Erik Lamela: Tottenham's missing piece
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Erik Lamela of Tottenham Hotspur is challenged by Yves Bissouma of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 01, 2020 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by John Walton -

There is no doubt that Erik Lamela did not become the player he was tipped to become after starring at Roma as a youngster and moving to Tottenham to help replace Gareth Bale in 2013. 

Seven years later, the Argentinean has evolved into a different kind of player completely, into a work-horse that defenders hate to deal with.

It was the technical skillset and flair that caught the eye of Andre Villas Boas all those years ago - but the 28-year-old's most important quality for Spurs is his mental qualities - relentless pressing, aggression, passion and determination.

Many Spurs fans were quick to point out that the result could have been totally different against Liverpool last night if Lamela was available - and many have suggested that he would have buried the clear-cut chances presented to Steven Bergwijn.

Lamela, Bale, Lucas or Bergwijn?

Injuries have halted the winger's career on a number of occasions, usually right after a good spell of form, but luckily Spurs won't have to wait too much longer for his return, after returning to light training this week for the first time since his calf injury.

A place in the side won't be a sure thing though for Lamela, with Lucas Moura and Bergwijn still fit and Gareth Bale returning in the near future from his illness.

There could also be chances potentially for Jack Clarke, who is expected to be sent on loan in January, but has impressed for Spurs in the Europa League.

Out of all five wingers, Bale currently has the best goal return - grabbing one goal in his three appearances in the Premier League, while Lucas has one in eleven.

Bergwijn is currently the preferred option, despite only contributing three assists and no goals in all competitions this season, but it is something else that Jose Mourinho likes in the Dutchman that Lamela also has - work-rate.

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Both players are demanded by their manager that they track back and defensive contributions are constant in order for Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son to have more clear cut opportunities on the counter.

While Bergwijn completes more passes per game and gets more touches of the ball per game - Lamela is clearly more competent at defending from the front, getting more interceptions and tackles in per game and also contributing more at the other end with more big chances created and more shots and shots on target.

Lamela's contributions outside the final third

In 159 Premier League appearances for Tottenham, 39 goal contributions (16 goals and 23 assists) does not seem good enough for a title challenging side - but like I said before, it is Lamela's off the ball work that is important for the 2018-19 Champions League Runners-Up.

Mourinho infamously told his team to stop being 'nice guys' as seen in the Amazon Prime documentary 'All or Nothing', and Lamela is probably the first person Mourinho got to demonstrate to the rest of the team just what he meant.

Take the demolition of Manchester United earlier on in the season for example - the Argentinean gave Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw a nightmare with his aggression and determination for Tanguy Ndombele's equaliser - and then drew Anthony Martial into making a red card-worthy reaction.

You can debate whether or not it justified a red card, or whether he should have received one, but at the end of the day, it was game-changing and exactly what Mourinho required out of him.

Taking the rest of his Tottenham career into account and you can see just how much he played the villain (despite somehow avoiding a red card every single time), and often it played a significant role in giving his side the win - without him having to be involved in a goal.

Another huge element to Lamela's play-style is his ability to win the ball back and pass forward - he has made 185 successful tackles and 106 interceptions during his time in North London playing in the league - and more often than not those tackles follow with a pass forward, not backwards.

The reality is, Spurs do not need another goalscorer in their starting line-up if Kane and Son just keep setting each other up and scoring, they need workers who can get dirty and get Spurs on the front foot - and Lamela is the man to do that.

 

 

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