Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham masterplan for Chelsea test has taken another dramatic twist
Things just haven’t gone right at all for Nuno Espirito Santo and Tottenham since the Premier League came to a brief pause for the first international break of the season.
Topping the league table after three games following the 1-0 win over Watford, the new Spurs boss has since seen three of his players spend a period in Croatia after representing their countries in South American World Cup qualifiers and then also lose a handful of his first team to injury.
Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn and Ryan Sessegnon were the three to arrive back at Hotspur Way injured after their international commitments, with Eric Dier then leaving the pitch at Selhurst Park last Saturday after only 12 minutes after sustaining a dead leg.Although the Lilywhites were boosted by the return of Bergwijn for their Europa Conference League tie against Rennes on Thursday evening, the winger left the pitch after only 30 minutes following a late tackle by Benjamin Bourigeaud.
The Dutchman wasn’t the only one to depart early as Lucas Moura was then on the receiving end of a poor challenge ten minutes after the break and subsequently had to be substituted.
Going on what he had seen happen to two of his attacking quartet, Espirito Santo quite clearly thought it was best to withdraw Harry Kane at exactly the same time and not risk another injury ahead of the Chelsea game.
Asked by reporters in his post-match press conference about the series of unfortunate events over the past two weeks, the 47-year-old said: “It’s been terrible. I must be honest. Let’s not hide behind nothing. After the Watford game, everything that has happened has not been very good for us.
“But this is football and we know it’s a moment we have to overcome. Today, we tried to show the players solutions, thinking about the game on Sunday. But it’s about overcoming obstacles. That will make us stronger for the future, for sure.”
Claiming “it feels painful, it feels really bad” when asked about an injury update on Bergwijn and Lucas, the boss could quite easily have another attacking dilemma on his hands against their London rivals if the duo and Son aren’t fit to return.
The lack of options out wide were there for all to see in the final 35 minutes of the contest as new signing Emerson Royal was deployed on the right of a front three alongside Bryan Gil and Dane Scarlett rather than his usual role at right-back.
If indeed Bergwijn, Lucas and Son are absent on Sunday then it could see Gil handed his first start in the league, with one of Dele Alli or Giovani Lo Celso pushed further upfield in a more attacking role either side of Kane.
Given the need to solve Spurs’ attacking woes after last weekend’s dismal showing at Crystal Palace, the latest injury issues now leave Espirito Santo with more questions than answers prior to such a crucial game in the calendar.
One player who can certainly boost Tottenham’s attacking play is Tanguy Ndombele.
Not playing a single minute for the Lilywhites since the start of May, the Frenchman returned to the starting XI at Roazhon Park and, alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, was the team’s standout performer on the night.
Causing issues for the hosts right away with his fancy footwork and movement, Ndombele showcased in the 11th minute why he needs to be a permanent fixture in the Spurs XI.
With the ball appearing to be on its way out down the touchline, the 24-year-old, who was directly facing Espirito Santo in his technical area, produced a sublime backheel to Oliver Skipp which culminated in Loic Bade’s own goal seconds later.
Continuing to cause problems for the hosts with some fine moments of skill, including some brilliant linkup play with Kane that saw him denied by the Rennes goalkeeper, Ndombele demonstrated in his 79 minutes on the pitch that he needs to be a starter in the head coach’s best XI.
The perfect man to bring in against Chelsea in order to help solve the big creativity issue that was clear for all to see at Crystal Palace, the only issue now is that it might not be Spurs’ first-choice attack he is playing behind at the weekend.
Espirito Santo looks like he’s now going to have another attacking dilemma to solve leading up to Sunday’s game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium given the uncertainty over the fitness of three of his attackers.
Looking so promising for the team three weeks ago after the Watford win, the problems just keep on piling up for the Tottenham boss at present.