Nuno Espírito Santo insists he will not be cowed by the criticism and pressure amid Tottenham’s slump in form, which he knows must begin to pick up when they host Aston Villa on Sunday.
Although Spurs beat NS Mura 5-1 in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, the win only became comfortable when Harry Kane was summoned from the bench and scored a hat-trick in the final 22 minutes. It means Spurs’ progress under Nuno remains firmly under scrutiny: they have conceded nine goals across three straight Premier League defeats and the one they scored in that period, through Son Heung-min, was the consolation in an otherwise disastrous reverse at Arsenal.
“Criticism is something we have to be ready for,” said Nuno, who was asked whether this was the toughest period of his managerial career. “I understand the criticism but I don’t focus on this. My focus is helping the team find solutions to help the player, that’s what my focus is. During my career I had a lot of good words and praise but nothing had changed. I keep being the same person.”
Nuno admitted that the goal glut against Mura “doesn’t erase the problems that we have” but believes it “makes this easier with the confidence, with the good mood, to prepare everyone better”. Villa will arrive on the back of their dramatic win at Old Trafford and he accepts a repeat of Spurs’ derelict performance at the Emirates is unthinkable. “I have to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “It is my job. We will prepare together and we will stick together.”
Dele Alli captained Spurs in the Mura tie and opened the scoring with an early penalty. The midfielder had been substituted at half-time of the derby, a state of affairs he said gave him “a couple of sleepless nights”, and called for patience as Tottenham grow into the Nuno era.
“We’re building, we’re working,” Alli said. “The transition from last season, if anyone thought it would be magical and just all slot into place, that’s not the way it works. We’re seeing things we’re happy with, we’re seeing things we’re not happy with. We’re trying to improve. Sometimes things take time.”