Two goals in three matches since returning from an ankle injury have seen Paulinho look as if he is coming to terms with the Premier League.
The Brazilian was having arguably his best game for Spurs against Stoke before falling victim to a woeful challenge by Charlie Adam. Since coming back, he has picked up where he left off and his performance at Newcastle potentially eclipsed the 62 minutes against the Potters.
Paulinho the reaction scorer
Paulinho has been used playing off a striker and in a curious deeper role against Everton, but operating as a natural box-to-box number eight has got the best out of him. He has much more freedom to burst forward and demonstrate his quick reactions by arriving later in the box.
His strike up at Sunderland showed his excellent instincts inside the area. Kyle Walker swung in a free kick and Paulinho was first to Nacer Chadli’s knockdown to prod home.
After skying a glorious chance over the bar away to Fulham, this was the perfect tonic.
However, in his next game he would receive a red card against Liverpool and on his return he was the victim of Adam’s reckless challenge. Four more Premier League games on the sidelines followed.
Then, coming back against Hull, his rapid reaction time in the box was on display once again. He took Danny Rose’s shot in his stride, span and fired home; a simply sublime instinctive effort.
Next up was another reaction goal, Paulinho’s third of the sort this season. This time it was against Newcastle.
The Brazilian was heavily involved in the build-up, but was hawk like in being first to the rebound after Tim Krul parried Emmanuel Adebayor’s shot.
The move not only highlighted Paulinho’s excellent reactions, but also his ability to burst forward and get between the lines in the build-up.
Paulinho starting to get between the lines
When he played as a number ten off a central striker earlier in the season, Paulinho struggled to get between the lines. He had difficulty with the higher starting position, which was compounded by opponents sitting deeper against us, especially at the Lane.
When he is allowed to break forward with a defensive midfielder behind him though, he is arriving later in the attack, which suits him more. Last Wednesday night, he caused Newcastle no end of problems doing this.
His goal may have come from reacting quickest to Tim Krul’s parry, but he set up the initial shot with a deft backheel from a position between the Newcsatle midfield and defence.
This is something that starting from a number eight position allows him to do. When he played as a deeper midfielder against Everton or as number ten off Roberto Soldado for several games earlier this season, he found it difficult to adapt.
Then, he was heavily involved by getting in-between the lines on Adebayor’s second goal, our third of the game.
Nacer Chadli got in down the left and cut it back to Paulinho, who had broken forward to get between the lines in the centre along with Nabil Bentaleb.
The Brazilian then squared the ball to find Andros Townsend, who fired a viscous shot that Krul could only palm out. Emmanuel Adebayor scuffed home the rebound, but Paulinho was heavily involved in the build-up once again.
Paulinho was not only showing that he could score instinctive reaction goals, but that he could also create chances for others. Both of these are promising signs for the team. They are also indicators that he is finally coming around to adapting his playing style to the speed of the English game.
In Brazil he was known for bursting in to the box and his abilty to score quick reaction goals, whilst also being an aerial threat from set pieces. We’re yet to see him find the net with a header, but his last few games indicate that the real Paulinho may just be finding his feet at Spurs.