Andros Townsend's form is giving manager a £25m Lamela dilemma ahead of League Cup tie with Hull
Tuesday 29 October 2013
When Erik Lamela left Roma for Tottenham Hotspur in a £25m move, it might not have been the prospect of a Capital One Cup game against Steve Bruce's Hull City that excited him most.
But two months into his spell at Spurs and Lamela finds himself hoping for a start and that crucial first foothold into the first team that every new arrival needs.
So far the 21-year-old Argentinian's impact at Tottenham has been, it must be said, limited. This is not his fault; adjustment takes time. The more pressing issue, for Lamela and Spurs, is that he does not look much closer to the team now than when he joined and has yet to start a Premier League game. Manager Andre Villas-Boas has chosen to play him against Tromso, Anzhi and Sheriff in the Europa League and at Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup.
In a sense, Lamela is an unfortunate victim of the rise and rise of Andros Townsend, another explosive young left-footed right winger. Since Townsend's display in the Europa League play-off game in Dinamo Tblisi convinced Villas-Boas just how good he was, England's new wonder boy has started every Spurs league game on the right wing.
It is quite possible that Townsend's form will dip, but, for now at least, the man who scored at Villa Park – and on his England debut – is undroppable. Aaron Lennon, too, is back from injury, and his return on the right meant that Lamela started at Sheriff in Moldova on the left, with little impact.
There have been occasional flashes from Lamela. No one would doubt he can play, especially given his excellence for Roma. In his first Tottenham start, an unremarkable 3-0 home win over Tromso, his delightful first-time pass set up Jermain Defoe's goal. In the most effective of his four substitute appearances, at Cardiff City, his last-minute cross to Paulinho won Spurs the game. But after his last league outing – 30 quiet minutes against West Ham – he was left unused on the bench against Villa and Hull.
Villas-Boas, speaking after that Hull game, denied that the player's price tag put him under any special pressure to pick Lamela, and said he hoped the youngster would improve in time.
"We have been speaking a lot with him. I think getting acquainted to the Premier League is important but he doesn't know the language. [Roberto] Soldado had some knowledge of the language before [he came] so it was a little bit easier for him. With Erik it was a little bit more difficult, but we have given him massive, massive help and his family arrived this week."
But as settled as Lamela feels in England, the chances of Villas-Boas choosing him over Townsend for the league game at Everton on Sunday are not high, nor for Newcastle United and certainly not for Manchester City away. He could play on the left, but it is not his natural game, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is a far more reliable provider of goals and assists there.
All Lamela can do is keep working, hoping and taking those cup chances that come his way. "Erik knows he isn't producing half of what he can produce," Villas-Boas said, "but he understands the situation now is that he has to compete for his place."
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