Football

Can Erik Lamela be Tottenham's star man this season?

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There's a story about Erik Lamela from his time with River Plate which seems to sum up his temperament quite nicely. 

Then 12-years-old, the young Argentine was playing in a youth tournament in France. A scout from Barcelona was in attendance and after Lamela scored five times in one game, decided that he'd seen enough. Lamela's father was approached, and told no trial was necessary. There was a place waiting at La Masia for him. He never took it. 

"It wasn't the right time for me or my family," he said some years later. "River was my home and I'm sure we made the right decision." Far from being the fleet-footed fancy Dan winger he may seem, there's plenty about Lamela beyond the matinee idol looks and diamond earrings. There's a purpose, and a will to succeed.

10 years later and in London via Rome, he's now fighting to demonstrate that he's worthy of being Tottenham's most expensive player ever. He showed then, and he's showing now, that he has enough about him to bounce back from his nightmare first season with Spurs to be the player most believe he can be.

Renewal

A new season, hopes renewed. The summer cleanse means the slate has been wiped clean, but for Erik Lamela the pains of the last campaign were ever-present and etched across his face as he demanded the ball time and time again during Tottenham's 1-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park this afternoon.

The Argentine has been derided, written off, branded a flop. Never mind that he was asked to fill the hole left by Gareth Bale as Spurs' most expensive player ever. Never mind that he was cruelly robbed of the chance to do that - and represent his country at the World Cup - through a string of injuries.

Never mind his age, or the fact he was trying to fit into a team with six other new faces that barely knew each other. Never mind that the manager who signed him was gone before the season was out. Yep, he was beyond help, a waste of money.

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Having been given the chance to unleash 12 months of bottled up frustration against West Ham, today was a new start, another chance for Lamela. The former prince of Roma was certainly out to impress but may have fallen victim to his own enthusiasm as he put in a mixed performance which hinted at his potential but highlighted the areas he must work on.

Long-term plans

Part of new manager Mauricio Pochettino's brief upon taking up the reins at White Hart Lane was to get the best out of the £30 million-man, and he was thrown in at the deep end, against rivals West Ham in front of a partisan crowd.

It wasn't quite the chastening experience when he was thrown to the wolves against Manchester City last season, but this was no easy opening to the new chapter in his career.

From the off Lamela was desperate to show what he could do. In his 60 minutes on the field he touched the ball 40 times - roughly double the number of Aaron Lennon on the opposite wing who was hooked by Pochettino at the same time. If it were up to Lamela, that figure would be tripled, so often was he seen with his arms out-stretched while imploring a team-mate to pass.

When he did get the ball, there was some nice deft touches - especially when Eriksen was nearby; each player seems to have an appreciation of the others gift of finding space - but ultimately the smattering of dribbles and stepovers led nowhere.

Freedom

He was given license to roam and swapped flanks with Aaron Lennon but - and credit must go to a resolute West Ham for this - his impact was minimal; he had no shots, and made no key passes in the game, while his pass success rate was down at 72%. One no-look flick on the halfway line that gifted West Ham a golden chance to break away in particular drew grimaces from the Spurs bench.

When his number was flashed up to call time on his game his understandable frustration was evident. This is a man in a hurry to prove his worth.There is time for him to prove his doubters wrong though -  this wasn't the game but there are plenty more to come. He's fit, and has a manager willing to give him a chance as he looks to mould this Spurs side into a unit capable of breaking into the top four.

Perhaps more crucially though, he has the right attitude. The lord loves a trier, and Lamela proved today that he's just that.

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Topics:
Football
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League

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