Vincent Janssen. Erik Lamela. I guess if critics wanted to find two reasons to throw back in my face as prime examples of players I backed that have failed, these two would fit the bill with perfection. I wouldn't change a thing though. Only one. Consistency, fitness and goals. Three. I'd change three things x 2.
Janssen failed to hit the ground running. That old chestnut. When Harry Kane had spells on the sidelines he didn't comfortably slot into the role of chief spearhead. He played too deep, off the sides of the pen box. Kane might not have acceleration but Janssen has looked well off the pace when deputising. Harry has sharpness in the head, much like Teddy Sheringham, an ability to win yards with quick thinking. Vinny is always out of position and rarely in the right position to score. There was a distinct lack of strikers instinct. The very foundation of what every forward builds their form on. Not every player finds their groove from the off. There's plenty of evidence for this in our current side and past ones. But the apologetic rationalising is the first sign of there being a problem.
"He needs more games"
"Once he scores a belter, he'll find his feet"
"It's all about confidence"
And so on. We can't always blame instructions from gaffer. It's not even about the transfer fee paid. You pay what you feel is value for money and what the opposing club deem as a worthy payment to part with their player. Vinny scored goals in the Dutch league with comparative ease once he got going. The Prem is a different beast and has little patience for mediocrity. Roberto Soldado will remain a far bigger disappointment because of his record in La Liga (some will argue that is also an easy league). It's questionable scouting and decision making from us. Both players not suited for life in England. Although to give Vincent some credit, he never once let his head drop. That's a good quality but it's not enough.
Vinny might still have something. There was suggestions of failed loan attempts during the last transfer window. Did he refuse? Perhaps. Has Poch decided it's over? That's the suggestion when you take a peak at our Champions League squad. Fernando Llorente is now the foil and alternative to Harry Kane. It's a damning slap in the face. Poch has got rid of the trouble makers in the past so for balance there can't be complaints when pushing out the nice guys that offer nothing more than minimal decoration effort. I still hope by some miracle that he turns it around.
Talking of miracles, will Erik Lamela ever stick on a Spurs shirt again?
This saga has never sat comfortably with me. The initial injury. The inconsistency from club and coach. I remember Pochettino stating that 'they' were unsure what the injury or problem was. That our medical staff were struggling with a diagnosis. At least that was the impression being given in amongst the incorrectly labelled photos of him allegedly running around in training. We also heard tragic stories of Erik's brother (car accident) and trips back to Argentina (and Roma) followed by a hip operation (finally?) that still sees him out of fully fledged action today. I won't discuss two other rumours out of respect of the club and the player. Communication wise it's been fragmented, like watching a TV show spiralling out of control with one narrative eating the other with little comprehension of narrative.
Lamela polarises the fanbase.
He's another poster-boy. This one is sat firmly between those that don't happy-clap and the supporters that over-rate the midfielder's product when he does play. Apparently you can't agree to disagree that he's decent at what he's asked to do but not great at what we all expected him to do.
Erik is a poster-boy for sure. He's the stark reminder of our previous tenures, our failed attempts to build a side that has a genuine longevity to it in terms of ethos and philosophy. The Magnificent Seven signings could all have been successful at Spurs under different managers in different eras. As a collective, it was a disaster. Individually, they didn't fit under a manager that was incapable of fulfilling his own ideas.
Then Poch strolls in and re-invents the player. To be fair, he re-invented the entire footballing culture at Spurs. Bit of muscle on the bones and a bit of muscle memory on the turf. That isn't to say he fixed him or got the best out of his very best qualities. He just got him to fit into the system and style that was devised and evolved. His best qualities are possibly only truly evident in Italy where he has more protection by virtue of no 100 mph football.
A player signed for flair and that something out of nothing was now this industrious tempo setter. It's hard to digest. It's why he was disliked by some of us. Lamela, this enthused hyperactive runner that pressed and swarmed, rated highly for his graft. It's the complete antithesis of that youngster we grabbed from Roma. It didn't help that we lost Bale that summer and spent £30M on what we all decided to tag as his replacement.
That's not to say Erik doesn't have that exquisite touch in him. There's no point attempting to rewrite history here. Triangle passing has never looked more fluid. Lamela and Eriksen often telepathic and even Soldado showed glimpses of promise when Lamela connected a pass to his feet. His vision is subtle but has suitable impact when he has little time to think. It can be heavy and laboured when he's attempting to win or take the ball back in midfield clashes. Along with dubious timing. He does score goals as well as assist. The issue is that there isn't really any form wrapped around the productivity. There's too little of it to make a long lasting difference.
Is this a consequence of the same issue Janssen has experienced?
Not so much. Lamela was selected more than enough times to stamp his authority (which he often did in a bruising way) on games. His overall influence has been below par. It's the hurt locker of his career at Spurs. Take a look at say Eriksen or especially Son and compare how much they bring to the side. Their own momentum syncs in with that of the team. With Erik we get treated to cameos which sums up his time at Spurs so far. He's paradoxical. The player that is meant to give us explosive football but instead manically chases the ball and hacks away at time and space. A pace-setter. A wheel that's been painted and polished into a cog.
Much like Vinny, I do hope Erik makes a comeback but he's also not been included in the CL team. That's hardly surprising though. He's practically MIA. Do I hope he can make a return? Do I need to cite the word miracle again? The harsh reality is, he's replaceable. Or at least logically, he can be replaced (getting one isn't that easy when you take a gander at our transfer window activity and look at the money spent by others for creative players).
We have better midfielders to do the grafting. We still lack that enigmatic Bale type but he never really provided us with evidence he could deliver constant magic. He was the wrong signing for the wrong team and enjoyed a momentary renaissance as a tulpa, raising our spirits but ultimately ghosting away in the wind.