expected goals, they rank 17th with 9.7, figures by Opta show, just above relegation favourites Burnley and Norwich. They are second bottom – again ahead of the Canaries – when it comes to shooting, registering a measly 94 shots. In comparison, Liverpool are at the top of the shooting charts with 185. 

Nuno is struggling to get the best out of his attackers Harry Kane (left) and Son Heung-min

Nuno is struggling to get the best out of his attackers Harry Kane (left) and Son Heung-min

Tottenham’s lack of penetration is summed up by their lowly standing when it comes to touches in the opposition box – ranking 17th again with just 181. And the lack of aggression and intensity we have seen from Nuno’s side has resulted in Spurs winning possession back just 33 times in the final third. 

Fans want to see a Tottenham side that attacks and plays with flair – they haven’t witnessed that since Mauricio Pochettino was in charge. If pragmatism brings results, that can be forgiven, but there have been too many poor displays since the former Wolves boss took charge.

Going forward, Nuno has more dark clouds than silver linings. 

He is not getting performances out of his top stars. Having battled to keep hold of Harry Kane, the England skipper now looks bereft of confidence with just one Premier League goal and is not playing like someone who believes in the manager’s blueprint. 

Nuno's system does not allow creativity from the midfield, who are often bypassed and stifled

Nuno’s system does not allow creativity from the midfield, who are often bypassed and stifled

Whatever style he is trying to introduce, it does not allow his midfielders to be creative, despite possessing a handful of players who are gifted technically. The likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli all look stifled, while Son has been chipping away with goals without much regular service. 

Spurs are still in every cup competition and face a trip to Burnley next, before a huge clash at home to fellow strugglers Manchester United. It’s a defining week. 

Crashing out of the Carabao Cup and allowing a wounded Red Devils side to rediscover their confidence at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would be damaging – perhaps too damaging for Nuno to recover from. 

His number one priority is to sharpen his blunt tools. Too often Spurs have let games pass them by and are not nearly creative enough. Whether that’s something to be worked on in training or tinkered with in his tactics, the team will be lucky to finish in the top seven playing this way.

The former Wolves boss promised to 'make fans proud' when he was appointed, but his style of play is nothing to take pride in so far

The former Wolves boss promised to ‘make fans proud’ when he was appointed, but his style of play is nothing to take pride in so far

When Nuno was appointed, he promised to follow the club’s ‘DNA’ and make the fans ‘enjoy watching’ the team. 

‘Having a squad like Tottenham’s, you can only have one DNA, you can only think one way,’ he said. ‘We have to enjoy the game, we have to play the game. When you have a squad of quality, talented players like we have, the DNA is to make the fans proud, make them enjoy watching. 

‘This is our DNA, to make our fans proud of us. There is no question about it that that will happen. We’re going to make them proud and they’re going to enjoy the team, for sure.’

It was a bold promise, and so far an empty one. For any supporter, there is very little to be proud of as things stand. 

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