As soon as I saw Hull City keeper Eldin Jakupovic dive to his left to palm away Erik Lamela’s penalty for Spurs, I emitted a loud groan of pity and disappointment. This sort of event was hardly going to help the confidence of the young Argentine or help to silence the critics who have begun to label Lamela as a “flop” despite only being a Spurs player for about a month. Nevertheless, Spurs shockingly went on to win their first penalty shootout since 1994 so thankfully Lamela was spared the flak I am sure he would have received if we had failed to progress on penalties past Hull. However, I read multiple accounts on Twitter with #Lamela trending on my home page of football fans questioning Lamela’s worth and if he would ever be a Spurs regular, to which I am going to respond with a fierce defence of Lamela and his many current and potential qualities to the critics who have started getting on his back already.
Firstly, yes he missed a penalty. It happens to the best of players. Lamela was never the penalty taker for River Plate or Roma so it is unfair to criticise him too much for making a mistake. It is true that really professional footballers should be able to convert from 12 yards but professional goalkeepers are also paid to stop them so would it be fair to call the Hull City keeper a “flop” because he only stopped one penalty out of nine? Also, if you actually watch the game, Lamela did actually play quite well. He looked threatening with his movement and made some good runs down the wing. When he regains his confidence, he will start to take on players and bomb down the line even more, the wing partnership of Lamela and Townsend sounds incredibly tantalising since both players have so much talent and have still yet to reach their full potential.
I also feel sympathy for Lamela because of the way in which Andros Townsend has developed this season and become a star in the Tottenham team and he has made a good international impact so far as well. The emergence of Townsend on the right means that Lamela cannot get a look in on that side. However, I do not understand why AVB does not give him a chance on the left side considering he is….left footed. I think Lamela would be utilised on the left much like we used Gareth Bale at first before Bale developed into a free role across the forward line. Lamela could follow the same trend but he needs to get a string of good performances under his belt first and this will only come if he gets consistent game time. Naturally though, this is difficult as he is in competition with Gylfi Sigurdsson for this spot and so far, Gylfi has silenced his critics over the past year with some great displays this season to earn a regular role in a side that many expected him to leave in the summer or in January so, yet again, Lamela is competing with a man who is in-form, meaning AVB has no need to drop him to play his record signing.
The pressure on Lamela is understandable. He is Tottenham’s all time most expensive signing and considering he has similar build and pace to Gareth Bale, in my opinion, everyone was too quick to see him as picking up where Gareth left off for Spurs. This is simply not plausible. I hope every critic remembers how long it took Gareth Bale to become a Spurs regular? Remember we went on a run of 20 odd games without a victory whenever he played? Remember we almost offloaded him to Forest or Birmingham for a paltry £3million? When Bale signed, he was a scrawny teenager who looked a bit lightweight for the Premier league but over the years, he spent a lot of time improving his physical condition until he was in peak form. Lamela needs to follow Bale’s footsteps in this sense as he seems to be struggling with the physicality of the British leagues. He is not the only player to do so, ex-Roma teammate Dani Osvaldo moved to the BPL in the summer and there has already been accounts that he wants to move back to his native Argentina and he has publicly admitted how much more physical the Premiership is than Serie A. Therefore, Lamela is not the only player with a big price tag struggling to adapt to a foreign league.
Ultimately what I am trying to say is that it is far soon to be judging Lamela as a success or a failure. Like Lewis Holtby did when he joined last January, he needs a few months in the Premier League to adapt to its fast-paced nature in order to adapt his game and style of play. I believe Lamela will come good for Spurs as long as he is given time and space to grow but the demanding nature of Tottenham fans, coupled with the fact he needs regular game time if he wants to be considered for the Argentina 2014 world cup squad means that Lamela will have to adapt much faster than previous players have in order to fulfil his potential at club and international level.
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