TOTTENHAM’S TIRELESS ARGENTINE: WHY ERIK LAMELA DESERVES TO START ALONGSIDE KANE AND SON
There are certain guarantees in life – death, taxes and Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min filling two of the three spots in the attack of Tottenham Hotspur.
One thing that is definitely up in the air however, is who takes that final spot on the right of Jose Mourinho’s front three.
When the Portuguese tactician first arrived his preference was Lucas Moura, all Spurs fans believed it was going to be Gareth Bale after he re-joined the club in the summer, and Steven Bergwijn has been the go-to man so far this season.
However, not one of them have really stamped their mark on that position, except in my eyes the player who at the start of the campaign was deemed as the fourth choice, Erik Lamela.
Don’t get me wrong, there probably isn’t one Spurs player that frustrates me the way Lamela does, with his constant unnecessary ball rolls and baffling decision-making, but what he does give is 100% every single time he puts on a white shirt, mostly it ends up with him being booked but at least there’s some passion there.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem that Lamela has faced during his Spurs career is getting injured at the worst possible moments. We saw this earlier in the season after his spectacular performance against Chelsea, which helped Spurs see off the Blues in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
He then went on to play 45 minutes a few days later in the monumental 6-1 win over Manchester United and also got consistent minutes in the next few games, but he then missed the next 11 competitive games with a calf injury.
Coming out of Tottenham’s dreadful 1-0 defeat to Chelsea there were minimal positives and by minimal, I mean absolutely none. But in reflection the more I looked back on the game, the more I thought about the 20-minute cameo put in by Lamela.
There was no lack of urgency from the Argentine that had echoed throughout the team in the first half, he was always aiming to receive the ball and drive forward, a type of fearlessness that the rest of the squad could’ve done with.
So, when the Spurs team was revealed at 11:00am on Sunday for the must-win game against West Brom, which of course included Harry Kane which I was extremely happy to see, I was arguably even happier that Lamela was starting as well.
Despite recent negative displays, you always felt Spurs were going to have the majority of the ball against the Baggies and they certainly did ending the game with 66% possession, it was just whether or not they could pierce the backline of the Premier League’s worst defence.
It took 54 minutes, but eventually Spurs did score through Kane and the lead was then doubled by Son four minutes later and while Lamela wasn’t actively involved in the goals, he played a huge part in an overwhelmingly positive performance.
In the first 45 it was his combination down the right flank with Serge Aurier that caused the returning Connor Townesend serious problems and his ability to drift inside and often swap roles with Moura, who initially started the game in the number 10 role, gave Spurs vast success.
He showed he wasn’t afraid to have a go at goal either, taking on a long-distance effort which, albeit wasn’t on target, certainly gave Sam Johnstone a brief worry.
In the second half, as Spurs were pushing for an opener, he was constantly trying to pick up spaces in the opposition half to cause problems, at times his running seemed aimless but he would always try and opt to move the ball forward as opposed to back.
His movement for the second goal will undoubtedly go under the radar but it was crucial to the space opening up.
Following a swift counter-attack and a driving run from Moura, acres of room became available for Son who then fired past Johnstone, Lamela played the role of pulling the defenders away with his false run knowing they would see the immediate danger there track him and thus allow the South Korean plenty of empty grass to do what he does best.
As expected, Lamela received his token yellow card with a poor challenge on Conor Gallagher, chopping him down as he tried to mount a rare Albion attack and while the cynics maybe won’t agree it was a necessary challenge.
Knowing that Lamela likes to play on the edge with his passing, pressing and tackling - Mourinho removed him from the game with 15 minutes left, but he had more than made an impact.
From a statistical point of view, Lamela had a bad game but in actual fact he was one of, if not, the most influential player on the pitch.
According to FotMob, Lamela gave possession away three times and lost ten duels, the most of any player on the pitch in both scenarios.
However, a famous manager once said, “People who understand football don’t analyse with stats,” and luckily for Lamela that very quote was said by the man who decides whether the Argentine plays or not.
Based on what each of the four possible options who can accompany Son and Kane have done in recent weeks it’s a definite toss up between Moura and Lamela. But for me the latter just offers something different to Moura, and the Brazilian is someone who seems to thrive playing against weaker opposition and unfortunately Spurs can’t play West Brom every week.
Mourinho has also made it no secret that he is a big fan Lamela so without even including his recent displays, the Argentine has a good chance of featuring every week and in my eyes going forward, as long as he can remain injury-free, he is the best option to play on the right of the Spurs attack.