- Giovani Lo Celso made his first Premier League start against Sheffield United
- It followed an impressive display during Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Red Star
- Lo Celso started brightly enough looking to create chances from midfield
- Second half struggle shows that he will need time to adapt to the league
Giovani Lo Celso made his first league start during the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United
Giovani Lo Celso started brightly but his force faded during a hectic second half
Giovani Lo Celso’s sparkling display in Serbia showed the creativity he could bring to the team
Tottenham will hope Lo Celso’s contribution can help lift them from 12th place in the league
Giovani Lo Celso’s sparkle in Serbia on his first Tottenham start offered encouragement to Mauricio Pochettino and a glimpse of what the future might hold.
Pochettino has been desperate for options with which to remodel Spurs and Lo Celso’s creative flair was the most positive aspect a 4-0 win against Red Star in Belgrade on Wednesday.
It was enough to keep him in the team, selected to start in the Premier League for the first time since his summer loan move from Real Betis, but this was a different sort of day for the North London team.
This was the sort of game which has blighted Tottenham’s season and leaves them languishing in mid-table.
Sheffield United performed with the purpose and personality of a team that is settled and confident in its strategy.
They were, in truth, the better team for long periods of the game, quicker to react, stronger in the challenge.
The Blades rattled the frame of the goal in the first half and were unfortunate to have a goal ruled out by the video assistant for a marginal offside.
The shape and energy of Chris Wilder’s team made it quite a toil for Lo Celso, who started wide on the right but struggled to contain the raiding runs of wing-back Enda Stevens and Jack O’Connell on his occasional forays forward from centre-half.
Lo Celso opened brightly enough, always searching to cut inside onto his favoured left foot and open the space for Serge Aurier or Tanguy Ndombele to surge past on the outside.
He teased a curling effort wide from 25 yards in the first half and ought to have hit the target when arriving late and picked out by Heung-min Son.
His technical quality is clear although, by midway through the second half, his force was fading and he seemed utterly exhausted as he struggled to cope with the mileage required to track back and spring forward after Stevens and Co.
When Spurs replaced Dele Alli with Juan Foyth and briefly changed formation Pochettino moved him into a central role.
Perhaps he hoped his vision and creativity might unlock a late chance in the congested fringes of the penalty area as Sheffield United dropped deeper and took fewer risks on the counter-attack.
Perhaps he needs to run some match-fitness into his legs but Lo Celso seemed overwhelmed by the power and breathless tempo and found it hard to impose himself on the game, even from this role in the hold behind Harry Kane.
Tottenham did summon a strong finish but dropped more points.
For Pochettino it was another day of frustration and the promise of midweek Belgrade has soon been extinguished.
Contract rebels Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld remained on the bench but Project Poch 2.0 still seems a distant proposition and Lo Celso will need more time before he can operate at the pace of the Premier League.