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Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Europa Conference League against Rennes
Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Europa Conference League against Rennes

Tottenham went into the international break with a 100% record — but they were brought back down to earth with a bump against Crystal Palace. 

The honeymoon period always comes to an end for any new manager but the manner in which Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were dismantled at Selhurst Park will have concerned fans.

Tonight’s Europa Conference League clash with Rennes offers the North Londoners a chance to show that Saturday’s debacle was nothing more than a blip. 

So what needs to change from the weekend and why did things suddenly turn sour?

Settling for second best

It is quite clear Nuno was not Tottenham’s first-choice manager. 

The club interviewed a host of names — including the likes of Antonio Conte and Paulo Fonseca — before appointing the former Porto goalkeeper as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor. 

But it always felt like a marriage of convenience — he was simply available at the right time. 

After all, prior to Nuno’s unveiling, chairman Daniel Levy posted a statement saying he wanted the club’s next head coach to play "free-flowing, attacking and entertaining" football. 

That is the polar opposite of the style the Portuguese tactician is famed for. 

The 47-year-old did an impressive job at Molineux but the football on show during his four years in charge was not always the easiest on the eye.

The Kane situation

Harry Kane has been starved of service in his two Premier League starts for Tottenham this season
Harry Kane has been starved of service in his two Premier League starts for Tottenham this season

Harry Kane wanted to leave Spurs this summer but he did not get his wish and remains with the club. 

Nuno now finds himself in the awkward position of having to use the England skipper, even though he had found a system that worked without the No10. 

Tottenham looked extremely dangerous against Manchester City and the style on show that day does not necessarily suit Kane’s game. 

In his two Premier League starts this season, he has taken just two shots — yet this is the same Kane who scored three in three for England during the international break. 

The former Wolves boss might have to sacrifice his initial plan in order to get Tottenham’s most valuable asset firing again.

Opening up old wounds

Nuno Espirito Santo made the bold decision to change Tottenham's shape following their win over Watford
Nuno Espirito Santo made the bold decision to change Tottenham's shape following their win over Watford

Spurs imploded against Crystal Palace — and it will have felt all too familiar for their followers.

Nuno had his hands somewhat tied due to injuries but his decision to change the team’s system backfired spectacularly.

In their last outing prior to the international break, Tottenham lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. 

Against Crystal Palace, it was more of a 4-4-2 diamond and it did not seem to suit the players selected. 

Kane was isolated and the attack was imbalanced, largely due to Lucas Moura’s tendency to drift to the right. 

Japhet Tanganga was shown a red card just before the hour mark but that was not the turning point that the scoreline may suggest.

Even when the North Londoners had 11 men on the pitch, they lacked a cohesive approach — as evidenced in their average position map below.

Tottenham offered very little going forward against Crystal Palace
Tottenham offered very little going forward against Crystal Palace

Lack of consistency

Nuno singled Dele Alli out for praise following Tottenham’s recent win over Wolves. 

He said: "His work-rate was fantastic. Dele is a very talented player but what he is doing is the way he should do it and improve. 

"He needs to keep on being consistent, work hard and help the team, keep doing what he is doing every day. He comes to the building, his attitude. 

"The talent is there and it is up to us to find the best solutions, creating relationships, but he is doing well."

Dele Alli caught the eye in a deeper midfield role before being shifted into the No10 position against Crystal Palace
Dele Alli caught the eye in a deeper midfield role before being shifted into the No10 position against Crystal Palace

Considering Nuno has shown he is prone to dramatic changes, it is somewhat ironic the manager claimed the versatile midfielder needed to show consistency.

Alli impressed in the centre of the park before being moved to an attacking role against the Eagles. 

A new shape — with new players and new roles — is always a risk and the 25-year-old’s performance suffered in the clash with Palace as a result.

The perfect storm

Taking on the Spurs job felt like an almost impossible task this summer.

The club’s best player wanted to leave, reinforcements in key areas were needed and there were international tournaments galore, meaning pre-season was condensed. 

Combine all of that with Nuno’s fairly late appointment and it is little wonder all is not well at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Cracks have been there from the very beginning of this relationship. 

The big test is whether the club, and fans, will show patience with their new coach if the Palace defeat is more than just a one-off.

It is not yet make or break but a win against Rennes is essential to get this project back on track.

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Tottenham HotspurRennesEuropa Conference League

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