Ask any member of the Argentina squad who their best technical player is and they will, of course, say Lionel Messi, but ask them who the second best is and they will likely give you a more surprising answer: Giovani Lo Celso.
Perhaps that is less surprising if you consider how the 27-year-old has performed for his country over the last few years; 48 caps and 14 assists since his debut in 2017, playing in all but eight games when he has been fit, and always loyally available for selection.
His technical proficiency has never been in question, especially in Argentina and Spain, where he made his name at Real Betis on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, and it was why he was snapped up by Spurs to play an advanced midfield role under Mauricio Pochettino in 2019.
But his ability to impact games in the Premier League has suffered ever since Pochettino was sacked just three months later, and his Spurs career looked over before it had began following the arrival of Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte; two managers whose playing style clearly did not match that of a creative midfielder who needs to see a lot of the ball.
It was widely presumed Lo Celso would be one of those sold by Spurs in the summer, considering he had spent last season on loan at Villarreal in a system that suited him, first under Unai Emery and then Quique Setien – finishing fifth in LaLiga.
They would have gladly had him back, yet it was Xavi and Barcelona who had a real eye on Lo Celso in the summer and such a move seemed a foregone conclusion to many. But Lo Celso wanted to stay, and so did his new manager Ange Postecoglou, amid the promise of a match in playing philosophies finally materialising at Hotspur Way.
Lo Celso’s eyes must have lit up upon seeing how much ball-work is integral to the Australian’s training drills, while the player’s ability to dictate possession and create openings from advanced midfield will no doubt have had Postecoglou excited.
That promise was halted by the force of James Maddison’s impact, already running at full steam from an impressive season at Leicester and establishing himself as the creative force behind Spurs’ initial run to the Premier League summit.
Lo Celso has had to wait patiently for his chance and Maddison’s recent injury, which will keep him out into the New Year, has now provided the platform for him to finally establish himself in the Tottenham team.
And, so far, he is taking that chance.
Lo Celso scored in the last two games against Aston Villa and Manchester City – both superb strikes from the edge of the box – but it was his role in the thrilling 3-3 draw at City that was particularly impressive. He became the first midfielder in the Premier League this season to have a 100 per cent pass completion rate, finding the mark in 40 out of 40.
It is too early to say Lo Celso has completely turned his Spurs career around but the current situation in which he finds himself marks a dramatic shift from six to 12 months ago, and he now has the chance to show he can cut it permanently in the Premier League.
With Cristian Romero set to return against West Ham on Thursday night and provide more defensive stability, Lo Celso could play a crucial role in pushing Tottenham back into the top places over Christmas and keep Maddison out of the first XI for even longer.
#Giovani #Celso #Tottenham #midfielder #fills #James #Maddisons #boots #goals #Man #City #Aston #Villa