Long read: Inside Nuno Espirito Santo’s final days at Tottenham Hotspur
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Tottenham finally announced the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday morning, and according to LondownWorld’s sources are closing on former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
The sacking came as a surprise to Nuno and his trusted lieutenant Ian Cathro, who thought they had bought themselves time with wins against Aston Villa and Newcastle.
The former Wolves manager, 47, is a true gentleman and is liked around Hotspur Way, especially by the non-playing staff and some of board members.
But doubts started to appear after defeats to Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, with half of the board not completely sold on his hiring and technical strength.
The Portuguese manager was aware and came to the press conference ahead of Aston Villa fighting for his job.
He dropped Dele Alli and set up in a 4-2-3-1 system that suited the impressive Oliver Skipp and returning Tanguy Ndombele.
Spurs ran out 2-1 winners but the international break halted momentum.
Nuno thought he had discovered winning formula
By the time all players assembled at Hotspur Way after the October international break, the feeling within Nuno and his coaching team was that they had found the best system and their starting eleven.
Hugo Lloris between the posts, the central defensive pair of Dier and Cristian Romero flanked on the left and right by Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal.
A double defensive midfield pivot of Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to provide steel and protection to the flat back four, and Tanguy Ndombele trusted with creating the chances and linking the midfield with attack.
The ever-willing Lucas Moura and the underrated Son Heung-Min completed the top side of a 4-2-3-1 system.
The win at Newcastle once again gave credence to this system and gave proof that Nuno had found something that worked.
Lucas never stopped running and even the goal shy Harry Kane scored in a 3-2 win away, to seal a fine victory.
Problems at West Ham
But it all came crashing down against West Ham at the London Stadium.
Spurs played well in the first half, but there was a creative spark missing and for all the improvement Ndombele had offered he was not finding the final pass and that meant Kane started to drop deep again.
A section of the fans started calling for some form of change, and the manager decided to introduce Giovani Lo Celso.
The Argentine could not help his side out of the hole and Spurs lost to West Ham narrowly, but Lo Celso had done enough attacking wise to earn a place against the beleaguered visiting Manchester United, who has shipped five goals at home to a rampant Liverpool side.
Their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær was just about holding onto his job by the skin of his teeth.
Losing to Manchester United
Spurs started the game on top, with only two changes to the starting line up.
Ben Davies, a senior member of the team, who is considered a more defensive option to the motoring Sergio Reguilon, and Lo Celso preferred to Tanguy Ndombele.
Spurs were playing at home, and favourites, given they had gone to Burnley to make it through in the Carabao Cup.
The atmosphere was charged with a certain level of expectation, before the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo put United ahead.
Things moved from bad to worse when Ronaldo again side stepped Skipp, before playing in Cavani for a truly glorious finish from the veteran striker.
The tension in the stands was palpable and the fans let Nuno know when he took off the hard-working Luvas Moura for Steven Bergwijn.
The disapproval was definite and a chorus of “you don’t know what you’re doing” rang around the stadium.
At that moment, chairman Daniel Levy, who was already upset with the level of intensity and lack of energy from the team, sent out a message to football director Fabio Paratici asking him to stay behind for a word after the game.
This was the text which sealed Nuno’s fate.
Levy had already had enough before the third goal from Rashford, but used it as a reference point on how things were just not working.
The last 24 hours
When Levy met Fabio Paratici and informed him of his decision to pull the plug on Nuno, the Portuguese manager was still conducting his post match press conference and calling on the fans to help him change things.
"I’m only thinking about the next training session because no words will solve this situation,” the Tottenham Hotspur boss told the press shortly after the defeat to Manchester United.
"The booing and disappointment of the fans is understandable when they don’t see the team they expect, a team that should play – and I truly believe we are better than what we showed today – they’re going to boo. It’s up to us to change the mood.
"I believe we can do better and I trust these players," Nuno added.
"I will support them and stick with them until the end but in a humble way I ask the fans to keep helping us and supporting us so we change."
He concluded his press conference and held a short meeting with his technical team planning the next day’s recovery sessions and video analysis before receiving a text message from Paratici.
The managing director informed him that he had just come out of a meeting with Levy, and that there was a board meeting to vote on his future on Sunday.
Nuno informed his two deputies about the text and subsequent call he received from Paratici, and by Sunday morning the feeling within his close circle was that he was just waiting for the inevitable.
Some board members had already started to leak the news to the media that Nuno had been sacked, but the club, through Fabio Paratici, were hitting the phones to speak to Antonio Conte‘s representatives.
By midnight on Sunday, they had made progress with the Italian Premier League winner and informed Nuno.
Graciously Nuno accepted the decision and came into Hotspur Way to meet Levy for a final chat on Monday morning.
Afterwards he packed his stuff from his office and said his goodbyes before driving off.