A little over a month ago we brought you “An Analysis of Erik Lamela Part I” where we had a look at the Tottenham forward’s early career in Europe, with particular focus on his game play. We now bring you Part II, where we have reviewed his time at Spurs since his high profile move from AS Roma in the summer of 2013. Before you read on you may want to have a quick look an part I here.
As a fresh faced Argentinian, touted as a wonderkid, as Lamela arrived at the Lane, many fans were excited to see what he’d bring, and how quickly he’d bring it.However, Lamela received limited opportunities to showcase his talents, with only three Premier League starts before a back injury kept him out for half the season.
Andre Villas-Boas decided to give Lamela his debut in the North London Derby at the Emirates, on the 1st of September, coming on as a 75th minute substitute when we were 1-0 down. This, to me, signified poor management, as it gave him just 15 minutes to make an impact on his debut, in a big match against our biggest rivals, away from home. If there wasn’t enough pressure on the lad already, there certainly was now. Now Lamela was slightly low on confidence, AVB deemed it fitting to play him mainly in Cup games and Europa League fixtures. Despite assisting Jermain Defoe on his Europa League debut, and setting up Paulinho with a clever cross for an injury time winner against Cardiff early on in the season, it still appeared to be a slow start for him, due to his lack of game time.
AVB was adamant that Lamela understood he had to fight for his place in the Spurs side, but seemed reluctant to give him the chances to do so. Understandably, Andros Townsend did happen to be in the form of his life around this time, so the right side was usually occupied by him but there were many ways of accommodating the two in the same team. Andre, however didn’t make much effort in trying any to cooperate both Townsend and Lamela into the starting line up.
After capping off a good performance against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League with his first goal for the club. Many thought we’d see him pick up his first Premier League start that Sunday against Newcastle on the 11th of November, but he was dropped to the bench again, only to see Spurs dominate the game, yet lose 1-0, doing his confidence absolutely no favours. With the management of Lamela already appearing questionable, AVB decided that the right time to award him his first Premier League start, would be on the 24th of November, against Man City at the Etihad. This was going to be a massive test for him, to be thrown into a game like this, and it showed, with Spurs losing the match 6-0. Despite a scruffy chance hitting the post via his boot from close range, Lamela didn’t have the biggest of influences in this match, along with the rest of the team.
Unsurprisingly, AVB didn’t last too long after this, and after a 5-0 defeat at home to Liverpool, he was sacked, leaving Tim Sherwood to take over as interim manager. Lamela started in Tim’s first Premier League match against Southampton (maybe due to Townsend picking up a hamstring injury earlier that week) and it was evident in this match, that Lamela had a hunger for the game, and what he lacked in physicality, he made up for in work rate, as he was getting forward, tracking back, and putting in challenges on the opposition at every opportunity. He didn’t look out of place playing on the right of a midfield four. As opposed to his previous position on the right of an attacking three behind a lone striker, and people began to see a bit of promise with Lamela, as Spurs went on to win the match 3-2. Unfortunately, Sherwood didn’t get to use the Argentine any more that season, as he picked up a back injury, leaving him with just three Premier League starts, and six more appearances from the bench in his first season in London. He played just 330 minutes of Prem football which works out to be just under four matches worth of Premier League experience in the entire season. Sherwood however, did comment on Lamela during his time out, noting how he saw him being able to play in a more central role, just off the striker, suggesting that he did rate Lamela from what he had seen of him.
Lamela’s second season in English football oversaw a year of very mixed fortunes. Newly appointed manager and fellow Argentinian, Mauricio Pochettino was clearly keen to get Lamela firing this season, giving him more a free, central role in his first friendlies in charge.
Following an impressive pre-season, Lamela made an impact in the first two games of the season, winning a foul off of James Collins against West Ham, which led to the first of two yellow cards that Collins picked up that day, causing him to be sent off in a match that Spurs won at the very death. And then in his second match, at home to QPR, Lamela made mincemeat of a sluggish looking back three, lead by Richard Dunne. Erik picked up two assists in the first half, and put in his best performance in a so far, stuttering Spurs career.
It was noticeable how Pochettino’s choice of playing him in the centre of an attacking three had benefited him already. It allowed him to press the centre backs and defensive midfielders down more, it allowed him to run at defences more often, and it gave him more opportunities to play through balls, which was quickly becoming a key part to Erik’s game. Given his enthusiasm, work rate and willingness to press, Lamela quickly became a favourite of Pochettino’s, whose system relies on the high pressing of its attacking players.
However, being a preferred choice of the manager resulted in him being played more frequently, and it seemed as though Pochettino was reluctant to bring Lamela off, even in games that required a different sort of player. Although this meant Lamela was receiving more game time, it also meant that he would tire towards the end of matches, and still be kept on, almost in the hope that he’d score to give him confidence. It also meant that he was kept on during matches where he was struggling or wasn’t playing well, meaning his poor performances were only being prolonged in the eyes of fans, with some possibly turning against him.
