The appeal was clear and unequivocal. “More fire, men.” Dino Toppmöller’s words fell on fertile ground. His players immediately increased the tempo. Right in the middle: Tuta. The Brazilian has been with Eintracht for four years. He became a regular when former captain David Abraham retired in January 2021. “Tuta will be David’s successor,” coach Adi Hütter rejoiced at the time. A high claim, a big goal.
To date, Lucas Silva Melo, as Tuta’s real name is, has not replaced his predecessor Abraham one-to-one in terms of his power and value. Although he is the first choice in the preferred three-man defense chain on the right, small imperfections always creep into his game. During his appearance against Nottingham Forest, there were one or two blunders that Toppmöller didn’t like. This is one of the reasons why the new Eintracht coach sought to talk to Tuta on Wednesday, when after a two-day break they were back to work on the training ground at the Frankfurt Arena. After the zero number against the weak English, Toppmöller praised the three defenders Robin Koch, Willian Pacho and Makoto Hasebe in his analysis – but not Tuta.
With 31 appearances in the last Bundesliga season, the Brazilian, who turned 24 in July, belongs to the group of players with a starting eleven guarantee. The fact that he scored two goals against Leipzig and Schalke was already indicated in the season before last, in which he was even successful in his advances four times. Whenever possible, Tuta goes on the offensive. With all his forward striving: His core task is defensive protection. “I have to be more aggressive, win more duels and balls,” he said at Glasner’s time. This critical self-assessment has not changed to this day. Tuta’s game still has room for improvement.
With tuta, without tuta?
A chain of three, a chain of four, a chain of five – year after year, Eintracht coaches look for the best formation. The variant with three defenders plus two other protective professionals on the flanks has always proven to be the most effective. A few days before the start of the competitive game with the demanding away game in the DFB Cup on Sunday at Lokomotive Leipzig (3.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the DFB Cup and on Sky), a continuation of this three/five model is on the cards.
With tuta, without tuta? If Toppmöller should decide against the Brazilian, Koch could be ordered from headquarters to the outside. Then Hasebe would take over the role of the free man with all his overview and game intelligence – and Tuta would watch the goings-on from the substitutes’ bench.
The Bundesliga club and cup finalist Eintracht with the fourth-class amateur representative Lokomotive: That sounds like a clear thing. But that’s not exactly it. Past first-round defeats in Ulm and Mannheim are still omnipresent; Eintracht, in which offensive player Ali Akman announced his departure from Belgian second division team FCV Dender on Thursday, should be warned.
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Frankfurt is Tuta’s first stop away from home. The fact that he was loaned to Belgium right at the beginning of his time in Europe to get match practice had a beneficial effect. The time in Belgium made Tuta better – but still not who he was to become as Abraham’s successor. “We want to develop players and make them better.” This is the sentence that sports director Markus Krösche almost always says when a professional decides to be part of the Eintracht project. Tuta’s development has progressed steadily since 2019, but it’s still not over.
Those responsible for Eintracht firmly believe that Tuta will still find the right turn. This is one of the reasons why they decided a year ago to prematurely extend the contractual agreement, which would have expired in the summer of 2023, by a further three years until mid-2026. Krösche said at the time: “We are very pleased that such a talented and important player as Tuta has signed for Eintracht on a long-term basis. He took the next step in his development this season and has become a constant in our team.” A constant that has to take the next step in development under Toppmöller.