A statistic emerged after Tottenham Hotspur’s dismal 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace that illustrated just how desperately lacking in creativity Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been over the early part of the season.
It revealed that with four rounds of Premier League fixtures completed, Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez has created as many ‘big chances,’ as they are categorised by football analysts, as Spurs have as a whole - one. On top of this, only three teams have scored fewer goals than they have.
Nuno himself has been candid in his recognition of a creativity crisis. “It is a big concern,'' the Portuguese admitted following defeat at Selhurst Park. “We had enough quality and talent to play better. In terms of offensive, much improvement is required. A lot of situations we have to look at and be fair to say that we didn't perform as well as we should.”
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Having watched his team muster just two shots in 90 minutes against Palace, Tottenham’s lowest shots tally since 2005, Nuno could hardly have made any other point. His side’s troubles are obvious to anyone who has watched them this season, even if results have remained positive.
Bryan Gil could be one solution. Signed from Sevilla as part of a deal that sent Erik Lamela in the opposite direction, the 20-year-old is widely seen as one for the future, but his natural invention could help Spurs right now and Thursday’s Europa Conference League opener against Rennes could be the perfect time to unleash him.
Gil made 28 La Liga appearances last season, notching four goals and three assists for a Eibar team that played some exciting football despite finishing bottom. He is raw and unpolished, but Tottenham could use some unpredictability in the final third. They have been too safe in their attacking play of late.
In Nuno’s 4-3-3 system, Gil could play on the left or right side of the front three or he could operate in the midfield unit. The latter would at least give Tottenham some much-needed drive through the centre of the pitch, something they have lacked in recent matches. Gil would give them a different dimension.
Against Crystal Palace, Spurs’ system morphed into a 4-3-1-2 at times, but there was still a reluctance to take risks. Nuno started Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg, Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks in the same team. It was therefore unsurprising that Tottenham were stagnant in midfield where they needed more dynamism to impose their own game on the opposition.
Harry Kane și Nuno Espirito Santo
Image credit: Eurosport
Of course, it would be unfair for Tottenham Hotspur to expect Gil, a 20-year-old who has only just arrived at the club from another country, to sort everything out on his own, but Nuno must try something different because his current game plan isn’t working. A relatively low-stakes match in a third tier competition would appear to be a good opportunity for experimentation.
Stylistically, Nuno always looked to be something of a misfit for Spurs. Daniel Levy made it clear in an open letter written to the club’s supporters that whoever was appointed in the summer would be charged with washing away the stain of stale conservatism left behind by Jose Mourinho.
Nuno, however, is a coach very much steeped in the same footballing principles of his predecessor. He must alter his ways as Tottenham boss to stop himself from suffering the same fate as Mourinho and Gil, who could fit into Nuno’s system while still offering enough variation to make a difference.
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