Since Tottenham Hotspur were well beaten 3-0 by Manchester City at The Etihad a couple of weeks ago there have been many positives for the Lilywhites, not least 4-1 and 4-0 wins over Austrian outfit Wolfsberger and the 4-0 demolition of Burnley on the weekend.
However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and it will take more than a week of hot goal-scoring form for Jose Mourinho’s side to truly turn this season into a success, even if Gareth Bale does look like he’s found some swagger.
To aid this Spurs side and make them even better, soon Mourinho will be able to call upon Giovani Lo Celso once again, the Argentine midfield man with plenty of creativity and a strong bite, for the first time since back he picked up a hamstring injury against Leicester back in late December.
After the demolition of Burnley on the weekend saw Mourinho opt for a different system to the 4-3-3 we’ve become accustomed to seeing, though, it begs the question of where will Lo Celso fit?
There is no secret that Mourinho has missed the 24-year-old former PSG and Real Betis man, stating as much after that defeat against Manchester City (Football.London), and in a press conference this week Mourinho confirmed that it would be only a couple more weeks until Lo Celso is back (Football.London).
The Argentine has already scored five goals in his 19 appearances in all competitions this season, including one against Man City in that 2-0 win earlier in the campaign (Transfermarkt). But his game is about far more than just scoring goals.
In Lo Celso’s first seven Premier League appearances this season he was either subbed on from the bench in place of Tanguy Ndombele or he was replaced by the Frenchman, so the obvious answer to where does he fit would be in the Ndombele role, but that cannot be viable.
Both Lo Celso and Ndombele are too talented as individuals to only be able to play one of them, so if we’re to avoid a Gerrard and Lampard dilemma at Spurs, Mourinho must a find a way to play them together.
The obvious option is to revert back from the 4-2-3-1 that worked so well against Burnley to some sort of 4-3-3 with Lo Celso and Ndombele playing with freedom as ‘number 8’s’ in front of the more defensive and aggressive Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
However, given the attacking verve that the Lilywhites came forward with against Burnley, dropping that 4-2-3-1 seems unwise. That’s why we’d love to see Lo Celso come into the side in the role that Lucas Moura found himself playing in.
When comparing the pair’s stats, it’s clear that Lo Celso could bring some more to the number 10 role than Lucas currently is. In the Premier League alone Lo Celso is averaging 0.8 key passes to Lucas’ 0.3, is fouled more at 1.4 times per game to Lucas’ 1.2 and he’s even better at keeping the ball, being dispossessed on 0.8 occasions per match compared to Lucas’ 1.2 times per game.
Moving Lucas from the number 10 role would free up both Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso to share the role, with Lo Celso able to drop into Ndombele’s number 8 position when the Frenchman is injured or suspended, plus it would allow the naturally quicker Lucas to fight for one of the two wide positions with Gareth Bale, Steven Bergwijn and Heung-Min Son.
Whatever Jose Mourinho opts to do with Lo Celso, he’s bound to show off the bags of talent that he has, but if he had the free reign in the number 10 position supplying the ammunition for Harry Kane, Bale and Son this Spurs side could become a more consistently free-scoring side, something we’re yet to see under Mourinho.
Goals have come in spells under the Portuguese tactician, with this week being a prime example alongside the early form at the start of the season that saw 5-2 and 6-1 wins over Southampton and Manchester United in consecutive games, but sustaining it has proved difficult.
Obviously it will still be a couple of weeks before we get to see if Lo Celso can find a home centrally in the three of a 4-2-3-1, but it’s what we want to see, and could prove decisive in the final weeks of the season as the race for the top four, the latter stages of the Europa League and the League Cup final all loom.
Seeing a side with all five of Ndombele, Lo Celso, Bale, Son and Kane would be a real sign of attacking intent from Mourinho, though, and if Dele can also be shoehorned in then it’s a bonus, but surely this is the way to get the best out of our mercurial Argentine?