Nuno Espirito Santo and the search for Tottenham Hotspur’s DNA
“I feel we lost sight of some key priorities and what’s truly in our DNA,” wrote Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy in a letter to supporters in May.
Levy’s note of contrition was a reference to the club’s decision to join the European Super League breakaway project, which had quickly collapsed a few weeks earlier.
“We don’t get everything right,” he added. “It has never been because we don’t care about or respect you, our fans – nothing could be further from the truth.”
Yet four months later Spurs supporters are demanding answers from Levy, amid accusations that the club have, again, abandoned principles that fans expect them to uphold.
Their concern is rooted in an alarming downturn in Tottenham’s results early in the tenure of manager Nuno Espirito Santo as they prepare to face Slovenian side Mura in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.
After winning their first three Premier League fixtures of the season, all by the same 1-0 scoreline, they have lost consecutive top-flight games against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, shipping three goals each time.
It isn’t just that Spurs lost those games, or even the pain of suffering defeats at the hands of London rivals, it has also been how hopeless they have looked in the process.
Palace have failed to score in four of their six league games yet ran in half of their season’s goal tally in 15 minutes against 10-man Tottenham. Chelsea overcame early resistance to cruise to victory in N17, while Arsenal mustered their most convincing performance of the season.
The stats are damning. Despite their positive start under Nuno, his team rank last of all 20 teams in the division for shots, chances created and distance run. Whatever it is, it is not the champagne football Spurs supporters crave.
In his letter to fans at the end of last season, Levy addressed the search for a new manager, which would eventually alight on Nuno.
“We are acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great club and return to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining,” he wrote.
The yawning gap between that aim and what Nuno has offered up this season is what prompted the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust to ask the club for answers this week.
“This explanation should include plans for this season and beyond, an explanation of how success will be measured and how the club’s DNA will be regained,” the trust said.
Nuno said on Wednesday that he accepted the criticism but was “not worried about the judgement”.
“It’s football, everybody wants to play good,” he added. “Everybody wants to play offensively, everybody wants to score. Sometimes it’s not possible. This is what we want to do but it takes a building process to achieve it and we are trying.”
Another setback against Mura would be hugely damaging but appears unlikely, given they lost at home to Dutch mid-table team Vitesse Arnhem earlier in Group G.
More significant will be how Spurs respond to the prospect of losing four consecutive Premier League games for the first time since November 2004 against Aston Villa on Sunday.
“It’s a moment to deliver,” said Nuno. “We have to give them a team that is solid and playing good and then things will go back to normal.”