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Nuno Espírito Santo – The Lowdown

The last few years, (even decades) have been a turbulent ride of both emotion and promise for Spurs fans. From the moment Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost their Champions League final to Liverpool, they have been in a continued state of transition.

When Poch was building a team to compete at the highest level, they always seemed just that final step away from a trophy. With Leicester winning the league in 2015/16, it must be looked upon as the biggest opportunity lost, with regards to the league. To finish 10 points behind the Foxes (when all the big boys were stumbling and failing) must be looked upon with some regret. Despite an inability to win the English League title since 1960/61, they have often entertained and produced both scintillating players and teams. Entertainers can become typecast, and in Tottenham’s case, they seem intent on remaining just that.

With Jose Mourinho plummeting further down the management ladder, his style and manner never felt like something Spurs could evolve with. Whether or not a managerial veteran (such as Jose), had it in him to build a club up without substantial backing, remains unknown. But with the ingredients that he inherited (from Poch), it surely stands as a failure on his part to not push them forwards.

The parting of ways was inevitable once Spurs league slide shows no sign of halting. His dismissal just prior to their League Cup final was perhaps harsh, yet only the dressing room really knows how badly fractured things had become. With a stutter to the line under the caretaker stewardship of Ryan Mason, the early summer weeks brought a raft of names that could fulfil the vacant hot seat.

Daniel Levy will remain as one of the strongest CEO’s in English football, a man able to build a footballing empire and sustain a fine model by which to grow. He is clearly a fine strategist and business builder, with a reputation for extracting maximum profit for their assets. It is perhaps his ability to control every facet of Tottenham (on behalf of owner Joe Lewis) which has seen footballing decisions questioned. His apparent affection for the legendary Jose Mourinho was perhaps a professional failure, given his sackings at both Chelsea & Manchester United prior. To analyse what Jose could actually offer (after such a stress filled and draining management career), was perhaps in more hope than reality. It is clear that Levy wanted his man, but maybe a Sporting Director at the time would have seen Tottenham’s stuttering season for what is really was, a post Champions League hangover. To remove Mauricio Pochettino and replace him for Jose Mourinho can be looked at as a sound move, but hindsight will point to another idea. The replacement of such a well regarded young coach (Poch), when his wounded team was clearly still recovering from a final loss, was rash. To replace said man with a potentially bitter and past his best Jose was quite simply odd. The why, the logic, the reasons and the decisions are now part of history, and now the rebuild must begin. The new season is fast approaching with a new managerial structure to the football club, and it’s a case of looking at whether they finally push Spurs to that next level.

With potential management options circulating White Hart Lane, they finally appointed Nuno Espírito Santo. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss was available after leaving his former club, at the end of last season. The likes of Antonio Conte and Daniel Fonseca were mentioned, but with a combination of demands and maybe suitability, none were really viable options. Nuno coming in is an intriguing appointment, given what must be looked upon as a successful spell at Wolves. He left to seek new opportunities, after a full season of mid table normality. To look at his tenure as a whole, Nuno must be applauded for a commendable spell. To elevate a team from their previous position into a bonafide Premier League assured side, is terrific management. Many teams and coaches have thrown money at teams before, in search of the top tier of English football, but with Nuno, Wolves overachieved consistently.

With a squad, the season before last consisting of Raúl Jiménez, Diogo Jota, Adama Traoré & Pedro Neto, it was an enviable group of attacking talent. A midfield comprising João Moutinho, Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker was both a powerful and control hungry group. The wing backs of Matt Dotherty & Jonny Otto gave much assurance on the flanks, and the defensive trio of (captain) Conor Coady, Romain Saïss & Wily Boly was strong enough. Rui Patricio in goal made up the squads core names, to make the group a clear top 8 team.

Last summer (a year prior to Nuno leaving), saw Diogo Jota leave for Liverpool with Fábio Silva signed as his replacement. Both deals represented significant monies coming and going, but it proved a tricky transition once Raúl Jiménez succumbed to an horrific head injury. The injury to their main striker in November left too much responsibility on young Silva’s shoulders, and with Matt Doherty already having left for Spurs, the team struggled for rhythm. The disruption made the integrating of key new players, Nélson Semedo, Rayan Aït Nouri, Ki-Jana Hoever & later Willian José far more difficult. The fact that Adama Traoré had struggled for form & game time in no way helped proceedings for Wolves, and they failed to repeat recent success.

To place 13th at the leagues close, they had dropped from their two previous seasons finishes, though with the stated caveats. When considering the amount of changes within the squad, it is also understandable given the added pressures inflicted by COVID-19. In light of this, the season cannot be a fair judgement of the departing manager, and he will have left as an overall success.

With his new position as Tottenham manager, the fan base should be relieved with the appointment. With a squad that should suit Nuno, there are already good signs regarding the fit. The already established 3-4-3 system can be integrated further with key additions, and with more flexibility in purchases, it can most definitely succeed. Where Wolves have often recruited from the Jorge Mendes (Portuguese football agent) client pool, there may be more options for Nuno to explore at White Hart Lane, and their summer dealings will be an interesting one to view.

The Daniel Levy saga (which saw him oversee all areas of the club), has now adjusted. The much needed Sporting Director role has been filled with the very qualified Fabio Paratici. The last man to fill this specific role was Franco Baldini, and his successor comes at a key point for Spurs, some six years later. Paratici’s expertise in the main, comes from his stint at Juventus. For the most part, he was successful in his role, and helped orchestrate a period of domination. Juve’s over exuberant Champions League obsession saw them alter all philosophies. in signing an ageing Cristiano Ronaldo, which has untimely not worked.

The next step for Nuno & Paratici is very dependant on their skipper, Harry Kane. With the European Championships now concluded, it must be decided whether he stays or goes. For Nuno, any eventuality should work, with either a proven elite scorer, or a large sum of money and possibly makeweight players at his disposal. If Kane were to leave or stay, the fundamentals of the team shape would not alter. The need to reinforce his defence will surely take precedence, with a possible move for Nuno favourite Conor Coady on the cards, to operate in the middle of a back three. The remainder of the side currently looks strong, and even the Kane dilemma offers a pathway, whichever way it ends.

With Nuno Espírito Santo on board, Tottenham may at last be able to settle in and drive forward. The roster of players is very strong, and in this new leadership, the team may continue their north London dominance, before a swift climb back up the league.

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