Tottenham Hotspur

Lamela Is the Tottenham Player Who Will Step Up to Fill Gareth Bale's Boots

ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 14:  Erik Lamela of Argentina in action during the international friendly match between Italy v Argentina at Stadio Olimpico on August 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
James BarnesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2013

Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur’s record-breaking new signing, can provide the spark that’s been sorely missing in Gareth Bale’s absence.

The 21-year-old Argentinian possesses a wealth of attributes—pace, trickery, clinical finishing and guile—that render him one of the Premier League’s most exciting prospects.

If AVB can nurture these talents to their fullest, then the last flickers of regret accompanying Bale’s departure will quickly fade.

In terms of an immediate impact, Lamela represents a solution to what may be Spurs’ weightiest concern at the start of the season: a lack of creative energy.

A tally of six points from three games is a respectable return considering the fixtures, but it’s a figure that belies a clear shortcoming. 

The performances against Palace and Arsenal were industrious, yet unadventurous affairs.  In particular, the North London derby exemplified Spurs’ struggle to convert territorial dominance (28% of play in Arsenal’s third, 22% in Spurs’ third) into telling efforts on goal.

Lamela has the requisite vision and attacking flair to unlock a resolute defence, and—as his fellow countryman and Spurs legend, Ossie Ardiles, explains—is blessed with the same versatility that defined a certain Welshman:       

In Argentina he was seen as a traditional number 10. And only the very special players achieve that acclaim. He can play in that crucial creative area behind the main striker; as an attacking midfielder or more to the left which he has done with success.

His outstanding 2012/13 season saw him employed as an inverted right forward in a 4-3-3 formation. Afforded the license to roam by Roma manager, Zeman, he demonstrated a clinical finishing ability, netting on 15 occasions in 30 league appearances.

For comparison’s sake, a 21-year-old Gareth Bale scored seven goals in 30 league appearances during the 2010/11 season.

However, although occupying similar areas on the pitch, Bale and Lamela display noticeably different skill sets.

Bale became synonymous for his blistering top speed, 30-yard screamers and sheer athleticism. Whereas, Lamela utilises his electric acceleration, a propensity to attempt mazy dribbles and cuts a lithe figure on the wing.

Their play-styles are a product of their natural qualities. Where Bale opts for power, Lamela plumps for finesse. 

The Argentinian’s winning strike against Torino demonstrates this elegantly (see the video below), with the delicate, controlled dribbling and curling finish decidedly reminiscent of another inverted winger, Arjen Robben.

Lamela’s potential is evident, it just remains to be seen how swiftly he can adapt to the unique pressures of the Premier League.

Eriksen, another of Spurs’ summer recruits, is a key factor in this transition. If the Danish playmaker can find those through balls on the counterattack, it will encourage Lamela to surge forward and exploit the space in front of the opposition’s defencebreeding his confidence.

If there’s one obvious criticism that could be levelled at Lamela, it’s a tendency to neglect his defensive duties. He may lack tenacity in the tackle, but then again, Bale was hardly ever a willing worker in his midfield years.

Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and Luka Modric: flair players of this ilk have always been a permanent fixture of the club’s 131-year history, and the attacking philosophy it swears by. Lamela is the latest contender, hoping to endear himself to the White Hart Lane faithful.

He could be magic.

 

 

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