Tottenham Hotspur Must Persevere with Erik Lamela or Risk Consequences

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Tottenham Hotspur Must Persevere with Erik Lamela or Risk Consequences
Matt Dunham
Sightings of Erik Lamela on the pitch this season have been rare and often underwhelming. He has hinted at his potential on occasion, however.

Erik Lamela's first season at Tottenham Hotspur has turned into a joke.

The below poster has been doing the rounds on social media this week.

Last summer's £25.8 million recruit from Roma has not appeared for Tottenham since the 3-0 win over Stoke City in late-December. In all, he has featured just 17 times this season.

As reported last week by Ben Pearce of the Tottenham & Wood Green Journal, Lamela is unlikely to play for the north London club again this season:

"He isn’t fit to play," manager Tim Sherwood confirmed to Pearce and the gathered media at his press conference last week. He added:

He’s been unfortunate with injuries and it’s a shame that he’s picked up the knocks because, taking the settling-in period aside, how are you meant to settle when you can’t go out there and perform because you’ve had this serious back injury? 

He’s probably not going to play this season. It looks that way, he’s been out a very long time. He’s going to need a pre-season before he can play.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
It might be a long shot after the season he has had, but Erik Lamela may stilll represent La Albiceleste at the World Cup.

Sherwood also revealed he had no problem with Lamela possibly taking a place in Argentina's World Cup squad. With the necessary preparation, the Spurs boss suggested a summer of football could benefit the player heading into next season.

The disappointing nature of Lamela's first campaign in England is likely to mean his future is speculated on in the coming weeks. Given his failure to immediately make an impact, it would not be out of the question for a football club to give up on such an expensive outlay (or a flop, as some might term it).

Spurs have done so in the past—for instance, with another highly touted young player in Helder Postiga in 2004, albeit in different circumstances—but should resist the instinct on this occasion.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
The then 22-year-old Helder Postiga was sold back to Porto in 2004 after just one season with Spurs.

Pragmatically speaking, even with Spurs' relatively healthy financial state, it would be terrible business to call time on the two parties' professional relationship after just a year. They would be very unlikely to recoup the fee they spent on Lamela if they decided to sell, anyway.

However, the chief reason Spurs must persevere with him is they do not want to regret missing out on the kind of player the 22-year-old might become.

Lamela has not come close to recapturing the 15-goal, five-assist form of his 2012-13 campaign with Roma.

As Sherwood mentioned, he has had to acclimate to a new country, not to mention learn a new language. The wider changes to the playing staff at Spurs meant the Argentinian was not coming into a settled team either (Paulinho and Roberto Soldado have notably had to deal with all these issues, too).

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Lamela set up Paulinho's stoppage time winner against Cardiff City.

All this might have been moot if Lamela had been completely woeful. But the glimpses of his talent and what he might be capable of for Spurs have been there.

His terrific dribble and cross from the right wing to set up Paulinho's winner against Cardiff City in September was a rare sight in Lamela's first few weeks. Coming in from that flank, he had, and would, struggle to adapt to the Premier League's physicality, often being brushed off the ball.

The 2-1 Europa League home win over Sheriff Tiraspol was Lamela's most enjoyable performance individually. He scored his first goal for Spurs, firing a rebounded ball into the bottom corner after an attempted one-two with Christian Eriksen did not come off:

via Tumblr

The attacker also reveled in the laxer defending of the Transnistrian outfit, completing 11 of 16 attempted take-on attempts—as tallied by Squawka.com—including a bewitching run between challenges to win a penalty, which Jermain Defoe duly converted.

Squawka.com
Erik Lamela's attempted take ons at home to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.

It is partly true that Lamela was better suited to weaker opposition than the Premier League standard. But despite his obvious need to adapt to the challenges posed by English opponents, he was clearly striving to improve.

This writer described his performance against Hull City in the Capital One Cup as "the most encouraging seen by the attacker over more than a 10-minute spell since his arrival in England this past summer. Lamela worked hard to make an impression, getting up and going at Hull repeatedly."

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Lamela was in battling form during Spurs' Capital One Cup win over Hull City in October.

The same was true in the 2-1 win over Fulham, and even to a certain extent in the 6-1 loss at Manchester City. Despite some of his attempts at contributing not coming off, Lamela did not hide away.

What is looking like the last notable contribution of the South American's campaign came in Sherwood's first league game in charge. One-nil down to Southampton, Lamela spread the ball out wide to Roberto Soldado, launching a counter-attack that would lead to Emmanuel Adebayor equalising.

It was a well-judged pass, one in keeping with Lamela's generally solid instincts of how to use the ball. He clearly has an eye for finding ways through teams (his time at Roma especially backs that up). His problem has been applying it while under close, often aggressive scrutiny by the players trying to stop him.

Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Spurs boss Tim Sherwood has praised Lamela's talent and sympathised with his struggles in his first season in England.

The uncertainty of Spurs' managerial situation heading into next season means there are few guarantees as to what Lamela would be returning to. Publicly, Sherwood at least appears to have faith in him. As reported by The Guardian's David Hytner, he told the press in February:

...we signed him for the long term and we are sure that, in the end, he will come good for Tottenham and be a crowd favourite here. We are all big fans of him when we see him in training. It is just difficult to adjust to a different style of play and a different language. I'm sure Erik will pick it up. By the time he is fit, he will be fluent.

Football's hurry-up culture would have Spurs cast Lamela aside, so Sherwood's logic is refreshing.

Ultimately, it may not work out for Lamela at White Hart Lane. His youth and unfulfilled potential make it worth Tottenham's while to try, though. Not least because they do not want to risk losing out on a gem of a player.

It is up to Lamela now to not completely lose heart in the process, either.

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