Spurs: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Lamela?
Yet again in yesterday’s routine Europa League victory over Sheriff, Tottenham’s record signing, Erik Lamela, delivered a performance that was, if we’re being kind, not very good.
Every touch, pass and dribble was unconvincing and he looked about as likely to score as erect a matchstick model of the Vatican in the centre circle. But more than that, it was his general demeanour that was so concerning. On top of his lack of conviction, he actually seems, well, miserable.
What can be done? His withdrawal to the bench on 60 minutes might not have been the best thing for his confidence, but playing another half hour like that could arguably have damaged it further.
One thing’s for sure, he wont be getting his first Premier League start on Sunday against Hull and with competition fierce even for a sub’s birth, he may spend the afternoon in the stands.
But before we despair completely its worth remembering a few mitigating circumstances. To arrive in a new country with all the pressure that results from a big transfer can be a jolting experience for any player. For a 21-year-old to pull of such a move seamlessly would require a prodigious level of insensitivity.
We don’t know his off field circumstances but, in the wake of Bale’s recent move, Michael Owen talked revealingly about the difficulties of living out of a hotel room when he went to Real Madrid. Even with the best will in the world it’s not always possible for a club to ensure that a player settles in overnight. Sandro, another South American prodigy, took months to make an impact on the first team and he had his mate Heurelho Gomes in situ to help him acclimatise. There were no friendly Argentine faces at White Hart Lane to greet Lamela (assuming Villa and Ardiles weren’t re-hired for the task).
So of all the new arrivals, Lamela’s is the hardest assimilation task. He’s the youngest, his has the biggest transfer fee and his culture shock is the most severe.
But there is plenty of reason to remain sanguine. This time last year, Lamela was in the middle of a stunning run of form in Serie A banging in seven goals in six games. He went on to have a season almost as breathtaking as Bale’s and the sound judge that is Franco Baldini – who was watching him at Roma week in week out – would hardly have persuaded Daniel Levy to shell out close to 30 million quid unless he knew was the genuine article.
In the early days of the century when Sergei Rebrov and Helder Postiga turned up in similar circumstances, the hopes of the club rested on their already over-burdened young shoulders and they faded fast. But this Spurs squad has the depth to allow young Erik all the time he needs to get his game face on. This time next year we can reasonably hope that the comparisons will be with Klinsmann and Berbatov, instead...