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Tottenham Ignoring the Real Problems by Changing Managers

After sacking Nuno Espirito Santo, will Tottenham’s new manager be able to wrangle the Spurs players, who seem to be the ones at fault here?

New White AHrt Lane by BlueJam is licensed under CC BY SA-4.0

Tottenham Ignoring the Real Problems by Changing Managers

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Another November has come, and another managerial change is happening in North London. Tottenham Hotspur have announced the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo and his staff. While this is definitely seen as a smart choice by many, it’s hard to look at the club and believe that 10 league matches, 3 in Europe, and a handful of domestic cup ties are giving someone a fair shake. Nuno was unlikely to be the long-term answer at Spurs, and his appointment didn’t exactly wow supporters. But then a 1-0 win against Manchester City kicked off the season and our interest was piqued.

Watching Nuno’s Spurs in the first couple of matches of the season was inspiring. After his late appointment handed him a minimal preseason with the squad, they came out firing and dealt an opening day blow to City. And they followed that up with another 1-0 victory against Watford.

After that? The wheels came off.

Suddenly the football was uninspiring, and I couldn’t tell you what the tactics could possibly have been. Jamie Carragher tore into the club on Sky Sports after they got drubbed by Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“There were some shocking performances from Tottenham players, but I think the manager was equally culpable in this result in how he set up. When people question a manager, we always hear: ‘There was no plan’ – but there’s always a plan at this level in football. When you analyse it: I’m not sure how this plan was ever going to work.

“One minute into the game: Dele Alli, Ndombele, and Hojbjerg are the midfield players, and they are not in midfield positions. The only reason you’d stand there [so far from the ball and midfield], is if your manager has told you to go there.

“Where would you want them? Surely not there. There’s less space on the moon than what you see in that midfield for Tottenham. It’s actually unbelievable. The manager must have told them where to go: this is before the first goal. It was always going to happen.”

So what I’m seeing here is a disconnect. And a month on from that match, nothing is any better. Thus, the sacking of the manager.

But where should the blame truly lie for these performances?

The answer here is the players. Hands down. And one of the biggest issues this year, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is Harry Kane. After not getting his preferred move to Manchester City in the summer, the Tottenham striker has basically shut down. His performances have been lackluster at best, and his attitude seems to be a marked change from the determined player he had been for so long. And this is the one place that the trickle down effect seems to be truly in place.

In the first couple matches of the season, Son and Dele were immense. Since Kane’s return to the starting XI Dele has essentially been a non-factor. The effort isn’t there. And the resurgence of the young Englishman snuffed out before it had the chance to flourish.

It doesn’t stop there. The team seems directionless, so they are following the lead of a man who has helped them weather the storms of the past few managerial changes, still winning the golden boot and leading the league in assists. But when his energy turned, it flipped everything on its head in that locker room.

And that leads me to believe that Nuno never won the respect he deserved simply for being their manager. So while the Tottenham players run around like chickens with their heads cut off, Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici are clouding those issues by axing the manager.

This all seems too familiar

Two years ago, around this time of year, Mauricio Pochettino was fired, and Jose Mourinho had already been lined up as his replacement. Levy had long been an admirer of Jose, and pulled the trigger at the first sign of real trouble, just months after Pochettino led the club to its first Champions League final.

Things seem to be following that same path, albeit without the success of the manager being removed. Rumors have been swirling for days that Antonio Conte could be making a return to the Premier League, and it seemed he’d be taking the job of whichever team lost the matchup between Tottenham and Manchester United. Not hours after Nuno’s sacking there were reports that Conte was already in London ironing out details of his contract. This is premeditated. It’s Tottenham’s brass admitting they made a mistake without actually admitting they made a mistake.

Maybe Conte could be the right choice. Maybe he’s not. But the fact of the matter is there is a deeper, cultural issue happening behind closed doors at Spurs. Conte is a firecracker who could get right into it. He’s certainly not afraid of confrontation. But could he be willing to bench someone like Harry Kane until he gets his head back on straight? That remains to be seen.

Whatever happens next can’t be business as usual. Spurs need to inject some heart back into their play. They need to play for each other again, and have some fun. But I have a feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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