Premier League English

Did Harry Kane and the Spurs boys get Nuno Espirito Santo the sack? (Part 2 of a 3-Part Series)

Arsenal, despite no longer being bottom feeders and enjoying a little resurgence under Mikel Arteta, were still there for the taking. That was the game-plan and Tottenham boss Nuno decided to deploy a 4-3-3 for the game at the Emirates but within minutes into the fracas, it was as if the visitors were employing a mystifying 4-0-3 formation instead as the midfield was completely non-existent.

Tottenham’s arch-nemesis ruthless tore into them at ease and the home team were machine-gun shredded and down 3-0 by the half-hour mark.

Totally shell-shocked and stunned into paralysis, it had come to a point where it was all about how many more goals they would concede as there was nothing they could do to stop the slaughter. Fortunately, biting the bullet with some ind of desperate determination, Spurs managed to scrounge up some measure of their composure, pulled back a goal, which certainly wasn’t anywhere near enough to close their shameful debacle at the Emirates slaughter house. All in, another 3 goals lamely handed over to a traditional, bitter London rival.

After the holocaust at the Emirates, the Tottenham stragglers managed to regain enough form to pinch the following games against fellow strugglers Aston Villa and Newcastle, only to come up against a brick wall in a 1-0 loss to West Ham – another nemesis from the capital.

Finally came the familiar air sirens and the 3-0 drubbing unexpectedly brought on by a supposedly, and expectedly, lame United on Saturday that saw the final nail veing driven into Nuno’s waiting casket.

So here comes again the familiar refrain – what the heck actually happened? Why the sudden headlone plunge into anarchy for Nuno and his band of despondent marauders left foraging for scraps and morsels?

Tottenham were probably convinced they had hopefully appointed a head coach who was known to be proudly meticulous in his preparation for games, someone who also took pride in his attention to detail.

However, the result of their expectations was a far cry from what they were looking forward to. Reality slammed them with a full frontal assault, leaving them totally breathless. And, scarily, the signs were all beginning to point to the Portuguese coach who was found trying to find some composure amid the mayhem.

It’s been alarmingly alleged that players, unaccustomed though they were, had begun to acclimatise to the lack of game-specific drills in training sessions ahead of matches. What? Yes.

The 3-1 north London derby shambolic defeat at Arsenal was a low point. Yet, before the game and before the players alighted from the team bus, players were already nursing grave concerns whether their vulnerability would expose the flaws in their preparations due to the lack of game-led sessions in the days before the game. Obviously the players were already lacking in confidence before they got on the pitch.

And it clearly showed being plastered 3-0 at half-time and totally pinned back on the ropes and waiting for the knockout punch. And this was where the crunch came – instead of laying it all on his shoulders squarely, Nuno actually passed the buck to his players, saying: “When you have a game plan, you have to make the right decisions in terms of who you want to put on the pitch. I take responsibility because the decisions were not right. I won’t name individuals but the game plan was not right according to the players who were on the pitch.”

The players were of course weren’t about to take this sitting down as behind the scenes they already knew who the main culprit culpable for the loss. And the unrest continued to build up along with the seething frustrations.

The similar, brooding feeling of unease and lack of confidence persisted ahead of the Carabao Cup win over Burnley, as the players had boarded their flight without any clue as to what the starting XI would be and had no inkling of what the game plan was. An amazing disclosure, surely. Scarily, the only sense of anything secure that the team shared among themselves was that the only tactic was neatly summed up in a simple ‘Work hard, stay disciplined… and Harry or Son will score.’

Wow, what kind of scatter-brained strategy is that for any coach with any reasonably decent amount of self-respect to have? If there’s no self-respect, one should at least some some consideration for one’s peers in the same managerial suite.

The lame-ass strategy, if at all it could be called one, could even have actually worked – if only the critical one half of your strike duo is firing from all cylinders instead of clearly misfiring while wearing a look of total disinterest reflected not only on his face but in his body language as well.

Questions had begun to abound as to whether the ensuing situation would have been totally different had Harry Kane shown better form, or interest, and then perhaps Nuno wouldn’t have been so coldly evicted into limbo-land, job-wise. Honestly, and in all fairness to all parties involved in the whole equation at Tottenham, surely an over-reliance by any coach supposedly erstwhile and with any semblance of tactical nous and savvy should know what any over-reliance on just two players – even if/unless it’s a Messi-Messi or Ronaldo-Ronaldo combo – as gifted as Kane-Son are, is not the way forward.

On top of that, it would hardly be fair to blame it all on a lone man, Kane, who was after all just as human as anyone else is and still tried to offer his best on the pitch – even if that wasn’t anywhere near the best that we have all come to expect from the a world-beater like the Tottenham and Three Lions skipper-cum-striker – after his botched Man City transfer plans, thanks to a scheming chairman playing the puppet-master behind the scenes.

While Mauricio Pochettino was also known to have his struggles in his first few months in charge at Tottenham, it was clear he always had an identity, a plan, and a marked style of play for Spurs even if the results didn’t always go their way.

Unfortunately this wasn’t at all the case with Nuno. After his immaculate, smooth start to the campaign that papered over the cracks of what was really going on in training outside of the pitch, his players were not shown the cognisance of how to break teams down, how to score and were a mess defensively.

Of course Kane looked disinterested and oddly out of sorts, having scored only one Premier League goal during Nuno’s terminally-short reign. Spurs’ greatest goalscorer in the modern era actually couldn’t find the back of the net under the former Wolves boss.

The numbers paint a pretty clear picture. His one and only one taken late in the game against Manchester United at the weekend struck Harry Maguire and he had all of only four touches in United’s area. Such appalling stats for a prolific scorer of his caliber to have only a single shot, or none, in every league game he has played this season – bar the 2-1 win over Aston Villa on October 3 – are absolutely ludicrous and totally unbelievable.

Hit the recall button and Kane’s average of four shots per game last season flashes on as the Premier League’s highest. On Saturday night, there were 32 players ahead of him. To reiterate, it would only be too easy and convenient to blame it all on his disillusionment after the collapse of the City move, but in truth it was Nuno’s game-plan, more pertinently the lack of one, that did not suit him and the team.

The entire woeful month of September saw Nuno beginning to question his own players and their commitment to the Tottenham cause even as he began to lose the crucial support of the dressing room. With game-plan preparations being almost non-existent and shoddy, at best, coupled with poor tactics, it was no wonder Harry Kane was disinterested and the fans turned in a flash.

(Please wait for the conclusion to this 3-Part Series tomorrow)