After his much-anticipated arrival from Roma in 2013 for a club record fee of around £26 million, Erik Lamela was nothing short of massively underwhelming in his debut season in English football. Lamela did not make the impact people expected of him for his large transfer fee, with the only notable moment being the assist he laid on for Paulinho at Cardiff. Any further improvement in his performances was then halted by his injury plagued second half of the season. Tottenham themselves had a turbulent season; finishing in 6th position, which the media deemed unacceptable for a team that spent over £100 million the previous summer.
As AVB and Sherwood perished due to their indifferent results at the helm, Pochettino took over for the start of the 2014/15 season, leading to questions being asked about many players’ futures at the club, including Lamela after a lacklustre season. However, in the 20 months since Pochettino’s appointment, Lamela is slowly growing into the player Tottenham were willing to spend so much on.
In Pochettino’s first campaign at the reigns, Tottenham managed to improve on their previous season, finishing 5ththis time. Unfortunately, their progress was stunted by inconsistent performances that Pochettino’s predecessors paid the price for. Lamela made 46 appearances in all competitions, cementing himself firmly in Pochettino’s plans. In the face of all the rumours of Lamela leaving that were rife in the transfer windows; and people dismissing him as not good enough, the manager clearly saw enough to not only keep him, but to elevate his squad status to an integral first team player.
Despite his increasing importance within the team, Lamela still produced many frustrating performances that led to some fans still using him as a scape-goat, with the firm belief that his performances were not justifying the price paid for him. He managed to contribute five goals, including one world-class rabona against Asteras Tripolis. However, this only served to frustrate fans even more, as his talent was there for all to see, but continually poor decision-making and his anonymity in some games infuriated supporters. On a more positive note, Lamela was beginning to play with more flair and confidence, laying on seven assists for team-mates – something he had not managed to display in his handful of appearances in the 2013/14 season. The higher levels of confidence and the ability to play with more freedom can only be attributed to one man – Mauricio Pochettino.
Having proved himself as a good man-manager; and showed he trusted youth and instilled them with confidence at Southampton, he was not going to retract his philosophy at Tottenham. Not only did he manage to heighten Lamela’s confidence, Pochettino has made the Argentine winger more disciplined, meaning he can contribute defensively, helping his full back out and operating within the high press system. Lamela’s defensive work rate and increasing attacking influence helped him slowly win over fans in the 2014/15 season, but his next campaign would be vital in determining whether he would fulfil the potential that made Tottenham shell out for him in the summer of 2013.
Lamela endured a disappointing Copa America with Argentina before 2015/16 began, only featuring for six minutes throughout the tournament. From the bench, he watched his team get to the final, only to lose 4-1 on penalties to Chile. On the back of his improved 2014/15 season in which he began to win fans around, people still expected more of Lamela given his fee and the hype that surrounded his transfer. At the halfway point in the season, Lamela has produced a string of impressive displays such as his hat-trick against Monaco and goals against Man City and Watford. On the back of the impressive displays he’s put in, many Spurs fans would consider Lamela to be a key player, finally earning the fans full trust and support, something which seemed very unlikely to ever happen following his disappointing first season.
As 2015/16 continues to progress and Tottenham look more like the real deal for a top 4 finish this time round, Lamela will need to carry on performing to the levels he has played to so far this year, hoping to add to the eight goals and three assists he’s already contributed. With Pochettino at the helm, the sky is the limit as to how much Lamela and his team-mates can achieve this season and beyond, which is quite the stark contrast to the squad Pochettino inherited in the summer of 2014.
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