Tottenham Hotspur are going to miss Harry Kane. That much is not in doubt. But the absence of the prolific forward through injury might provide others – in particular Lucas Moura – with an opportunity to step up.
The Brazilian did exactly that last weekend, hitting a superb hat-trick – his first in European soccer – against Huddersfield Town in an emphatic 4-0 win. The key now will be to build on that, to replicate that performance on the big stage.
With the battle for the Premier League’s top four and, subsequently, UEFA Champions League football going down to the wire, Kane’s injury could not have arrived at a worse time.
Conversely, though, Moura’s treble against the Terriers would have been a welcome antidote to coach Mauricio Pochettinoi’s headache.
It is crucial that in Kane’s absence Tottenham have an outlet, a conduit through which to counter attack. Lucas, alongside Son Heung-min, is likely to play a key role both offensively and defensively, occupying defenders with his pace and forcing opponents onto the back foot.
It could be that Lucas has hit a rich vein of form at the perfect time. The 26-year-old had only scored once in 2019 prior to his goal glut against Huddersfield and looked like a player in need of a confidence boost. He has that now in abundance, as his third goal on Saturday, an emphatic finish swept into the top corner, showed.
The question now is whether he can perform consistently for the remainder of the season. With Kane set for a prolonged spell on the sidelines, Lucas will need to ensure that his display last weekend was not a one-off. His place in the team, given the quality in Tottenham’s squad, is not guaranteed.
Pochettino, though, has backed the former Paris Saint-Germain forward. “Football is moving so quick, but you can believe he can step up and be the man,” he said. “Lucas, for his hat-trick, it will help build his confidence. He’s working so hard and he has a lot of quality.
“It was his first hat-trick in Europe. It was a nice moment for him to share with his son and his family.”
Lucas will hope for more such moments before the season’s end. He will know that this is perhaps his best chance to do what he has been unable to do since joining Spurs last January: establish himself as a regular in Pochettino’s team.
Lucas has 12 goals to his name in all competitions so far this campaign. In the Premier League he has averaged 0.53 goals per 90 versus an expected goals value of 0.31. On top of that, he has managed 5.15 touches in the opposition box and completes 1.94 of 4.25 attempted dribbles.
The stats suggest Lucas is a constant threat. And that productivity in the final third will be needed in Tottenham’s remaining games this season – which start at City in the Premier League on Saturday.
“Of course we would prefer to have Harry but every time the gaffer gives the chance to Lucas and to Son they respond very well,” Spurs captain Hugo Lloris has said. “They’ve scored important goals this season.
“It was so good for Lucas to get three goals against Huddersfield. We’re going to probably have a lot of space to use against Manchester City, so we need the attacking players to be ready to run and give problems to their defence.”
How City will look to deal with the threat of Lucas, and indeed Son, remains to be seen. But the signs are promising for Spurs. The absence of their talisman, their focal point in attack, might just work to their advantage on this occasion.
For Lucas, the next few months are likely to shape his Spurs career. He has made history with the first ever hat-trick at Tottenham’s new stadium and staked a claim for a regular place in Pochettino’s attack.
If he maintains that level of performance in the final, crucial, weeks of this Premier League campaign and this summer’s International Champions Cup, he could make himself every bit as important to Spurs as Kane is.