Tottenham Hotspur roll into West Brom with two of their most important attacking players ready to come back into the team. Erik Lamela seems to be returning to fitness after an injury he suffered while on international duty. Meanwhile, Dele Alli is eligible after serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Unfortunately, given the form and fitness of the rest of the team, it seems like there's only one spot between the two of them in Spurs' starting XI.
The Cartilage Free staff discusses who they would chose between these two players.
This is not exactly the kind of decision I thought we'd be facing when we began the 2015/16 season. And if I was told we had to make it, I probably would not expect that it meant good things for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. But here we are.
Given the lethargic performance against Chelsea last week, I might have leaned towards whichever one could inject more energy into the team, but both are well rested and their play styles are both fairly energetic, so that doesn't really help much. I think Erik Lamela has been a revelation this year and made himself a very important cog in Spurs' press and their attack. His effort has been second to none and only Eric Dier surpasses him on the field of delightfully dirty fouls.
However, as important as he's been, I think Dele Alli brings a important bit of creativity and drive to the midfield that is harder to replicate than Lamela's contributions, outstanding though they are. If we were playing a team that I was more concerned about keeping honest, I'd probably pick Lamela. And even thought I love our Argentine Ahole, I'm inclined to go with Dele Alli. He's added a lot to our attack this season and he's in a rich vein of form. I think that's going to be very important in general, but it's going to be vital in a game where we're going to be playing on the front foot. Lo siento, Coco.
Alli for me, with Lamela available off the bench. Alli is a powerful midfield runner who can punch holes through a packed Baggies defense. Son will do the same thing from wide areas.
Lamela offers two nice qualities: He's a nice creative passer and increases our defensive work rate in the attacking third. Realistically, I don't know that either of those things will help us a ton this weekend. The defensive work rate isn't going to be as necessary against West Brom and I think I trust the direct attacking of Son and Alli to break down a Pulis side more than I trust the clever passing of Lamela and Eriksen. That said, I think this will be a game where it will become apparent pretty quickly whether or not an aggressive press and direct running will work. So if it isn't working, I hope Poche would bring Lamela on early in the second half.
In a vacuum, this is a very difficult decision, as both have been very good for Tottenham this season, albeit in different ways. If both are 100%, I'm inclined to stick with Lamela in the attacking midfield band. But we're not in a vacuum, and a couple of injury-related matters tip the balance for me. 1) Erik Lamela is only now coming back into the team. He looked rusty against Chelsea, but until he's back to full fitness he would be better as an impact sub. 2) The injury to Ryan Mason means that we're a little thin at CM, with Tom Carroll the likely backup/substitute for Dembele. So for now, until Erik's back to the Erik we remember pre-injury, I'd rather roll with Dele at the #10, Dembele behind him in the pivot, and Eriksen and Sonny flanking him on the wings.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. While Lamela has been wonderful for much of this season, it is the backbone of the squad that has been sensational. Dier, Dembélé, and Alli together have bossed the midfield in nearly every game that they've played. They have also scored their fair share of goals as well. If WBA bunkers down, it could be time to insert the crafty Argentine, but give Alli the start.
Arguments can be made for either player — if we know WBA are going to be overly defensive, then why not start the flair player? Yet the reason Alli gets the nod over Coco is that we don't ultimately know if we need that option. Alli, Dembélé, and Dier could be so dominant that that we simply bullrush our way to a 2-0 lead. If we are tied though, or even down, I trust Lamela to add that different layer of attack to trip up the WBA defense. Dele over Lamela. Waaa Waaa Waaaaaaaaaa.
Lamela and Alli have been good this year. Both of these players have done much to earn inclusion in the first XI. I don't think that Spurs will suffer greatly if Pochettino doesn't choose my preferred lineup, but I think Dele Alli is the man for the job.
Dele Alli enables Spurs to play the sorta-kinda 4-3-3 that we've seen used to great effect, while Erik Lamela would make our formation a more traditional 4-2-3-1. I think the sorta-kinda 4-3-3 brings out the best in several of our players. Most importantly, Alli gives Mousa Dembele added freedom to push forward from midfield either off the dribble or in the press. Staying in position deeper in midfield and passing forward is one of Dembele's relative weaknesses. With Alli in the team to cycle back into midfield and generally have the capacity to cover insane mounts of ground, Dembele can instead focus more on doing what he does best, pressing and dribbling. Alli moving through the center of midfield also creates opportunities for Son and Eriksen either to drift into the attack and pick up the ball in wide areas, or to cut into the space Alli leaves open as they move centrally. It's a dynamic system that has been a lot of fun.
Honestly, this is a win-win because I feel both have shown they fit Poche's system. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick one, I'd probably stick with Lamela. Erik has shown he is pressing like a madman and, as soon as a turnover happens and he's out on the wing, he is looking to feed that ball into the penalty area for anyone available. He knows his purpose and does it well. That being said, both of these guys have been great this year and I'm comfortable with either.
I don't know, I've always been a Steed Malbranque guy myself.