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Lucas Moura

Premier League Player of the Month, August 2018

Role
Despite Benjamin Mendy, Marcos Alonso and Sadio Mane all having a fantastic opening month of the new Premier League season, Lucas Moura was crowned the league’s player of the month for August. It is the 22nd time a Tottenham player has won the award, but Moura is perhaps surprisingly only the fourth ever Brazilian to receive the honour, after Juninho (March 1997), Edu (February 2004) and David Luiz (March 2011).

Moura played nearly every minute of Spurs’ three matches in August, scoring three goals as he benefitted from the international absence of Son Heung-min. He started the opening match of the season, away at Newcastle, on the right of midfield – but head coach Mauricio Pochettino has since moved him into the central lane, where he operates as a secondary striker alongside Harry Kane. From here, Moura remains central, either dropping short to create space for runners from midfield, or penetrating in behind using his explosive speed over short distances.

Not surprisingly, the 26-year-old also had the best conversion rate of any of Tottenham’s attacking unit during August. From a total of only four shots, he scored three goals; Harry Kane grabbed two goal from eight efforts, while Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen scored only once between them from a combined 18 attempts on goal.

Key strengths
Moura’s greatest strength is his ability to use both feet within the final third. Whether it’s running with the ball at speed, or turning and shooting on goal, the Brazilian is effective on both feet. His first strike of the season against Fulham (below) demonstrated his superb ball-striking ability on his left foot, as his curling effort flew past Fabri in the Fulham net.

His two strikes against Manchester United (see bottom of page) both came on his stronger right side, with both finishes accurately fired past David de Gea into the corner. He claimed his first via a cutback cross from Christian Eriksen, finishing well with a perfectly timed low effort through an onrushing defender’s legs. For his second, he surged past Chris Smalling before placing another low effort past the goalkeeper, his composure in one-on-one situations clear for all to see.

The acceleration over a short distance that Moura displayed to leave Smalling in his wake can be a huge asset in a Tottenham squad not otherwise brimming with pace. If he attempts to turn using his first touch, it gives him the option to explode away from tight-marking defenders (below) – while his two-footedness can leave defenders struggling to predict which way he will turn.

Even if Moura’s first touch isn’t perfectly controlled, his acceleration ensures that defenders rarely get a second attempt to poke the ball away. In this, he is not unlike Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, who is superb when receiving the ball with defensive pressure behind – although the Belgian captain is more consistent when playing off multiple touches, and also a better passer than Moura in the central lane.

Tactical analysis
Even though Moura began the season against Newcastle as a right winger, the Brazilian soon moved inside in the second half – a sign of things to come, as Tottenham’s attacking success throughout August came from his addition as a secondary striker. Harry Kane rarely found himself double-marked, as Moura’s presence ensured both central defenders now had men to mark. This created more room for Tottenham’s main goalscoring threat, as his first goal of the season against Fulham (below) demonstrated.

This attacking structure also enabled Kieran Trippier or Serge Aurier to move forward from right-back into additional space, as Moura vacated his wide-right starting point. From Tottenham’s five open-play goals in August, three came from the right, as the full-backs moved forward into areas from where they could cross for their front line. Moura’s move didn’t just get him into more dangerous positions and free up Harry Kane, then; it also helped get the best in possession out of whoever started at right-back.

Finally, Moura’s inside positioning also helped to create central third-man passing patterns, as Spurs looked to penetrate into the final third. Particularly when receiving with the central lane, Moura had various short passing options to set (above), should he be unable to turn from his first touch and use his devastating pace in behind. From here, with Moura often luring a central defender out of the back line, a third player could make a darting run forward to receive through balls in the resulting space.

Lucas Moura

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