The emergence of Lucas Moura can paper the cracks of Spurs’ garbage transfer window
A fortnight ago, that headline might’ve sounded like the desperate reasoning of a Spurs fan who just didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.
Beleaguered and world-weary, at the wrong end of a transfer window in which rumours evaporated into thin air as quickly as they popped into existence; Gareth Bale, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Wilfried Zaha and then, the last bastion of hope, Jack Grealish. One disappointment after crushing disappointment.
Then, acceptance; maybe we don’t need new players after all?
A fit and focused Toby Alderweireld is *like* a new signing, we’d argue. Lucas Moura is *like* a new signing, we’d plead.
Oh god Daniel Levy has brainwashed us, hasn’t he?
Well maybe. It’s certainly a possibility. But whatever mess Daniel and the gang made of recruitment this summer, at least one relatively new purchase is starting to bear fruit. Lucas Moura looked as sharp as a pin in Spurs’ 3-1 victory over Fulham last Saturday. An energetic performance full of pace and intelligent running— punctuated with a deft curling finish from the edge of the box with his wrong foot.
And, then, his finest hour in a Spurs shirt, at Old Trafford on Monday night. If Pochettino didn’t seem to fussed about losing out on Wilfried Zaha, Anthony Martial or any other jet-heeled wide forward during the window, perhaps this display went some way to explain why.
Tottenham have been crying out for an injection of speed and dynamism in the final-third, particularly with Heung-min Son doing his damndest to avoid military service at the Asian Games and Erik Lamela still not 100% fit.
And boy did we get from the Brazilian. An enormous amount of fun, just like the egyptian themed slots. Now, it might not seem like the greatest barometer of technical quality to bamboozle a centre-back pairing like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. They aren’t exactly Baresi and Costacurta— closer to Boumsong and Bramble, in all honesty. But Moura ran them ragged.
His third goal, an explosive surge from the halfway line, was the crasehendo of fine evening’s work. With minimal touches he skipped past a physically spent Smalling, before unwinding a powerful shot into the corner. Past the hand of the world’s best goalkeeper.
Moura was magnificent. You could almost say, it’s like having a new signing.
It was Mauricio Pochettino who first put forth the idea that January signings were really for the following season. How could a player possibly hope to slip straight into a fully-function Premier League side midseason. Particularly a team so reliant on their Hurclean levels of fitness and one so allied to the system.
In Moura’s case, the paradigm is more acute. Pochettino was quick to stifle Spurs’ fans excitement in January. ‘We signed a player who has not competed for six or seven months,’ the Argentine reminded us. In short, we wouldn’t be seeing anything close to the Moura’s best for some time.
Of course, there have been examples of new recruits settling in quickly at Spurs. Davinson Sanchez and Dele Alli found themselves in the starting line-up almost immediately and flourished from day one. But that’s after a full preseason and months of getting their head round the training regime and Pochettino’s tactical blueprint.
Lucas Moura is the Argentine’s first ever January signing, so it makes absolute sense that he wasn’t able to hit the ground running.
But now, after a full summer bootcamp under Pochettino, and some eye-catching performances against some European heavyweights— albeit understrength versions—Moura looks ready for action.
Options, options, options
Suddenly Spurs’ starting eleven has a range of feasible permutations. The squad, which was derided for not having the same kind of depth of quality as some of their rivals, now appears in good shape.
Sure, we made light of the idea of players we already owned being like new signings. But most fans would’ve discounted from their minds the likes of Alderweireld and Danny Rose—and to a certain extent, Mousa Dembele. Candidates for best in their position a year or so ago, Rose and Alderweireld were largely MIA last season. No-one of sound mind would’ve guessed they’d still be here after the summer window closed. Even less that they’d be starring in a famous win at Old Trafford.
The Belgian’s display was an acute reminder of his colossal presence in the Spurs backline. Suddenly, we’ve got the best centre back in the League in our team again. Into a backline that was already pretty formidable under the watch of Davinson Sanchez and Toby’s countryman, Jan Vertonghen.
Danny Rose looks a huge amount fitter than he did at the tail end of last season and during his brief cameo in Russia. If he can get somewhere close to his pre-knee trouble form of 2017, while getting to a Good Place emotionally—whad’ya know—we’ve got one of the finest fullbacks in the League again. Ben Davies is no sap, either.
And then there’s the glorious return of Harry Winks. It’s easy to forget that the Spurs rookie was dominating the midfield of the 13-times European Champions as early as last November. Less than a year ago. It’s been a long way back for Winks, after suffering an ankle injury in March 2018. After the disappointment of not being ready for the World Cup and missing Spurs’ run-in, he finally made his comeback against Mourinho’s United on Monday. An uneventful and importantly trouble-free 5-minute cameo. He can be a valuable asset to Spurs’ midfield once again.
If Pochettino had genuine cover for Harry Kane, rather than using Son as an effective proxy— and maybe a forceful runner from central midfield in Dembele’s absence— this squad would be all but complete.
Who needs new signings anyway?