Bring me the head of Erik Lamela

 

Review Part III

 

Potential key players (2)

Lamela
Chadli

 

Erik Lamela was signed by Franco Baldini (who captured him for Roma from River Plate) and no doubt had the deal rubber-stamped by Daniel Levy (with an extra trickle of foam on the edge of his mouth) as the young Argentine fits the bill of hyped up player for the future with potential to be sold for twice the amount we paid for him. He's a dream for the brand and marketing teams. On paper.

There is no disputing that Lamela's potential is real. Is it worth £30M? Of course not, not unless you're reading this in five years time and proclaiming hindsight. £30M is what you pay for the finished product, but then again each player is worth the amount someone is willing to pay. We paid it. The logistics behind it all have proven to be impossible to decode (aside from the projected sell-on potential obsession we have under ENIC). If he was signed with patience in mind, then the price tag isn't important (yet) but the depature of Gareth Bale had us all dreaming for an immediate impact.

There is plenty of conjecture around the possibility that Andre Villas-Boas might not have sanctioned the deal or had any influence over it. Lamela did however fit the bill of an inverted winger and could have entertained us with a fraction of what Bale left behind in memory. Not so much the pulsating powerful destroying runs but something more understated and elegant. Whilst Bale is scoring late winners in Spanish cup finals against Barcelona (his goal to win the Copa del Rey is monstrous) Lamela has vanished from the public eye recovering from injury.

The fact we all wanted some type of pound for pound Bale replacement meant the pressure was on before he was even signed. But then how do you replace someone that cost one of the biggest clubs in world football over £80M? You don't. You can't.

Our expectations once more skewed reality. At the time I wanted him to be thrown into the deep end, but that's easy for me to say watching on ignoring a variety of considerations like  moving country. Lamela hasn't acclimatised at the desired rate. Injuries and a lack of consistency with AVB's selection meant that whilst he struggled with the language/driving on the left hand side of the road he had no outlet of escape on the pitch. Was he over-protected by us or did his state of mind suggest he need protecting?

Again, it's all understandable with less time on the ball in the pace-obsessed Premier League and team-mates he was unable to communicate with - it was going to take time. Especially when you consider his age. Yet there were subtle hints of his talent, his touch and movement. Ever so subtle cameos pinched with moments of flair. Physically and mentally, strength was lacking and he'll need to bulk up over time. He looked permanently surprised, startled to be in amongst the games he appeared in.

The injury killed his season but I'm not that concerned. I am obviously, but philosophically, it happens. It loves happening to us. Still, it's not like he's missing much. Had he retained fitness it might have gone the way of Roberto Soldado so maybe in some dark twisted way this will help him out. A low key first season, expectations now neither high or low.  Just numb. Far easier to slot into a better formed side with shape and purpose than it is to start for any given Spurs side this season.

Another player that will welcome the summer, the pre-season and a new coach. Next season, new start - involved from the start and we might start to see some justification towards that price tag. He's set to return to full training soon, so we might get another sneak preview if Sherwood decides to use him in any one of our remaining cup finals...friendlies...exhibition matches...training sessions... (edit: Sherwood confirms he can't play an injured player and also suggests doubt whether Lamela can make it in England. He has a way with words does Tim).

 

Nacer Chadli is slowly getting there. Yet more evidence we all got carried away at the beginning of the season thinking everyone would step into the side and hit the ground running. He was very good in the Dutch league and has started to show glimpses not just of his skill but also his work ethic. Possibly far too much of the latter as he appears to be far removed from the tricky left sided midfielder and is doubling up as a hassler in amongst the midfield.

Not going to be an explosive flank player but as a left-side midfielder that cuts in, he could prove to be our sleeper hit of next season. Benfica away was an awakening. I'm basing this on nothing but faith. Utterly insane that so many of our players are positionally lost. Damning that we have either signed the wrong players or are utilising them all incorrectly. Either way, that's a monumental waste of everyone's time.

 

Lamela conspiracy

There isn't one, is there? (some repeated comments to follow)

He's young, he suffered from the move from Italy to England. He suffered from being wrapped up in cotton wool to the extent of looking scared out on the pitch, uncertain of expression and language. Sort of half-found his comfort zone with some cameo performances but was never given any time to build on it and subsequently got injured and has been injured ever since (with a mystery back problem, fracture, who knows as the club are not forthcoming with details). Whatever it is, it's something that equates to spending the season sidelined and appearing on milk cartons and lost posters.

He was recently spotted playing keepie-uppies in the park. Tim Sherwood spoke about not expecting to see him again until next season. Then he was meant to be at the Easter store signing sessions but was replaced by Harry Kane.

Cue meltdown.

Cue - 'something fishy is going on' suggestions.

Nothing fishy. It's simply not worked out with smooth transition. Got crocked, season over.

Unless the kid has had a massive breakdown and wants to escape back to a superior climate then just write off this season as one that started off badly and got progressively worse. Much like anything Tottenham related. He regularly turns up on Instagram (we missed a trick, they could have been a snazzy sponsor on the home shirt) smiling with his partner with the London landscape in the background.

His injury is more serious than first thought, hence the prolonged recovery time. The lack of updates on this might suggest a number of theories but the most likely is the club might not have known the extent of it at the time so they never gave an estimation of recovery. Before you know it, the season is almost over. Sometimes the most obvious explanation is the truth. I'd side with that than any suggestion Lamela is being protected to be sold in the summer.

