Can Erik Lamela Fight His Way Back Into Tottenham First-team?
Erik Lamela finally made his long-awaited comeback for Tottenham in the club’s U23 side’s clash against Chelsea U23 last week. Instead of being a part of the squad for the lively clash with fierce rivals Arsenal, Lamela played against Chelsea in order to attain full match fitness.
The 25-year-old signed for the London club from Roma back in 2013 and has since gone on to make 119 appearances in all competitions, scoring 19 goals for the club. He last pulled on a Tottenham shirt on October 25, 2016, when he played in the 2-1 EFL Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
Lamela has spent the greater part of two years, battling with injuries and recurring fitness issues. With that extended spell on the sidelines coming to an end, the winger will be upbeat to find considerable playing time in important matches.
In 2015-2016, when Spurs finished the league at 3rd place, Lamela was an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino’s team. With his flair and extraordinary work-rate, he helped Spurs become one of the league’s most balanced teams. In that season, Lamela scored 5 goals and added 9 assists in 34 league appearances; a fantastic return for an injury-prone player.
Even a Spurs fan knows Lamela offers a different attacking verve than his teammates. His tenacity in pressing and his ability to win the ball back and set the team for a counter-attack makes him a special player to have in the team.
The Argentine, after a hip injury ended his 2016/17 season early, has returned to training with the first-team in recent weeks. However, the wide man faces a fight to earn back his spot in the starting eleven.
With Pochettino’s side switching to a 3-4-3 system with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli tasked to offer creativity and guile, Lamela has a task cut out in ousting either of them. Eriksen has again enjoyed a fine start to the season, scoring 3 goals and providing an assist. Alli has had a slow start to the season in comparison to last season’s return, but he showed his class against Real Madrid and highlighted why he is one of the most sought-after young talents in the game.
In addition, Lamela will be competing with Son Heung-min for a starting berth, who, despite being a luxury player last season, has found first-team opportunities hard to come by. This means Lamela finds himself well down the pecking order, so much so that it now seems difficult to make a case for the ex-Roma player.
However, with the busy Christmas period fast approaching and Spurs already playing in the Champions League and Carabao Cup and with FA Cup to follow, Lamela will be an important player in the squad. The winger has been out for more than a year and so his reintegration into high-intensity football will be slow.
Nobody has given Lamela as much support in recent years as his compatriot and manager Pochettino. He stuck with him when many doubted his ability after his early struggles in Tottenham colours.
Now that Lamela is back, let’s hope, that he becomes his old-self and gives the defenders a run for their money.