Tottenham Hotspur kickstart the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League group stages with a trip to France to face Stade Rennes later this evening and manager Nuno Santo has plenty to ponder in terms of team selection.
The north London outfit head saw their unbeaten start to the new Premier League season come to a crashing end after they were defeated 3-0 by Crystal Palace, so the Portuguese coach will be looking for a reaction in a competition that they are amongst the favourites to win.
Spurs are facing plenty of injury and availability problems.
South American trio Davinson Sanchez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso are not back in the country just yet, whilst this game may come too soon for the likes of Heung-min Son, Steven Bergwijn and Eric Dier.
One of the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s disappointing result was that the midfield Nuno deployed just doesn’t work, though there is an easy solution to that problem.
He opted for Harry Winks to partner Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp in the engine room but that turned out to be very one-dimensional and not balanced whatsoever.
In fact, the 25-year-old Englishman was hooked after just an hour, which should be rather damning on his chances of starting over in Rennes this evening, especially with the more creative and technically gifted Tanguy Ndombele back in the squad.
It was only four years ago that Winks ran the show during Spurs’ shock win over Real Madrid, where he outshone former Spurs midfielder Luka Modric in the Champions League.
Soon after, Mauricio Pochettino lauded him as the “perfect” midfielder, comparing him to Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
But after his lacklustre display against Palace this weekend, The Times’ Gary Jacob described the £18m-rated Hotspur Way youth product as ‘stale’, whilst club legend Gary Roberts dubbed him an “average player” back in June.
Although Winks made 91% of his passes, these were mainly sideways and behind, without much effort to get forward. By comparison, the Eagles’ loan star Conor Gallagher made himself available all over the pitch and would’ve been the perfect option to have in there alongside Hojbjerg and Skipp.
Nuno must look to bounce back and kickstart Spurs’ quest for glory in Europe with a positive performance in France, and that just won’t happen if Winks is starting in midfield.
It’s time for him to be ruthless and axe him from the XI later this evening.
AND in other news, Nuno Santo receives huge Spurs boost as Harry Kane update emerges…