Last week, Tottenham Hotspur eventually ended their long search for a replacement to José Mourinho with Nuno Espírito Santo. The reaction was met for the most part with a disinterested shrug by fans still engrossed with the European Championships. Spurs supporters, wearied by such a long and roundabout search, are somewhat reluctant to become excited by Nuno Espírito Santo.
Tottenham Fans Should be Excited by Nuno Espírito Santo Appointment
Spurs Fans Have Had to Wait in Manager Search
Of course, being a football fan is a pessimistic affair. The laws of probability mean that for all but a few big clubs, success is fleeting and disappointment near omnipresent. As such, switching to an optimistic disposition is a rather fraught process.
Tottenham have tested this to the maximum during their months-long managerial scouting mission. The wait has tested patience, nerves, and the club’s ‘values’ in the face of ceaseless negotiations and press whispers. But with Tottenham finally filling the hot-seat, there are reasons to be excited by Nuno Espírito Santo.
He has a history of bringing attacking, easy on the football. For most of his time at Wolverhampton Wanderers, he operated an attacking 3-4-3 formation, with possession and overloading plays. Just the antidote to the ‘caution’ of the Mourinho era.
Impressive Managerial Record
His managerial CV is also impressive. He ensured Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking (and got under Neil Warnock’s skin for good measure). He then secured European football for the first time since 1980, and a Europa League quarterfinal run.
Before his time in England, there is an impressive European pedigree. He earned European football for Rio Ave for the first time in their history in 2014. With Valencia, he navigated a path to the Champions League group stage for the first time in three years. It was a feat they didn’t achieve for another three years after, underlying the difficulty of such an achievement. There was also an appearance in the Champions League knock-out stages for Porto in 2016/17.
Many of his detractors point to Wolves this season as a depressing glimpse of the future. But it is wrong to judge his calibre based on one sub-par season. That he pivoted to a less expansive style of play last season owes more to the demands of Premier League survival than anything. As Fulham and countless others have learnt to their detriment, attractive play and relegation avoidance can be mutually exclusive.
By recent standards, he may feel disappointed with a 13th placed finish. But this is merely credit to his previous work in achieving promotion. He offered stability instead of the dreaded second season syndrome or seeing Wolves become a yo-yo club.
Their predicament is all the more pertinent with their star man Raúl Jiménez injured since November, and one of their star players Diogo Jota sold for a quick buck and not replaced. The contemporary comparison with the latter case doesn’t need spelling out to Spurs fans. But suffice to say that if such a fate befalls Tottenham, disappointment and bad feelings should be channelled to those above the manager.
Nuno Espírito Santo at Spurs
The length of time it took to find a replacement for Mourinho reflects the fact that Tottenham are in no position to be picky. The club cannot turn its nose up at an otherwise decent manager for a mediocre showing last season. He who operates the £1 billion glass stadium shouldn’t throw stones.
That extended search, and the very public courting of other options, raises concerns that Nuno Espírito Santo wasn’t the first choice, thus undermining certain dynamics. But for players and managers alike, the majority of signings are not a club’s first choice (as chronicled by the Secret Footballer).
We only need to look at England’s Euros run to note how someone overlooked as first choice can come good. In any case, the players and manager are professional and adult enough to not let boardroom machinations interfere in their preparations.
In Nuno Espírito Santo, there is a manager with a proven pedigree of European performances, one that offers attractive football. He can also switch his teams into rugged warriors when the situation requires, as demonstrated with Wolves’ need to avoid a Premier League dogfight. Spurs fans can be cautiously excited by Nuno Espírito Santo.