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Is Erik Lamela set to become the centre-piece of Pochettino’s side?

The Boot Room

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Nearly a year ago to the day I was sat on a train heading from Vienna to Budapest, with cautious optimism for the season ahead. Gareth Bale’s inevitably departure hadn’t quite come to fruition while the long sought after striker, Roberto Soldado, had joined off the back of his 24 league goals for Valencia. The confederations cup Bronze Ball winner, Paulinho, had also joined along with solid squad builders, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue. Things were looking up, then I read we were about to sign Roma’s 21-year-old star Erik Lamela, ‘The New Bale’.

I sat and read everything I could about him, sharing my increasing excitement with a fellow traveller and Spurs fan, leading to the two of us watching countless YouTube videos where the former River Plate man cut inside from the right wing and curled a shot into the far left side of the goal, reminiscent of the man who was about to leave us for greater heights. We agreed this was the year we could challenge for the title.

Fast forward to May and our new golden boy had played just 326 minutes in the Premier League, failed to find the net and scored only once in all competitions against Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol. With a back injury in December ending his debut season, a season that saw the Lilywhites finish sixth, their worst for five years, Lamela was seen as lightweight and unable to cope with the pace and physicality of the Premier League. However, coming into a disjointed team, in a country where he doesn’t speak the language, with two very different managers who failed in two very different ways, he clearly still has the potential that saw him score 15 goals in 33 games for Roma the previous year.

Tottenham now have a manager in Mauricio Pochettino who comes to White Hart Lane with a reputation of quick, attacking football, a high pressing line and bringing youngsters through. Inspired by Marcelo Bielsa, his philosophy should please those back at the Lane who crave a return to the ‘glory’ days of the push and run football like under Arthur Rowe. That reputation, mixed with him being a compatriot of young Lamela, has brought a renewed optimism for the season ahead for the former Roma man and the team in general.

The optimism has only increased throughout pre-season as Lamela has been deployed in the centre of a fluid attacking three, alongside Aaron Lennon and last season’s star man Christian Eriksen.  In five games this pre-season, Lamela has received two man-of-the-match performances and notched three times including a first half brace against Toronto. Spurs fans have got excited by the link between the front three while Soldado has looked smooth, quick and intelligent.

However, questions have again been raised by the more pessimistic or maybe realistic fans since the last friendly against Schalke. With Emmanuel Adebayor back up front, Lamela looked peripheral and never made any sort of impact in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, including a moment where he was easily bumped off the ball.

Judging by the general reaction on Twitter, most fans were disappointed by his televised performance but still totally believed that this will be the season that the league will see the Lamela that made Daniel Levy and Franco Baldini splash out nearly £30million to secure his signature.  He did seem a peripheral figure at the Lane last season, especially under Sherwood, but seems a much happier figure now, often on social media having a good time with the likes of Lewis Holtby, Soldado and Eriksen.

Pochettino’s arrival is the main reason for the positive mood around North London at the moment and some of his statements only add to it more. “The most important thing is to create a good shape for our players to be comfortable and to show their real qualities.” The Argentinian manager has a reputation of getting the best out of his players, enhancing dramatically the careers of the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez.

If he can do the same at White Hart Lane with the likes of Eriksen, Andros Townsend and, of course, Lamela, the opinion of the record signing will definitely change. He can become the star man for a Tottenham side who can regain their reputation for playing attacking, fast-paced and attractive football, challenging those with bigger budgets to the very end of the season.

Expectations are low at the Lane compared with previous seasons, sixth is expected and all that is required is to have gained some respect again, to play attractive football and close that gap to the ‘top five’ so a challenge for the top four can be sustained until May.

Can Erik Lamela live up to his immense reputation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @TBRFootball.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham have already identified Eric Dier’s £25 million replacement in Wilmar Barrios

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Photo: Getty Images.

Losing first team regulars may not be a complete surprise to Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino, and that may why be reports are indicating that the coach has already lined up an alternative to Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama should either move on this summer.

The Sun say that there is still interest in Dier, who will be at the World Cup with England, whilst Wanyama’s struggles with injury may mean that Pochettino looks elsewhere for the role of midfield enforcer.

They believe the target to be Boca Juniors’ 24-year-old holding midfielder Wilmar Barrios, a Colombian international who plays alongside Spurs’ Davinson Sanchez at international level.

