It’s been terrific to see Erik Lamela back playing at a level closely resembling his best after missing so much time out through injury.
Since returning from his chronic hip issues in October, the Argentine has steadily gone about showing his class, as he’s been handled beautifully by Mauricio Pochettino, who’s crucially been very careful with his management of his countryman. Indeed, the fact Lamela has only made nine starts and been introduced off the bench 16 times in Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup exertions acts as a testament to Pochettino’s thoughtful approach to Lamela.
“He’s doing fantastic in the last few months but we need to be careful with him. After one year of injury, we cannot force him to do something. That is the problem,” Pochettino stated.
“For me, Lamela is still not at his best but I think he’s very close. And I think the way that we are managing him is fantastic. He doesn’t need to impress me because I know him very well and we know very well what we can expect from him. He’s going to be a player that is going to help in the last period of the season in the FA Cup and the Premier League.”
Brimming with enthusiasm, energy and relentless intensity, the 26-year-old has really began to stamp his mark in recent weeks, with strong outings vs. Bournemouth, Swansea City and in Tottenham’s magnificent win over Chelsea especially catching the eye.
A magician with the ball at his feet, the elegant attacker’s aptitude in this area has given his side another dimension going forward. His wizardry on the dribble has been a huge weapon, where his unmistakable close control, vast repertoire of skills, amazing agility and sharp balance allow him to get the better of his man or draw defenders out of shape for the benefit of his teammates.
Moreover, his imaginative passing has been another upside, for he’s never afraid to play ambitious passes, that so often manipulate defensive structures. Although this leads to him sometimes turning the ball over, the positives of his ingenuity definitely outweigh the negatives.
Shrewd positional variations and rotations only add to his nuisance, as he perfectly tailors and times his movements to exploit vacant space or performs well executed interchanges of position with a colleague. So good in confined spaces courtesy of his ball mastery and awareness, the press resistant Lamela vitally has the trust of his teammates in these scenarios, where they know he only needs a tiny bit of separation from his marker to be a viable option to receive a pass.
Being such a ferocious and determined defensive presence is evidently another reason why Pochettino admires Lamela, with his aggressive pressing and harrying putting adversaries under huge duress, something that so often allows Spurs to regain possession in advanced zones of the pitch.
Now in his fourth season in North London, there’s no doubting the former AS Roma and River Plate star has developed into a perfect embodiment of his manager’s philosophy. Let’s just hope he can remain injury free so we can continue to enjoy watching one of the most entertaining players in Europe demonstrate his class.
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