It's probably safe to say that Erik Lamela hasn't quite lived up to his price tag yet at Tottenham Hotspur. The club-record £26m winger, signed from Roma in the summer of 2013, battled difficulties in adapting to life in England as well as injuries that kept him out of the side for the majority of the 2013-14 season. In quotes given to the IB Times, Lamela expounded on his struggles and how he's feeling about life at Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino.
"Maybe [the poor first season] was my fault at some point but I never had the training sessions to do it better. There was a lack of training to [help me get] fit. This year, the sessions are helping me a lot and obviously [there is] the continuity of the games too.
"There has been a big change from last season. I started last season without playing and never had the chance to do it..."
It's true that some major injuries certainly played their part in Lamela failing to impress for Spurs last season, and it's interesting to hear Lamela talk about how he didn't get a lot of training assistance to help him get fit. It was widely believed that Lamela was not favored by Villas-Boas, preferring the likes of Aaron Lennon and Nacer Chadli even when Lamela was fit and available, and his quotes seem to corroborate that he wasn't getting a whole lot of help under AVB.
While Lamela hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season, he has gotten a string of matches under his belt and is continuing to improve and find his place in Tottenham's system under Mauricio Pochettino. Lamela didn't have the best of matches in this past weekend's North London Derby, but his effort could not be faulted, and his work rate in Spurs' counter-press was one of many factors that led to Spurs' 2-1 victory. Lamela seems to understand that he's still a work in progress, and that he has to keep working hard to progress:
"Pochettino is doing a really good job. We pressed a lot. We didn't let them play. We are playing good football and with a lot of character. We played a great game. We were very aggressive and really deserved the victory.
I think I can give much more. I always have to learn but with the training sessions and the games, I am sure I will reach it again," he said.
I am just one more member of the squad. I am here to add something to the squad, playing or not playing. Last year I did not play what I expected but always had a good face and supported my colleagues until the last game. This year I'm happy but I want to score more goals, provide more assists... I have to be ambitious. Obviously, I can give much more."
The skill is there – witness his remarkable Rabona goal in the Europa league a few months ago. He's still young and immensely talented, and if you consider last year a "lost season" perhaps we should look at 2014-15 as Lamela's first true season in English football. With time, work, and patience, perhaps the young Argentine can prove to everyone why he was rated so high in Italy.