Christian Eriksen was Spurs’ best player this season, despite being mostly played away from his best position. So it seems only logical that the manager for next season, whoever that might be, should build the team around the Danish wonder. However, Erik Lamela might be as important, if not more, to Spurs chances of rebounding and challenging for a top four spot. That may sound crazy, but even though he isn’t necessarily as good as Eriksen, Lamela’s tactical importance to the side could be the key to unlocking the entire team’s potential.
Tim Sherwood, likely unintentionally, proved that by moving a playmaker like Christian Eriksen wide he could open up opposing defenses from a different angle. Unfortunately most fans agree that while effective, this strategy actually limits Eriksen’s ability to control games by giving him only half the field to work with. However, moving the Dane back into the middle and playing Erik Lamela out on one of the wings not only restores Eriksen to his best position, but also gives Spurs an additional creative playmaker who can also function as an advanced forward/winger. A front four of Lamela, Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado (or Emmanuel Adebayor) is potentially devastating in the final third. With essentially two #10s, it also means that Spurs’ manager (assuming it isn’t Tim Sherwood) could return to playing a double midfield pivot, better protecting what has become a very fragile defense.
Spurs have often been criticized this year (mostly under AVB) for a lack of creativity going forward. In the early portion of the season many saw the reason being the manager’s reliance on too many defensive-minded players in the middle. Paulinho and Mousa Dembele both spent time lined up as the highest attacking midfielder under AVB and neither showed enough guile or artistry to hold down the role. Tim Sherwood tried to solve that problem by playing more attacking players like Nacer Chadli and Gylfi Sigurdsson as central midfielders. While Spurs have been better on the ball under Sherwood, that tactic has its own problems, namely a lack of bite and defensive awareness in the middle of the park.
There has also been a significant lack of goal scoring chances coming from the right wing. Neither Aaron Lennon nor Andros Townsend provides the necessary balance between goal scoring ability and creative vision. Lamela solves many of these issues. While he’s no Gareth Bale, he is certainly pacey, especially with the ball at his feet. Perhaps more importantly, he can both shoot from distance with accuracy and use his excellent vision to find teammates in space. Spurs may even reintroduce the lost art of the through ball.
With Lamela on the wing, Eriksen restored to the middle and a proper midfield to move the ball from back to front and protect the defense, Spurs can hopefully find the right balance between attacking verve and tactical solidity they need to improve on this year’s disappointing campaign.