Nuno blames missing players in pre-season for poor run of results

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It was a line spoken by Nuno Espirito Santo that probably went under the radar following a disastrous second half for Tottenham against Chelsea.
When football.london asked Espirito Santo whether it was a lack of coordination and rhythm that was responsible for the lack of attacking threat in his team, he made it clear where he believed the problem really lay.
“Of course, of course, a lot of things. A lot of things that lack, a lack of time that we need to work together. That’s the main reason,” he said.
The disappointment of the collapse in the second 45 minutes will mean that line may not register for many, but it’s worth noting.
Espirito Santo has in reality had just a few weeks or so to work with his full squad of Tottenham players, to get his philosophy across and get them anywhere near the fitness levels his tactics require.
That’s because in pre-season, the Euros and Copa America meant he did not have a full squad until the final week, with the Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndombele sagas also robbing him of two key players in the early weeks of the campaign.
Then when he finally got them almost all together, resulting in three straight Premier League wins and progress into the Europa Conference League group stages, the international break struck.
Espirito Santo lost three key players to isolation due to playing in red listed countries and another five in total across the ensuing weeks to injury.
So when the Spurs boss talks about having a lack of time to work with his players, it’s difficult to disagree with him.
However frustrated the fans are, with some even calling for his head already, he’s had no real sustained time at all to change the mentality of a squad and stamp his mark on it.
It took Mauricio Pochettino until November of his first season to start shaping his Tottenham Hotspur, with some dreadful results before that, but the knives already seem to be out for Espirito Santo for some.
The fitness he demands is certainly not there yet and the very differing energy levels in the two halves of football on Sunday proved that.
There were some unlikely positives to be found in a 3-0 scoreline as they came at the back.
It seems odd when three goals have gone in, but neither centre-back had a bad game. Eric Dier put in plenty of important blocks, not least one with his hip on his goal line to deny Marcos Alonso.
Cristian Romero had plenty of composed, dominant moments that showcased why he was Serie A Defender of the Year last year and could be a big player for Spurs this season.
Behind the two of them, Hugo Lloris kept the scoreline away from ridiculous levels with an acrobatic performance, which included him taking a cut to his shin.
The problem is that beyond that trio, good performances were difficult to find.
Both full-backs had good moments but struggled in more of them. The midfielders won many of their duels in the first half but lost them in the second.
Harry Kane, Son, and Lo Celso started with purpose but grew more and more anonymous as the match wore on.
On a day when the club and the game lost one of the best attackers ever to step on to a football field in Jimmy Greaves, it was sad that Tottenham could not honour him with an attacking performance worthy of his memory.
Before the match, in front of 60,059 fans, Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman, Micky Hazard, Paul Allen, Ossie Ardiles, Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Graham Roberts and Glenn Hoddle were all there to pay tribute to the club’s record goalscorer.
That emotion rolled around the stands and among the Tottenham players in a first half that was positive in a number of aspects and Chelsea struggled to outfight their hosts at times.
Espirito Santo had chosen a starting line-up that was full of the names the fans wanted to see and if anything perhaps played to their wants more than the needs of the team.
Yet it was working in that first 45 minutes and Tanguy Ndombele in his second consecutive start was showing glimpses that he could get Tottenham up and running and the pressing up front was good.
“I was absolutely not happy with the first 45 minutes,” said Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel. “There were individual performances which were great in the first half from Kepa and Thiago Silva.
“Even more players were good but in general we lacked intent, energy and relentless in duels and 50-50 balls.
“I had the feeling we wanted to impress by pure skills but in derbies like this it is not always about just skills. It is about aggression, winning duels and performing better as a team.”
Tottenham showed a lot of that, but the pressing dropped in the second half and so did everything else they did. They shared the possession with Chelsea but had only eight shots to their visitors’ 20.
Espirito Santo quickly found the age-old problem Tottenham managers have had when coming up against Chelsea.
The Blues were able to bring on big signings of recent years N’Golo Kante and Timo Werner from their bench, while he had to turn to 20-year-old Bryan Gil and 21-year-old Oliver Skipp in an attempt to change the game.
It brought back memories of the FA Cup semi-final during Pochettino’s era when Chelsea brought on Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, while Spurs used Georges-Kevin from the bench and Kyle Walker was brought on instead of the other attacking option Vincent Janssen.
“We have to be aware of what is happening to our squad and to us, this is not compared to anyone else, let’s focus on our own problems because we have a lot of problems to solve,” Espirito Santo said when football.london pointed out those very different substitutions to him.
“The absence of players, the issues we have and mainly that we have to improve. We have to improve, the next challenge is to sustain the levels of performance through the game. I am really confident and positive that we will get there.”
Espirito Santo’s biggest problem is that while he can rightly say he has not had the time to work with his full squad properly so the fans will also not give him time, especially if the football remains as it is.
Spurs are seventh, still just four points off the top of the fledgling table but in the various stats they currently rank among the Premier League’s worst when it comes to shots (19th), goals scored (17th), shots allowed (18th), tackles won (19th), possession (15th), successful pressure (20th) among others.
It doesn’t scream the “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining” football that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy promised the fans.
This needs to be a big week for the Portuguese of working with his players and finding his best team and the combinations that work.
It took a long, long time for Tottenham to appoint a new manager and some fans were not happy with the eventual outcome.
That Espirito Santo was only given a two-year contract, with the club having an option for a third, shows Spurs were hedging their bets as well.
The Portuguese has got a lot to do and while he will get to work with the bulk of his squad finally this week, he also has two crucial games to come within it.
Spurs need to believe they can win some kind of silverware and a trip to his old team Wolves, again, beckons in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night before a north London derby at the Emirates Stadium which will mean so much to the supporters.
Tottenham need their belief back and they need a little magic from the star men.
Both Kane and Son were shadows of their former selves on Sunday when Spurs needed them the most. The latter was returning from injury but Kane must start offering more now he’s getting regular football and fitness.
Nuno needs them both to ignite for him as they did for Jose Mourinho but he must also make sure there is more going on around them, because the fans and Levy will be watching very closely.
(Football London)

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