One of Jose Mourinho’s biggest problems continues to linger at Tottenham Hotspur under new manager Nuno Santo.
Their 100% start to the 2021/22 campaign was halted by Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon as the ten men of Spurs were well-beaten 3-0 at Selhurst Park.
The north London outfit had been sitting pretty atop the Premier League table heading into kick-off, having won all three of their opening three matches by a 1-0 scoreline.
A recurring theme was bubbling beneath the surface during their short run of success under the Portuguese and it was fully exposed at the weekend.
Spurs are still suffering from the very same issue that Mourinho had – there’s a clear lack of creativity in attacking midfield.
Last season, the ex-boss relied heavily on Heung-min Son and Harry Kane’s exploits, with the pair scoring 58.8% of their 68 league goals scored. They were also the only two to surpass four assists and average 1.4 or more key passes per game in the whole campaign, via WhoScored.
In fact, no player that managed to create more than 0.8 key chances each match still remains at the club, with Gareth Bale back at Real Madrid and Serge Aurier without a team.
That’s where the problem lies.
Mourinho’s attacking midfield options struggled to create much at all – Giovani Lo Celso (0.8 key passes per game), Dele Alli (0.6), Tanguy Ndombele (0.4).
Two of those three were big-money signings yet neither have really set the ground alight since joining in the summer of 2019.
The club-record Frenchman has only delivered eight goals and eight assists in 75 appearances, managing a direct contribution every 267 minutes and the Copa America winner has performed worse, averaging a goal or assist every 353 minutes – once every four games.
That’s just not good enough considering both were earmarked with Christian Eriksen’s exit in mind, given he was entering the final year of his deal at the time.
The Danish playmaker provided 69 goals and 90 assists in 305 appearances, meaning he contributed once every 151 minutes – a stark, stark contrast to the numbers above.
As evident on Saturday, this is still very much a problem that lingers. Against Palace, Spurs only managed two shots at goal in 90 minutes – it’s no wonder they only won by the solitary goal in their three previous games.
Speaking after the match, Nuno described his creative issues as a “big concern.” He told reporters, via the Evening Standard:
“It is a big concern, we had enough quality and talent to play better. We didn’t do it, credit to Palace they were aggressive and they didn’t allow too much time on the ball. We lost duels, many, many situations that I think we should do much better. In terms of offensive, much improvement is required.”
There are some important games coming up for Spurs, including their group stage opener in the UEFA Europa Conference League – a competition they are favourites to win – so Nuno will need to find a solution sooner rather than later.
Clearly, it’s an issue that has lingered for quite some time as the Portuguese remains haunted by the same problems as the previous regime.