Nuno’s Spurs: What can we expect going into the 2021/22 season?
Nuno’s managerial career is still in its infancy but he has shown he can express his core footballing beliefs through various tactical shapes. Most FPL players will know him from his time at Wolves, where he was a stalwart of the 3-4-3 system which saw Wolves go from championship to Premier League regulars. Looking back though, he’s predominantly used a back 4.
Regardless of the shape, the philosophy has been consistent: fast wingers, crosses from wide, positive ball players in the middle of the park, counter-attacking and a high press when out of possession. A tactical wish list most spurs fans can get behind (remind you of anyone?).
So, what can we expect from Nuno at spurs?
Option 1 – 3-4-3
As alluded to in the introduction, it would be naïve and over-simplistic to expect Nuno to bring the system he successfully deployed at Wolves to this Spurs squad – but it is one option on the table. The players are familiar with playing in a back-3 under Mourinho and it’s not impossible to make the personnel fit (see possible line-up below). Using that Wolves system as a template, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of applying it to this spurs squad:
- Doherty and Reguilon as high wing-backs with good deliveries.
- Harry Kane as a dual-threat focal point taking up number 9 & 10 positions.
- Son and Moura able to provide plenty of threat both on the counter and in build-up play.
- Difficult to identify 3 ball-playing centre backs, even with the addition of Romero.
- Hojbjerg not the classic CM in a back-3 + double-pivot system which requires better positional intelligence and passing range (Translation: Hojbjerg ain’t no Neves).
- Imbalance in quality between the left and right side of attack.
Option 2 – 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3
Whether you choose to read the line-up as a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 (both options shown) it’s relatively easy to see how the players would line-up in a back 4. There’s a chance he operates with a single pivot in CM but given the likelihood he’ll want the full backs to push high, I think a sitting two should be expected. If you ask most spurs fans how they want us to set up, the vast majority would sketch out something similar to the two line-ups shown below.
With the departure of Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura has virtually no competition on the right wing, compared to Son who has Bergwijn and new signing Bryan Gil to cover naturally on the left. From a draft perspective he’s been gaining a lot of traction recently, yet the data from our ‘Draft Picks’ section shows Lucas has actually been slipping down the ranks (see below), even compared to FPL’s in-house draft ranking of 63 overall, with managers tending to take him somewhere between the 71-77th pick. He represents excellent value at a point in the draft where decent midfielders options tend to be lacking.
I have Dele in the number 10 position currently, which should be the case if pre-season form is anything to go on (it’s usually not), but Tanguy Ndombele may have something to say about that. His absence from Tottenham’s pre-season campaign is down to him becoming a father and spending time with his family. He’s likely to be way off the pace in terms of match fitness early on and so Dele will have some leeway in the opening weeks to regain his form.
If Kane is not available for gameweek 1, either due to fitness or transfer proceedings, expect Son to play up top, with Bergwijn filling in on the left side of attack.
Option 3 – 3-5-2
Not to be confused with the Wolves system outlined in option 1, this system would appear like a Jose Mourinho side on paper – but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas Mourinho would end up lining up with more of a 5-3-2, Nuno’s use of this system is brave and maintains the high wing-back play. The bravery comes from leaving the three defenders one-on-one against the opposition’s front 3 (providing the opposition set up like this). The pay-off is the ability to win the battle in midfield – see below for how Spurs could line-up in this system.
Nuno famously used this system in 2015 as his Valencia side were able to defeat Real Madrid 2-1 with a masterful implantation of this set-up. The basis of the system was for the midfield 3 to dominate the central zones and the wing-backs to keeper their opposites pinned back as much as possible. The bravery comes from trusting your 3 defenders to handle a trio like Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo – whether Nuno believes he has a trustworthy defence at Spurs remains to be seen. See the video below where the man himself talks through his tactics in that very game.
Spurs play Man City at home on the opening day of the season and while city don’t have a dynamic front 3 in the same way as that Real Madrid team, it’s possible to see this system frustrating the visitors. If city have any weakness it’s on the counter-attack and a system which facilitates pace out wide and regaining possession in the middle of the park has a chance at success. Nuno will not want to be smashed at home in the opening game and while his heart will yearn for more free-flowing football, tempering his ego with some cool pragmatism in this game may be the way to go. It still allows him to show off his core footballing philosophies, while also being very easy to tighten up with a sharp nod from the technical area. Barring any major arrivals or departures (or team leaks), this 3-5-2 set-up is my predicted spurs line-up for gameweek 1. The main question marks in the team heading into that game are the availability of Kane and who the third CB would be. Lucas Moura would seem an obvious replacement for Kane in the above system and while I’ve got Tanganga pencilled in at the back, Nuno could look to develop Davinson Sanchez in that position, should he still be at the club when the transfer window closes.