Lucas Moura has admitted he is enjoying the freedom that Antonio Conte has given him to drift across the frontline, insisting that he always preferred playing as a number ten rather than out wide.
Tottenham’s results improved remarkably in Conte’s first two months in charge but there has been some evidence over recent weeks that the new manager bounce is starting to wear off.
Even though the Lilywhites remain unbeaten in the Premier League under the Italian, the 3-0 aggregate defeat to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semifinal served as a reality check to the club.
However, it cannot be denied that several of Tottenham’s players have improved immeasurably under the 52-year-old.
Moura is certainly one of them and the Brazilian has now put his improvements down to the clarity that the new Spurs boss has given him regarding his role.
The 29-year-old told Tottenham’s matchday programme (as relayed by Football.London): “I think it is very clear. He (Conte) has changed the team and the way that we play.
“He has given me a lot of confidence and, in football, confidence is very important. He asks us to have a lot of personality.
“I have always had personality in my career, so it doesn’t faze me to go to the ball, to dribble, to accelerate the game.
“I think it can make the difference and it has brought me to where I am now. It is a good relationship — what he asks and what I like to do. I think that’s why we are doing well.”
Despite playing as a winger for most of his career, Moura admitted that he has always seen himself as a number ten.
The former Paris Saint-Germain star stated that he is enjoying the freedom that Conte has given him to drop deep to pick up the ball.
Regarding his change in position, Moura said: “When I was in the academy team at Sao Paulo, I always played as a number 10 – playing in the middle, creating opportunities for the strikers, dropping to take the ball and accelerating the play.
“When I arrived in the first team though, as I am very quick, the manager started to put me out wide to exploit the space, to run and go.
I learned to play that position and I played it while I was with Sao Paulo and PSG but, in my game, everyone can see that I love to drop and take the ball.”
“It is different to Sonny for example – someone who is a real winger, occupies that space really well and has an unbelievable finish. l, though, am a player that likes to give the ball to him.
“When I arrived here, under Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho, I played as a winger before, in the last few games under Mourinho, he put me as a number 10.
“I told him I liked to play in the middle, that I felt really comfortable there, he said, ‘okay’, and I started to play very well, and then with Antonio Conte, I think he sees that, in that position, I can be more useful for the team.
“He gives me the freedom to play in that position. I then have the freedom to go to the left, to the right, be in the middle, drop to take the ball and accelerate the ball.”
Moura’s attributes are certainly underutilised when he is stuck out wide. The 29-year-old’s biggest weakness has always been his decision making.
In the past, Moura has been maligned for his lack of final product. The Brazilian’s natural talent has always been there, but it’s only now that he is finding consistency as a Tottenham player,
However, the large element of automatism involved in Conte’s system is benefiting the Brazilian as he longer has to make as many decisions when in possession.
Likewise also, Antonio Conte is full of praise for the Brazilian forward by labeling him as one of the best players in Tottenham.
Lucas Moura is one of the best players in our squad,” Conte said.
“He links quality with quantity and he’s also a wonderful person. You always find on him a smile and I love to work with these type of players.”
Under Conte, Lucas Moura has responded with four goals and four assists in nine games, which is an impressive return given the stop-start nature of Spurs’ recent schedule.
But there’s more evidence than just numbers to suggest the winger will be a key part of what the Italian builds at Tottenham Hotspur.
If Conte has spent the last two months assessing which players will play in his own image, it would appear he has now found one.