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Tottenham have lost ‘good feeling’ from strong start, admits Nuno Espírito Santo

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Javier García/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Javier García/REX/Shutterstock

Nuno Espírito Santo says Tottenham have lost the “good feeling” from their better-than-expected start to the season as he lamented a raft of problems and questioned his team’s capacity to absorb setbacks.

The manager endured a difficult pre-season with several key players joining late after Euro 2020 and the Copa América and Harry Kane, who pushed to leave the club, reporting latest of all. The striker began to train with the team on 13 August – two days before the opening game against Manchester City. Tanguy Ndombele also had fitness issues.

Related: Tuchel’s powerplay shows widening gulf between Chelsea and Tottenham | Barney Ronay

Spurs started well, beating City 1-0 and then Wolves and Watford by the same scoreline to enter the international break top of the Premier League. But they have since slumped to 3-0 losses against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, caused in part, Nuno feels, by further selection issues. He is worried that he lacks the time on the training pitch to put things right as the matches come thick and fast. Spurs travel to his former club Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.

Nuno’s team have lacked goals and creativity and he was asked whether he could send a message to fans about wanting to bring back attractive football.

“I wish I could but I’m an honest person,” he replied. “We have to look at what happened. We started the season with a lot of situations with players away and we built a way. We did quite well in the first matches. Of course, when things happen, [when] we have problems and results and performances don’t appear, the momentum goes. The good feeling goes away.

“Our fans deserve much, much better than what we did against Chelsea on Sunday. I was really pleased with the first half [which ended 0-0] but the second half was not good. My message is clear: we are working very hard and the players are committed.

“It’s about trying to build during the competition. We don’t have too much time on the training ground. It’s during the matches. Things are going to gel and we are going to play better because this is what we realise.”

Against Chelsea Nuno recalled Eric Dier and Son Heung-min after injuries and he had hardly any opportunity to work with Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sánchez. The trio had spent 10 days in green-list Croatia to navigate UK quarantine rules after playing in South America. Romero and Lo Celso started.

“The problems are public,” Nuno said. “The situation, the momentum we are in. The problems we suffered during the international break. The absence of players, the levels of performance. The problem that we concede goals from set pieces – the first half that was so good [against Chelsea] and we are not able to sustain. There are so many problems that we have to solve.”

Related: Tottenham ‘have a lot of problems’ admits Nuno after Chelsea defeat

One of the biggest, Nuno suggested, was how the team have responded to going behind. “When we concede first, we are not able to react,” he said. “The team is not strong enough to go and give a good response. With Palace, hard circumstances, we were one man less [after Japhet Tanganga’s red card]. But Chelsea, we were not able to compete the same way that we did [in the first-half.] So that is a concern.

“You can concede at any moment and you have to be able to react and chase the game again. Not creating distance [between the players], it’s the most important aspect. When the team opens and players start getting far from each other, it’s much, much harder to recover the ball.”

Kane has struggled – he has yet to score in the league this season – and his desire to drop off and create chances for others rather than be in the box to finish drew an unforgiving focus against Chelsea, in particular. Nuno had surprisingly started him on the left up front.

“The realisation that we are not able to build enough situations is the problem that we have,” Nuno said. “All individual situations that happen with the players – touches, actions – are a product of the team.”

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