Next Spurs Manager: The in-tray for Nuno's replacement

Next Spurs Manager: The in-tray for Nuno’s replacement

Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked afer just 17 games in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, and yet despite the remarkably short tenure, and despite the chaos it has thrown Spurs into yet again, Daniel Levy didn’t really have much choice.

Tottenham failed to have a single shot on target in the final 135 minutes of Nuno’s reign. They are joint-bottom with Norwich City on shots per game this season (10.3). Only Daniel Farke’s side have scored fewer than Spurs’ nine.

Following the mutinous atmosphere in the crowd on Saturday evening, it was clear Nuno’s time was up. The way supporters booed substitutions and screamed at players for failing to make attacking runs showed faith in Nuno was gone completely. There was nothing in the manager’s tactics to suggest he could turn it around.

Spurs need a manager with a detailed plan, particularly for when the team is in possession, and that ought to be Levy’s priority when appointing a new head coach. Antonio Conte is the heavy odds-on favourite and reportedly in advanced talks, but his combustible personality means we cannot trust that deal until it is done.

Whomever Levy appoints, he will be taking over a club stuck in crisis management for the best part of a year now. There is an awful lot in the in-tray.

Implement bolder and more structured approach

The most important thing to do is modernise the team on the field, rediscovering some of the dynamism of the Mauricio Pochettino era. That is much easier said than done, because only some of the available candidates have shown a capacity for coaching in meticulous detail on the training ground, but this is the new frontier of the Premier League and a vital ingredient for a successful top six club.

Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Thomas Tuchel have set the bar for structure and coherence, for planning attacking moves until they are muscle memory on match day. To break down an opposition defence, the elite clubs need to have a specific plan to pull the other team apart and create space. In other words, the players need to be taught exactly where to stand, pass, and move, permanently holding a compressed and evenly-distributed shape.

That certainly was not happening under Nuno, who like his predecessor Jose Mourinho is more concerned with defensive organisation and improvised counter-attacks. These Spurs players require expert coaching and a vision they can follow. Conte would certainly be a major coup (his Chelsea team in 2016/17 were the first to bring this level of tactical control to English football) but there are other names on the list to fit the bill.

Graham Potter has shown these qualities at Brighton and of course rehiring Pochettino would be the dream. By contrast, Paulo Fonseca is exactly the kind of coach to avoid.

Sell Harry Kane and reinvest for the future

This might be controversial, but judging by Harry Kane’s performances this season he is not going to get back to his best in a Tottenham shirt. Kane has only scored one league goal so far and looks well off the pace, failing to make runs or make any sort of mark on a game. It is time to give him his wish and use the money to invest in the club’s future.

Clearly Spurs are not going to be ready to challenge for the title for two or three years at the least, by which point Kane will not have the same re-sale value – and he will continue to be unhappy in north London until the club are challenging for honours. It makes sense to take a nine-figure fee from Manchester City and use the money to buy talented, hungry players to rejuvenate the side.

Harry Kane with ball 1280.jpg

It would be a painful moment for the club, but Kane is quickly becoming an emblem of what’s wrong: a fading star, incapable of working hard enough to take the team back to the heights of the Pochettino era.

Sign a creative midfielder to replace Eriksen

There are lots of things wrong with the balance of the Spurs team, and very few of their players who would fit in at a title-challenger, but arguably the biggest issue is the absence of a creative leader, a fulcrum, at the heart of midfield. Tottenham’s next manager needs to find a Christian Eriksen type.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele have the potential to excel if managed better, but there is a workmanlike quality in the middle that needs elevating technically. Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks, meanwhile, are too one-dimensional in their metronomic style to provide a moment of magic.

It took Tottenham a long time to recover from selling Gareth Bale and investing the money in a pool of young players, but it is noteworthy that the biggest success from the group was Eriksen. Levy needs a new technician in midfield if Spurs are to start progressing the ball through the lines with intent.

Bring Dele and Gil in from the cold

Any new manager should look to those players who were ostracised by the old regime. It’s a quick way to show that everyone has a clean slate and to find loyalty and hard work from those on the fringes of the team. The obvious candidates for this are Dele Alli and Bryan Gil.

Dele hasn’t started a league game since being hauled off at half-time at the Emirates in late September. He desperately needs an arm around the shoulder and a more accomplished tactician showing him what to do.

Gil was signed to great fanfare over the summer in a deal that saw fan-favourite Erik Lamela go the other way. But Gil is yet to start a league game for Spurs. It is surely time they inject his fleet-footed playmaking down that left wing, because at the moment Tottenham have too many hard runners and not enough lock pickers in the final third.

There are the bones of a good team here, and with Manchester United struggling whoever replaces Nuno will hope to challenge for the top four. But mid-season appointments rarely allow for major tactical changes, as Spurs require, making it unlikely they will even finish in the top six this season.