Tottenham: Why Lucas Moura is a better signing than Angel Di Maria

With PSG reportedly offering Spurs both Lucas and Di Maria, which one should Pochettino choose?


Barring another extraordinary turn of events, Serge Aurier will be a Tottenham Hotspur player come the transfer deadline on Thursday night.

Upon announcement of the Frenchman obtaining his UK work visa, French media outlets were swift to report that Spurs were offered the chance to sign two further Paris Saint-Germain players, presumably to clear their wage bill after the sensational world record purchase of Neymar earlier this summer.

The duo offered to Spurs are Lucas Moura and Angel di Maria.

It’s unlikely, however, that any interest in Di Maria will amount to anything more than just interest, as he’s probably out of Spurs’ price range, whilst Lucas was reportedly key in the Neymar deal as the Brazilian duo are close childhood friends.

Nonetheless, it can’t stop Spurs fans dreaming wildly… RealSport looks at which of the two would be the best fit for the Lilywhites.

Output from out wide

The modern winger isn’t just a winger in the current game. Most tend to occupy the role of inside forwards on inverted flanks, as opposed to traditional ‘knock it down the line and cross’ wingers.

Wide players sit on the flanks, but drift inside as full backs or wing backs overlap, looking to make a defence-splitting pass or take a shot at goal. Crossing isn’t first port of call anymore, though it’s important to retain that ability.

Therefore, wide players need to be able to score, assist and create from almost any area in the opponent’s half, but who does it best out of Di Maria and Lucas?

Di Maria 15/16Lucas 15/16Di Maria 16/17Lucas 16/17
Goals109612
Assists19475
Chances Created98577754
Take-ons Completed55983770

In terms of goals, there’s isn’t too much to separate the pair as Di Maria (10) outscored Lucas (9) ever so slightly in 2015/16, whilst the following season Lucas (12) scored twice as many as his counterpart.

It’s in chance creation that the Argentine dwarves the Brazilian, however. With 98 and 77 chances created in 2015/16 and 2016/17 respectively, Lucas (57 and 54) has never come particularly close.

The can be said for assists, with Di Maria recording a mammoth 19 two seasons ago, followed by 7, whilst Lucas set up only four then five goals in consecutive seasons. The Argentine has completed more through balls (37) since 2015/16 than any other player in Ligue 1.

Goals are great but for a winger in Mauricio Pochettino’s set-up it’s a bonus. Primarily, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the wide players are tasked with creating chances for Harry Kane to put away, which is why Di Maria’s chance creation is perhaps more endearing.

On that note, though, Lucas has consistently completed more take-ons than his teammate, perhaps indicating his desire to take opponents on and get into dangerous positions, with the confidence to do so.

Round One: Angel di Maria

Their goal output is relatively similar, but Di Maria provides more creativity than his teammate and regularly out-assists him, hence his victory in this round.

Defensive contribution

Whilst this isn’t a demand of most wingers in the Premier League, Pochettino’s Tottenham is an all-encompassing unit that encourages pressing and defending from the front, with the striker and forwards the first line of defence when attacks break down.

It’s interesting to note that Lucas is the far more energetic and tenacious winger of the two, denoted by his defensive statistics. In both 2015/16 and 2016/17, Lucas has outperformed Di Maria defensively, making more tackles, interceptions and clearances than his teammate.

Di Maria 15/16Lucas 15/16Di Maria 16/17Lucas 16/17
Tackles Won11331327
Interceptions19281632
Clearances24311
Dispossessed/game1.71.91.91.6

What this suggests is that Di Maria is the lazier of the two, an attribute that won’t go down well at all with Pochettino, a manager insistent on a hard-working collective. Lucas arguably fits Spurs best because of this reason.

Not all defending occurs out of possession, however, hence the inclusion of the dispossession statistic. Possession itself can be a form of defending, passing the ball around the back or amongst the forwards to keep the opponents at bay, so it’s useful for the duo to have good ball retention abilities.

It’s hard to split them, as Di Maria was dispossessed slightly less than Lucas in 2015/16, but vice-versa the following season.

Round Two: Lucas

The evidence suggests that Lucas is hard-working and energetic, providing a strong defensive contribution which will fit in perfectly at Tottenham, whilst Di Maria is perhaps a little lazy.

Fitting into the Premier League

In the Premier League experience is key. It makes big-money signings from abroad a less risky investment if there’s a discernible sign that they’re capable of playing in the notoriously tough Premier League.

Lucas is yet to taste Premier League football and arriving from the safe comforts of Ligue 1, there’s every chance he’s too lightweight for England or doesn’t have the required physicality to successfully ply his trade.

Whilst Di Maria has played in England before, his ill-fated spell with Manchester United, if anything, would discourage another English club from signing him. In 27 games for the Red Devils, the Argentine scored three goals and, in fairness, did muster 10 assists.

Although his first spell in England didn’t live up to expectation, given his form at Real Madrid prior to the move, it could be a case of right player, wrong manager as he played in Louis van Gaal’s highly defensive and cautious United side.

In a free-flowing, attack-minded unit like Spurs, Di Maria could well thrive. Moreover, the fact that he has in fact played in the Premier League means he knows what to expect and is better placed to adapt on the second time of asking.

Round Three: Angel di Maria

Second time lucky, right?

RealSport verdict: Lucas

Di Maria slightly edges it in terms of points scored versus Lucas, but if I were Pochettino I’d want the Brazilian. The difference between the two in terms of end product is so marginal, not big enough to compensate for Di Maria’s laziness.

Tottenham play structured football, with freedom to create within said structure, but it requires a cohesive unit, especially to play a high press. Lucas can work within a unit well and is tenacious enough to play pressing football, offering a far greater defensive work ethic than Di Maria.

Moreover, for the sort of money Di Maria would cost, it’s important to note that he’s fast approaching 30, whilst Lucas is still a relatively fresh-faced 25-year-old, easily moldable and still experienced enough.

  1. POLL: In theory, who should Spurs sign?

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    2. Angel Di Maria
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Oli Stein

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Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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