It was typical of Antonio Conte’s demanding approach to management that he was in no mood to heap praise on Lucas Moura after the Brazilian scored one of the finest goals of the season last month. Lucas had surged past three Norwich City players, cut onto his right foot and lashed the ball into the top corner from 25 yards, yet Conte offered him no time to bask in the glory of the moment.
“He scored a fantastic goal but he has the quality to score more goals,” said Conte after the game. “He has to score more goals. It is my expectation to see more goals like this from him.”
That expectation is not a new one for Lucas, as it would have been shared by both Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho during their spells at the club. The Tottenham fans, too, have long been waiting for the forward to add a more regular flow of goals to his game: in the last two and a half seasons, he has found the net just nine times in 82 league matches.
Such a return is far from being top of the class for Premier League wide forwards. In truth, it is not even middle of the class. Ahead of Sunday’s crucial north London derby against Arsenal, the sense remains that a player of such extreme talent should still be offering more in the final third and threatening more with the ball.
The work rate, the energy and the dribbling skills have never been in question with Lucas, but that ruthless edge has been missing for much of the past few years. “I am not a killer,” he admitted earlier this season.
With Son Heung-min absent through injury this weekend, and Tottenham struggling for cohesion in attack, there is more pressure than ever on Lucas to step up in support of Harry Kane and become the predator that Conte needs.
The good news, for Tottenham and Conte, is that he seems to be getting there. Since Conte arrived in north London in November, Lucas has scored five goals in 14 appearances. Prior to the Italian’s appointment, he had scored just once in 13 games under Nuno Espirito Santo.