With today’s 3-0 home loss to Manchester United, Nuno Espirito Santo became just the second Tottenham Hotspur manager after Christian Gross to lose five of his first ten league matches in charge. Hosting United with its similarly beleaguered manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the contest was quickly dubbed “El Sackico” in the days leading up to the match, implying that both head coaches had a lot to lose.
Ultimately, it was Solskjaer who came out looking the best, charging to a 3-0 win and leaving Tottenham fans in White Hart Lane practically apoplectic with rage. The fans chanted “You don’t know what you’re doing” at Nuno after Steven Bergwijn was substituted in for Lucas Moura, to that point Tottenham’s top rated player. After Marcus Rashford easily scored United’s third goal, the Spurs faithful disgustedly left the stadium in droves, with only the most die-hard left to boo their club to the locker room at the final whistle.
It was a very bad match. Spurs didn’t register a single shot on target, the first time it had happened at home since a 5-0 loss to Liverpool at home in 2013, incidentally the match that gave Andre Villas-Boas his walking papers. The result certainly has substantially warmed Nuno’s seat, despite only being in the job for four months. But according to Sam Wallace in the Telegraph, Nuno has the support — for now — of the Tottenham leadership and will be given a chance to salvage things.
It is understood that the club are not currently minded to remove Nuno and will give him more time to turn it around. Spurs play Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League on Thursday before a trip to Goodison Park three days after that.
— The Telegraph
The implication is that the next two matches are crucial, if Nuno is going to not just make it through one season at Spurs, but even make it to Christmas. To his credit, Nuno has taken it on the chin in a professional manner, all but throwing himself on his sword to take responsibility for Tottenham’s poor form.
“We’re not on the right track. We understand the criticism - it’s part of football, when the team doesn’t perform. The fans are not happy and they have shown they are not happy. It’s up to us to take it, and to tell them that we try our best, and to tell them that we are sorry. We didn’t perform as we wanted and [we must] keep on trying. [To ask] in a humble way ask them to support us all the way.
“[Against Unted] we lost balls, we allowed counter attacks. We were not able to break them. They were organised. We had a good chance at the beginning but not good enough … we were unable to find the lines, the combinations. the last pass was never there, the finish was never there. [It was] a bad performance. We have to work harder.”
It’s an interesting contrast to comments he made in the wake of Spurs’ rather unconvincing League Cup win at Burley, where he seemed to question the commitment of some of his reserve or fringe first team players.
It’s sometimes difficult when you only watch a match on TV to really get a sense of what it’s like in the stands. Saturday’s match was not at all difficult — it was a poisonous atmosphere, described as “toxic” by some journalists in attendance, and it’s no wonder — this is not the first league match this season where Spurs have come out limp and seemingly without any sort of tactical plan or organization besides “let’s hope Son Heung-Min or Harry Kane can do cool stuff.” Tottenham have looked not just without guidance, but without a semblance of cohesion despite having a team that on paper should be hanging around and competing for Champions League positions.
That Nuno was not sacked this evening in the wake of this match is a testament to what Levy and Tottenham’s brass think about the scope of the project ahead of them at Spurs. That there aren’t many good options to replace Nuno should they decide to pull the trigger is also no doubt a factor. If Wallace and the Telegraph are right, Nuno will have at least two matches — home to Vitesse next Thursday and at Everton on November 7 — to save his job, or risk Spurs spiralling even further down into what is looking like another lost season.