Why Lucas Moura could be the missing piece of the jigsaw: Five things we learned from Swansea vs Tottenham

Handed his first start against a Premier League side the Brazilian impressed – his direct approach could yet prove to be the missing piece of the Mauricio Pochettino jigsaw

Lucas Moura repeatedly stretched Swansea's defence
Lucas Moura repeatedly stretched Swansea's defence

On a frigid afternoon in south west Wales Swansea made something of an encouraging start to their first FA Cup quarter-final in 54 years – and yet this tie was so nearly settled within 14 first-half minutes.

Just seconds after Christian Eriksen had wafted Tottenham into the lead with a sumptuous left-footed finish from distance, Lucas Moura suddenly found himself with the ball at his feet and Swansea’s spooked backline opening up in front of him. He immediately lifted his head and managed to handsomely pick his way around a handful of lacklustre challenges, only to undercook his effort on goal, the ball dribbling harmlessly into Kristoffer Nordfeldt’s grateful gloves.

The spurned chance was to prove inconsequential in the grand scheme of things – Erik Lamela slotted Spurs into a two-goal lead just before half-time and they didn’t let up from there – but it did at least serve as a timely reminder of Lucas’ abilities. Namely that he is the kind of player that Tottenham’s talented squad of sideways shufflers has occasionally lacked: somebody at his best when driving towards goal, willing and ready to take a defender on.

Lucas is yet to start a Premier League game

In many ways this entertainingly open tie was the Brazilian’s first significant audition in a Spurs shirt. After two starts against third-tier Rochdale as well as blink-and-you-miss-it cameos against Juventus, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield; Tottenham’s trip to Swansea presented Lucas with his first start against a Premier League side, as well as an opportunity to stake his claim for a starting place in a frontline temporarily bereft of one Harry Kane. And he impressed.

He may not have scored despite a handful of half-promising chances but he was lively throughout and did very well to set up Eriksen’s second, and Tottenham’s third. Bursting forward and exchanging a crisp one-two with Eric Dier, he selflessly rolled the ball back rather than spinning and shooting, with the Dane on hand to put the game to bed.

Even those things he tried that didn’t completely come off felt encouraging, rather than frustrating. Take the start of the second-half, when he drifted into space down the left before haring into the box and seeing a deflected shot ping wide. Or a few moments later, when he brought down a long-ball with balletic grace only to go down under pressure from Luciano Narsingh.

The Brazilian set up Eriksen's second

No end result, granted, but an admirable commitment to getting the ball down and stretching Swansea’s defence, from a variety of different positions. In that respect he feels as though he could be the long-missing piece of Pochettino’s jigsaw – a player as comfortable charging into his marker as perkily shuttling the ball around the opposition’s final third.

There have been other candidates for that role, of course. Clinton N'Jie was bought at the end of Pochettino’s first season. Georges-Kévin N'Koudou arrived some 12 months later – for a combined £18m. But neither was able to convince the Argentinian that there was space in his preferred starting XI for a true winger. Lucas may yet be able to do so.

Certainly his performance was good enough to keep him in first-team contention for the trip to Chelsea, if Kane fails to recover from his ankle complaint and the in-form Son Heung-min retains his place up front.

Beyond that, there may be space in Tottenham’s team for all three with Eriksen and Dele Alli deployed behind, yet another indication of this team’s understated strength in depth and ever increasing forward momentum.

Four other things we learned

  • Eriksen really is one of the best players around, isn’t he? His first goal was a thing of beauty, his second wasn’t shoddy either. Now would be a perfect time to revisit Jack Pitt-Brooke’s long read on just what makes him so good.
  • Carlos Carvalhal’s dream may be over but Swansea have no time to lick their wounds. Preserving their Premier League status remains their priority – they travel to Manchester United after the international break.
  • If the rumours are true and Fernando Llorente does leave Spurs this summer, he wouldn’t be any loss. If the Spaniard does not start in games such as this then just what is he at the club for?
  • Speaking of struggling strikers, Tammy Abraham missed a sitter at the start of the second-half and barely had a sniff after that. 7 goals in 31 matches for Swansea is not a good return: he remains a long way short of international standard.

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