Tottenham's Summer Signings Continue Their Varied Processes of Settling in
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The away win was the ideal response to the disappointment of Tottenham's 3-0 derby humbling by West Ham United prior to the international break. It also brought an end to a five-match Premier League streak in which Soldado had not scored, and was also his first league goal in open play following the two penalties that had opened his tally in England.
Soldado's game is largely defined by goals, and the recent absence of them suggested—on the surface at least—he might have been having difficulty making the transition from La Liga.
In truth it was more complicated than that. Though creating plenty of chances (Spurs are up there with the highest in the division according to Squawka.com), the Spaniard was not always the beneficiary.
He had also played his part in other goals (notably two of Gylfi Sigurdsson's versus Norwich City and Chelsea), commendably finding a way to contribute, even if it was not his preferred method of doing so.
Soldado is working to find his own path to success in his new country. Unique as that process will be to him, the journey itself is one being shared by several Spurs teammates right now.
In his 2009 autobiography, former Spur Ossie Ardiles told of his and Ricky Villa's adaption to England back in 1978, following their joint-move from Argentina. The recent World Cup winner described their new home as being "a shock to us," adding that "in football terms it was very different to what we were used to."
Thanks to trailblazers like Ardiles and Villa, modern arrivals from abroad do not carry the novelty value of back then. In part because of the foreign influence over the three decades that followed, newcomers are also coming into an environment that is not as alien as it once was—both on and off the pitch.
Still, moving to a new country with its different culture and customs is obviously challenging. Football is essentially a simple sport, but the nuances between nations and competitions are substantial enough not everyone will adapt the same.
Argentinian attacker Erik Lamela signed from Roma in August, and last week spoke about his own battle to establish himself. Via Simon Rice's article in The Independent, he said:
The national coach called on me when I was in Rome but now I’m playing in England and I have to adapt quickly. English football is more physical and not as tactical as the Italian game, and I talk to my team-mates about that. To keep my place in the national squad I have to make an impression for my club.
Lamela provided a crucial assist in Spurs' 1-0 win over Cardiff City and has shown glimpses of his talent in a couple of cup outings. But facing a level of competition for places that Soldado, for example, has not, it has been harder for him to deal with the style demands of the Premier League.
Unlike Paulinho (fellow Brazilians Heurelho Gomes and Sandro) or Nacer Chadli (fellow Belgians Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen), Lamela does not have an in-squad support system he can relate to as readily either.
Chadli's own struggle to earn a regular starting position (albeit exacerbated by missing some time through injury) shows that alone does not mean a player will automatically fit in. But it can certainly help.
In Paulinho's case it is not hard to imagine that having some compatriots around has aided the strong start to his Spurs career. As he remembered back in August—here via ESPN.co.uk—previous spells in Europe in Lithuania and Poland were marred by racism.
The Brazil international acknowledged that "the environment and...the other players who I would be playing alongside" influenced his decision to join Spurs. He likely benefited too from knowledge of fellow midfielder Sandro's own experience after arriving in England, with Paulinho proving to be more prepared for the pace of the Premier League than his teammate was back in 2010—not to mention Sandro being great company, as indicated by the @SpursOfficial Tweet below:
The different purposes each of the summer signings have are obviously big factors too, each being subject to influence by issues foreseen or otherwise.
Christian Eriksen might not be contending with as many rivals for his preferred starting position as Chadli and Lamela. Like those two though, he is attempting to prove his creative talents can make the jump from from a stylistically different league.
Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches' respective involvement thus far has seen injuries have their say, while the latter initially had to await the approval of his work permit.
Plenty more challenges lie ahead for the latest additions to Tottenham's foreign contingent. Perhaps the next biggest will be seeing how they deal with having to spend Christmas and New Year's playing football and not resting...!
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