How Nuno’s tactical switch helped cure Tottenham’s ills in Villa win

This was not a vintage Spurs display but it was nonetheless their best in the Premier League under Nuno – certainly from an attacking point of view – and lifted the mood following three straight defeats to London rivals.

Nuno’s switch to 4-2-3-1 improved the team as a whole and key individuals, particularly Heung-min Son, who was comfortably the game’s standout player. The South Korean passed to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for Spurs first-half opener and forced Matt Targett into an own goal for the winner 20 minutes from time.

After his dismal set-ups at Crystal Palace and Arsenal, it was essential for Nuno to show some more tactical acumen against Dean Smith’s in-form side, while he also needed a response from his players after they seemed to lack belief in his approach during the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium.

So the head coach will have been pleased with the application of his side, who grew in conviction, confidence and fluency as the match progressed.

Nuno will have been particularly encouraged by the response to Villa’s 67th-minute equaliser through Ollie Watkins, which felt like a grim sucker-punch following a spell of Spurs pressure.

Given their run of damaging derby defeats, it would have been easy for Spurs heads to drop after Watkins snuck behind Eric Dier to tap in Targett’s cross at the near post but, instead, they responded superbly, Son bursting into the box, beating Kortney House and putting the ball on a plate for Lucas Moura at the back post. Targett turned into his own net under pressure from the Brazilian.

The goal was an impressive display of mental strength and hardly suggested these Spurs players are no longer playing for their manager. Villa were surprisingly poor but for Nuno and Spurs this might have been a turning point after their wretched September.

Emerson Royal and Cristian Romero impress

Defenders Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal returned to the side after being benched against Arsenal and both summer signings caught the eye.

Romero was partly to blame for Villa’s goal, overcommitting by rushing out of defence but failing to win the ball before Targett crossed for Watkins.

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