Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo can recreate Mauricio Pochettino’s band of brothers and unify club

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Nuno Espirito Santo is already having a unifying effect at Tottenham  (Getty Images)
Nuno Espirito Santo is already having a unifying effect at Tottenham (Getty Images)

Nuno Espirito Santo is often compared to his Tottenham predecessor and former boss at Porto, Jose Mourinho, but a more relevant comparison is Mauricio Pochettino.

While Mourinho was hired to eke out one last push from Pochettino's squad, Nuno's job is to begin a new cycle at Spurs and help to rebuild a club which lost its way.

Like Pochettino, arguably Nuno's biggest challenge is to unify the club following a fractious season of squad unrest and supporter anger at the players, manager and ownership.

The Portuguese's success at Sunday's opponents Wolves suggests team-building is one of his big strengths and sources at Spurs say he is already creating a sense of unity and fostering a siege mentality at Hotspur Way.

"He is very tight with his staff and seems to have a good way of pulling everyone at the club on the journey with him," said one Spurs source.

Nuno has introduced subtle but significant changes at the club's Enfield training centre, including requiring the entire first-team squad and coaching staff to eat lunch together every day. Previously, the players were able to filter through the canteen in groups during a set period of time.

Meal times are particularly important to Nuno in building relationships and he revealed this week that he had breakfast with unsettled striker Harry Kane on Wednesday, before travelling to Portugal with a fringe squad for Thursday night's Europa Conference League play-off first leg.

At Wolves, Nuno actually upended the club canteen, replacing the small round tables for four or five people with one big table for more sociable meal times. He may yet do the same at Spurs.

The 47-year-old has also reinforced the habit of everyone at the training ground beginning each day with a fist bump – a practice first introduced by Pochettino, who felt the environment was too cold and impersonal when he arrived in 2014.

"It's [about] working together, it's feeling each other, not only on the pitch but socially," Nuno said before last weekend's win over Manchester City. "I believe we will build a bond between us that will make us stronger and we are in that process."

Sources at Wolves say that these small physical touches are ultimately less significant than Nuno's psychological impact on those around him, however.

"He has this aura," said a member of staff at the Midlands club. "He's like a strict father or firm but fair teacher. He makes you desperate to please him and win his approval. If you get it right, you might get praise or a hug – he can be quite tactile – and that felt great."

For example, Nuno does not believe in disciplining his squad with fines. At Wolves, if a player was late for training, Nuno would simply delay the session and wait for them to arrive with the rest of the squad and staff – a move guaranteed to ensure the player was never late again.

"He can be grumpy and you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of him angry – but mostly it felt like he would be disappointed if you got something wrong," said the Wolves staff member.

It is easy to imagine Dele Alli or Steven Bergwijn responding more favourably to Nuno's consistent discipline than Mourinho's habit of "negging" his players to try to provoke a reaction. Unlike Pochettino, though, Nuno is not friends with his squad and rarely holds one-to-one meetings in his office.

He also has a ruthless edge, evident at Wolves when he ostracised senior players on joining the club. There was rarely a way back for a player who did not fit with his ethos – potentially bad news for Tottenham's club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele, who is yet to feature under Nuno.

The result was a remarkably tight first-team squad at Wolves – at least until Nuno's project soured last season – although with a bigger group and bigger personalities at Spurs, it will be an altogether tougher challenge.

Pochettino and his staff firmly believed that the only way for Tottenham to match clubs with greater resources was to create a family environment, a band of brothers with everyone pulling in the same direction.

Nuno, while a different personality to his predecessor, shares that belief and there was evidence of that unity in Tottenham's surprise win over City last weekend.

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