Nuno Espírito Santo has said he has ignored the guidance on heading restrictions in training, with Tottenham’s manager suggesting that aerial challenges are impossible to scale down.
The Football Association and the English game’s other major bodies announced in July that players ought to be limited to 10 “higher force” headers a week in training amid continued investigations into the health risks associated with regularly heading a ball, which could include dementia. How the recommendation might be enforced was questioned at the time.
Nuno, who is preparing for Sunday’s derby at Arsenal, has bemoaned his team’s difficulties with defending set pieces and it is clear that he is not about to stand them down from heading as he attempts to find the solutions.
“That’s why we have training sessions without nobody seeing us,” Nuno said. “I’m concerned with the situation of dementia and what heading the ball can cause. It’s a big concern for us but it’s part of the game. Honestamente, I will not lie to you. I don’t count how many times our players head the ball. Maybe I will get myself in trouble for this. But football is jumping, heading. It’s part of the game.”
Nuno is worried about how Spurs have lost their grip on recent games, with last Sunday’s 3-0 home loss to Chelsea and the midweek Carabao Cup tie at Wolves, which his team won on penalties, turning sharply after set-piece concessions. Thiago Silva scored Chelsea’s opening goal after a corner and Leander Dendoncker’s header for Wolves, also from a corner, saw them cut Spurs’ lead to 2-1. They then equalised for 2-2. On the weekend before last, Spurs could not react after going 1-0 down at Crystal Palace. They lost 3-0.
los Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will host Anthony Joshua’s world championship fight against Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night and Nuno used a boxing analogy to describe how he wanted his team to cover up after being rocked by a setback.
“At Wolves, we were in front but the moment that we concede, we didn’t react well,” Nuno said. “We felt a little bit disorganised. We let the opponent … not with real danger but having the sensation we were on the back foot. It happened before and we were not able to react. It’s something we must improve on and we are working not only on the mental aspect of the situation but how to react as a team.
“In boxing, you cannot spend all the round throwing punches. Sometimes you have to protect yourself. If you get a punch, instead of opening your guard, you should close your guard and respect that your opponent also has these moments. So using this simple situation gives us a lot of what we should do – so that we are organised, stable and solid.”
Nuno reported that Lucas Moura was fit after his ankle injury.