Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane and Erik Lamela Key to Spurs Progress This Season

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Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane and Erik Lamela Key to Spurs Progress This Season
Petros Karadjias/Associated Press

Trailing 1-0 to Cypriot side AEL Limassol in the first leg of their Europa League playoff, Tottenham Hotspur were on the verge of an embarrassing defeat. 

The introduction of Erik Lamela changed the game and sparked Spurs to life. The Argentine created two goals, and Mauricio Pochettino was spared an ignominious first defeat as Tottenham manager. 

Lamela's disappointing first season seems headed for the dustbin of history as he rapidly rebuilds his reputation. An excellent pre-season hinted that the former Roma forward was ready to hit his best form. In fact, he seemed to be returning to the style of play that was so effective when he was in Rome. 

When Lamela earned his €30 million move to Spurs, he did it by starting wide on the right and floating into the centre to influence play. In combination with other intelligent players, like his mentor, Francesco Totti, Lamela is excellent at creating and exploiting space to make and score goals. 

Within minutes of coming on for Andros Townsend in the Europa League, Lamela picked up the ball in midfield. Driving towards goal, he spotted the run of Roberto Soldado. The Spanish striker pulled away from his defender and Lamela floated a perfect pass over the retreating Limassol defence. Soldado struck fiercely with his first touch to level the scores at 1-1. 

PA (h/t The Telegraph) described the pass as exquisite. 

A typically weaving run then created the space for Harry Kane to hit the winning goal. He dragged the defenders out of position before rolling the ball into the path of Kane's supporting run. There was no finesse in the strike as Kane hammered home the winner. 

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Lamela was not at his best against West Ham, but he still influenced the game and showed sparks of his undeniable quality. Against a tiring defence in the heat of Cyprus, he was decisive. 

After making both goals, he then had two excellent scoring chances. One shot was well-saved, the other agonisingly pushed wide.

Lamela is beginning to make a habit of influencing, if not dominating, every game. This was a 20-minute substitute appearance against a weak opposition, but Lamela has done this before at the highest level. He is not breaking new ground with these performances, only returning to his best form.

The Mirror quoted Pochettino after the match as saying, "It is never easy in the first season for a player from another country. It's true it was difficult for him. He was injured, too, but we are confident that with time and hard work, that he can go far."

Lamela is well on his way to proving Pochettino right.  

So far this season, Spurs have won both their matches with late goals. Harry Kane scored one of those and created the other, emerging as one of Spurs' most important players. 

It is telling that Pochettino turned to Kane ahead of Soldado when searching for a winning goal against West Ham. A testament to his versatility, Kane has played in different roles in each of the matches. 

Kane created a great chance for Spurs to take an early lead in Cyprus when his powerful shot was spilled by Limassol's keeper. Soldado was on the spot but reacted too slowly and pushed his shot wide. 

As Spurs struggled to make an impact, Kane was a lone cause for optimism. His positioning and his football intelligence are his greatest assets, and for that reason, he will only get better with experience. 

Last season, Kane contributed a handful of goals. He scored four in 19 games, per WhoScored.com, including a run of three goals in three appearances. But this season he is growing into a key player. 

If Spurs are to reach the tantalising, elusive Champions League they will need both Erik Lamela and Harry Kane to leave their mark on the season. 

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Lamela will be Spurs' difference-maker. Tall and elegant, the forward moves effortlessly through opposition defences. He was compared to Lionel Messi when first emerging at River Plate. At 22, Messi had two European Cups and over 40 international caps. Lamela isn't the next Messi, but he may soon be playing alongside him for Argentina. 

There are few players with his combination of balance and skill in the Premier League. He runs at great pace and with excellent control. If his scoring touch develops, he could become a truly devastating player. Spurs have shown their faith in him by not giving up after one difficult season. Now they are beginning to reap the rewards of that faith. 

Kane has gradually improved, and those who wrote him off after an unsuccessful loan spell at Norwich would do well to remember that he is only now 21 years old. 

He is on the cusp of being a regular starter.

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To reach that point, he must improve. If he does raise himself to that level, Spurs will possess two very different but equally effective attackers. Kane's mind and Lamela's movement will form a devastating one-two punch.

With Christian Eriksen alongside them and the solid midfield base of Nabil Bentaleb and Etienne Capoue, Spurs have an excellent midfield and possess the seeds of a genuinely brilliant team. 

Kane and Lamela, different in so many ways, can become Spurs' odd couple. Together they can help Spurs hold their place in England's top six and push for the Champions League.

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