You’d be forgiven as Spurs fans if you’ve been avoiding any and everything associated with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club today. It’s certainly tempting. One day after a North London Derby shellacking by Arsenal at the Emirates by a 3-1 scoreline that felt an awful lot worse than the final result, the mood in the fanbase is dismal.
The dust has barely begun to settle from that disastrous match, but one thing we can say for certain is that the players feel just as bad about the result as we do. Lucas Moura, as printed in the Evening Standard, was quite vocal about Tottenham’s performance afterwards, and the normally ebullient Brazilian was about as dour as you’ll ever hear from him.
“The feeling is very, very bad. We know what it means for the fans, for the club and of course we wanted to win, we wanted a different result. It’s not a time to speak. It’s a time to be quiet and work hard. It was a very bad game, it didn’t work at all.
“I think they took advantage of our mistakes. We gave them too much space. And we didn’t play. We didn’t try to play. We didn’t try to have the ball. We have quality to have the ball, to build, to do more than what we did. So many long balls. We were not aggressive enough and they punished us.
“Even 3-0 down, it was not finished. Second half we did different, it was quite [good]. But it was too late, 3-0 from the first half was very difficult to turn over. But we tried, we fought until the end but it was not enough we’re not happy and we need to improve.”
Lucas is obviously frustrated and these words, while harsh, are almost certainly born out of that frustration. You might also suggest they’re a touch hyperbolic… but only a touch. Lucas is correct in that Spurs’ midfield left Arsenal with way too much space in which to operate on Sunday, and the scoreline reflected a strange passivity that should never be present in a match as highly anticipated as a North London Derby.
But it’s also not difficult to see Lucas’ comments about “not trying to play” as an indictment on Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactics. While there were numerous individual errors that contributed to Arsenal’s three first half goals, the those individual performances felt baked into a tactical setup that was wrong from the very beginning.
Nuno, to his credit, admitted as such in the post-match interviews, taking the brunt of the criticism for what happened at the Emirates and saying while there’s blame enough to go around, it starts with him.
“A lot of things went wrong , starting with decisions that I made. The game plan didn’t work out. I’m very honest. If the game plan didn’t work out the way you wanted it to work out, it’s because you didn’t decide it well.
“I decided bad, didn’t make the right decisions. And I refuse to go much further than that. It’s my responsibility. All I have to say, I’ll say it to the players among us. Because us [we] must solve the problem.
The question now turns to where Spurs go from here. This is quite obviously the nadir of Nuno’s brief tenure at Spurs, and there is already breathless media speculation about whether he will survive his first full season in charge at Tottenham. That feels premature, at least for now — even if Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici decided that things weren’t working out, one would think that it would take a lot more for them to pull the trigger, if only because there doesn’t seem to be anyone available who could feasibly right the ship.
Harsh words about Tottenham tactics aside, Lucas put the responsibility for turning things around back on the players, which is unsurprising. It’s rare that you have a player call out the gaffer publicly, and no matter how Nuno set things up it’s the players who have to win or lose the match on the field. For Lucas, it’s about putting this result aside, recognizing the obvious talent in this Spurs squad, and coming together as a team to work hard and improve.
“We need to run more. We need to be more aggressive, we need to work more, work harder. But we cannot be crazy. It’s only the beginning of the season. We have a lot of games to play so we need to improve as soon as possible.
“It’s [the] Premier League. Every game is hard, every game is a war. The first three games was good, especially against [Manchester] City. I don’t know why we changed our mind against [Crystal] Palace, it didn’t work. We didn’t know how to react after but we need to react as soon as possible. We need to improve. Like I said, we have the quality to do better.
“We need to know how to pass this moment, how to face this moment. We’re all good players who have quality to improve. To do better. That’s the Premier League, that’s football.”