How did things go so quickly wrong for Nuno Espirito Santo at Tottenham?

Spurs are eighth in the Premier League after a miserable 3-0 defeat on Saturday to Manchester United

Tom White
Monday 01 November 2021 10:14
Nuno Espirito Santo struggled from the start to win over Tottenham fans (John Walton/PA)
Nuno Espirito Santo struggled from the start to win over Tottenham fans (John Walton/PA)

Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked as Tottenham manager after only four months in charge.

Spurs are eighth in the Premier League after a miserable 3-0 defeat on Saturday to a Manchester United side whose own manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had spent the week facing questions about his future.

Here, we look at how things went so quickly wrong for the former Wolves boss and his side.

Doomed from the start?

A prolonged 72-day search for Jose Mourinho’s successor saw Nuno initially discounted in favour of the likes of Antonio Conte, Gennaro Gattuso and their much-loved former boss Mauricio Pochettino. Chairman Daniel Levy reconsidered only after repeatedly failing to secure those other candidates, weakening Nuno in public perceptions from the start as even an opening three-match winning run failed to quell supporters’ concerns. When those results did not continue, his position quickly became insecure.

Kane controversy

Harry Kane (right) saw a summer move to Manchester City fail to materialise (Rui Vieira/PA)

Key striker Harry Kane was the subject of summer interest from Manchester City and made little attempt to disguise his interest in a move, while his eventual statement that he would be “staying at Tottenham this summer” was hardly a binding long-term commitment. Last season, he and Son Heung-min formed one of the Premier League’s most dangerous ever partnerships and Kane led the league in both goals and assists. This term, he has only one of each after nine appearances and has taken only 19 total shots, with 10 on target.

Lack of creativity

Dele Alli (left) joins Kane among the Spurs attacking players failing to fire this season (Nick Potts/PA)

That lack of attacking output has not been limited to Kane, with Spurs scoring only nine goals in 10 games. Only Norwich have scored fewer, three after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Leeds, while they now match the Canaries for the fewest total shots with 103 according to the official Premier League website. Son’s four goals make him a creditable exception but Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn, Dele Alli and summer signing Bryan Gil have one league goal and one assist between them – a combined return matched by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg alone.

No recruitment plan

Fabio Paratici (right) has much work to do to solve Tottenham’s long-term lack of on-field planning (Nick Potts/PA)

Fabio Paratici was brought on board this summer as managing director of football and was instrumental in Nuno’s eventual appointment but on the pitch, the lack of long-term planning remains apparent. Limited by the cost of their spectacular new stadium, Spurs at one point went two transfer windows without making a single signing and this season they once again have no senior alternative to Kane as a frontline striker, defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have not been adequately replaced and signings from previous regimes, such as Ryan Sessegnon and even Nuno’s former Wolves standout Matt Doherty, have failed to make an impact.

Lost the crowd

Tottenham fans made their feelings clear towards manager Nuno during the defeat to Manchester United (John Walton/PA)

It was clear to see the moment the home fans turned on Nuno and his team, as boos rang around the ground in the 54th minute of the defeat at home to United to greet his decision to replace Moura with Bergwijn. Chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” were also clearly audible, directed at a manager whose team trailed only 1-0 at the time but soon conceded a second goal to Edinson Cavani before Marcus Rashford’s late clincher proved the final blow for Nuno.

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