Tottenham’s international break to-do list: Unlocking Harry Kane just one issue Nuno must resolve

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nuno Espirito Santo’s encouraging start at Tottenham dramatically unravelled after the September international break and the manager will be hoping this month’s hiatus does not prove as damaging.

Spurs appeared to turn a corner with Sunday’s much-improved 2-1 win over Aston Villa but questions remain about Nuno’s tactics and use of a number of key players.

With the jury still out on the former Wolves boss, here are four issues for Nuno to try to resolve during the two-week break:

Settle on a style

After seven League games, there is still no clear identity to Nuno's Spurs. The switch to 4-2-3-1 against Villa was encouraging but the win still came down to individual brilliance from Heung-min Son, rather than coherent and concise patterns in the third final.

The first 30 minutes against Chelsea was promising and suggested a potential blueprint going forward, but Nuno abandoned the high-pressing approach for a more direct strategy against Arsenal – with disastrous consequences.

Doubts remain about Nuno's ability to maximise his squad's potential and get them playing 'the Tottenham way' and he has appeared trapped between his own philosophy – counter-punching from a solid base – and the way he is expected to play in north London.

His priority must be to determine his own philosophy and settle on a style.

Unlock Harry Kane

Doing so will not be easy with Kane away on England duty but Nuno will surely be considering ways to unlock his talisman, who has not scored in six League matches this season.

Say what you want about Jose Mourinho's football, the Portuguese managed to get the best from Kane and Son. So far, Nuno has not.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

There were green shoots against Villa, with Kane more involved and going close to both a first League goal and assist of the season.

One solution is to simply to push him higher into the box (he scored a 19-minute hat-trick of clinical finishes inside the area against Mura last week) but, without him dropping deep, do Spurs have the midfield creativity to progress the ball into dangerous areas? Nuno must find an answer.

Settle on positions for Ndombele, Dele and Lo Celso

Another of Mourinho's successes was coaxing some consistent form from Tanguy Ndombele, which is also Nuno's challenge after reintegrating the maverick midfield into the team.

Ndombele started at No10 against Villa but was largely ineffective. He is more of a No6 but playing him deeper, even alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg or Oliver Skipp, is a risk given his tendency to hold on to the ball and fade in the second half.

Clearly Ndombele is talented but Nuno needs to work out the best use of the Frenchman.

The same is true for Dele Alli, who briefly looked rejuvenated in a deeper, box-to-box role at the start of the season but was dropped for Villa and Giovani Lo Celso, who does not appear to be trusted in the centre and has played out of position on the right this season.

Settle on a back four

Nuno's chopping and changing at the back is likely to continue after the break, with Cristian Romero, Davinson Sanchez and Emerson Royal likely to be doubts for Newcastle if, as expected, they return late from international duty.

Over the medium-term, however, Nuno still needs to a settle on a defensive unit, and particularly a centre-half pairing. The head coach has backed Romero to quickly adapt to English football and last season's Serie A defender of the year is surely the man to build the defence around. His brings aggression, poise and a good range of passing – all on display against Villa.

Romero’s best partner is not clear, though. Eric Dier offers leadership and language skills and Sanchez physicality but Joe Rodon is better on the ball than both.

Royal and Tanganga are battling it out at right-back, although the Brazilian looks a more polished player going forward.

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