You could look at how Andre Villas-Boas handled the arrival of Hugo Lloris last season in one of two ways. On the one hand, you could say AVB patiently waited until he felt Lloris was ready for the Premier League and his carefully-managed integration into the team spared Hugo from the confidence-shattering adaptation struggles so many new keepers to the league have faced and helped him achieve the stellar performances he managed last season.
On the other hand, you could say his slavish devotion to Brad Friedel and pig-headed refusal to start Lloris immediately directly cost us points that ultimately kept us out of the Champions League.
Those of us looking for easy explanations don't really ever have the information necessary to say one way or another. Take a guy like Erik Lamela. Right now the easy narratives Spurs fans cling to is that he's either a £30m flop or AVB's an idiot for not starting him. But it's never that simple.
He's played fewer than 70 minutes in the Premier League and any claims that he was a waste of money are incredibly premature. Lamela scored more non-penalty goals per minute last year than any winger in the world besides Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Reus. Yes, more than the great Gareth Bale.
But just because he was amazing last year doesn't mean AVB's an idiot for not giving him his chance. You could say that about any player on this team. Everybody on Spurs deserves a chance based on how they performed at some other club. That's why we bought them. Because at some point, Gylfi Sigurdsson was awesome at Swansea and Nacer Chadli was awesome at Twente.
But they can't all play every game, and the manager has to figure out who and why and when. People seem to think that if a player was really good at team x and he isn't really good at team y, then the manager is doing something wrong. But this oversimplification overlooks so many other variables.
For people who write about football, there's a tendency to put a lot more stock in the immediately observable. Stats, formations, performances, even press conferences. We see these things every day and we can draw conclusions from them. Anything else the media isn't privy to is easily discarded as irrelevant. Which is a mistake. Because there is so much more that affects a player's performance than what happens in training or on the pitch. There's a human being here too.
AVB recently spoke on the Lamela situation. He said:
"We have been speaking a lot with him. I think getting acquainted to the Premier League is important but he doesn't know the language.
"(Roberto) Soldado had some knowledge of the language before (he came) so it was a little bit easier for him.
"With Erik it was a little bit more difficult but we have given him massive, massive help and his family arrived this week," he added.
"He knows he isn't producing half of what he can produce but he understands the situation now is that he has to compete for his place."
It's easy to forget that Erik Lamela is a 21 year old kid living 7,000 miles from home in a strange country where he doesn't speak the language with no friends and no family nearby. And that's just the beginning. Every single aspect of his work life and his personal life is completely upside down, and he's got other messy, complicated human beings to deal with and forge working and personal relationships with, some of whom may not like him or care to make friends with him or may not even be super happy that he's here.
Imagine walking into your new job in Uganda surrounded by strangers who all speak Swahili. You sit down at your desk, which used to be Asante's desk and everybody liked Asante and who the hell are you that Asante got his hours cut just so you could come work here? You're no Asante.
Andre Villas-Boas has 25 of these weird human things who are good at kicking balls around, all of whom have entire lives and identities away from the training ground. And he's got to do what he can to help them translate those lives to Spurs. But there's only so much he can do, and only so many minutes to spread around. And he's also got to win games.
So while Erik Lamela might never come good for Tottenham Hotspur, or he just might be the savior we've been crying out for all season long, there's a lot more going on than Lamela or AVB being incompetent and useless.
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