Since arriving from Roma, as Spurs’ 2013 record signing – part of the group hand-selected to fill the gaping hole vacated by Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid departure – Erik Lamela has never really found his groove in North London.
Now, the man he sought to replace 8 years ago is back in Tottenham, but, with Spurs struggling for creative avenues in their recent games, and Bale’s return form somewhat stuttering, is Erik Lamela the key to solving Spurs’ current creative woes?
Lamela has always been a player that most of the Spurs faithful have taken to, due to his aggressive style of play (or as Mourinho recently described it ‘positive chaos’). His work rate and effort for the team have never been questioned, even if his ability has, but he has never truly been able to build up a run of games over the course of a season due to his constant injury troubles.
In total, he has missed over 100 games through injury during his time at Spurs, with at least one serious injury every season since his arrival, including hip issues that required surgery and kept him out of action for over a year between 2016 and 2018. To demonstrate just how disruptive this has been, Harry Kane, a player regarded to be somewhat injury prone for Spurs, has missed around 50 games through injury in his professional career. Erik Lamela missed 57 through his hip injury alone. It’s surprising then, that he has managed to keep up his non-stop work rate, even after 7 and a half injury-hampered seasons at the club, and the Argentine is now starting to look more effective than ever.
Spurs bringing Bale back with Lamela not only still at the club, but still not reaching his undoubtedly high potential, felt like a sign that it might be time to move him on and admit that he hadn’t been the replacement for the welsh superstar that it was once hoped he could be. Couple this fact with yet more characteristic injury disruption at the start of the season for the 28-year-old, and to many Spurs fans his career in North London was certainly coming to an end.
But Mourinho likes him. And when you look at the stats it’s clear to see why.
Despite only making four starts in the Premier League this season, Lamela has made the highest number of tackles in the midfield third per 90 (1.71), and the third-highest of this number in the attacking third (0.49). This really demonstrates the steely edge he brings to every game for Spurs, even if he hasn’t started many, something that makes him a player built very much in the Mourinho mould. However, he is ultimately a creative, attacking player, and I believe he is starting to show (this season at least) that this part of his game is certainly not lacking, and indeed he can be the man to solve Tottenham’s creative crisis.
In terms of creativity, Lamela has been, perhaps surprisingly, Spurs’ most productive source this season (with 3.65 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes). We cannot, however, read too much into this as it is skewed by the fact he has only completed 90 minutes 4 times; although it is interesting to note that this number is higher than Bale, Lucas, Lo Celso and Dele, all with a similar number of minutes this season.
Looking at Spurs’ recent two games against West Brom in the league and Everton in the FA cup, (Lamela started both) gives a more realistic sample of the Argentine’s impressive recent form and increased creative output. Against West Brom, Lamela produced 4 SCAs, joint highest with Serge Aurier, had the joint-most touches in the attacking third and just from watching the game, he was a visible bright spark that the Tottenham side had been lacking in recent weeks.
The 29-year-old was also part of a Spurs attack that took the game to Everton in the recent 5-4 defeat in the FA Cup fifth round, where the attacking performance was more than enough to win the game, if defensive mistakes hadn’t stolen Spurs’ chances. He forced an outstanding save from Everton goalkeeper Olsen within a minute, scored a goal to get Spurs back into the game before half time, and again looked bright throughout, despite the North Londoners eventually losing the game.
Now, the question is can Lamela maintain his form and fitness for a sustained period of time, or will this only be a glimpse of his potential, as we have seen so many times during his Tottenham career, without sustaining it to have enough of an impact for his team. Either way, you get the sense that it is now or never for Erik to make that creative midfield place his own, with José seemingly ready to put aside his Dele Alli gripes, on the hunt for much-needed creativity, and Giovani Lo Celso fighting his way back from injury.
It is certain that the talent exists within Erik Lamela to be Spurs’ creative playmaker, but can he keep it up for Spurs when they need him to?
Have something to tell us about this article?