Tottenham defender Ben Davies has admitted that a Nuno Espirito Santo decision in one of his last games in charge hurt him and some of the other players.
Spurs sacked Nuno in November following a poor run of results and form. He only took the job at the start of the season, but it quickly became clear to Spurs chiefs that they needed a change.
A 3-0 defeat to Manchester United in north London proved the turning point. Indeed, chairman Daniel Levy held crisis talks which resulted in the sack after home fans booed the manager.
However, the 1-0 Europa Conference League defeat to Vitesse Arnhem before then proved another major sour note in Nuno’s short-lived tenure.
The coach faced criticism for picking what was effectively his ‘B’ team. The fringe players who struggled to make the Premier League starting team all played. More tellingly, he left all his first-choice players at home.
Davies told The Athletic when reflecting on Nuno’s time in charge: “That Vitesse one was tough — I was part of the players that played in that game and travelling as a squad of 11…it’s not easy.
“It does give you that feeling of you’re a B team travelling for the game. And for Tottenham Hotspur, for me it’s always an important game.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the third round of the FA Cup, League Cup, whatever, you’re representing the club and you’re there.”
Vitesse deservedly picked up three points against a sluggish Tottenham who have since lost away to Mura in the same competition – and in a similar fashion.
“I’m not somebody who’s going to struggle with motivation but maybe some players do,” Davies added.
“Especially in those kinds of games, it’s not necessarily easy. If you’re not prepared, you can’t turn up at 80 per cent against these teams and that night it showed. It was a tough night. It was very disappointing and it hurt.”
Tottenham have since faced criticism for having a lack of leaders within the team who can inspire their team-mates. Such comments have also been made under new boss Antonio Conte, but Davies rejected the notion.
Tottenham, Conte have ample leaders
“Personally I think there are [leaders] and I feel like it’s a criticism that can be thrown at a team if you don’t win something,” the Wales international added.
“We’ve got big characters in the team. We’ve got people who are not afraid to say how they think to each other’s face.
“There’s a good bunch of us, especially those who’ve been there a long time, myself included. We’re desperate to win something, and hopefully we can show that.”
Tottenham have already enjoyed highs and lows in the short time Conte has been in charge.
The defeat to Mura was a low point, but the 2-1 win over Leeds showed determination and grit.