How Nuno went from Premier League Manager of the Month to sacked Spurs boss in three months

Nuno Espirito Santo became the shortest-serving Tottenham Hotspur manager since 2014 when the club officially announced he had been relieved of his duties on Monday. 

The 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday was the final straw. Boos rang out across the stadium at the full-time whistle. Nuno’s side failed to have a shot on target at David de Gea’s goal.

What went wrong for the Portuguese boss who, three months earlier, had secured August’s Manager of the Month award?

The Harry Kane problem

When Nuno first walked through the gates of Hotspur Way, a Harry Kane-shaped problem confronted him.

The club’s second-highest all-time goalscorer had indicated his desire to leave in the summer, but chairman Daniel Levy wouldn’t budge. His new head coach fielded questions on the situation during pre-season and said it was a matter to solve internally.

By this point, Kane had already missed the opening week of pre-season training. He eventually returned to the side for their second Premier League fixture of the season against Wolves on August 22.

The forward released a statement on Twitter confirming that he had “never refused to train.” He added that he had always planned to return to the club on a particular date.

Soon after, reports confirmed that Kane would indeed be staying at the club. But whilst the situation appeared to be solved, for the time being, it was undoubtedly a distraction for the club and its new head coach during pre-season preparations.

Kane’s form hasn’t been at the level it has been in previous years. Although Kane has started seasons slowly in terms of goals before, his return of one Premier League by the start of November is poor. Beforehand, a poor Spurs performance could perhaps be salvaged by a Kane goal or two. But those goals have been lacking this term.

North London derby defeat

After three wins from his opening three games – and guiding Spurs to their best-ever Premier League start – Nuno was named Manager of the Month for August.

He achieved the feat with a trio of 1-0 victories over Manchester City, Wolves and Watford. All three games required different kinds of performances to secure the win, and a run of three clean sheets was certainly a promising start.

Nuno achieved all three results without his favoured three-at-the-back formation. He had switched to a four in his last months as Wolves boss to create more of an attacking style. The continuation of that tactic at Spurs hadn’t yet meant his side were dominating games.

In their next fixture against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Spurs carried little attacking threat. In fact, they failed to register a single shot at goal in the first half. During the second, Japhet Tanganga was shown two yellow cards inside five minutes, leading to the side capitulating, with Palace scoring three goals in the final 15 minutes.

They were then on the end of another 3-0 scoreline, this time at the hands of Chelsea. Given the Blues’ position at the summit of the table, it would be easy to conclude that Spurs were simply beaten by a better side. But two heavy defeats – no matter the opponent – was not ideal preparation for a North London derby.

At the Emirates Stadium, the game was effectively over within 35 minutes. Arsenal counterattacked with brutal precision, helped by some poor defending from their opponents.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Jamie Carragher criticised the “shocking performances” from Spurs players and said Nuno and his tactics were “equally culpable” for the defeat.

Spurs rank lowest for shots on goal

At the time of Nuno’s departure, Spurs had scored just nine goals in the Premier League this season. Only Norwich (three) have scored less.

They also rank joint-lowest out of any team for shots on goal (103), alongside Norwich. Against United, they did not register a single shot on target.

Spurs players have also been dispossessed 109 times this season – only Crystal Palace have recorded a higher figure. And when it comes to distance covered, Spurs rank bottom.

They have also failed to keep a clean sheet since their 1-0 victory over Watford at the end of August. In this case, those stats have certainly contributed to the position Spurs currently find themselves in.

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