Nuno Espirito Santo wasn’t Tottenham Hotspur’s first choice. He wasn’t even their second or third choice. Indeed, the Portuguese coach’s name was a long way down the list of potential managerial targets, which included the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte and Paulo Fonseca, this summer. Nuno’s appointment was a compromise.
It is therefore unsurprising that Tottenham are struggling to find an identity under their new manager. While Daniel Levy initially wanted a coach to wash away the remnants of Jose Mourinho’s regrettable reign, remembered for its insipid soccer, he has ended up with someone who sees the game in much the same way as his predecessor.
Not much about Nuno’s Spurs team is working at the moment. At the back, they look vulnerable. Their midfield is struggling to control games while there is a desperate lack of creativity in the final third. Harry Kane is still at the North London club, but only in body, not in spirit. The 28-year-old is playing well within himself.
The signings made over the summer have not improved the team on the pitch, with Cristian Romero, voted the best defender in Serie A last season, starting Sunday’s North London derby on the bench. Emerson Royal, signed from Barcelona, was also left out of the lineup, raising doubts over Nuno’s judgement.
Only a month ago, Tottenham sat at the top of the Premier League
All this begs the question – how long are Tottenham Hotspur willing to give Nuno to get it right given that they never seemed too convinced of the 47-year-old’s credentials throughout the recruitment process? Would it be better for the club if they decided to make a change before any further damage is done?
Levy was quick to fire both Pochettino and Mourinho and so it might not take much more for the Spurs chairman to push another underperforming manager out the exit door. The upcoming Premier League fixtures against Aston Villa and Newcastle United could be key in determining Nuno’s future.
Tottenham must also consider the long-term outlook when assessing the start made by Nuno at the club. They find themselves at a crucial juncture in their recent history. Spurs have a squad rebuild ahead of them and in Fabio Paratici, their new sporting director hired in the summer, they have the man to put in place the principles that will sustain the team for the next generation.
Paratici, however, didn’t have much input in the appointment of Nuno. The Italian was hired by Tottenham less than a month before Nuno signed a deal to take over as manager and so it’s possible Paratici will want to head in a different direction now that he has the freedom to guide the club as he pleases.
It’s not necessarily that Nuno is a bad manager – look at what he achieved at Wolves – it’s just that he currently looks to be an awkward fit for a club like Tottenham Hotspur, a club that values dynamic attacking play. Time isn’t up for him yet, but Spurs might well have started the countdown.