Lamela did find some joy in the cup competitions however, picking up both goals and assists in the early stages of the Capital One Cup, and scoring two goals in the Europa League group stage, one of which, being that extraordinary rabona from outside the box. Despite this, he still struggled to make much impact in the league, and with the busy Christmas schedule approaching, there was a chance that he might lose his place.
Lamela was rested for the 4-0 win against Newcastle in the quarter final of the League Cup, and because of this, he started against Burnley in the league three days later. Lamela had his full back, Ben Mee on strings all match, and picked up a well-deserved first Premier League goal, a well hit, long range strike into the far corner. It looked like a possible turning point in Lamela’s Spurs career, although he had experienced false dawns before. And following a poor run of form after this, that lead to Andros Townsend taking his place in the team, it was looking more and more likely that it was just another false dawn.
Townsend was suddenly starting ahead of Lamela, most notably in the New Years Day 5-3 win over Chelsea, in which Andros scored a penalty. However, Lamela was back in the team by the 2-1 home win against Arsenal in February, although he was relatively ineffective. He set up Harry Kane and tested Mignolet well in the following game against Liverpool, a game in which Spurs narrowly lost 3-2.
Lamela then carried on this fluctuation of form up until the end of the season, but ended it with some impressive performances against Stoke, Hull and Man City, and picking up his second Premier League goal against Southampton. People still disagree on whether this season was a success for Erik, or not, but it was certainly a season in which we saw both the best and worst of Lamela.
Now we’ve reached the current season. A season in which would probably be Lamela’s last chance to prove himself in a Spurs shirt. Following a season of ups and downs, many fans were still uncertain on Lamela’s progress, and some may even have lost faith following some ineffectively below par performances in pre-season. This lead to speculation of a move away from White Hart Lane, to either Serie A or Ligue 1, either on loan or permanently. In fact, a deal for Lamela to move to Olympique Marseilles on loan was reportedly blocked by Pochettino, due to Levy’s failure in finding a replacement.
Lamela had a difficult start to the season, coming on at 2-0 up against Stoke in a game that ended 2-2, and being criticised for needless fouls which may have contributed to Stoke getting back into the match. He also sat on the bench for 90 minutes against Everton, as Spurs drew 0-0 at home.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of the season, when Lamela came on to assist Ryan Mason’s winner against Sunderland, playing a big part in a lovely, intricate passing move. Lamela played the rest of this match with a lot more freedom, and was showing a wider range of passes than he usually does, playing short, one touch stuff, and accurate long range switches.
His performance earned a start against Crystal Palace. Pushing Alli into a deeper position, and allowing Lamela to drift centrally from the right, or out to the left, interchanging with Eriksen and Son. He also played a part in Son’s goal, winning the ball well, and laying it to Eriksen, who slipped Son through. He looked a rejuvenated player again against Manchester City at home, picking up an assist from a corner, and scoring a well taken fourth in a 4-1 win. Three matches later, Artur Boruc handed him another goal on a plate, dropping Harry Kane’s cross for Erik to poke home from 6 yards out in a resounding 5-1 win over Bournemouth.
Lamela turned up the heat once more against Arsenal, taking on players, keeping the ball, and making chances. He started from the right, but also found joy centrally and on the left throughout the game. In fact, many people believe that Pochettino’s decision to replace him with Son in the second half, lead to Arsenal’s equaliser. Due to his defensive proficiency, Lamela blocked a number of crosses in this match, and won the ball deep in Tottenham’s half quite often. But Son, didn’t close his man down quick enough, and the resulting cross eventually lead to Arsenal’s goal.
Lamela was also making leaps and bounds in the Europa League. His hat trick against Qarabag made in five goals in six group stage appearances, and this boosted his performances in the league. No doubt the arrival of Heung Min Son and Dele Alli had boosted his performances, as they are both quick players, who are willing to take players on, and do it decisively. Lamela has picked up a more decisive side to his game, passing, shooting and taking players on at the right times, and it is almost certainly due to the influence of similar kinds of players around him, who he has taken the time to learn from.
Erik ended 2015 with another good performance at home to Norwich, where his corner taking caused constant threat to a panicking Norwich defence, and his dribbling ability was evident throughout. He even pulled off another rabona, which was heading top corner before Declan Rudd got his hands behind it, highlighting his confidence. To finish his year, Lamela put in a man of the match performance against Watford, where he executed a skilful finish, giving Gomes ‘the eye’ before shifting it into the opposite corner, after driving with the ball from the halfway line. Lamela’s skill and guile was again a factor in a Spurs win, away to Watford.
Overall, Lamela’s tough start to life in England followed a theme of bad management and injury. But following some nurture and patience from Mauricio Pochettino, Lamela’s willingness to work on his downfalls, and the realisation that his place in the team isn’t untouchable after nearly being shipped off in the summer, Lamela is quickly becoming the player that the media touted him as back in 2013, despite his unconventional, and sometimes unorthodox playing style.
By Dan Grimes – TFN Columnist 0n 17/01/2016 at 17:40