Nuno Espirito Santo didn’t even have to wait until full time of Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United to hear what the North London club’s fanbase makes of the Portuguese coach and the decisions he has made this season. Instead, that moment, a collective expiration of patience, came with a substitution.
With Spurs 1-0 down and chasing the game, Nuno made the call to replace Lucas Moura, one of the few players who had posed a threat, with Steven Bergwijn. This prompted a chorus of boos before a chant ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ rang around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It’s entirely possible this sequence of events persuaded Daniel Levy, sitting in the director’s box for the match, to pull the trigger on sacking Nuno. Reports claim a decision will be taken on Sunday with the Tottenham hierarchy open to the idea of making a change. The fans’ dissent had grown to the point it can be ignored no longer.
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But if Spurs are intent on showing Nuno the door, they must make sure they don’t repeat the mistakes that led to his appointment in the first place. Tottenham Hotspur need a plan and mustn’t make any hasty calls until they have one. They don’t need another ad-lib managerial appointment.
This is where Fabio Paratici must prove his worth. Lured to north London from Juventus where he earned a reputation as one of the best sporting directors in the European game, Paratici hasn’t been able to stamp his own ideas on Spurs. Hired relatively late in the summer, there wasn’t much time for the Italian to get his feet under the desk.
Now, though, Paratici has had a number of months to assess things, not just in terms of the manager in the dugout and the players on the pitch, but the general direction of Tottenham as a club. Even going back to the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino, the club has suffered from a lack of vision.
It has been suggested that Pochettino himself would be willing to return to North London, but Paris Saint-Germain aren’t so keen to see their manager take on another job. Paulo Fonseca was approached ahead of Nuno in the summer and it’s claimed the 48-year-old might get another call from Tottenham should a vacancy open up soon.
Tottenham need more than just a good football manager. They need someone who can give the North London club a sense of self again. Under Pochettino, Spurs had personality. They had a clear identity on and off the pitch and this manifested itself in the form of results as the club became Champions League regulars.
Sacking Nuno without a replacement lined up would compound Tottenham’s problems further. The Portuguese coach, who favours a conservative, Mourinho-esque brand of football, always looked an awkward fit for a club that had grown accustomed to modern, dynamic play under Pochettino, but this isn’t the reason he has failed.
Fabio Paratici during Tottenham Hotspur's defeat to Manchester United.
Image credit: Getty Images
In almost every area of the pitch, Spurs have lacked cohesion this season. Their midfield has been unable to control games and create opportunities, but offers very little in the way of protection and structure. Harry Kane’s form has been a concern, but the 28-year-old has been given scant support. He can’t do it all on his own.
If Tottenham wanted what they saw of Nuno at Wolves, they haven’t got it. It’s not just that the Portuguese favours a style of football out of keeping with what the fans want, it’s that he is poorly implementing his own ideas, as was made clear in Sunday’s home loss to Manchester United.
However, Spurs mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking things will automatically improve by sacking Nuno. It’s more important that they get the right replacement. That’s where the true measure of their decision-making will be taken. Tottenham never really wanted Nuno. They mustn’t compromise on another appointment.
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