Erik Lamela is having a breakout season with his goal scoring on the rise after making some simple changes to his game.
Three is most definitely the magic number for Erik Lamela. His third season at Spurs is very quickly becoming a breakout one for the mercurial youngster who arrived as our most expensive signing ever.
He had five goals in all competitions last term, but with four in rapid time this, a tweak to his game is making all the difference.
Adapting Erik Lamela’s game
Last season saw a very static and predictable player. Without the ball, Lamela provided decent cover for his full back. His tracking and energy to regain play, despite often being mistimed, was never in doubt. However, when we had possession, Lamela often cut a confused figure. Someone who was slow to recognise situations and was comfortable just drifting out wide, looking to pick the ball up, float inside and shoot from range. His goal against Burnley was a typical of what he wanted to do and although a screamer, failed to light the touch paper.
Lamela frequently did this and it failed to see him kick on. His only other Premier League goal last term came from a bundled in effort off his arm at Southampton, just five games from the end of the campaign. The goal was fortunate, but was scored by Erik Lamela getting himself forward in to the box, something that has transformed his game this season.
Getting in the box
Nothing exemplified just how much Erik Lamela has changed game this season than his goal in Monaco.
Lamela picked the ball up on the edge of our box, fed it out to Nacer Chadli and set off.
He had the full distance of the pitch to cover, but that didn’t stop the Argentinean surging forward to get to the Monaco box at the same time as the ball got to the feet of Dele Alli. A lung-bursting run like this saw him arrive unmarked and able to sweep home Alli’s shot as it rebounded loose off the goalkeeper.
Content to drift around outside it last term, getting and arriving on time in the box has been the standout feature of Erik Lamela this. His goal in the 5-1 drubbing of Bournemouth at the weekend just wouldn’t have happened last season. As Harry Kane chipped the ball back from an acute angle, Lamela was already there inside the six-yard box to hoover up Boruc’s spill of the ball.
It’s not just getting in to the box and supporting the striker that Erik Lamela is doing. He is also looking to play on the shoulder of the last defender when the ball is on the other side.
Playing off the last defender
Against Manchester City in our 4-1 win, he rounded the game off with a coolly taken goal as he kept his nerve to round the keeper. When the ball went out to Clinton N’Jie in the build-up, Lamela was off, looking to race off the last man to receive the cross.
It was the same in the Europa League against Qarabag. Lamela raced through to ping a shot off the post before latching on to Harry Kane’s through pass to add our third. On both occasions he was looking to take his position and play high off the last defender.
He is now constantly looking to get up much higher in his starting position and run off the opposition’s defence, which is making him much more of a threat. Another great example was on our fourth against Bournemouth. Kane got the goal as he latched on to Christian Eriksen’s exquisitely curled in pass. However, Erik Lamela was there alongside Kane, already on the move and looking for something to be played in-behind as well.
Erik Lamela playing with this much aggression in his positioning was unheard of and unseen last season, but this term it is proving to be a revelation for the team.
We’ve seen it on the pitch, but proof is also in the numbers. Last season, Erik Lamela was getting a touch of the ball in the opposition penalty box every 40 minutes in the Premier League. This campaign he is getting one every 25 minutes, a huge increase and evidence of just how much more he is looking to get in the penalty area.
The secret to the success of Erik Lamela
What we are seeing this season is the result of good coaching from Mauricio Pochettino and the willingness of Erik Lamela to make it happen. This is definitely by design and something that Pochettino coached Jay Rodriguez in to doing when he was at Southampton. Rodriguez went on to become Saints’ top scorer that season and whilst Lamela might not equal those kinds of numbers of goals, he is definitely becoming a more solid and reliable contributor.
Returning late from Copa America didn’t help Lamela, but after a shaky start, he is growing with every match. What’s more, his defensive energy and intensity has and continues to remain an underrated part of his game. Now we are finally starting to see some offensive production alongside that tigerish tracking back as he becomes a two-way player.
Despite two underwhelming seasons in a Spurs shirt, Erik Lamela is still just 23. This term, he appears to be making up for lost time and long may it continue.