Portuguese football coach Nuno Espirito Santo was by no means Tottenham Hotspur’s first-choice replacement for former boss Jose Mourinho. A string of failed negotiations with the likes of Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Conte led Spurs to Nuno, a man that had overseen the transformation of Wolverhampton Wanderers from Championship also-rans to Europa League contenders.
For some Tottenham fans, the appointment of the 47-year-old left them feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Having been used to the “Box Office” of Jose Mourinho, almost any appointment would have been a downgrade, even though Mourinho’s time in charge can only be described as a failure.
After the opening round of the new 2021/22 EPL campaign, it’s safe to say fans will be firmly on board the Nuno train. A backs-to-the-wall 1-0 home win over reigning champions Manchester City was a great way for Nuno to endear himself to the Spurs faithful. The unexpected defeat for Pep Guardiola’s City saw their Premier League odds drift to 11/10, given that Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United all won their first fixtures. On the eve of the new campaign, the Premier League betting tips suggested that it would be a “cagey affair” between Spurs and City, with “Under 2.5 goals” also proving a clever selection by EPL tipsters.
Nuno’s best attributes to bring to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
One of the most successful aspects of Nuno’s reign at Wolves was the way in which he connected with the fans. He was a friendly and approachable figurehead among the supporters and an equally respectful gentleman on the sidelines too. Let’s not forget that he was an unflappable character that could quickly command the respect of the Molineux locker room. It’s hoped that Nuno will be able to foster a similar locker-room spirit among the Spurs stars, regardless of Harry Kane’s long-term future.
There are elements of Nuno’s managerial attributes that draw comparisons with Mourinho. Nuno is normally a “safety first” coach who preaches a solid backbone before looking to create in the final third. During his time at Wolves, Nuno operated with three central defenders to provide that additional stability, as well as an extra body in the central midfield. Indeed, when Nuno attempted to switch from a conservative three-man defense to a flat back four, Wolves immediately looked a more vulnerable side. It was interesting to see Nuno start against City with a four-man defense before switching to three center backs later in the game.
Under Nuno, the Wolves weren’t afraid to concede possession to their opponents. Against many of the better sides, Wolves would be primed for the counter-attack, executing aggressive counters with the utmost precision. For sure, this would describe how Spurs fared against Manchester City, but the Tottenham fans may not be quite so forgiving for this style of play when they play the likes of Norwich and Watford on home soil.
In addition, Nuno is someone that is more than happy to work with a close-knit squad of players. At Wolves, he was economical with his use of players but may be inclined to lean on Tottenham’s deeper squad to cope with a potential deep run in the Europa Conference League.