Nuno Espírito Santo admitted he got his starting personnel all wrong during a chastening 3-1 derby defeat at Arsenal. The Tottenham manager began with Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele as the No 8s in a 4-3-3 and his team were overrun in the first half.
Arsenal led 3-0 at the break thanks to goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka and, although Spurs stabilised and pulled one back late on through Son Heung-min, it did little to placate Nuno.
The manager substituted Alli at half-time, sending on Oliver Skipp and changing to 4-2-3-1. He also replaced Japhet Tanganga with Emerson Royal at right-back. “The performance was not good,” Nuno said. “The gameplan was not good. The decisions were not good. So it was not a good day for us. Definitely not a good day.
“I’m going to be honest. When you have a gameplan you have to make the right decisions in terms of who you want to put on the pitch to develop that gameplan. I take responsibility because the decisions were not right according to the gameplan. I won’t name individuals but the gameplan was not right according to the players who were on the pitch.
“We were not aggressive enough to control the dynamic of Arsenal in midfield. We suffered when we wanted to go in front and we allowed Arsenal to always come to us.”
The defeat followed the 3-0 Premier League losses against Crystal Palace and Chelsea and Nuno can feel the heat is on. The club hired him after a 72-day search to find a permanent replacement for José Mourinho and one of the managers who turned them down – Hansi Flick – watched from the crowd. Flick is in charge of Germany.
“How can I be happy, that they are like this?” Nuno said. “Why did it go wrong? Because I decided bad. I refuse to go further than that. All that I have to say, I will say directly to the players.”
The Spurs captain, Hugo Lloris, said: “We lost complete control in the first half. We got smashed and then had a good reaction [in the second half]. When you concede three goals in each of the last three league games, you cannot hide the problems.”
A delighted Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, said: “It was one of the nicest feelings that I have had in this stadium. The way we won and to feel the connection with the crowd made it really special.”