Erik Lamela was terrific on Sunday at White Hart Lane and his dynamic performance was an overdue response to the many jibes, memes and critiques he’s been subjected to over the last twelve months. The Argentine was generally excellent throughout pre-season and so, rather than coming out of the blue, his display against Queens Park Rangers felt like the affirmation of his rebirth.
Fantastic. He has clearly worked extremely hard on his conditioning since last year, and his whole physical structure looks far better suited to English football. Confidence is a transient commodity and it will always fluctuate throughout a player’s career, but Lamela has taken ownership of everything that he is in control of and has given himself the best possible chance to succeed at Tottenham.
Some Spurs fans will feel that they’ve been waiting since forever for Lamela to show his worth, but it’s still important now to retain some semblance of patience in this situation. Lamela is still at the beginning of a process and is still an embryonic commodity in England.
For all intents and purposes, Lamela is not really in his second Premier League season. His first campaign was so heavily disrupted by injury, that he hasn’t experienced the learning curve that a new foreign player would typically have traversed by this point. Even amongst his transfer-window peer group – the seven who arrived in this period last year – he is a long way behind in terms of the experience he has acquired. Christian Eriksen, for example, has already been through one league cycle, and even those who were on the fringes of the 2013/14 side (Capoue, Chadli) have many more minutes to their names than Lamela.
The concern here is that Lamela starts being judged on a game-by-game basis. Since Sunday, the amount of articles which have assumed that the player is now ready to be a consistent force within this league have been staggering. It’s wrong, too, because player acclimatisation can’t be assessed in binary code – it is not simply a question of being ready or not, there are many different stages within that process. There is, for instance, a very significant difference between being influential against Queens Park Rangers and being a match-winner against Liverpool. While Lamela unquestionably has the theoretical ability to be pertinent against both, that’s not a guarantee that he’s ultimately ready to be so or that he yet possesses the durability to replicate Sunday’s performance on a weekly basis.
Enjoy this for what it is: potentially the start of something. There should be no alarmist u-turns on Lamela if he has a bad game against Liverpool, no definitive re-judgements, and no failure to acknowledge that he is still taking his first tentative steps into our domestic game.
Yes, he’s been at Tottenham for a year now, but in a lot of ways he really hasn’t.