Erik Lamela 21 Midfielder Tottenham Hotspur Argentina
2013 has been…
Gareth Bale’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid was the worst kept secret of the 2013 summer. As such; everyone and their dog knew that Andre Villas-Boas had been handed quite a sizeable budget to overhaul his squad. Erik Lamela appeared to be an obvious choice to help fill the Bale hole in the side. Young, exciting and a scorer of great goals; he appeared to have the necessary tools to help the White Hart Lane faithful forget about the departing Welshman.
Having burst onto the scene with a man of the match performance in a Super Clasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate three years ago, Lamela’s potential has been much discussed since. Two footed and with an eye for a pass, Lamela likes to use his trickery rather than pace to get the better of his marker (of course, he has pace to burn just in case). He also has that unteachable knack of finding time and space; and from there, he has the ability to do whatever he wants with a football.
He is a player that should be cause of much excitement; not that Tottenham’s fans would know it. Despite signing for a record transfer fee, Lamela has played less than 90 minutes of Barclays Premier League football so far this season. Instead, the last few months have seen the forward playing a lot of Europa League football and not much else.
Things get slightly worse for the player if you glance quickly at where his old team currently sit in Serie A. 10 straight wins marked a record-breaking start to the season for Roma and leaves Lamela cursing his decision to move to a country where he has admitted he is struggling with the language. Of course, it’s hard to argue that Lamela would have played a telling part in the incredible start. Gervinho, his replacement, is not only a favorite of new Roma boss Rudi Garcia but also doing a fine job of recreating his pre-Arsenal, title-winning-in-France form.
Of the Europa League and Capital One Cup game time that he has been allowed, his neat touch and close control have been evident. However, he obviously isn’t showing off his abilities in training to be given a chance by Andre Villas-Boas in the bigger games. It’s mid-November and Lamela is yet to make any sort of splash in English football. For any new signing, that’s not good. For a club record signing; it’s something close to a disaster.
Lamela was no doubt plucked from Roma thanks to the fine season he had in 2012/13. 15 goals and five assists for a team that finished the season in sixth is a pretty good return. It really should only be a matter of time before things ‘click’ for him in North London. However, with every passing day that will become much tougher to fashion.
Moving to a new club in a World Cup year, unless in the desperate search for game time, is a bad idea in itself. Moving to a whole new country with no prior knowledge of the language just hours before the transfer window closed is the right way to go about asking for trouble.
Lamela has found trouble. He hasn’t immediately slotted into a burgeoning system and doesn’t have the trust of his new manager. With Brazil looming, his performances for Roma will only get him so far in Alejandro Sabella’s reckoning; Argentina have too much quality in attack for that to be enough. No matter how much potential he shows. It doesn’t help that his club manager isn’t ready to give him regular league action.
Andre Villas-Boas has ideas on taking Tottenham Hotspur into the upper echelons of European football. That means consistently competing in the Premier League and getting into the knock-out stages of the Europa League or ideally, the Champions League. Patience isn’t going to be something he can offer to Lamela come February or March if he continues to struggle.
From here, the pressure Erik may put on himself to live up to his price tag and make an influence will only magnify. He’ll know he needs to produce goals in his fleeting cameos to get more and more minutes on the pitch. That could see him trying the outrageous rather than the effective; and looking like a bit of a fool.
As he progressed at River Plate, England never really seemed like an obvious place for Lamela to further his career. Italian football appeared ready made for his style and last season, Roma fans saw Lamela re-create some of his impressive La Banda performances. At Tottenham, we have a small worry he’ll never have such an impact.
That is a worst case scenario and within a few weeks, his initial struggles could be well behind him. A confidence boosting goal, much like the one he scored in the Europa League just two weeks ago, could spark Lamela into a season defining run of form. We’re getting ahead of ourselves by talking about him never settling into the English game. He’s far too impressive a player not to set things right.
Given the joy we had watching him at Roma, we feel sure this is just a blip caused from moving so late in the window. He can still be the guy that assists Messi in gatecrashing the Brazilian party at next summer’s World Cup.
"With Villas-Boas saying he's struggling to come to terms with the language, he hasn't even started a league game, but I wouldn't write him off just yet. He clearly has the talent to make doubters (& defenders) look very foolish." - Adam Digby, ESPN
"Slow start at Spurs, maybe, but I don't think there's anyone who doubts he's got what it takes in the medium to long term." - Sam Kelly, Hasta El Gol Siempre
"During the 2012/13 Serie A season, Erik Lamela was involved in a goal every 129 minutes (scored or assisted); more frequently than Stephen El Shaarawy and Marek Hamsik." - Opta
C No need to panic just yet