He's been with us for quite some time, but he continues to divide opinion. Has his time come to an end? Bardi takes a look at the scrappy Argentine forward.
I wrote the intro to this a few times, but each time I had to add a “but” or a justification of some sort. That was when it hit me, the problem with Erik Lamela is that ‘but.’ It is what divides opinion, it is that small word is what stops him from being the player we need, the player he should be and perhaps the player he was destined to be when he left Rome.
Erik Lamela doesn’t score enough goals, but he makes key passes.
He doesn’t get enough assists, but he hassles and presses really well.
He hasn’t been decisive in a big game for a long time, but he gave some stick to Jack Wilshere.
He pulled off an amazing piece of skill last night, but it was miles from the opposition goal and meant nothing because he immediately lost the ball.
He scored some big goals, but not enough.
He just needs a run in the team, but he keeps getting injured.
But. But. But.
Lamela splits opinion, not because he is a bad player but because he does not do one thing well enough to establish himself as a first team player. Pro and anti Lamela groups are consistently searching for the one performance to define his career, but there will never be one because Lamela himself has lost his own identity and his own style of play. If he can’t define his own career how are supposed to?
At Roma his path was laid out before him. Francesco Totti even welcomed him to the club with the immortal saying “I hope Lamela will be my heir.” His role was set, he would initially start out wide using his trickery and craft, whilst he learned from Totti before stepping into his shoes as ‘the fantasista,’ but fate intervened.
Daniel Levy sold Gareth Bale, in came Franco Baldini and then arrived, after much toing and froing, Lamela.
We expected a like for like Bale replacement. YouTube promised us a right-winger who cut in to pass or shoot on his left. We were a fan base fully versed in the inverted winger scene, so it made perfect sense and at £30m what could go wrong? But life changed for Erik and us.
AVB. To Sherwood. To mystery injuries. His first year was a write off, for some it was a relationship already over, others like me decided to cling on a bit longer and to see how it would develop.
But now it’s time to let go.
Whilst he remains a useful player and a player who I get the feeling genuinely loves Tottenham, we’ve now outgrown him. He’s a player that doesn’t suit our system and doesn’t offer us enough.
Pro and anti Lamela groups are consistently searching for the one performance to define his career, but there will never be one because Lamela himself has lost his own identity
The moment you start praising the fundamentals of a player, their ability to adhere to the basics, is the moment you start patting yourself on the back for not smelling of body odour. Lamela is supposed to high press, we’re a high pressing team. It’s like praising a chef who works at one of the top four restaurants in the country for being able to fry an egg.
The real problem with Lamela though isn’t us, it’s totally him. He has lost his identity. We’ve seen him as a false 9, a winger, a playmaker and then we’ve seen him do all and none at the same time. He is suffering from a footballing identity crisis, one which will not be solved at Spurs. The transformation from the player who waltzed around in Rome and had their tifosi protesting at his sale has been total. Like a skinny Darth Vader, there’s nothing good left in him and the only real value are his dark arts.
For me the change in Lamela is down to two things.
Firstly Christian Eriksen has become one of the greatest modern number 10s in the game. The Dane has everything that Lamela should have had. Skill, trickery, vision, assists and crucially goals. Eriksen regularly clocks up the most mileage, and although he may lack the spite that makes Lamela stand out from his peers, he harries and presses equally as well as the Argentine.
Eriksen was part of the Magnificent Seven also, he endured the same issues, minus the injuries, but he changed, adapted, and is now referred to as “the brain” by Pochettino. The Dane is our heartbeat, not a chest thumper.
The second is Son. With the central role filled by Eriksen, wide is where Lamela should exist, but the Korean forward has made that role his own.
Arriving with far less fanfare Son had to face a similarly tough first season with injury and a lack of form reducing his role. The Korean, against the club’s wishes, opted to represent South Korea at the Olympics, this threw into his doubt his focus and sparked rumours of his departure, but Son returned from Brazil invigorated. Despite being the player most often sacrificed for the one of the Poch Triumvirate, the Korean made himself a crucial weapon and is now second to only Kane in terms of goals and fear factor.
For as much as his scrappy nature and high work ethic is appreciated, he no longer does his primary job
What Son gives you is a genuine goal threat from wide areas. Left or right wing, cutting inside or out, Son has variety, Son has direction, Son has goals. Son is far from predictable, and even though this may make him unreliable and prone to dips in form, he remains a far more consistent threat than Lamela.
Quite simply there is no longer a starting role for Lamela. For as much as his scrappy nature and high work ethic is appreciated, he no longer does his primary job. He has two assists in the league and has scored goals only against lower league opposition.
His time is done at Spurs and in all honesty, there can be no complaints. He has had four seasons to prove himself; he has had more goodwill and patience than countless others have before him, or will have after him. Instead of making himself indispensable, he is slipping down the pecking order.
Lamela may be a good player, Lamela may well find a role for himself at a big club, but it just wont be at Spurs. It could’ve been great, but it wasn’t.