Tottenham thrash NS Mura but cavalry call shows Nuno Espirito Santo desperation for results

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·3-min read
Tottenham thrash NS Mura but cavalry call shows Nuno Espirito Santo desperation for results
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In a different context, Nuno Espirito Santo’s triple-substitution on the hour would have been a masterclass.

One of his substitutes, Harry Kane, scored a 20-minute hat-trick to ensure there would be no sensational comeback for NS Mura in the Europa Conference League.

Kane’s first goal was assisted by Lucas Moura and the second by Heung-min Son, the other two subs part of Nuno’s triple-change, as Spurs thrashed the Slovenian minnows 5-1.

But Spurs really shouldn’t need the cavalry to rescue a victory over the lowest-ranked side playing European football this season, according to Uefa’s coefficient.

They should be be getting through this type of game comfortably without Kane, Son and Lucas.

The decision to introduce the trio shortly after Ziga Kous had spectacularly halved the deficit for the visitors spoke of the manager’s fragile confidence and smacked, slightly, of desperation.

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

A clinical hat-trick of close range finishes could kickstart Kane’s stuttering season and provided a welcome confidence boost before the must-win visit of Aston Villa on Sunday.

But Nuno needs belief that he can give his first-team players the occasional night off over the course of the campaign without needing them for a rescue mission.

It was the same story in the League Cup at Wolves earlier this month, when Nuno was forced to introduce Son in the second half after his former club had equalised from 2-0 down.

It was also a pattern under Jose Mourinho, who often called for the big guns during insipid performances in the Europa League last season.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that Spurs’ fringe players are simply not up to the job.

Scarlett needs time to develop

With Kane benched, Dane Scarlett made his first senior home start for Spurs as one of nine changes from the dismal defeat to Arsenal.

The 17-year-old is a huge prospect – described by Jose Mourinho as a future England star in June – and he displayed some nice touches, including a nutmeg and a clever dummy to beat his man in a lively first half.

But, physically, he looked a year or two away from being ready to compete at his level, which is understandable given his age.

He was frequently muscled off the ball and wasn’t quick enough to penetrate in behind Mura’s defence – something Kane easily managed three times in 20 minutes.

In the end, Scarlett was replaced having offered nothing in the way of a goal threat, which, given the standard of the opposition, does not suggest he is ready to be Kane’s back-up on more meaningful occasions.

Spurs show promise

It was difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from the match or at least learn anything we didn’t already know.

Nuno, though, will reason that his side can only beat what’s in front of them and perhaps take comfort from the way Spurs approached the game.

After bypassing the midfield disastrously against Arsenal, Spurs beat Mura by playing through the thirds, using double-pivot Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp to launch attacks, while centre-backs Cristian Romero and Joe Rodon looked to play out rather than go long.

Dele Alli, who opened the scoring from the penalty spot after being caught by the Mura goalkeeper, had a patchy game but clearly looked much happier back at No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 system, while Giovani Lo Celso also stood out, particularly when he moved back into midfield after an hour.

Dele higher, Lo Celso deeper, a 4-2-3-1 formation, Kane in the box, Spurs playing through the thirds...these are all changes that fans want to see in the Premier League.

This was a start, whatever Mura’s credentials.

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