Skip to content

Nuno Espirito Santo sacked by Tottenham after heavy defeat to Man Utd and questions over style and form of Harry Kane

Tottenham were booed off after 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United on Saturday. Spurs have lost three of their last four across all competitions and not had a shot on target in two hours and 16 minutes in the Premier League. Daniel Levy and board held emergency meeting on Sunday

Tottenham head coach Nuno Espirito Santo
Image: Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked by Tottenham

Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked by Tottenham, after a mounting pile of problems forced club chairman Daniel Levy to act.

Levy met with director of football Fabio Paratici and the club's board in an emergency meeting on Sunday, following Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Tottenham were booed off by their own supporters at full-time in that match, and sections of their fanbase had also jeered Nuno's substitution of Lucas Moura, and made their frustrations about the ongoing struggles of striker Harry Kane clear to hear.

With Spurs next in action at home on Thursday night in the Europa Conference League against Vitesse Arnhem, the Dutch side who beat them two weeks ago, before going to Everton on Sunday in their final Premier League game before the international break, Levy and Spurs acted on Monday morning by ending Nuno's tenure.

He'd been in charge for less than five months, after a drawn-out search for a replacement for Jose Mourinho had seen Spurs miss out on a number of other managerial targets.

Results have taken a bad turn, with three defeats in four games. Spurs' style of play is frustrating fans, with the team going two hours and 16 minutes without a shot on target. And the form of star player Harry Kane, following his failed attempt to force a transfer in the summer, is alarming, with the forward scoring just one goal in the Premier League this season.

Here, we take a closer look at the situation behind his sacking...

Also See:

Tottenham's lowly ranking for both attacking and defensive stats so far in the Premier League
Image: Tottenham's lowly ranking for both attacking and defensive stats so far in the Premier League

Analysis: Results, style, Kane cost Nuno

Sky Sports News' Paul Gilmour:

"It was a decision that was taken swiftly and a decision which was the direct consequence of emergency talks that happened on Sunday, following that 3-0 home defeat to Man Utd. They didn't have a shot on target and there was a loud, noisy reaction from the crowd.

"Performances were the key factor in this. They are still quite close to the top four and if the team was playing well and scoring lots of goals and playing attacking football it maybe wouldn't have come to this but it's really the manner of those performances that really concerned the Tottenham board.

"Of course there were many problems at Tottenham long before the manager came in. There was bad feeling about the club being involved in the European Super League, being in the Europa Conference League this season, Harry Kane wanting to move away... there were all of these problems Nuno had to deal with in his short time in charge.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United's win at Tottenham in the Premier League.

"In his early days, he was facing non-stop questions about Kane, and dealt with that in a dignified way.

"But it's been the style of football that has disappointed Tottenham the most."

Boring Spurs? Nuno failed to meet Levy's criteria

Sky Sports' Adam Smith:

With Jose Mourinho sacked in April, and interim boss Ryan Mason only ever a temporary stopgap, chairman Levy wrote to supporters at the end of last season to outline the boxes Tottenham's new manager would have to tick.

"We are acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great club and return to playing football with the style for which we are known - free-flowing, attacking and entertaining - whilst continuing to embrace our desire to see young players flourish from our Academy alongside experienced talent," he said.

The question was, after just 10 Premier League games, had the appointment of Nuno matched Levy's job description?

Nuno's honeymoon period at Spurs ended abruptly after claiming the Manager of the Month award following three successive 1-0 wins against Manchester City, former club Wolves and Watford. Since then, he oversaw five defeats out of seven and the performances raised alarm - frequently outclassed, widely criticised for their negative style and failing to score in four games.

Spurs have plummeted from ranking third with 1.79 goals per game last season to 18th with just 0.9 per game under Nuno this term and a similar trend applies to expected goals, shots and creating chances.


The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust (THST) requested a meeting with the club's board to discuss its "short and long-term strategic vision" following the North London derby defeat - which Levy reportedly declined to entertain.

Advanced metrics help provide evidence to support the discontent: Spurs rank 14th for progress travelled upfield in possession - behind all their 'big six' rivals.

To compound the woeful form, Spurs also rank bottom in the division for distance covered - by some distance - which fuels scrutiny questioning commitment and endeavour on the pitch.

What is most stark about Spurs' decline in distance covered is how the team have slipped from ranking second in the division for four successive seasons under Mauricio Pochettino to bottom of the pile in just two years.

Nuno is a head coach renown for his deep and conservative style - the exact traits Levy had sought to relinquish.

We are acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great Club and return to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining.
Daniel Levy, May, 2021

Looking at the average positions of Nuno's teams over the past year, Tottenham have fewer players stationed deep in the opposition half than Wolves achieved last term.


Clearly, Spurs' desired style remained elusive under Nuno.

Neville: 'Spurs issues pre-date Nuno'

Sky Sports' Gary Neville, speaking on Saturday:

"It could have been the most horrific day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but it turned out to be a really bad day for his counterpart Nuno Espirito Santo. In some ways, the dejected look of Harry Kane summed up the feeling among the Spurs fans, half of whom walked out.

"When I saw the substitution and [Giovani] Lo Celso coming off, and it was a strange swap, I feared what the reaction would be. The substitution didn't go down well, the boos were audible. Spurs fans wanted Kane and Son up front, with Moura and Bergwijn out wide.

"What I would say is I don't think Spurs have been right for a couple of years, it pre-dates Nuno. They haven't connected as a team and haven't looked like they believe in what's happening at the club."

Keane: 'No-shot Spurs were boring'

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Roy Keane says he's not surprised with how badly Tottenham are performing at the moment.

Sky Sports' Roy Keane, speaking on Saturday:

"Spurs are boring. They are boring to watch. You're looking for a bit of urgency. Nothing. I couldn't believe how bad they were.

"Going back to when l played, we always used to say, 'it's Spurs'. You will beat Spurs. This Spurs side was desperate.

"The biggest criticism of this Spurs team is that when they had a corner at 2-0 down, Spurs had three players back and United had everyone defending. You are 2-0 down at home! Abysmal. Job done for United.

"It's not a good combination when you're not keeping clean sheets and Spurs, traditionally, you think of them scoring goals but they're not even doing that. It's the type of defeats they've had too," said Keane.

"You do have to have some sympathy with the manager because he's come in, thinking, 'I'm going to be working with a world-class striker in Kane' but that saga has dragged on. Kane hasn't recovered from it and the team hasn't."

Souness: 'Spurs mid-table at best'

Sky Sports' Graeme Souness, speaking on Saturday:

"It was the perfect game for Manchester United because Tottenham are toothless; the stats tell you that - not a shot on target. They're relying on Kane, Son and Moura for a spark, but they look a shadow of the players they've been in the past.

"If you're a Spurs supporter, you're turning up wondering what you're going to get. They're toothless and they were very, very average today. It could be a difficult season at Spurs. You wonder where they're going. Mid-table at best."

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

After being booed off in defeat to Manchester United, Nuno Espirito Santo says he understands the criticism and insists Spurs are trying their best.

Tottenham fixtures:

November 4: Tottenham vs Vitesse Arnhem - Europa Conference League, kick-off 8pm

November 7: Everton vs Tottenham - Premier League, kick-off 7pm

November 21: Tottenham vs Leeds - Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports

November 25: NS Mura vs Tottenham - Europa Conference League, kick-off 5.45pm

November 28: Burnley vs Tottenham - Premier League, kick-off 2pm

December 2: Tottenham vs Brentford - Premier League, kick-off 7.30pm

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Another Saturday, another chance to win £250,000 with Super 6. Play for free, entries by 3pm.

Around Sky