Watching Tottenham Hotspur try to break down a disciplined and deep-lying West Ham United side on Sunday brought to mind someone trying to force their way into the Tower of London with a wooden spoon and a packet of paper clips.
Spurs just didn’t have the tools to turn their possession into productivity; edging forward, inching backwards, side to side, cross and clear, meat and drink for West Ham’s colossal centre-halves.
You’ll have seen the stats by now. The ones that state Tottenham failed to muster a single attempt on goal during the second half of their 1-0 defeat at the London Stadium. And, if you were wondering why Nuno Espirito Santo opted to leave Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil on the bench until the final moments, you’re not the only one.
Clearly, Nuno doesn’t trust his second string to turn the tide.
The infuriating Tanguy Ndombele was only hooked at the death despite producing only one defence-splitting pass in 84 minutes of action. That was still 84 minutes more than Dele Alli got in east London.
In truth, Ian Wright said what everyone was thinking last week when he pointed out that Spurs – who have scored just 21 goals in Nuno’s 15 matches in charge with a quarter of those coming in the Conference League against Mura – are crying out for the sort of lock-picking number ten that came to define some of their finest moments of late.
“When you look at Spurs down the years, you go back to Glenn Hoddle and Micky Hazard, and Gazza,” the Arsenal legend told The Kelly and Wrighty Show.
“The players they have had, those creative, skilful, fantastic midfield players. Christian Eriksen was brilliant to watch. He could see a pass and make a pass. He could score goals. Creativity.
“They haven’t replaced that player (Eriksen).”
Should Nkunku have been given the chance to replace Christian Eriksen at Tottenham?
And it’s not as though the opportunity wasn’t there to bring in a player capable of filling the void Eriksen left when heading to Inter Milan almost two years ago.
That’s hardly a bank-breaking sum, even for a club counting the cost of the covid-19 pandemic and paying for a new stadium. A player of Nkunku’s ilk would have been priceless to Nuno. The difference between galling 1-0 defeats like those at West Ham and Vitesse Arnhem and hard-fought draws or the odd smash-and-grab win.
In 13 games, Nkunku has tallied nine goals and five assists during a barnstorming start to the season – including a marvellous Champions League hat-trick at Manchester City.
That, for what it’s worth, is far more than Ndombele, Lo Celso, Bryan Gil, Alli and Steven Bergwijn have managed between them.
For now, Nuno can do nothing but limp on until January. By the time the transfer window swings open again in the new year, however, Nkunku is certain to command a fee far greater than £34 million.
If the ship hasn’t sailed already, it’s certainly ready to pull away from the dockside.
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