Ode to Coco: Lamela’s growth at The Lane

In our series of player reviews, Kevin Forde assesses the growth of Erik Lamela as a force within the Tottenham camp – considering whether there is even more to come from the Argentinian playmaker.

I feel it’s fair to say nobody divided opinion amongst the White Hart Lane faithful more than Erik Lamela during his second season at the club, you either loved him or hated him. I fell, and continue to fall, into the former rather than the latter.

Of the six players brought into the club with the money from the sale of Gareth Bale, “Coco” fell somewhere in the middle of the performance matrix as Eriksen and Chadli proved and continued to be money well spent, Capoue and Chiriches flopped while Soldado and Lamela struggled to find their collective feet – much less show the form that convinced the club to sign them from Valencia and Roma respectively.

In his defence I will say Lamela was unfortunate to be injured in his 2013/14 debut season at the club. That, coupled with a season that capitulated early on with heavy defeats to Man City and Liverpool saw the AVB era brought to an abrupt end.

Signing overseas players can be a risk. On the one hand, Christian Eriksen took to England and the EPL like the proverbial “duck to water” whilst Erik seemed to struggle as a 21 year old in a foreign country without family around him where he may not have spoken the native tongue may have added to his on field woes which contributed to only nine first team appearances.

Enter fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino as the new boss at the club and for the past two seasons has been a near ever present in the line up with 33 and 34 Premier League appearances, respectively.

I never saw Erik play for Roma, I don’t follow Serie A with the same passion I do of the EPL, period, and due to one Paul Gascoigne playing for Lazio, any loyalties I have in Italy tend to be for Le Aquile – The Eagles – so I cannot attest as to what it was that convinced the club to sign “Coco” to begin with.

What I could, however, lend weight to was the unfair “next Gareth Bale” comparisons that were unjustifiably hung around Erik’s neck like the proverbial Albertross.

We all have fond memories of Gareth Bale at the end of his Spurs career, the San Siro hat trick, the “taxi for Maicon” in the return leg at White Hart Lane accompanied by many an emphatic goal along the way.

But lest we forget the frail young left back the club signed from Southampton in 2007 who was frequently injured, often too easily displaced off the ball and we went zero for twenty four in his first twenty four games with the club.

Far from being anti-Bale, the point I want to make is Bale wasn’t exactly “ripping up trees” at the start of his Spurs career until he suddenly went from left back, to left side of midfield, to forward and subsequently to Real Madrid.

In his second season Lamela began to show flashes of what he was capable of, lest we forget “that goal” in the Europa League vs Asteras Tripoli that made up two of his five goals in the 14/15 season.

I still get giddy watching his goal vs. Burnley on 20th December as he cut in from the right wing and curled his shot into the far right corner of Tom Heaton’s net.

This past season I truly believe we saw the “real” Erik Lamela. five league goals, six in the Europa League – including a hat trick vs Monaco – all accompanied by ten assists.

Who among us didn’t cheer when he, not Eriksen, floated in the free kick vs Man Utd for Toby to head home our second goal before added a third minutes later?

Like Bale before him, Erik is no longer easily displaced off the ball – seemingly having bulked up and toughened up. On those occasions that he does lose the ball, he will doggedly scurry back to try and reclaim the ball.

His eleven yellow cards last season lend weight to that argument. No longer a “soft touch”, Coco embodies the new spirit at the club under Pochettino – this is not your fathers Spurs, just ask Cesc Fabregas following 2nd May’s Battle Of London!

In closing withmy defence of Erik Lamela vs the naysayers, I will say the best of Erik Lamela in a Spurs shirt is still to come.

Doubt me? On an Argentinian subs bench boasting the likes of Messi, Aguero, Pastore and Lavezzi during the Copa America Centenario, who was brought on to replace the injured Angel Di Maria? One Erik Manuel Lamela.

Viva Coco!

Written by Kevin Forde

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