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The youngster has become a key man in the Boca Juniors side but, perhaps unusually, has not caught the attention of many in Europe. Barrios has, though, developed a reputation as one of the best players in South America, particularly in his position, as he has become a linchpin protecting his back four.

That is protected in his very impressive stats, which show that he makes on average three tackles per game and 2.8 interceptions per match, compared to the 1.8 tackles and 1.3 interceptions for Dier playing in a very similar role.

Barrios’ intelligent reading of the game has drawn comparisons to Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, with both men guilt of diving into tackles on occasion despite all of their many strengths.

He may be raw, with no experience of playing in Europe, but at £25 million he could prove to be a bargain and Mauricio Pochettino’s return home to go on a shopping spree could provide a long-term solution to the holding midfield role which seems as uncertain as ever after the 2017/18 season.

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If Tottenham lose Christian Eriksen, Hakim Ziyech is a quality replacement

Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with the Ajax star this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping to keep as much of their squad together for next season after another impressive, but ultimately trophyless campaign. One player who it seems may be hard to keep hold of is Danish attacker Christian Eriksen.

The playmaker has perhaps just had the best season of his Tottenham career but has attracted interest with that form. Barcelona are looking to find a replacement for club legend Andres Iniesta, who is leaving the Nou Camp this summer. As reported by Don Balon this weekend, Barca have decided Eriksen is the man for that job.

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With Barca lurking, Tottenham will be fearful of losing their Danish star. But who would the club sign as his replacement?

One potential option appears to be Moroccan international and Ajax star Hakim Ziyech. Last week it was reported that Spurs were one of many clubs interested in the player by Italian outlet Calciomercato.

So could he replace Eriksen?

The obvious comparisons begin with the club from which Tottenham would be signing him. Eriksen also arrived at Spurs from Ajax and has certainly proved to be a success.

In terms of playing style, he is very much like the Spurs star. An intelligent player he reads the game brilliantly. His passing range is also excellent and he has shown that on numerous occasions for Ajax the past two season.

This season he has scored nine goals in 39 appearances but has also been an assist machine. The 25-year-old has provided an incredible 18 assists in all competitions this season and is set to be the focal point of Morocco’s attack at the World Cup this summer.

(Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

With Eriksen gone, Tottenham would be in need of a similar assist king and Ziyech is young enough to continue improving whilst still offering much of what Eriksen does for Spurs.

Signing Ziyech whilst Eriksen remains at the club would certainly not be necessary. With Dele Alli also present, it would be overkill in the number 10 role at Spurs.

But should they reluctantly let Eriksen head to Spain, Tottenham would be right to sign the carbon-copy Moroccan from Ajax this summer.

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Abdoulaye Doucoure could be the ideal successor for Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele

The France Under-21 international has enjoyed a fine season.

Josh Kerr

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Abdoulaye Doucoure
Photo: Getty Images

Watford‘s Abdoulaye Doucoure has enjoyed an impressive season at Vicarage Road and the versatile midfielder could prove to be an ideal signing for Tottenham Hotspur this summer.

According to the Mirror, Mauricio Pochettino is ready to listen to offers for the likes of Mousa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Moussa Sissoko.

Dembele was one of the names shortlisted and has been a revelation in his six years at the club.

Many Spurs players, including Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier stated in Soccer AM interviews that they believe the 30-year-old midfielder to be the best player at the club.

However, Dembele is one of the stars linked with a departure from the Lilywhites so a replacement for the Belgian will be a vital priority for Pochettino this summer. Doucoure could be the perfect man for the job.

The 25-year-old has been the Hornets’ stand-out player this season and has consistently demonstrated that he is capable of playing at the highest level.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Usually a holding midfielder, he is best known for his intricate array of passing in the middle of the park and his ability to break up play.

These traits match the qualities Dembele possesses and, therefore, he would prove a smart signing for Spurs.

The Frenchman also boasts an impressive tally in front of goal with seven goals and four assists in the league this season.

According to The Sun, Doucoure has been a previous target for Spurs, and the potential departure of Dembele gives Pochettino a greater incentive to find a replacement for the Belgium midfielder.

The France Under-21 international has two years remaining on his contract at Vicarage Road and is valued at £40 million.

The midfielder has been a goalscoring threat in a Watford side that has struggled to find consistency all season.

A move to one of the top-six would allow Doucoure to take his qualities to the next level and should definitely be a name the Lilywhites are monitoring over the summer period.

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