During Spurs' match with Manchester City there was a moment shortly before the half that I thought would define Lamela's day, if not his season.
In the 45th minute, Eric Dier hit a daisy cutter through City's defense, hitting first the post and then the back of the net. As Caballero spun around to berate his defense, Eric Dier was already peeling off to the side of the pitch to celebrate.
He ran into the waiting arms of Kyle Walker, the man who had started the series of play that led to the goal, admittedly from an offside position. Trailing Dier the entire way was Erik Lamela, overjoyed and waiting to celebrate his teammate's equalizer. After Walker put Dier down, he spun around into what seemed to be the waiting arms of his Argentine teammate. Instead he kept on spinning as he turned to face the fans, leaving Lamela hanging.
Lamela eventually got this hug, but I felt terrible watching it. The moment had barely passed before I began to envision the articles that this moment would produce. I could scarcely imagine the rats nest of pained metaphors, repressed teenage memories, and horrific sentence structures that would erupt from this unfortunate moment.
Instead, it went almost entirely unremarked upon. All of the derision and skepticism that has so often accompanied Lamela's performances was absent. The reaction has been so positive that even Lamela's missed shot, which I believe is now in low Earth orbit, has barely warranted any comment at all.
Lamela's performance wasn't just good against Manchester City, it was exceptional. For a player who can seemingly never catch a break from fans or journalists, he has been almost universally acclaimed as man of the match.
It is a strange thing seeing Lamela so unanimously praised, but then again, we have not seen many performances like this from Lamela in a Spurs shirt. Energetic, assured, and technically proficient, Lamela looked every inch the player we paid 30 million for against City.
It is fitting that the moment most fans will remember about Lamela from this game wasn't just his best moment, but a microcosm of his match.
In the 78th minute Clinton N'Jie wriggled loose of his defender on the right flank. After a few strides he played a gorgeous through ball that found Lamela charging in on goal. As good as the ball was, it found Lamela a little too close to the defender and the keeper that stood between him and goal.
A lot could have gone wrong here, and given how he'd played during the rest of the game you might even forgive Lamela for fluffing the chance. Instead he did none of the things you would expect from him in such a tricky spot. He didn't snap a pressured shot off, he didn't lose possession, and he didn't go down. Instead he maintained possession and took Caballero for a walk across his own box. Only when he had a clear shot at the back of the net did he put the ball between the posts.
It was an impressive goal, but it's not what I'll remember. After putting the exclamation point on Spurs' victory over the league leaders, Lamela wheeled off to celebrate. After a moment he found himself alone in the corner for a moment before his teammates caught up with him. He didn't look like the butt of a joke, he didn't look angry, and he didn't look left out.
It had been a long time coming but in the 79th minute of Tottenham Hotspur's win over Manchester City, Erik Lamela looked like he belonged. He looked like he finally arrived.