Did Tottenham know their man and do they know who they really want next?

NUNO Espirito Santo has been shown the door by Tottenham Hotspur after just 10 Premier League games and a 50% win rate. Admittedly, they were woeful against Manchester United in their last game, a 3-0 defeat at their gleaming new stadium, but has Nuno been given a fair crack of the whip?

Spurs, embarrassingly, had difficulty filling the job after they saw José Mourinho on his way in April 2021 and they finally got Nuno after a long list of names were thrown into the hat. Some turned them down and they may find they have the same trouble in seeking a replacement for their latest coach.

Since Mauricio Pochettino was relieved of his duties, Spurs seemed to have lacked direction and purpose. The players probably know it, hence Harry Kane expressed his desire to leave and the hangover of a summer of “will, won’t he”, has translated into one Premier League goal in nine games and a mysterious pre-season episode that seemed like the player had gone AWOL.

It’s time to acknowledge that the Pochettino team is now shot, the players have either become disillusioned or gone elsewhere. Look at Dele Alli, once one of the great hopes for English football, but now a shadow of his former self. That Spurs team, which was a joy to watch at times, is not going to win prizes now, at least what’s left of it. Kane will surely go now and Spurs will cash in, although after a mixed start to 2021-22, they may not get as much for their star striker as they would have in the summer. A big name motivator could still turn Kane around if Spurs want to keep him.

But the most worrying aspect of Nuno’s departure is the fact that Spurs didn’t like his style of play or his methods, at least that’s the word coming out of the north London woodwork. This is pure and utter nonsense as the Nuno style was there for all to see at Wolves. Had Spurs not done their homework, if they had why was his approach a surprise? This smacks of the same syndrome that has inflicted Manchester United and, to some extent, Chelsea. How many times has Roman Abramovich been unhappy with the style of his manager? And United, they moaned and groaned at the Mourinho way, yet surely they knew he would take to Old Trafford a style that had been successful for him in the past. The very thing that makes managers attractive – their results – is achieved by their own take on what makes a proficient coach. If that comes as a surprise when he turns up, then the club’s system of recruitment is clearly sub-optimal.

When Pochettino left the club, he had generated a win rate for league games of 56% in his time at Spurs. Mourinho’s win rate was 46.6% and Nuno’s exactly 50%. A few draws would have made a big difference, for Spurs also had a 50% loss rate in the Premier League.

Who will Spurs turn to now? Daniel Levy may feel that Spurs have lost their way and they are being upstaged by Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham in London. Furthermore, their record against the so-called and rather shaky “big six” members is poor, a win rate of 25% since 2019-20.

There’s an interesting situation developing now that may also include Manchester United. If Solskjaer’s position is under threat (and it changes week-by-week), then there may be a battle for the available talent involving United and Spurs. If, for example, Antonio Conte is the man they want, the fact Spurs are now in the market could force United to act quicker than they might have and deal with their own managerial problems.  If that happens, Spurs may find they are back to square one.

Why bother? Tottenham, embarrassment and the Conference League

ANYONE who called Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira a “pub team” from a “farmers league” must be a little red-faced after Tottenham Hotspur lost their first leg tie in the Europa Conference League. 

The British media continually underestimate foreign teams and fans constantly dismiss opposition that doesn’t appear among the elite group of clubs? It’s also a little arrogant and portrays the English game as a. bunch of over-indulged children who have an air of entitlement.

Tottenham fielded a shadow 11, which was a surprise given their coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, is Portuguese. The team that so heroically beat Manchester City 1-0 on the opening weekend was discarded in favour of a mix of squad players and young debutants. Only Giovani Lo Celso, Matt Doherty and Christian Romero of the 14 players that featured against City were used in Portugal.

It has become an accepted part of the game that certain managers today disregard some cup competitions, but why field such a weakened team for the club’s only sniff of European football in 2021-22? For a start, it is cheating the fans, not least the Spurs travelling contingent. Secondly, it is devaluing UEFA’s new folly, and thirdly, it can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect towards the opposition.

Admittedly, there should be questions about UEFA’s new consolation prize competition, but if clubs do not want to enter, or consider it beneath their profile, then perhaps they should not bother playing in the first place. The Conference League may be relatively weak, but for some clubs, it is an exciting venture into the unknown. Spurs may have reached the Champions League final in 2019, but they are in the Conference on merit in 2021. Giving the impression “we’re too good for this” only serves to motivate the opposition and waste people’s time. Football is rife with this attitude, witness the way losing finalists now take their medals off after being awarded the runners-up prize. 

Furthermore, the Conference League provides a club still seeking its first trophy since 2008 with the genuine chance of lifting some silverware. They might see it as meagre pickings, but let’s be honest, have transitional Spurs got a realistic chance of a major prize? When you consider just how few teams across the football universe can be successful in any one season, surely a bauble of any sort represents a return? 

We can live with slightly weakened teams, perhaps resting one or two, but putting out a side that was the equivalent of a pre-season friendly at a local non-league club, was going way too far.

Spurs will probably get through to the next round, realising they need to bring back their big guns to ensure progress, but they certainly got caught with their pants down in Portugal. Winning is a habit, they say, which means taking each game seriously and fielding your best possible squad. To devalue first team games is, quite literally, an insult to the people who pay good money to watch their favourites. But they won’t be the last team this season to send out a scratch XI.