Opinion: Analysing whether Nuno is already working off borrowed time at Spurs

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Nuno Espirito Santo
Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

As October draws to a close, Nuno Espírito Santo’s Lilywhites sit in sixth place in the Premier League table. At face value, this doesn’t seem all that bad.

Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City sit above us. This is an expected trio, all of whom have been on outstanding form. West Ham and Brighton – two lesser expected teams that have been shining brightly since the start of the season – sit in fourth and fifth place.

We sit just behind in sixth place. All in all, it doesn’t seem like an awful start.

Yet, cast your eyes over to goal difference, and our standout figure of minus four paints a more realistic image of the lacklustre and often uninspiring football Spurs fans have witnessed this season so far.

From the lengthy manager saga, to the Kane drama, to the promise of bringing back exciting, attacking football stamped with that signature ‘Spurs DNA’ which is yet to really be delivered on, these past few months have been a real rollercoaster for Spurs fans.

As we head into November, how worried should we be? Does Nuno need more time, or has his time already run out?

The season so far

Spurs have produced a real mixed bag of results so far this season. We began with three uniform 1-0 wins in the league, before falling off towards the end of September with consecutive London derby defeats against Crystal Palace, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

Our one win, one draw, and one loss so far in the Europa Conference League has been far from inspiring. Yet, our recent Premier League victories against Aston Villa and Newcastle gave fans a scrap of hope as we headed into yet another derby at the London Stadium.

This morsel of hope was gradually torn apart as our fully rested starting XI produced a rather lacklustre performance. West Ham secured the win through a recklessly gifted and carelessly defended set-piece.

Another loss, and our fourth London derby defeat this season. As if that statistic isn’t damning enough, we’ve lost these matches by a combined 10-1 on aggregate.

Any football fan will know that derby matches always mean more and to lose a grand total of four within two months is inexcusable and downright embarrassing.

On top of all this, Spurs attempted zero shots in the second half of the match versus West Ham, and Kane (again) appeared unbothered in the face of another derby defeat. It really does seem hard to find a silver lining.

A look on the bright side

Of course, it is all too easy to be sucked into what feels like a never-ending cycle of despair as a Spurs fan. For the sake of our own mental health, it is important to weigh up the positives.

A real shining star within the Spurs team at the moment is Oliver Skipp. Since coming back from his loan at Norwich, he has cemented himself as a key player in a midfield that is desperately lacking in creativity.

At just twenty-one years of age, it seems fair to say his ceiling is sky-high. His desire and work ethic already seems to exceed that of many of his more senior teammates.

Lucas Moura said it best via a recent Instagram post picturing himself and Skipp with the caption, ‘The tireless man! Always working very hard’.

It is hard to forget the dire state of our defence last season, and this has undoubtedly improved to some extent – particularly with the addition of Cristian Romero.

He is still clearly getting to grips with the Premier League, but I believe we have a gem of a player on our hands who is already proving his worth and is only going to get better.

Eric Dier, who was so often a bugbear for many fans last season, has been much more solid in defence. He’s definitely had his moments, and seems unable to escape some sort of defensive blunder, but has come along well since the end of last season.

It seems strange to laud a defence that (as our goal difference and London derby aggregate score shows) has let in a fair number of goals.

Yet, in comparison to the disastrous displays we witnessed at the back last season, there has definitely been some improvement. All things considered though, is this really a positive, or does it just show how far our standards have fallen?

Moving forward, it is important to keep this centre-back pairing for the time being and allow their partnership to develop, instead of swapping different players in and out which has so often been the case recently.

Overall, the phrase ‘mixed bag’ definitely best describes the season Spurs fans are experiencing so far. More lows than highs, but a few beacons of hope amidst all the doom and gloom.

‘Nuno Out’, or in need of more time?

A quick scroll through Twitter will tell you that most Spurs fans have already made up their minds on Nuno. To be honest, the odds were stacked against him from the start.

A fanbase teased with the likes of Antonio Conte and Erik Ten Haag in a prolonged two-month managerial hunt ended up reluctantly accepting their new manager who cemented himself into the position with lavish promises of making the fans proud once again.

It’s fair to say this promise is yet to be delivered.

A major prerequisite for the new manager was the ability to bring back the attacking style of football that has been brandished by fans and critics alike as ‘the Spurs Way’. Most agree that this has been lost in recent years. Unfortunately, Nuno seems to be struggling with any attempt to deliver on this.

Even the biggest critics of former Spurs manager Jose Mourinho seem to agree that Nuno’s style of football is no better than his predecessor, and he has thus far offered very little to prove he is the man for the job.

Some fans are adamant that Nuno should have until Christmas to deliver on his promise of making the fans proud. Yet, as the festive season draws ever closer, it is difficult to see how much is going to change.

Some thoughts on the team

Hopes around Kane finally growing into the season after his goal and assist against Newcastle have once again ceased after his ineffective performance against West Ham.

Many fans commented on his futile attempt at marking Michail Antonio in the build-up to West Ham’s goal – not only on the strange tactical mismatch between the two players, but also on how disinterested Kane appeared to be in the aftermath.

Many are questioning whether Levy’s stubbornness in keeping Kane over the Summer transfer window was in vain, as the player seems switched off and has offered very little so far this season. More fans are starting to believe that he has given up on the club after his failed Summer attempt at moving to Manchester City in pursuit of silverware.

There was a good clear-out over the Summer transfer window. However, the squad is still teeming with underwhelming players who are either past their best, or who have done little to prove themselves worthy of getting minutes on the pitch.

Nuno has been putting some of his fringe players to the test in the Europa Conference League with underwhelming results. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Winks, and Giovani Lo Celso have done little in the competition to prove themselves worthy of breaking back into the main starting XI.

These players are not living up to expectation and Nuno’s stinginess when it comes to substitutions seems to hint towards a lack of faith in his reserves.

Sergio Reguilón’s unnecessary loss of possession which led to the corner that West Ham scored from was another big talking point after the match. Reguilón is currently better as a part of the team’s attacking force but is definitely not as defensively sound as we need him to be. This is something he needs to improve on in future matches.

We are greatly missing a real game-changing substitute, and when considering this lack of depth, all paths seem to lead back to the years of under-investment in the squad we have witnessed under the tenure of Daniel Levy and ENIC. However, that is a whole other rabbit hole that we will not be falling down today.

What comes next?

In all honesty, it’s a weird time to be a Spurs fan.

We’ve got a manager who is struggling with his promise of once more making Spurs fans proud of the club, a star player who seems unhappy with his current situation and is doing little on the pitch to endear himself once more in the eyes of the fans, and a chairman and board whose futile attempts at living up to the ‘To Dare Is to Do’ mantra have fallen short time and time again.

Maybe a trip to Burnley on Wednesday and ninety minutes at home against a struggling Manchester United side on Saturday will put some of these fears to rest. That tiny hopeful part of me truly wants Nuno to succeed.

However, it is hard to feel much confidence in him or in this team as we witness lackadaisical performances and a manager struggling to motivate his players.

There’s a real sense of impermanence surrounding Nuno’s position at Spurs. Many are beginning to question what the point of appointing him was. How has Levy managed to mess up the managerial appointment which simply had to be right?

I can only hope that the team and manager proves me wrong, and that I can write in the future with a more optimistic outlook.

However, as the patience of fans is starting to wear thin, the sacking of Nuno is starting to feel less like a case of ‘maybe’, and more a case of ‘when’.

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