Like Christian Eriksen, Lamela is now in his sixth season with Spurs, but whereas the Dane is regarded as a key piece of the furniture, to some, Lamela remains a spare part.
There is no player that splits the Tottenham fanbase more than Lamela. In fact, it is not even close.
To some, the Argentine is a cult hero, thanks to his penchant for rolling his studs over the ball needlessly and his exuberant – bordering on maniacal – interpretation of pressing from the front.
To others, he is a luxury player, able to produce moments of magic – *that* rabona goal against Asteras Tripoli specifically – but far too infrequently to ever be considered more than a squad rotation option.
Regardless of what the supporters think, Pochettino has always found a place in his squad for Lamela – at least, that is, when his Argentine compatriot hasnt been sidelined with the injury problems that have caused him to miss 85 games since his arrival from Roma in 2013.
End product has frequently been an issue for Lamela during his spell with Spurs. Quite incredibly, he has scored fewer league goals in five and a bit seasons in England (12) than he did in his second and final campaign with Roma (15) in 2012-13.
However, that two of those dozen Premier League goals have come in his last two appearances suggests Lamela might finally be adding meaningful contributions in the final third to his unrelenting thirst for pressing, tackling and, well, fouling. Slowly but surely, he is re-establishing himself as an important member of Pochettinos side.
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There was a time when Spurs fans had legitimate fears that Lamela may never play for the club again. For over a year between October 2016 and November 2017, every team news post on Spurs official Twitter account was accompanied by the injury update Erik Lamela (hip).
Lamela described it as the worst year of his life and while his long-awaited comeback was marred by a 2-1 defeat to Leicester, he also capped it with an assist for a Harry Kane goal. Lamela ended the campaign with 25 appearances in the Premier League, although only seven of those came from the start.
Nevertheless, Lamela did enough in those various cameo appearances to convince Pochettino and Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, to hand him a new four-year deal in the summer, which should he see it through, will take him to nine years of service at the club.
It is likely that stability off the field coupled with a full pre-season during a summer in which Pochettino was unable to work with the majority of his first-team squad due to World Cup commitments, has given Lamela the foundations to hit the ground running this season.
He may be yet to start in the league this term, but Lamela has scored twice – in the defeat to Liverpool and win over Brighton – and registered an assist against Fulham in his 70 minutes worth of substitute appearances.
Add to that his assist in 72 minutes against Inter and goal against Watford in the Carabao Cup and Lamela has directly contributed towards five goals in five appearances this season at an average rate of once every 46 minutes. It was also his cute reverse pass into Dele Alli that led to the penalty award for Spurs equaliser against Watford on Wednesday.
As is customary for playing for a big club, Lamela will always be directly compared – for better or worse – to his teammates. He isnt as creative as Eriksen, he isnt as accomplished a finisher as Son Heung-Min and he doesnt possess the sheer explosiveness that Lucas Moura brings to the side.
However, he has one of the more complete and varied skill-sets of Spurs attacking players. Besides Eriksen, Lamela is probably Spurs most natural creator in the final third, able to split a defence with a through ball into the path of a teammate.
In recent games, he has also demonstrated how effective he can be on the counter-attack, as his run and dribble before feeding Harry Kane for his August drought-ending goal against Fulham emphasised. Based on recent form, meanwhile, he has becoming more efficient in the opposition box, getting into scoring positions and finishing off chances when before he perhaps might not have done.
With Eriksen sidelined for Spurs trip to Huddersfield this weekend, Lamelas rebirth has come at an opportune time for Pochettino and Spurs. If he can maintain his early season form, it will be become increasingly difficult for Pochettino to ignore his starting merits. Who needs summer signings anyway?
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