Nuno Espirito Santo reflects on Tottenham Hotspur's win over Wolves
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Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo appears to have fallen into the same trap as Jose Mourinho following Sunday’s humiliating North London derby defeat to Arsenal. The defeat at the Emirates has piled the pressure on Nuno, whose Spurs side have lost their last three Premier League games.
After Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Mikel Arteta’s side, Nuno gave an honest interview in which he admitted he may have selected the wrong players to carry out his game plan.
Tottenham lined up with a three-man midfield of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli, but their engine room was bypassed too easily as Arsenal took a 3-0 lead within 35 minutes.
Nuno replaced Alli with Oliver Skipp at half-time, with Spurs improving in the second period, although Son Heung-min’s goal late on proved little consolation.
The manager has since faced criticism for playing Alli out of position – with the manager following Mourinho in failing to get the best out of the attacking midfielder.
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The Special One didn’t appear to know how to utilise Alli’s talents, leading to the former England star being frozen out of Tottenham’s team altogether for large parts of last season.
And Nuno may have fallen into the same trap, with former Spurs centre-back Ledley King suggesting the 25-year-old’s game was suffering from being played out of position.
“I personally think his best role is in the number 10 where he can attack the box,” King told Sky Sports after the derby defeat. “We know he has great energy, an eye for goal. That’s his strength.”
Ex-Tottenham defender Graham Roberts agreed with King, saying Alli should be restored to the more attacking role in which he impressed under Mauricio Pochettino.
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He tweeted: “Dele needs to be playing behind the front man not left midfield or other side. He is our best creating asset in the team and prior to the last two season scored over 40 goals for the club we need more creativity and more goals ASAP.”
Alli also struggled when played in a midfield trio in the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea nine days ago, while against Wolves in the Carabao Cup last week he was deployed in a more attacking role, with Skipp, Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso behind him in midfield.
Alli supplied the assist or Harry Kane to open the scoring in that game, playing a perfectly-weighted through-ball for the England skipper – appearing to strengthen the argument for him to be unleashed in a more offensive role.
But Nuno would face a headache over how best to fit Alli into his attack, with Son and Lucas Moura also among his options alongside Kane.
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Nuno has also faced criticism over his use of Alli from former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who criticised the midfielder’s role at set-pieces following the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea in which Thiago Silva headed his side ahead from a corner.
“Of course they’re going to be conceding at set pieces when they’ve got Dele Alli marking the likes of Thiago Silva,” Redknapp told The Sun.
“I thought it was very strange for Nuno and his backroom staff to sit in the dressing room before the Blues clash and make that call.
“He’s identified set pieces as a weakness in his team, but then he’s putting Alli up against Silva, who wants to come and head the ball for his life.”
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