Is Mourinho reinventing Lucas Moura?
Background image: Paul Hudson, CC BY 2.0
Jose Mourinho's rollercoaster ride with Tottenham Hotspur continues. For every patch he slaps on a problem inherited from Mauricio Pochettino, another rip in the Spurs fabric emerges. Christian Eriksen left for Internazionale, Danny Rose for Newcastle. Harry Kane is injured. So too Moussa Sissoko. Of those, Kane's absence is the most visible tear but Mourinho's work with Lucas Moura provides a seamless solution.
Mourinho’s preference for traditional number-nines is well known. Didier Drogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku all flourished under him. Moura isn't a bull in a china shop but you must work with the materials to hand. Troy Parrot remains too naive for the Premier League. Daniel Levy signed a promising winger in the market, acquiring Steven Bergwijn from PSV Eindhoven, but failed to recruit a strong centre-forward. Perhaps recalling his spell at Inter, during which Diego Milito shone for the Nerazzurri, the Special One found ways to make Moura more effective.
After his fairytale night in Amsterdam, the Brazilian didn't start in the Champions League final. Under Pochettino, he was never the same following the snub. With just two goals from May through November, his stock dipped. Under a new manager who's given him a fresh opportunity, he is paying dividends again.
With Mourinho writing his name in the team sheet, Moura responded with six goals. Before Kane went down, he operated as a winger or second striker. Now he serves as a false nine. Free to roam, he plucks defenders out of position like loose threads in a tapestry. The rips and tears are suddenly someone else's problem.
Tenacious with or without the ball, he menaces defenders and holding midfielders into mistakes that lead to Spurs recovering possession. His tireless harassment results in 1.2 tackles per 90 [WhoScored]. Among attacking Spurs, only fellow Mourinho project Dele Alli presses harder, producing 1.4 tackles per 90.
Jose encourages Moura to emulate Kane by dropping into midfield, drawing a defender with him and allowing Son Heung-Min or Dele to move into the vacated space. As Kane's replacement, Lucas has created eight scoring chances for the team, joint-most with Serge Aurier. With just the one assist from those opportunities, his need to further develop an understanding with teammates becomes evident.
On the finishing side, six goals in all competitions remains less than Kane would provide, but Moura is genuinely unpredictable. Nothing stops him from improving on his 0.29 expected goals/90.
But could, would and should won’t cut it. Under Mourinho, Spurs don’t play the thunderous attacking style they did under his predecessor. His counterattacking strategy presents fewer opportunities. With just 16 shots on target from 49 attempts, Moura must be more clinical.
While the boss demands everyone work for the team, the Brazilian must recognise when it's time to be selfish. Harry Kane will return in 2020/21 if not sooner. Son and Bergwijn's pace and energy on the flanks can't be beaten. Dele Alli has more tricks in his bag. Only Son and Erik Lamela match him for age at 27. Whether it's to define his role in the squad or put himself in the shop window for the summer, the time is now for Lucas Moura. He must take everything Mourinho can give him and offer more in return.