Nine points from Spurs’ opening six Premier League games is a OK return in terms of points, but the level of performances have been appalling under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo. Tottenham have though, already inched their way into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and progression in the UEFA Europa Conference League looks likely. So how will cup commitments impact Spurs, as they look to get their Premier League campaign back on track?
Fixture congestion and a wafer-thin squad in key areas, was one of the main reasons Jose Mourinho failed in the Tottenham hot-seat. The Portuguese regularly talked about the sacrifices needed to maintain the fitness of his star men. Mourinho has always been someone that fought for the often derided EFL Cup, wherever he’s managed. He took Spurs to the final last season, but was sacked before it was played, due to poor form in other competitions.
Could a cup run have a similarly negative impact on Nuno’s reign? Here’s our analysis of where the squad is strong and which areas have issues.
Long-serving French stopper Hugo Lloris remains the number-one at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He was backed up last term by former England international Joe Hart, who opted to leave North London in favour of regular first team football with Scottish Premier League side Celtic this summer.
Spurs promptly moved to capture the services of Italian keeper Pierluigi Gollini on a season-long loan from Serie A side Atalanta. Spurs have the option to make the move a permanent one at the end of the season. He has experience in English football, having played 20 games for Aston Villa during the 2016/17 Championship. Gollini has been used in the cups this season, leaving Lloris free to concentrate on the Premier Leahue
In terms of numbers, Nuno will be relatively pleased with his collection of central defenders. The likes of Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier and new signing Christian Romero are the senior players, with youngsters Japhet Tanganga and Joe Rodon offering cover.
Ideally, another top central defender would have been signed over the summer and Tottenham are said to retain an interest in Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who has twelve months left on his deal at Stamford Bridge.
Homegrown defender Tanganga has mainly been utilised in the first team by Mourinho and Nuno in the right-back berth, where he looks the most solid of the available options right now, even if he offers little going forward. Matt Doherty worked with Nuno at Wolves, but doesn’t seem at all suited to playing in a back four, while new signing Emerson Royal has yet to look convincing.
Meanwhile Sergio Reguilon is a nailed-on starter at left back, over Welsh international Ben Davies, but seems to have regressed since his promising start at the club.
One could argue it’s this area of the pitch where Spurs have the most problems. Nuno started the season with a midfield trio of Oliver Skipp, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Delle Alli, which though industrious, lacks creativity. Tanguy Ndombele has been brought in to provide some creativity, but often coasts through games, with question marks over his fitness.
Giovani Lo Celso is another player who started well, but seems to have got worse. Ultimately, Ndombele and Lo Celso were bought as (expensive) replacements for Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen, but so far, have been nowhere near as good. New signing Bryan Gil, has promise as a creative player, though we have yet to discover whether his talents are best employed in central or wide areas.
A forward line that features Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son should not be a weak spot for a team, but it is for Spurs right now. Son has started the season in typically lethal form, but Kane has been sluggish, after a summer when his desire to move to Manchester City, was not fulfilled.
Son is really the only senior backup to Kane, who can play as a central striker. Behind him, Nuno only has Dutchman Steven Bergwijn, Brazilian forward Lucas Moura and the 17-year old Dane Scarlett to fall back on.
Former Leeds youngster Jack Clarke, Ryan Sessegnon and Gil are additional wide options, but Tottenham’s attack will look light very if Kane or Son were to suffer even a medium-term injury lay-off.
In summary, with question marks lingering over the depth of the full-back positions, midfield and forward line, Nuno (or any manager that replaces him), is going to struggle to combine any sort of lengthy cup run, with Premier League success. The January transfer window can’t come quick enough.