Nuno Espírito Santo has demanded an immediate reaction from Tottenham’s players after the 3-1 defeat in the north London derby on Sunday and insisted he is not concerned about criticism he is facing after a less than impressive start at the club.
Spurs suffered a third successive Premier League loss with defeat at Arsenal, which was the worst of the lot in large part because of the manner of their performance. The visitors were shambolic in the first half, essentially operating without a midfield and regularly wasting possession, allowing their opponents to storm into a 3-0 lead inside 34 minutes and largely coast to victory after the interval.
Nuno took personal responsibility but, speaking three days later, he put the emphasis on those who were on the pitch to get Tottenham back on track, starting on Thursday with the Europa Conference League group game against the Slovenian side NS Mura.
“The mood is not good,” the manager said. “We are sad. Disappointed. This is a feeling that goes home with us, that doesn’t allow us to sleep. But it can also make us stronger to react, and the reaction is tomorrow [against Mura]. We have to win, we have to play better, we have to compete better. That is my focus.”
Some Spurs fans, on social media and elsewhere, have made clear their lack of faith in Nuno and on Monday Jamie Carragher, in his capacity as a pundit for Sky Sports, said the former Wolves manager appeared a poor fit given the defensive nature of his tactical approach. In typically bullish fashion, Nuno dismissed such claims.
“Everybody wants to play offensive football, to score,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not possible but this is what we want to do. It takes a building process to achieve that and we are trying.
“I’m not worried about judgments. What I’m worried about is how can we improve. We still have a problem when we concede a goal – we lose our focus, and that’s something we must avoid. A lot of analysis is going on and I have belief we have a talented squad who can play better football.”
Nuno, who will be without Steven Bergwijn as the winger continues to recover from the ankle injury sustained in Spurs’s opening group game against Rennes, also sought to clarify comments he made regarding guidance on heading restrictions in training brought in by the Football Association and the English game’s other major bodies amid investigations into conditions such as dementia. Nuno admitted he did not count how many times his players headed the ball at training because heading is “part of the game.”
“I just tried to tell the reality,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s very difficult in training to prevent heading. If you’re playing a small-sided game and the ball goes in the air does it make sense to say: ‘Don’t head it’? It’s absurd.
“But we are trying is to prevent this action repeating over and over again because we’re aware it can cause dementia and we don’t want to provoke any harm to our players.”