 

Under the pressure of expectation (2)

Paulinho
Soldado

 

Both players are much maligned, with reason. Paulinho is the least Brazilian footballer you'll likely to see and yet for his national side he impresses. I guess that has something to do with them knowing how to play him in comparison to our attempts. The physical traits of positivity are there. He has an engine (groan). He gets into the penalty box (groan). He runs up and down a lot (groan). It's like Jermaine Jenas without the occasional worldy performance.

He has an engine but he has no positional sense. He gets into the penalty box (and has scored some important goals) but for the most part his finishing isn't tidy. He runs up and down a lot but doesn't actually do much in-between all the running. And yet you wonder if his lack of influence is because he is also a victim of first season blues or the fact he simply has no grip on the pace and tempo of the English game.

The game against Stoke where he treated us to balls deep Brazilian flicks and tricks was like someone had added CGI to the match game highlights. But that was him and he's obviously capable of expressing himself. He got injured, hasn't repeated that since. Pressure is on because plenty are suggesting he'll be sold - yet I can't help but laugh that if Real Madrid (one of the media's favourite go to clubs, can't think why) are wanting his signature then how the hell isn't he good enough for us?

This is no different to Demeble to be honest. Or Holtby. It's that team of misfits narrative again where we can't quite make out how to use them with effect. Talking of which...

Roberto Soldado. Now here's the disappointment that hurts more than any other signing. We spend seasons waiting for a proper top tier top class goal scorer, we spend an alleged £25M for him (I say alleged because it might not have been that high of a fee) and immediately it looks like the wrong signing. I'm left defending, waiting and rationalising every game that passes where his form and his goal touch do not pick up and it becomes more and more difficult to defend him. So what's the problem?

In La Liga, Soldado scored goals. Not just bread and butter tap-ins but finishes that were crossed/drilled/floated in - with feet or head. He's a striker that relied on support and delivery. The system and formation complemented his strengths. His play outside of the box was practically non-existent, for the most part an unnecessary burden. His job was to finish off moves and he did so with technicality as well as traditional knock 'em in from close range goals.

Then he joins Spurs.

He's upfront on his own with no cohesive link to the way the team is meant to get the ball to him. First part of the season there was nothing in the way of marauding wing-play and our central craft and guile was disjointed. What is he meant to do? Stay up top in isolation and appear to be slow moving and lazy or does he come deep to get involved (thus leaving us without a player up top)? A similar problem to last season when thankfully Bale took the mantle of midfielder/winger/forward/striker to just run through teams and score goals all by himself.

Soldado's form deteriorated and our perception was one of brutality. Very easy to say 'oh look how easy it is for Harry Kane to leap up and head 'em in' when Kane was treated to a once in a life-time cross by Aaron Lennon. Comparisons with other players and matches is hardly relevant when we spent a good part of the season dismantling the blokes confidence brick by brick and then imprisoned him in his own broken psyche, becoming his own tormentor and allowing the fear and dejection to fester.

It is confidence. More than half the time it is always about confidence. It's usually obvious if we've signed a dud or someone that simply doesn't fit into our style or the English game and this might still be the case in Soldado. I'm not dismissing that, but equally so I can't ignore that outside the box his vision and touch is on par with the likes of Eriksen (in the way he can pass and move with Eriksen, same wave length tuned in). He's got a footballing brain. It's bizarre that we have to applaud his work in deeper positions and then watch his limp efforts at goal. He can thread a perfectly weighted ball or delicately nudge or flick a pass but can't instinctively smack it into the net. There is something deeply wrong in his head but he's not a complete lost case like a Postiga or Rebrov.

When he played well and scored, we dropped him. There is no nurturing on our part. Some players do no hit the ground running and with Soldado he had to also deal with heartbreaking personal hurt outside of football, so he's hardly had the best of times in the UK.

Fact is, when we reboot in the summer he might be defraged and deleted off the hard drive. Which begs the question, why sign a player that doesn't fit the clubs footballing philosophy/system that the director of football is meant to cater for with continuity in mind? We waited so long to sign a striker and at the moment it looks like we've signed the...well, you know, something something wrong one.

 

Potential 'cut our losses' outgoings (3)

Paulinho
Soldado
Capoue

 

For reasons given, both Paulinho and Soldado might be scarified or allowed to escape N17. As for Capoue, he's another player hit by injury and then subjected to alleged rumours of not being someone that particularly likes to train. Or rather he might not be fancied that much by the current coach and is left on the shelf much like the previous coach left Adebayor on the shelf. Who knows? I don't. I know that Capoue looked good in his initial cameos and has failed to recapture that same tempo.

I have absolutely no clue if he has a future with us or not. I can't base anything on rumours. Something that did strike me though in those early performances was that he is probably the type of player that could have done the job Bentaleb was doing (in terms of defensive minded duties). Obviously the controversy at the time was that the kid was displacing the more experienced player in the side and that favouritism or politics played a part. The kid however did well when selected but the experienced player wasn't exactly in any true contention to reclaim a starting role. He was far more erratic and less disciplined than his younger counterpart.

I just can't form that much of an opinion on this until someone comes in and treats all squad players as equals - all having to prove their worth to the crest and the team. His performances post-injury have not been smart and based on them it's easy to have the polar opposite view to the one we all had after he signed. Meaning, we're not being objective, we're siding with whatever happened yesterday and not bothering to wait to see what happens tomorrow.

 

continued in part IV