Group meals, mandatory fist bumps, fun training sessions and BRUTAL honesty: How Nuno Espirito Santo has fired Tottenham to the top of the table and united the divided dressing room left by Jose Mourinho in a perfect start
- Nuno Espirito Santo has enjoyed the perfect start to life as Tottenham boss
- The North Londoners sit atop the Premier League with a perfect record
- Spurs look far removed from the disjointed mess left behind by Jose Mourinho
- Nuno has worked hard behind the scenes to conjure up a family atmosphere
- But the Portuguese is known to be blunt and ruthless with his playing squad
Nuno Espirito Santo was dropped into the deep end when he took the Spurs job just 45 days from the start of the season, but after three games the Portuguese has made some start to life in north London.
Three games, three goals scored and none conceded. Spurs head into the international break atop the Premier League table with an unmatched tally of nine points, made all the sweeter with arch rivals Arsenal stuck in 20th place, at rock bottom.
It is a record made all the more remarkable given that Nuno – widely viewed as at least the eighth choice for the vacancy – has had to contend with the ongoing Harry Kane transfer saga that would understandably serve as a great distraction for any dressing room.
Nuno Espirito Santo has united Spurs’ divided dressing room to get the club firing again
Tottenham lead the Premier League table with three wins from three in a perfect start
Now Kane is on board at Spurs and the choppy waters are settling, Nuno has already shown signs of transforming a squad that was quite simply going nowhere under Jose Mourinho.
It is hard to believe that this squad that leads the top flight is largely the same group of players viewed as a disjointed mess when Mourinho was dismissed earlier this year.
‘I just think the team at the moment is a reflection of what is going on in the club,’ were the words of club captain Hugo Lloris last March, reflecting on Spurs’ Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb – a result he described as a ‘disgrace’.
Harry Kane’s future is now resolved and the choppy waters are levelling out in north London
‘We have a lack of basics, lack of fundamental, all our performances is a relation of that. Mentally we should be stronger, more competitive. Today, I didn’t feel that on the field.’
Lloris went on to blast the attitude of his team-mates who were not being selected by Mourinho, shining a light on just how toxic the dressing-room environment had become at the club.
Nuno has moved to iron out any dressing room divides upon his arrival in north London. The Portuguese fully embraced the ‘pack’ mentality at Wolves and is working to emulate that attitude at Spurs.
This is a far cry from the disarray left by Jose Mourinho during his doomed reign
Hugo Lloris cast a light on dressing-room tensions after their disaster against Dianmo Zagreb
Players and coaching staff must eat together at the same time in a bid to repair tensions in the dressing room while he has introduced a mandatory fist bump when players and staff greet each other in order to foster a familial atmosphere at Hotspur Way.
Such changes are hoped to help make the squad a more tight-knit group, while the backroom staff play a major role in bringing a positive mood to the camp.
Players have taken to the training sessions brought in by fitness coach Antonio Dias, with the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier seen smiling and laughing during the demanding physical sessions introduced by the Portuguese, who followed Nuno from Wolves alongside Ian Cathro and Rui Barbosa.
Nuno has been hard at work at Hotspur Way to foster a good atmosphere in the camp
Training sessions are fun again, with players taking to Antonio Dias’s demanding drills
The players eat meals together again while Nuno has made fist bumps mandatory in camp
Yet Nuno himself is not as engrossed in the jovialities and has been keen to stamp his mark on the squad. Sportsmail understands that the Portuguese can be incredibly blunt with his players when required and is unafraid to tell them how he sees it.
This was evidenced by the circumstances surrounding Joe Hart’s departure from the club this summer, with Nuno ruthlessly informing the veteran that he will ‘never kick a ball’ for Spurs under his management.
‘Two or three weeks into pre-season, I was told: “No matter what happens, you will not kick a ball for Tottenham,”‘ Hart told Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards.
But he also has a ruthless streak, as evidenced by his brutal honesty with keeper Joe Hart
‘That’s what Nuno wanted. I never really had a conversation with him and the one conversation that we did have was that one.’
Nuno, then, appears to be looking for the perfect blend of good spirits in the camp without losing sight of the sizeable objectives that he, Daniel Levy and the Spurs fans hold.
And on the field there are tangible improvements that have been reaped from the changes Nuno has made behind the scenes.
Over 270 minutes of league football, Tottenham have showcased a defensive rigidity that was so often missing under Mourinho last season. More pertinently, the players now fight for each other when just six months ago they appeared so at odds.
The positivity at Hotspur Way has translated on the pitch, evidenced by Dele’s renaissance
The football remains rather attritional but Spurs fans will be pleased with their united side
Dele Alli, ostracised under the now Roma boss, has been brought back in from the cold and ran himself into the ground in the gritty wins against Man City and Wolves, while Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez have formed a resolute partnership at the back the likes of which Spurs fans thought impossible.
By contrast, Tanguy Ndombele, the club’s £55m record signing who has never lived up to his price tag and seen his attitude repeatedly questioned, has been cast aside, with Oliver Skipp and Alli playing alongside the irrepressible Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in midfield.
There is still some way to go, both on and off the pitch. The style of football is still closer to that implemented by Mourinho than Mauricio Pochettino.
Yet a happy camp plays happy football, and should Nuno and his backroom staff continue on this trajectory, the attritional football we have seen thus far could soon make way for the swashbuckling, free-flowing style Spurs fans have long craved.
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