EPL TALK: Spurs stuck in time warp despite Nuno sacking

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Nuno Espirito Santo during their Premier League match against Manchester United.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Nuno Espirito Santo during their Premier League match against Manchester United. (PHOTO: John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:

Tottenham stuck in time warp after Mauricio Pochettino era

WHAT HAPPENED: In a space of just one week, the "EPL manager in the biggest crisis" has changed dramatically from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to Nuno Espirito Santo. 

More remarkably, it happened in a head-to-head clash, as Solskjaer's Manchester United rebounded from their humiliating 0-5 home mauling by Liverpool last week to record a 3-0 away victory over Nuno's Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (30 October).

Two days later, Nuno was sacked after just 17 games in charge. But it was not because the Man United defeat left Spurs adrift in eighth place in the EPL table, but the dreadful and uninspiring football that Spurs were playing under their new manager.

Against United, they failed to register a single shot on target, an appalling statistic considering that the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were in the starting line-up. For a club whose philosophy has always been to play entertaining football for the fans, such insipid football is unacceptable to the fan base, especially if it does not come with success in the league table.

Nuno was in a tough position, given that he was hardly the first choice to replace the sacked Jose Mourinho. Now it seems as if Tottenham are reviving negotiations with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who was one of the first few choices to take on the job after Mourinho. 

It begs the question: have Spurs wasted 17 games of this season to find out that Nuno was never the right fit for their footballing philosophy? As much as the Portuguese was instrumental in bringing Wolves up from The Championship and making them a stable club in the EPL, his teams have never been described as adventurous and inventive.

Just like Man United and Solskjaer, Nuno is but part of a bigger problem surrounding the club. In Tottenham's case, it is that they have spent so much on building their state-of-the-art new stadium that they have not enough financial resources to refresh a squad which had stagnated under Mauricio Pochettino in 2019.

With the exception of Son, no one in the Spurs squad is playing at their expected levels - Kane included. With each passing day, the struggling England captain's transfer value dips, raising the debate of whether Tottenham should have sold him to Manchester City in the off-season and re-invested what would have been a hefty transfer sum to new talents.

And now, Spurs looked stuck in a time warp and unable to make any inroads into winning trophies in the near future. Even if they are to hire Conte, they would have already wasted nearly a third of the season in a failed experiment, with players having to re-adapt to the new boss' tactics.

Nuno was the unfortunate victim of poor decisions, and his replacement will have plenty of headaches to solve before they can become title challengers again.

WHAT'S NEXT: Thankfully for Nuno's replacement, Spurs have winnable games coming up, starting with an away trip to injury-hit Everton on Sunday, followed by Leeds at home and Burnley away. If the new manager can inject any semblance of creativity among the Spurs players, he may have a chance to start on the right foot.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Mohamed Salah (right) during the Premier League match against Brighton.
Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Mohamed Salah (right) during the Premier League match against Brighton. (PHOTO: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Liverpool, Man City need to address issues hampering title bids

WHAT HAPPENED: Top contenders Liverpool and Manchester City suffered bumps in their title quests on Saturday, with the Reds letting a 2-0 lead slip away in a 2-2 home draw against Brighton, and 10-man City being stunned by visiting Crystal Palace in a 0-2 loss.

It has not been all smooth-sailing for both Liverpool and Man City to start off this season, despite them being in second and third place respectively, still without touching distance of leaders Chelsea.

For the Reds, while they are still unbeaten in all competitions, they have been allowing teams to come back and draw matches which they should have won. In the four matches they have drawn in the EPL, they had held second-half leads in three of them - against Brentford, Man City and Brighton.

It is unlike their title-winning season in 2019/20, when they were so adept at holding on to single-goal leads amid a 27-match winning streak that laid the basis of their triumph. 

Perhaps their defence is still to regain their peak form, following the lengthy injury absences of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip last season. Another reason could be the current spate of injuries among their midfielders, in particular Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara, that robbed some fluency and steel in the centre of the pitch.

Manager Jurgen Klopp was also unhappy about the "body language" of certain players after Brighton's equaliser, so there are definitely a couple of issues the German has to sort out before the Reds slip any further.

Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus reacts to going 0-2 down to Crystal Palace during their English Premier League football match.
Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus reacts to going 0-2 down to Crystal Palace during their English Premier League football match. (PHOTO: Oli Scarff/AFP)

As for his City counterpart Pep Guardiola, he has to face up to the fact that his team's lack of clinical strikers is a major issue against opponents who are set up to limit City's playmakers.

With the departure of Sergio Aguero after last season, opponents have one less concern when defending against City's multiple offensive weapons. For those who are adept at sitting back and being well-organised in defence, City struggle to break them down and score - as was what happened against Palace.

"We are a team who are able to score a lot, but against teams that defend so, so deep, sometimes it is difficult to find the right moment to punish them," Guardiola admitted after the Palace loss.

Still, one cannot rule out the Spaniard eventually finding an ingenious solution, but as of now, City have to step up and be more ruthless in front of goal to keep pace with the other two title contenders.

WHAT'S NEXT: Liverpool have a tough league game on Sunday away to fourth-placed West Ham, and would do well to sort out their defensive issues before the game. For Man City, they have a massive tie - the derby with Man United at Old Trafford on Saturday. Can they find a way through United's shaky defence?

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