Has Erik Lamela been Tottenham's standout performer this season?
Completely transformed from a lightweight hinderance to one of Tottenham’s most direct attacking options, Erik Lamela has become a fan-favourite at White Hart Lane over the past couple of seasons due to his faultless work ethic, technical ability and desire for the game. The winger never stops running, and has proven himself to be an invaluable asset to Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side over the last year. However, has he been the very best performer at Spurs so far?
To be truthful, he hasn’t had a lot of competition for that title. The big name players in Harry Kane and Dele Alli have been underperforming, while Christian Eriksen has looked a shadow of his former self. Lamela, with a goal in the opening fixture at Everton, has been the brightest of all Spurs’ attacking players so far; his direct running and ability to track back defensively have also been of great benefit to Spurs. The Argentine still has yet to add goals to his game, but if he can start finding the back of the net on a regular basis, he is going to become world class player. At just 24, his best years are still ahead of him, and under Mauricio Pochettino, he will only improve.
And yet, all of this is in stark contrast to the young winger that Spurs signed for a huge fee from AS Roma in the summer of 2013. Hyped by many as Gareth Bale’s replacement, Lamela was unlucky to see most of the 2013/14 from the sidelines after an injury-hit season. The following year, he managed 5 goals and 10 assists across all competitions, with the highlight being that rabona in the Europa League. He continued to develop under Pochettino, and repaid the manager’s confidence with 11 goals and 9 assists across all competitions in 2015/16. Lamela has looked more and more like the player signed from Roma, who set Seria A alight during his time in Rome.
So perhaps this is the season that Lamela goes from being a prodigy to a world-beater. At times during his time at Spurs, he has looked different class – the rabona, the long-range goal against Burnley, and even in pre-season where he looked far better than his teammates. Ignoring the defensive error against Liverpool that resulted in a penalty, and Lamela probably has been the best performer in a Spurs shirt so far this season. He plays a vital role in the way Spurs are setup; one that means most of his valuable work isn’t shown in highlight reels or on Match of the Day, but by the scoreline at the end of the game. Lamela does the dirty work, and thrives whilst doing so, and errors like the one against Liverpool must be forgiven – because for every mistake he makes, there are several good tackles or ‘tactical fouls’ that allow Spurs to either retain the ball or to get back into shape. His powerful header to secure a point at Goodison Park is a sign, however, that there is much more to come from the enigmatic Argentine in the offensive department too.
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