The Nuno Espirito Santo era is in its infancy at Tottenham, but fans now have an actual game of football to sink their teeth into.
Spurs played out a 1-1 draw with League Two side Leyton Orient on Saturday, with Dane Scarlett’s first half strike cancelled out by Ruel Sotiriou after the break.
Their first pre-season friendly, with half the squad unavailable, was always just going to be about fitness, so we can’t take too much from the result itself.
But that’s not going to stop us taking a dive into the action and drawing some conclusions.
Tottenham starting XI: Hart; Cesay, Dier, Carter-Vickers, Paskotsi; John, Winks; Lucas, Alli, Bergwijn; Scarlett.
Tottenham final 30 XI: Hart; Eyoma, Fagan-Walcott, Omole, Lyons-Foster; Devine, White; Mundle, Bowden, Clarke; Parrott.
The options available to Santo at this stage in pre-season are…sparse. As well as a handful of Euro 2020 absentees, the likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Japhet Tanganga were nowhere to be seen in this one.
The team that started the game was heavily diluted – four of the starting XI had never started a competitive game for the club.
When Santo opted to replace the entire outfield ten on the hour mark, it got even less recognisable. Spurs played the final half hour with an under-23 team (plus Joe Hart and Jack Clarke) on the pitch.
That is par for the course at this early stage, but it further highlights that the result is essentially meaningless.
Dane Scarlett has been exciting Tottenham fans for a while now, so when he raced onto Lucas Moura’s delicious through-ball to open the scoring, the hype went into overdrive.
Still only 17, Scarlett was tipped for big things by Jose Mourinho, and the fact that he was selected to start ahead of the more experienced Troy Parrott gives us a hint that Santo concurs.
He certainly took the opportunity to make an impression here, harrying the Orient back line, bringing teammates into the game and coolly finishing off to give Spurs the lead.
But Scarlett wasn’t the only one who took his chance. Midfielder Nile John, who partnered Harry Winks in the engine room, nearly scored a spectacular early goal when he flicked the ball over an oncoming defender and saw his shot saved.
The youngsters all looked sharp, but the same can’t be said for Dele Alli and Steven Bergwijn further up the pitch, who looked jaded, tired and in need of the rest that came their way for the final half-hour.
A lack of sharpness in pre-season is nothing to worry about, of course, but Santo will be hoping for a response after his youngsters upstaged the senior pros for the most part.
The question on everyone’s lips when Santo took over at Tottenham was whether he would try to emulate the 3-4-3 that worked so well for him at Wolves, or whether he would adjust his philosophy to suit the players at Tottenham.
In this one, it certainly seemed to be the latter. Spurs ran out with a flat back four and two holding midfield players, allowing the front four freedom to chase the game and get after the Orient back-line.
It was notable how reserved the shape was, with neither full-back really getting up the pitch – likely just because of the amount of young players in the side.
Things may change once Santo has the players he wants. It’s hard to imagine his reported interest in Conor Coady, for example, is so he can play him in a back four. But either way, this was an interesting early look at how Santo’s Spurs could shape up once the competitive action kicks off in a couple of weeks’ time.