With Gareth Bale suddenly banging goals in from all angles like it’s 2013 once again, and Harry Kane and Son Heung-min bouncing off him in a three-man love triangle, it’s hard to find praise for many others at Tottenham right now.
Partially because they’re still a bit rubbish and can lose a handful of games quicker than it takes for Bale to tie his hair up, but also because that trio is terrifyingly good now they’re operating on the same wavelength.
Even Jose Mourinho is surprised, joking after their 4-1 thrashing of Crystal Palace about how they’ve already scored 100 goals as a team this season.
A player that is going under the radar somewhat in the wake of the praise, however, is Lucas Moura, who was a key cog in their most recent four-goal haul.
Spurs fans are continually frustrated by the Brazilian, whose mercurial nature has them constantly trying to evaluate whether or not he’s actually any good.
2018/19 Moura brings happy memories. 15 goals in all competitions, five of which were in the Champions League as Tottenham reached the final – you know, the final that nobody remembers for good reasons.
Anything beyond that, though, and it all goes a bit skew-whiff. Under Mourinho, Lucas has been worked to no end, but seen his numbers in front of goal go down as his minutes have gone up. It’s disappointing for a man who can provide such a level of flair and creativity upon instinct, but perhaps he doesn’t need to be doing so with such a prolific front three ahead of him.
With Dele Alli receiving the trademark Mourinho exile and phased return treatment, Moura has been the utility man for the Lilywhites this season. More recently, he has occupied the number ten role at the top of Tottenham’s midfield three, including against Crystal Palace.
While it’s this role that typically allows for creative players to shine, Lucas has shown that he can be an asset in an admittedly less attractive, but much more efficient way. The 28-year-old was an absolute menace off the ball against Palace, pressing with a level of ruthless aggression that would’ve put John Cena (a Tottenham fan, coincidentally) to shame in mid-2000s WWE.
Moura’s press was the catalyst for Tottenham taking the lead, dispossessing Luka Milivojevic to allow Kane and Bale to get in behind and finish. He completed the 90 minutes with 22 pressures, five tackles, five interceptions and 13 recoveries to his name, with all but the pressures being the highest number out of any other Tottenham player – they were only beaten by Sergio Reguilon (24) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (28).
It’s exactly the dirty work like that that often goes unnoticed in the best sides, but is often what makes a Mourinho side tick so especially well, thus it’s no surprise as to why Moura is playing so much football under the tutelage of the Portuguese head coach.
The next challenge for Spurs is to turn these prolific score lines into a sustained run of form. In such an open season (apart from Manchester City steamrolling to the title), a quick run of wins is enough to catapult a side back up the table.
For Moura, the next step is to turn these tireless displays into consistently effective ones, and perhaps start putting up those attacking numbers once again, to keep battling with a returning Alli.
For as long as Mourinho is at the helm, Moura has a role to play at Tottenham. That job could lie more permanently as the number ten, but it is up to him to stake his claim for the role on a regular basis with more tenacious performances.