Why Nuno had to go – Part Two
(The full story, supported by facts and figures)
There have been 14 managers/coaches during the lifetime of Spurs Odyssey. ENIC have now disposed of 11 of those managers. (One of the 12 was caretaker David Pleat, whose tenure was always temporary). I rejoiced when George Graham was sacked and was replaced by Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle. We were all saddened when it did not work out for Glenn, and he was sacked after the first 6 games in 2003. A wave of optimism swept over us when Arnesen, Santini and Jol were appointed in 2004. Arnesen and Santini didn’t last. Santini’s departure was a mystery, but down to personal reasons, I think.
Martin Jol had been Santini’s “Number Two” and he stepped in to lead us through a happy period when we finished “The best of the rest” in fifth place twice. Martin Jol suffered an embarrassing departure on the night we played Getafe in October 2007. The embarrassment was all down to the club. At that time Paul Kemsley was a director of the club and I recall a rumour that he had been seen chatting up Jol’s successor Juande Ramos before his appointment. Ramos, of course was the last manager to win us a trophy, but then our form went to ruins and he didn’t last long into the 2008-09 season.
Two points from eight games led to the appointment of Harry Redknapp, who gave us some happy times, especially when we at last qualified for The Champions League. Once again club chairman Daniel Levy ruthlessly disposed of Redknapp in 2012 and we had the experiment of former Chelsea man Andre Vilas-Boas, who didn’t survive 2013’s heavy defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool. That led to another caretaker – Tim Sherwood.
I wrote here - https://www.spursodyssey.com/1920/fiveyears.html - regarding Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial reign at Tottenham, and here - https://www.spursodyssey.com/2021/joses1st.html about Jose Mourinho’s first year in charge. In my April review this year I referred to the sacking of Jose. That took us all by surprise, especially as we had a League Cup Final coming up against Manchester City. Ryan Mason looked after team affairs till the end of the season.
The story of ENIC’s summer search for a long-term successor has been well told and Antonio Conte was one of those approached but reported to have turned us down. Now that Antonio has been appointed, he says, “Last summer our union did not happen because the end of my relationship with Inter was still too recent and emotionally too involved with the end of the season, so I felt that it wasn’t yet the right time to return to coaching.”
Eventually on June 30th, the club appointed Nuno who famously said "We are going to make you proud". Unfortunately, and all too quickly, Nuno did not live up to his promise.
One reason for my long introduction is that in all the years I have been writing articles and reports as webmaster of Spurs Odyssey I do not think I ever openly called for the incumbent manager/coach to be sacked. Nuno had 17 games in charge, and I publicly turned against him with the embarrassing defeat to Arsenal. The Vitesse fiasco and emphatic home failure against Manchester United finally put paid to the tenure of a humble and honourable man, who was just out of his depth.
Everybody had been impressed with the Wolves team that won promotion from the Championship under Nuno’s charge. There was a heavy Portuguese influence at the club, which has continued. At the end of his first Premier League season, Nuno’s side qualified for Europe, and they had an excellent run in the Europa League which was extended to August last year when they lost a one-legged quarter-final to eventual winners Sevilla. Incidentally, Sevilla beat Antonio Conte’s Inter side 3-2 in the final. Last season Nuno’s Wolves suffered because of the loss through injury of star striker Raul Jimenez in November. Jimenez’s strike partner Jota had already been sold to Liverpool for a big fee. Wolves’ 13th place last season was not exactly great promotional material for Nuno’s appointment at Spurs, which left many fans underwhelmed. Others, such as yours truly, were prepared to give the man a chance, but those who had negative vibes were proved correct.
At Wolves, Nuno was renowned for his almost constant use of three at the back with Matt Doherty one of his regular choices at right wing-back. At Spurs, Nuno has hardly deployed such a strategy. Matt Doherty had already proved a disappointment last season, and Nuno must have been party to Wolves’ decision to let Doherty go for what we perceived to be a “bargain” £15 million fee. Doherty has hardly figured with Nuno in charge, but he missed most of the last month through injury.
Nuno was not helped by the pre-season uncertainty regarding Harry Kane, and it is not the coach’s fault that Kane does not seem to have applied himself enthusiastically to the Spurs cause. The fans sang “Are you watching Harry Kane?” when we beat Manchester City (1-0 of course!) on Matchday One of the Premier League season. Personal “spursometer” grades for Kane of 3.8 (Palace), 4.6 (Rennes), 4 (Chelsea), 3.3 (Arsenal), 4.2 (West Ham), 4.4 (Burnley and finally 2.8 (Manchester United) provide the evidence for Kane’s worst spell of form in his Spurs career. Class is permanent, so I am sure we will see Kane’s return to form.
It was a good day to play City, who had several International players returning late to training and therefore absent – like Kane. 1-0 wins over Wolves (a Dele penalty) and Watford (Son) put us top of the league with Arsenal at the bottom. Nuno won the Premier League’s manager of the month award, but that was results-driven. Spurs fans had already expressed doubts about our football, and during August we even lost the away leg of our Europa League Conference play-off tie against Portuguese Pacos de Ferreira. We won the home leg convincingly with Kane getting off the mark for the season, scoring twice.
We lost all three of our league games in September and conceded three goals in each game to Crystal Palace, Chelsea, and Arsenal. After the October defeat to West Ham, we had lost four consecutive London Derbies. That hadn’t happened since 2003-04. We played Wolves away again in the Carabao Cup and got past them in a penalty shoot-out. We did not impress in an away European game against Rennes, but a Kane hat-trick helped to dispose of NS Mura at the end of the month.
The story of October, including the morale-sapping decision to define a first and second team, has been told here - https://www.spursodyssey.com/spursometer/oct21.html.
It is true to say that Nuno has been hampered by firstly the Kane saga and also the Covid-affected rules and absences of South American players on International duty. Sometimes, the coach has performed better than his players, even on bad match days, but in 17 games he has been under par on five occasions and just about average in another three games. I cannot remember any previous manager or coach in the last 25 years suffering such poor comments so often in such a short space of time. Nuno’s press conferences and pre- and post-match interviews were uninspiring, and I don’t think the players were either inspired or even on his side. He had to go.
We’ve had four different coaches in this calendar year. That’s a damning indictment upon Daniel Levy and ENIC, who have at last made the excellent appointment of Antonio Conte, about whom I wrote these words when we first met him as Chelsea manager in 2016:-
"It's hard not to like and admire this man Antonio Conte, who left his position as manager of the Italian national team to take over at Chelsea. Conte enthuses on the bench but bears none of the arrogance of his last full-time predecessor at Chelsea (I referred there to Jose Mourinho) , who was so well beaten when United came to town. After suffering a massive 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation, which has worked a treat, not least because, with no European football, and now an exit from the League Cup, Chelsea are able to concentrate on Premier League success, and also the fact he has been able to field an unchanged side for most of that time (the last five Premier League games). Conte has taken Chelsea to the top of the Premier League for the first time since they won it in 2014-15."
Upon his appointment Antonio said, "… I am extremely happy to return to coaching, and to do so at a Premier League club that has the ambition to be a protagonist again. Tottenham Hotspur has state-of-the-art facilities and one of the best stadiums in the world. I can't wait to start working to convey to the team and the fans the passion, mentality and determination that have always distinguished me, as a player and as a coach."
Conte is a proven winner, as a player and coach. Look at the way he has been introduced at Spurs. He is a brand! We can surely feel more confident of at last winning another trophy with Antonio Conte at the helm. Here’s hoping!
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