Spurs hope Lucas Moura can bring much-needed pace and width
For a long time, Mauricio Pochettino has wanted to add a different kind of forward to Tottenham. In Lucas Moura, who joined the club from Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, the Spurs manager finally has his man.
Back at the start of the summer of 2016, Spurs tried to sign Sadio Mané from Pochettino's former club Southampton, but they could not match Liverpool's offer for the Senegalese forward. Frustrating 1-1 draws against Everton and Liverpool and a narrow 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in the first three games of last season confirmed Pochettino's belief that his team lacked a direct and speedy winger like Mane, who could offer an alternative.
"We have players like [Christian] Eriksen, [Heung-min] Son or [Erik] Lamela who like the ball played into their feet. So we need someone who has characteristics like we saw from Liverpool, like Sadio Mané, the type of player that can break the defensive line," said Pochettino in August 2016.
The manager's next choice was Wilfried Zaha, but Crystal Palace rejected a bid and made it clear they would not sell, so Spurs turned to Newcastle's Moussa Sissoko, who had provided France's Euro 2016 finalists with exactly what Pochettino thought Spurs were lacking.
Sissoko, who joined Spurs for £30 million on deadline day, has turned out to be a very different player in the past 18 months, and last week, Pochettino hailed not his pace nor directness, but his quality at transitioning between defence and attack and vice-versa. Pochettino trusts the France international, but he has not been the signing the manager wanted, while Georges-Kevin N'Koudou -- a recommendation by the club's former head of recruitment, Paul Mitchell -- has been sent on loan to Burnley until the end of the season after failing to break through.
This season, Spurs' shortage of pace has been even more problematic than last year, when Kyle Walker and a fit Danny Rose were at full-back, and they looked particularly pedestrian in Saturday's 1-1 draw at League Two Newport County -- a game that Rose and Walker's replacement, Serge Aurier, both missed, until Son came off the bench at halftime.
That FA Cup result, as well as the frustrating draws against struggling Swansea, West Brom, West Ham and Southampton in the league, have strengthened Pochettino's belief that he needs a different option to help break down defensive opponents.
Moura, who can play across the front three, will be expected to provide that pace and directness, as well as some additional width. Pochettino has made it clear, however, that he expects more from his forwards, suggesting last week that he would sign Usain Bolt if speed alone were enough. Moura will also offer more creativity in the final third, where Spurs' reliance on Eriksen was exposed in the recent 1-1 draw at Southampton, which the Denmark international missed due to illness. When Eriksen is unavailable or simply well-marshalled, Spurs have struggled to pick difficult locks, particularly when teams defend deep on Wembley's big pitch.
In those frustrating home games, they have also lacked a Plan B from the bench, particularly given that Lamela is still working his way back to form and fitness after 13 months on the sidelines and Pochettino has made more than 100 substitutions in all competitions this season, yielding one goal and one assist.
The signing will mean either Moura, Son or even Alli should join Lamela on the bench, giving Pochettino at least one top-class game-changer to call on. Having an additional winger in the squad also frees up Son to deputise for Harry Kane up front, which is increasingly important given Fernando Llorente's struggles.
To begin with, Moura will be behind Son, Eriksen and Alli in the pecking order for the biggest games as he feels his way into English football, but he is a player Pochettino has wanted for nearly two years, and in the long run, Spurs hope he will be worth the wait.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.