There have been exceptions, of course. Christian Gross looked doomed before he even managed a game after awkwardly showing off a London Underground tube ticket at his 1997 unveiling and declaring it as ‘hopefully the ticket to his dreams’. He was gone a year later.
It might even be unfair to use that as a stick to beat him with, but the point is it’s largely how his time at White Hart Lane is remembered. A similar problem has now emerged with Nuno Espirito Santo.
Nuno Espirito Santo has endured a rough start at Tottenham after arriving over the summer
Like Nuno, Christian Gross also made a poor impression on fans when he took over in 1997
From the outset, he already appeared to be a panic appointment (more on that later) and when he was announced days before pre-season, he made a big pledge he has been unable to keep.
His message to Spurs fans, already fed up of their team’s rapid decline in three years, was: ‘My promise is to you, we’re gonna make you proud, we’re gonna make you proud.’
Said twice for added emphasis, but other than hope and maybe a response to a fresh face there was very little to get excited about. Another summer of underwhelming signings were this time compounded by star striker Harry Kane wanting to leave the club.
Throwing in years of awful scouting, minimal transfer spend, a stale squad on the decline and still no closer to winning anything, Spurs is not exactly an easy job to walk into. It may even be the toughest in the Premier League right now in terms of expectations to reach the top four matched with available resources.
Nuno walked into Spurs at the end of June promising to ‘make the supporters proud’
Spurs started well too with Son Heung-min’s strike giving them an opening day victory over Premier League champions Manchester City
So Nuno has it tough, extremely tough, but his promise to make fans proud is almost now a weekly punchline.
Granted it started well enough with an opening day victory over champions Manchester City, but even another two 1-0 wins over Wolves and Watford to help Nuno win the Premier League manager of the month and take Spurs top were not fooling anyone. Spurs were scraping by and doing the bare minimum.
Reality struck in September after the international break with three London derbies and three humiliating defeats, with Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal hitting Spurs for three. The only reply was Son Heung-min grabbing a consolation at the Emirates.
The defeat at Arsenal saw Nuno’s tactics ripped apart for the embarrassing hit-and-hope long ball nature, which, as Jamie Carragher pointed out on Monday Night Football the next day, had Spurs in trouble fewer than 10 seconds after the game kicked off by the total abandonment of a midfield.
Wins against poor Aston Villa and Newcastle sides brought faint hope that the boring football would evolve into something resembling an attacking style. Nuno seemed to have found success in dropping Dele Alli for Tanguy Ndombele in a 4-2-3-1 and it’s one of the very few calls he has made that has pleased supporters.
But it’s been almost downhill ever since – including a disastrous 3-1 derby defeat at Arsenal
Spurs have already lost four London derbies this season including at West Ham on Sunday
But another London derby flop at West Ham, where Spurs barely troubled the Hammers’ goal, has once again left fans up in arms, especially when Nuno insisted Spurs ‘had controlled the game.’
The defeat stung even more so, considering the largely lifeless performance from the supposed first-team came just days after they were all rested for the Conference League defeat at Vitesse Arnhem.
Ah the Conference League, the competition many have mocked with its lack of recognisable names let alone any with strong European pedigree.
Tottenham, who remember have won just one League Cup from 2008 in over 20 years, are even favourites for it. Yet so far they have failed to win any of their three away games, and only defeated group minnows Mura at home (yes, even the Conference League has cannon fodder) after having to send on Harry Kane given the struggles of the second XI.
The only laughing stock in the competition so far are Tottenham, who as favourites are now in slight danger of not making it out of the group stage. And this is a side with supposed aspirations to get back into the Champions League (let’s not start with the European Super League, either).
The midweek Carabao Cup win over Burnley brought an end to Tottenham’s miserable form but it did not exactly get supporters excited for what is now a crucial must-win game for both sides against Manchester United.
Even in the Europa Conference League, Tottenham’s second string side have struggled
Spurs appear to have got worse even since Jose Mourinho’s rocky reign came to an end in April
Tottenham’s poor squad, especially beyond the starting XI isn’t Nuno’s fault but watching what should still be high quality footballers struggle to string together a few passes indicates an alarming lack of understanding of what Tottenham are actually trying to do on the pitch – because it certainly doesn’t look like scoring is a priority.
It’s definitely not entertaining. It’s outright boring at times and much worse than when Jose Mourinho was in charge, whose team at least had the common courtesy to take an early lead even if the rest of the match became a betting syndicate of guessing how late the opposition’s equaliser would come.
Hopes of Nuno turning it around are already fading fast, even if his first nine games have produced better results than Mauricio Pochettino’s equivalent from 2014 – four points better off in fact.
The trouble is Pochettino’s side were already playing better football, and had shown glimpses of the top four regulars they would later become.
An excellent pressing performance at Arsenal saw them unfortunate to only grab a 1-1 draw – and that’s night and day to being given a 3-1 hiding without so much as a murmur. Pochettino’s team and planned rebuild had something to cling on to, Nuno’s side have nothing.
Nuno’s results over his first nine games have been better than Mauricio Pochettino’s, but the Argentine’s early days at Spurs carried much more hope and optimism for improvement
Harry Kane’s form has nosedived under Nuno with just one Premier League goal this season
Harry Kane may not be at his best this term, but he’s gone from being the top goalscorer and assist maker in the league to an anonymous figure overnight. The Manchester City transfer links may have hindered him slightly – but not to the extent that he only has one league goal heading into November. Nuno’s defensive tactics are underutilising him.
Sadly for Nuno, he does not appear to have the backing of supporters who have been underwhelmed by his appointment following a summer that started with talks of Antonio Conte or the return to Pochettino to the dugout.
Given his final season with Wolves was little more than a damp squib, he unfortunately is the symbol of a club showing no ambition whatsoever to compete for trophies or even at this stage try and secure a top four finish.
Tottenham fans will accept he is nowhere near the biggest problem at the club – that’s another topic altogether – but sadly he is showing nothing that would make him part of the solution either.
In a desperate hope that a manager can break the long streak of trophyless seasons at Tottenham, sadly all Nuno has shown so far is broken promises.