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The Erik Lamela Experience - The New Normal

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Getting used to the New Normal

A dramatic article could be written about Erik Lamela's performance on Monday night against Aston Villa.

Performances like Monday night are not a revelation anymore. They're routine.

It would be filled with statistics that paint a picture of how solid his overall performance was. It would employ flowery prose to describe how he linked together Spurs' attack throughout the game. It might use painful metaphors to demonstrate how far he's come since his first dreadful sub appearance at the beginning of the season. And it would likely lead off with one of the quotes from Bill Nicholson or Danny Blanchflower that is shoehorned into every other blog post about Spurs.

But honestly, we're at a point where this kind of piece would do a disservice to Lamela.

Performances like Monday night are not a revelation anymore. They're routine.

We have reached a point where Lamela is no longer a failure, a prospect, or some aquagelled receptacle for our hopes and dreams. While there is still untapped potential to be realized, right now he is a reliable, dependable part of one of the most exciting Tottenham Hotspur squads in ages.

Lamela played a crucial role on Monday night. After getting a bit too comfortable, Spurs lost control of the match. Months ago, Lamela would have been at the heart of this breakdown, but on Monday he was the player who did more than anyone else to solve it. At a time when Spurs couldn't string two passes together, Lamela took control of the game. He provided much needed connectivity between Spurs' defense and attack, running Spurs play and eventually sealing the match with a smart assist to Harry Kane.

However, this wasn't extraordinary, because he's been playing this way for weeks. It is a strange thing, because when you sign a player for 30 million pounds, particularly an Argentine known for his flair, it comes with certain expectations.

Lamela wasn't just bought following Bale's departure. He was given Bale's number right away. The implication was clear: this is the man who will fill the void left by the player who may have just had the best season ever in a Spurs shirt.

It might not be as exciting, but it's important and it's getting the job done.

For the past two years, many Spurs fans latched onto anything good that Lamela did as a sign of hope. That through ball meant his vision was still excellent, this goal meant he was finding his scoring boots, and that new haircut meant he had stopped taking advice from Lewis Holtby. All in the vain search for the 30 million pound man who was going to replace Gareth Bale.

For better or worse, it looks like we're never going to see that player. But what we have is an excellent creative player who is a vital part of what could be one of the most effective and exciting teams in English football. It might not be as exciting, but it's important and it's getting the job done.

Lamela has cut the mistakes out of his game and become perhaps the best executor of Pochettino's press. He has gone from a headless chicken passing into the other team's feet to a seamless part of a system that has produced one of the best runs of form that Spurs have seen in years.

So Lamela's success has been a strange kind of success. While fans have begun to warm up to what he brings to the team, what has been most notable isn't the uptick in praise but the evaporation of criticism.

As fans we need to adjust our perceptions of Lamela and recognize that the competent, committed performance we saw on Monday night is becoming exceedingly ordinary. And how can you criticize that?