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Welcome to the Erik Lamela Experience

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A harrowing journey into Spurs' right flank

The stage was set and the moment was his.

After 64 minutes of football, Tottenham Hotspur trailed Manchester United by only a single goal. Though the match had been evenly played, Spurs needed some creativity in their attack if they were going to break down United's defense.

Like so many other games, the spotlight was squandered and his moment had passed.

On paper, he was exactly what Tottenham needed to break through and get something out of this game. He should have added the cutting edge that Spurs needed to cut through United and create some real chances to take control of the game.

Instead, he did what he always did. He provided solid, if unspectacular support in attack. He tried some passes that didn't quite come off and made some runs that didn't end up leading anywhere.

Like so many other games, the spotlight was squandered and his moment had passed. If you needed to summarize Erik Lamela's time at Tottenham Hotspur, this game would do nicely.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

When Tottenham sold Gareth Bale in the summer of 2013, Erik Lamela was exactly the type of player they should have spent money on. One of the most exciting prospects to emerge from River Plate's youth academy, he was sold to Roma in 2011. In his second season in Serie A, Lamela scored 15 times in 33 games. Only 21 years old and he had already had an elite season in one of Europe's top leagues.

On paper, he was the perfect solution for Spurs.


Lamela was a creative attacker who could play in the middle or on the flank, giving Spurs some much needed goals in the wake of Bale's departure. His relative lack of experience in Europe meant that he was still a year or two away from being targeted by a big money club. And having only just turned 21, he had barely scratched the surface of his potential.

On paper, he was the perfect solution for Spurs. However, he has never been able to step off the page and be the player that everyone thought he could be.

Whether it was troubles adapting to the pace of the Premier League, the language barrier, internal club politics, insane coaches, the pressures of being a club's record signing, or simply injuries, Lamela never seemed to settle at Spurs.

He's become a source of ridicule for neutrals and opposition fans - just another mistake by Spurs as they wasted the opportunity that Gareth Bale's departure afforded them.

For many Tottenham fans he is a source of endless frustration. A player from a crap league who can't handle England and should probably focus less on his hair and more on getting stuck in.

When I watch Spurs I find myself endlessly frustrated by Erik Lamela, not because of his failures, but because he is so infuriatingly close to being good. When you watch Lamela, more often than not you can see what he was trying to do. And not only is it generally the right idea, it's not that far away from coming off. A brilliant through ball that would put Kane one on one with the keeper is only just cut out by a last second challenge. A slaloming run through the defense lasts just a second too long and he finds himself in a blind alley with nowhere to go. He waits just an instant too long to rip off a shot and the ball finds the back of a defender instead of the back of the net.

You can't count on Erik Lamela but you can't count him out either. And that's what makes him so frustrating.


And then, just when you're ready to give up on him, his talent shines through. He makes a great cutback to assist for a goal, transforms himself into the best part of Spurs' press, or hits a rabona that should have been a candidate for the Puskas Award. You can't count on Erik Lamela but you can't count him out either. And that's what makes him so frustrating.


Last year was up and down for Lamela at Spurs. He played his way out of the team before spending the last two months being one of the best players in it. He went from a defensive liability to shutting down the right side of the pitch when we couldn't count on our fullback. He only scored one league goal last year, but he also lead the team in assists. Progress has been made, but we're still not seeing the elite attacker we thought we were breaking our transfer record for.

Even though he is only 23 and has years left on his contract, this year has the feeling of a make or break year for Lamela. Entering his second year in Pochettino's system for his third year of English football, it feels as if he is out of excuses.

I want to see him succeed, and not just because there probably isn't a version of this team that succeeds without a very good Erik Lamela. I like Lamela.

He is the quintessential nearly-man for the quintessential nearly-team.


Maybe it's because he is clearly one of the hardest working players on the club. Maybe it's because it's easier to empathize with his struggles. Maybe I just like the idea of Argentines carrying Spurs to success once again.

In his own way, Erik Lamela is the perfect player for Spurs. He is the quintessential nearly-man for the quintessential nearly-team. Over the course of the 2015-2016 season we're going to follow him, checking in on him every week to see if he remains the embodiment of unrealized potential, or if he can put it all together and take Spurs with him to the next level.

I expect we'll learn a lot about someone who was once one of the most promising young players in all of Europe. He's probably not going to be as good as some of us hope or as bad as some of us expect. But maybe he'll surprise us. After all, it's not like we saw that rabona coming.