Tottenham Hotspur are flying high in the Premier League as they sit atop the English first division and are yet to drop even a single point. Nuno Espirito Santo has waltzed his way into the technical area for the Lilywhites and hasn’t put a wrong foot forward until now in the domestic campaign.
On the other end of the spectrum, one can see that their fellow North London rivals Arsenal are languishing in last place in the English top-flight, having started the season in the worst possible way and now run the risk of being relegated if they do not improve quickly and effectively.
Meanwhile, Daniel Levy and Espirito Santo will be quite convinced and satisfied with the way things have worked out at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, but how will they fare in the long run in England?
FootTheBall takes a look at the Lilywhites’ ability to cope with pressure when the going gets tough in the Premiership later on in the season.
SANTO LEADING SPURS SERENELY ON UNTROUBLED WATERS UNTIL NOW
The biggest test that Tottenham Hotspur have faced until now in the season was hosting Manchester City on the opening matchday of the Premier league when the Lilylwhites won courtesy of a goal by the South Korean forward Son Heung-min.
Ever since that opening day win, Spurs have steadily climbed to the top of the table with two successive wins against Wolves and Watford. But sterner tests await them in the form of Chelsea and Manchester United later on in the season.
What the Lilywhites do in those matches will truly come to define their season and be a deciding factor regarding whether they finish in the Premier League table after the last matchday has concluded in May next year.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have scored 3 goals in 3 matches so far (1 in each match) on their way to the top of the table. This tells us that they are reliant on a watertight defensive line that ensures that they do not concede easily.
Therefore, this enables them to win even in low-scoring matches, especially against inferior sides in the English top-flight. And this is definitely the style of play that Nuno Espirito Santo relies on when managing his team.
The most obvious example of this is his management methods in the West Midlands with Wolverhampton Wanderers before he joined Spurs this year. Wolves also focussed on defensive duties to grind out results, much like Tottenham have done in the opening three gameweeks this season. But if this method brings positive results in the long run still remains to be seen in the Premier League.
DEFENSIVE STRATEGY WORKING FOR NOW, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LONG RUN?
Spurs are known for their attacking creativity, flair and propensity to score a bagful of goals on their way to victory. They even have the requisite personnel for undertaking this task, namely Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli (alongwith Christian Eriksen until 2020).
Therefore, it is natural for them to focus more on the attacking facet rather than deciding to sit back and defend their lead. Santo’s predecessor and compatriot Jose Mourinho also tried to implement a pro-defensive strategy in North London when he replaced Mauricio Pochettino, but it didn’t work out too well for him.
Pochettino transformed Spurs into a force to be reckoned with, in the Premier League as they were inducted into the ‘Big Six’ of the English top division on the back of consecutive finishes in the top four of the Premiership.
He utilised academy talent at his disposal to mould Spurs into a formidable side based on their attacking merit and ability to score goals in almost every match they played in.
He even single-handedly guided them to the Champions League final in 2019 where they finished runners-up to fellow English club Liverpool.
In contrast, one can say that Nuno Espirito Santo has a very cautious approach when it comes to managing Tottenham Hotspur in the English top-flight as compared to Mauricio Pochettino when he was in the dugout for the Lilywhites.
Until now, this approach has yielded fruitful results for Daniel Levy’s team in the Premier League, but it remains to be seen whether it will be successful in the long run or not, given the fact that only about 10% of the season has elapsed until now in England.
The cracks have already started to show at Tottenham Hotspurs as Nuno’s defensive set up is starting to have a negative impact.
GOAL Crystal Palace 3-0 Spurs (90+3 mins)
What an impact! Odsonne Edouard scores his second after coming off the bench to put the gloss on the score for Palace#CRYTOT
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 11, 2021
They looked second best through out the game and ended up losing the game 3-0 to the Eagles who put their first dominant attacking display under Patrick Viera who would be hoping to continue this form.