Siao Mates Nov 01

It's not Nuno's fault that he doesn't know what he's doing at Spurs


Tottenham Hotspur have one of the best stadiums in the world, and when the lockdown ended in England, club chairman Daniel Levy must have been overjoyed to welcome back the fans to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.


To Levy, the stadium is a sign of his ambition for the club, proof that his plan to transform Spurs into a world class football club is finally bearing fruit.


WATCH: The opening ceremony for the Tottenham Hotspur stadium


How he must have missed the vociferous singing from the stands and held on to the belief that the 50,000 or so fans every match day was the shot in the arm the team needed to drive them back into the top-four. 


After all, just a few seasons ago, fans were praising his astute business sense for seemingly snagging the deal of a lifetime with what looked like a world class player in Dele Alli. “He only cost 5 mil, he’s better than Ozil” was a weekly refrain.


Now, 10 games into the season, fans are still singing, but no longer about Alli, or anything that remotely suggests that they are pleased with Levy’s wheeling and dealing. Barely 55 minutes into the listless loss to Manchester United, a team who was very average on the day save for the brilliance of its attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Edison Cavani and Bruno Fernandes, fans were united in telling new manager Nuno Espirito Santo that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, triggered by the unfathomable substitution of taking off Lucas Moura and sending on Steven Bergwijn.


WATCH: Nuno says he understands fans' negative reaction


It wasn’t as though Moura was having a great game, but at least he was running hard and trying his darndest to create something, anything, for the team. You couldn’t say the same for almost all of the other attacking players, including Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min, but especially Giovanni Lo Celso, all of whom looked bereft of ideas and a lack of fight. At a goal down, as fans, you don’t want to see your only shot at getting back into the game being taken off, especially not when you send on a player who just came back from injury and has hardly played well since.


But when the dust settled, and if one really thinks about it, “you don’t know what you’re doing” wasn’t really about Nuno. I mean, it is, but it really is more about Levy. Building a world class stadium without giving the fans a world class manager who can take the team to new heights is like signing a world class manager without giving him the budget to buy world class players. Yes, Levy did that too, though one might argue that today’s Jose Mourinho can hardly be classified as world class.


Levy’s appointment of Nuno was met with much skepticism, and some polarisation. Defenders of the Chairman, appreciative of the fact that Spurs did somewhat look world class under Mauricio Pochettino, while also keeping the club financially viable for nearly two decades, said that he hardly had a choice - no one else really wanted to join Spurs. Detractors, who are slowly being proven right, point to the fact that it was Levy who caused this situation in the first place.

I mean, which manager would reasonably want to join a club who would fire their best boss in decades just 11 games or so after leading them to the Champions League Final, unless they received assurances that Levy would back them in the transfer market and give them time to rebuild? Certainly not Antonio Conte, who, like Mourinho, needs big signings to get big results. Conte has never been a manager who can get players to punch above their weight, so it’s a bit surprising that Levy is once again considering him as a replacement for Nuno.


WATCH: Conte reveals philosophy behind his management style


Perhaps, just like a Spurs fan, Levy believes that he already has a world class team and simply needs the right manager to get the best out of them. If you believe that though, then you probably also believe that denial is a river in Egypt.


As it stands, Spurs only have three players that are possibly world class - Son, Kane and maybe Tanguy Ndombele, if he ever decides to put his head down and work on his fitness and discipline. You could make a case for Alli, but we haven’t really seen him since his twin brother took over his contract.


The rest of the team are really bang average, and I include even Hugo Lloris, whose best years are probably behind him. The reason why we keep thinking we have a world class team is because Pochettino took a really average team, and made them look like world beaters, though the occasional cracks still showed even during his spell.


Now, there’s nothing wrong in bringing in an average manager, so long as you adjust your expectations as to what the manager can do. Nuno has been exactly that, average. His entire EPL career has shown that, and I’m not sure why Levy thought it would be different. Nuno’s 17 games in charge of Spurs so far has turned in 8 wins, 7 losses and 2 draws, with a win rate of 47.67%. His time at Wolves? 47.74% win rate. So far, he’s just been performing at his level, which Levy, as a Chairman, should surely have known about when the appointment was made. 


Of course, statistics don’t tell the full story. The 8 wins Nuno has gotten so far has been underwhelming, short of the opening day win against Manchester City. Since then, when going against opposition of Premier League quality, Spurs have struggled to win, often depending on a 15-20 minute brilliant spell and then desperate defending to secure the match. On top of that, when they lose, they lose badly to teams that, on the day, have been average at best, short of maybe Chelsea in the second half.


United was a team short of confidence and sat back for most of the match. So was Arsenal, apart for the opening half hour. So was West Ham, who hardly created any chance of note apart from set pieces. 


WATCH: Nuno takes positives from West Ham defeat


But still, you know what you will get with Nuno, so you can’t really say it’s fault since he’s doing what he knows best.


Levy must shoulder the blame for the state the team is in, there’s really no two ways to look at it. He fired Pochettino when what was really needed from the Chairman is to back the best managerial hire he has ever made. He then fired Mourinho just six days before a Cup Final, effectively ruining any chance Spurs had of getting their first real trophy since man discovered fire (it really does feel that long ago). Let’s also not forget he fired Martin Jol after the Dutchman led Spurs to two consecutive fifth placed finishes, the best performance the club has had since the formation of the EPL. 


The most damning reminder of how Levy’s business dealings define the level of the team came in this particular match. At a time United was struggling to create any chance of note with Spurs dominating possession, Bruno Fernandes’ vision changed the match as he sent a pinpoint cross that evaded a leaping Ben Davies to find Cristiano Ronaldo at the far post for a top notch volley past a sprawling Lloris.


Fernandes, as most Spurs fans would remember, had already agreed to come to Spurs as Pochettino had wanted a creative playmaker to replace out-of-form Christian Eriksen, who was already edging for a move out of Spurs. Instead of paying Sporting Lisbon what they wanted for the mercurial attacking midfielder, Levy wanted a Buy Now Pay Later plan and scuppered the deal. No big loss, he thought, he would just give Pochettino another similar player in Lo Celso.


WATCH: Lo Celso's best Spurs moments


That lack of understanding of the difference in class between Fernandes and Lo Celso is endemic of the way Levy has conducted his transfer business. You want a player like Sadio Mane, here’s Moussa Sissoko. Another striker to back up Kane? Found one scoring loads in the Dutch league. 


At the end of the day, Levy has to hold his hand up and say he’s equally responsible for the team’s status today, and while there’s little doubt that he has all the makings of a brilliant CEO for a for-profit company, he needs to learn that it is equally important to fill the stadium with fans excited to come see the team week in week out, rather than thinking they will come just because it’s the best stadium in the world.


A billion dollars has gone into the stadium, and it will probably make money for the club as a result. That money though, has to go into also putting together a team that befits the stadium, otherwise it will just be a reminder week in week out of how Levy has failed, rather than become a shining beacon of how he has lifted the club from mediocrity. 


And make no mistake, since Pochettino left, mediocre is what Spurs have become.




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